A $6 million grant from Fondation Leducq, a French non-profit health research foundation...
UA Wide Receiver Balances Football, Engineering Studies
Wildcats wide receiver David Roberts is an aerospace engineering senior, balancing his studies in a tough major with football.
Most student athletes are well aware of the age-old trial of balancing academics with athletics. Keeping class schedules straight, submitting assignments on time, and maintaining the minimum grade point average established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association can be a challenge for any industrious student.
But what if you're studying something as challenging as, say, aerospace engineering?
Aerospace engineering senior David Roberts knows this balance. He's a wide receiver for the University of Arizona football team who is in the starting rotation as an inside receiver for 2011.
Roberts earned UA Student Athlete of the Month honors in 2009 and was named offensive player of the week in 2010. He finished third in receiving for the team in 2010 with 44 receptions for 487 yards and two scores.
This year, as an engineering senior, Roberts, along with the rest of the Wildcats, has not only played a historically tough schedule in the new Pac-12 Conference, but he's travelled on the road to play against the likes of Oklahoma State and USC – all while maintaining the required college coursework and GPA to graduate with a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. No easy feat.
"The biggest challenge during my engineering experience is the lack of time issue," Roberts said. "There were definitely many a long night during my college career... but I have to say that the professors helped me out by allowing me to obtain alternate office hours."
One of Roberts' past professors, adjunct lecturer Lawrence Sobel, allowed Roberts to meet on weekends as an alternate to regular office hours.
One of Roberts' academic turning points occurred in the summer of 2009, when he was taking thermodynamics and dynamics for summer courses in the same session. On the first day of class, one of the instructors suggested that if students were taking both classes and were holding a job, those students should quit their job because the level of study required would consume almost all of their time.
"But I couldn't put training for the upcoming (football) season on hold, because the summer defines the season," Roberts said. "So I literally only studied and prepared for the season, for a month and a half straight... there was a time when I didn't know if I was going to be able to do engineering and football, because I heard of so many who tried but did not make it."
Roberts stuck with the intense schedule, and in the end, he earned As in both classes. "It showed me that I could accomplish anything," he said.
"The workload in this major is significantly higher than average," said Arvind Raman, undergraduate academic advisor for the UA aerospace and mechanical engineering department.
An aerospace engineer himself, Raman said the major is a challenging one that calls for active participation in classes as well as significant time spent on out-of-class homework assignments and projects.
"Maintaining a good level of academic performance in aerospace engineering while being an integral member of UA Athletics speaks volumes about David's dedication and his ability to effectively manage his time," Raman said.
Roberts credits his UA strength and conditioning coach, associate athletic director and director of performance enhancement Corey Edmond, and his God brother, former UA defensive end D'Andre Reed, as his biggest football influences.
His most memorable moment on the field thus far was Arizona's 34-27 signature win over No. 9 Iowa last season – Roberts' catch deep in Iowa territory set up the Wildcats' winning score, while the Cats' defense completed the upset with a string of quarterback sacks.
Roberts hails from Rialto, Calif. and said that he always held a fascination for space and aviation while growing up: "I'm also good at math, so engineering was an easy choice for me. It was one of the reasons that I chose UA during recruiting."
In his limited free time he produces music with his cousin, Dansby Sturdivant, a music producer also taking UA classes. Roberts also says he's a big history and politics buff, and documentaries are one of his favorite things to watch.
Roberts is scheduled to graduate in May 2012. He'll be competing in the UA College of Engineering Design Day 2012 on a design/build/fly airplane that, when finished, will be able to accomplish a predetermined mission. He'd love to play football for the NFL but will be prepared for an engineering career. He also feels law school could be his next calling.
Said Roberts: "I have God to thank for helping me obtain everything that I have, and for giving me the determination to accomplish anything I set my mind to."