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Incoming student duo aim to research mysteries of human body, mind

August 21, 2019

Twins Anton and Sean Sachs beginning biology and psychology degrees this fall

Twins Anton and Sean Sachs are both curious about what makes people tick — Anton from a biological standpoint and Sean psychologically. This fall, they will embark on similar but separate journeys to find out at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, where Anton will pursue a degree in biology, with a concentration in pharmacology and toxicology, and Sean will pursue a degree in psychology.

Born one minute apart 18 years ago, the pair were homeschooled their whole lives and learned the importance of good study habits and organizational skills from a young age. Since taking a few college courses at Glendale Community College near their home in Peoria, Anton and Sean are eager to dive into the abundant research opportunities available to them at New College on the West campus.

Anton got a head start with an undergraduate summer research program at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, where he got a taste of the supportive culture of ASU.

“There are a lot of caring faculty at ASU who go out of their way to help students, not just in class but also with extracurricular activities, and not just academically but also mentally,” he said.

But even if all else fails, they know they’ve always got each other.

“I have a built-in study partner and resource who I respect and who can help broaden my horizons to learn more about not only what I’m studying but also what he’s studying,” Sean said of his brother.

Ahead of the fall semester, ASU Now asked Anton and Sean to answer some questions about what makes them tick.

Anton and Sean Sachs

Anton (left) and Sean Sachs

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Anton: I applied to multiple schools, and the main thing I was looking at was whether they had opportunities for undergraduate research. I chose ASU because it has a wide variety of academic majors, and I chose New College at the West campus because it combines two things that are important to me: It has the smaller college environment where you can have a good connection with your professors and other students, but it’s still part of ASU so you still have access to great research opportunities.

Sean: I chose ASU because when I took a close look at what was going on there, I realized there’s a lot of different research opportunities compared to NAU or UofA. I picked New College at the West campus because I was used to getting more personalized attention taking classes at Glendale Community College, so I wanted to stick with the smaller campus experience. And it’s close to home.

Q: What drew you to your major?

Anton: I’ve taken a bunch of biology classes at Glendale Community College, and I was really interested in learning more about it and the study of life. And since I want to be a physician assistant in the future, it seemed like a good idea.

Sean: A couple years ago I started thinking about my major, and initially, I thought I wanted to study the medical side of things, like my brother. But then I took Psych 101 (at community college), and I had a great professor and I wanted to learn more about why people do the things they do. So when it actually came time to apply for college, I looked back at the classes that were the most fun and the most interesting, and I chose psychology.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

Anton: Learning how to refine my study habits. I’m already a pretty good student, but I want to be even more efficient. When I took classes at GCC, I was only taking like two per semester, and now I’m taking, like, five, so I’ll have to make that adjustment. I’m also just excited to adjust to the lifestyle of attending a four-year university. It’s a lot different from a community college. The classes are similar, but there are a lot more research opportunities available to me.

Sean: I’m excited to start getting to know my professors and fellow students, and to also take a look at all the different research opportunities and clubs in my field.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

Anton: ASU has prestigious schools and faculty, and it’s a big university with lots of opportunities. The Biodesign Institute is doing lots of cutting-edge research that I’m interested in being a part of in the future. I did an undergraduate summer research program at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and I loved it, but there are so many other different types of research at Biodesign that I can try out.

Sean: I try not to brag but the small class sizes at West are a big plus, and the faculty I’ve met so far are really involved with their students, and the research being done at ASU is more cutting edge and farther advanced than other universities.

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

Anton: I am naturally really curious, and I love learning — not just science and biology but learning in general. And since I did summer research, I already have some experience being a research assistant.

Sean: I’m really good about studying. I was lucky to have been taught to study well, so I’m not afraid of it. And I think I make connections easily, which will be important later on in upper-division courses and when I’m thinking about PhD programs.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

Anton: Obviously I want to get good grades, but that’s not the most important thing to me. The most important thing is to make connections and have good relationships with faculty and students. I also want to do a bunch of extracurricular activities, such as joining clubs or possibly even starting a club. At GCC, I was president of the pre-med club, so I’m interested in starting one at West. I also want to get experience as a medical scribe, and do more research and more volunteering to help prepare for grad school.

Sean: I want to get myself set up and well-prepared to pursue a doctorate or master’s program. I also would like to get more experience doing research and hopefully even publish an article.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

Anton: I like to be organized. Since childhood, I was always naturally organized.

Sean: I’m one minute younger than my brother.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

Anton: Most world problems can’t be solved with $40 million, so I would probably invest it somehow. But it would probably be something medically related, like preventing a major disease, like heart disease or cancer.

Sean: I’d try to use the money to make psychological and medical research have more of an impact for the average person, more affordably. I’d also use some of that money to fund more research that looks at the areas between medical and social science research because that’s not explored very much.

Q: Predictions on the final score for this year’s Territorial Cup game?

Anton: I’d say it’ll probably be close, with ASU winning.

Sean: From what I’ve seen, those games are usually pretty close. The football teams seem to be pretty evenly matched. So I’m going to say 12-10, ASU.

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Record class hits the books as ASU bucks national trend of declining enrollment

August 21, 2019

First-year cohort is the largest, most diverse and most academically prepared to attend university to date

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2019.

When Tucson native Sadie Azersky started exploring colleges, she set her sights on attending a school that would challenge her.

She found what she was looking for at Arizona State University: the opportunities of a large research university combined with the intimate setting of Barrett, The Honors College. She starts classes Thursday.  

"I'm able to have those big-school-type of experiences ... but also have a smaller-school environment at the same time, a community that's more accessible," said the music theory and composition major and President's Scholar, who said she is also drawn to the interdisciplinary opportunities offered by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Azersky is just one of nearly 14,000 first-year students stepping foot on an Arizona State University campus this fall, the largest, most diverse and most academically prepared class to attend the university to date.

That’s a 10% increase in the size of ASU’s first-year class compared with last year. And it comes at a time when enrollment in colleges and universities around the country is actually declining, distinguishing ASU as a success story amid an otherwise unfortunate national trend.

“We have put significant effort into improving the college attendance rate in the state of Arizona, and our 2019 enrollment growth is a reflection of that commitment and of our demonstrated high-quality of educational outcomes at an affordable cost,” said Mark Searle, ASU’s executive vice president and university provost.

Arizona residents constitute about 8,600 students in the first-year class, and California students make up an additional 1,400. Those are increases of 7% and 8%, respectively.

The demand for higher education in the state of Arizona and the desire by students from out of state to come to ASU to study has driven the total university enrollment up nearly 8% this fall. There are now nearly 119,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending the university this semester. ASU is serving more nontraditional students, many seeking out ASU Online degrees for the flexibility to meet life and work demands.

The incoming first-year class is the most academically talented to ever be admitted to ASU. The average SAT score for first-year students increased five points over last year, and about 55% of the class earned one of the university's top three academic scholarships, collectively called the New American University Scholarships. Of the Arizona resident first-year students, 58% received a New American University Scholarship, and the majority of students receiving a coveted Flinn Scholarship — a merit-based scholarship for Arizona students to attend an Arizona university — chose to come to ASU.

RELATED: ASU a top producer of students who win Fulbright awards

ASU has also seen an increase in first-year enrollment from families with lower to moderate income levels. A deep and sustained commitment to accessibility and affordability for Arizona resident students, demonstrated by family and student outreach programs and access to financial aid, has led to a 10% increase in enrollment of students from families earning below $40,000 per year.

Once they’re here, the university dedicates vast efforts and resources to ensure students are successful. And it’s having an effect. The number of students returning to ASU this fall for their second year is also higher than at any time in the past. That so-called “one-year retention rate,” which measures students who stay at the university after their first year, is an important predictor of eventually earning a degree. ASU’s retention rate is nearly 86% overall, and nearly 88% for Arizona resident students.

Those resources are what drew Catherine Nunez to ASU. The National Hispanic Scholar from La Grange Park, Illinois, wanted not just a stellar engineering program but a place she felt wanted.

"The school really had the support and attention that I needed," said Nunez, who had looked into a big-name program in a neighboring state but said she hadn't felt welcome there. "I feel like I was wanted (at ASU), like I would be cared for here and have access to the resources I need."

The Barrett honors student will study biomedical engineering with the goal of working in the neuroscience field. And it wasn't just the university's academic prowess that drew her, but its mission of inclusion.

"We are defined by who we include, not who we exclude," said Nunez, echoing the words of the ASU charter, "and given all these choices of elite schools that only accept X percentage of kids, I think it's really important to include everyone. ... Everyone really does offer their own special thing, and recognizing that is something ASU does well."

Video: Where do ASU students come from? Everywhere

By Linda Nguyen

More facts about ASU:

  • The university offers students more than 350 undergraduate majors and 450 graduate degree and certificate programs, including the newly launched disability studies bachelor's degree and the stackable online master's degree in supply chain management in collaboration with MIT.
  • Of full-time first-year students, 162 are veteran or active-duty military, a 14% increase over fall 2018. For all years, there are 9,063 military-affiliated students enrolled at ASU campuses and ASU Online, 9% more than last year.
  • The number of students transferring to the university is up 2.9%
  • Students who are in the first generation in their family to attend college make up 29% of the first-year class
  • Enrollment of international first-year and transfer students is up 19%.

During their first week on campus, Sun Devils are immersed in the philanthropic culture of the university and all the opportunities available to become involved. Passport to ASU, a Welcome Week event, featured more than 500 student clubs and organizations. Sun Devils can get involved with an existing organization or create one of their own. 

New this year is a redesigned Sun Devil Sync where students can find clubs, organizations and student events, and it allows students to track their involvement.

MORE: New students get schooled in spirit at Sun Devil Welcome

Top photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now