John Rojas '18 possesses a variety of talents. Last semester, he made the Dean’s List while majoring in health promotion and minoring in psychology and studio art. Outside the classroom, he’s active in the Hispanic-Latino Club and Student Government Association. He’s also known around campus for his expressive break dancing. This summer, however, he focused on tackling a self-admitted weakness: research.

As an undergraduate research intern for the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in his hometown of Portland, Ore., Rojas had the opportunity not only to learn about research methodologies but also to conduct his own independent research project.

NUNM is the oldest accredited naturopathic medical university in North America and a leader in natural medicine education and training. Rojas’ internship focused on integrative medicine, which encompasses traditional approaches to healing such as meditation, hydrotherapy and acupuncture.

For his internship, Rojas conducted a study that tested the efficacy of treating muscle soreness with Vicks VapoRub in conjunction with an alternative medicine therapy that involves applying sustained pressure to connective muscle tissue called myofascial release. While plenty of studies have confirmed that the individual active ingredients in Vicks VapoRub treat muscle soreness, Rojas noticed that the literature lacked studies testing the effectiveness of the product itself.

Rojas' internship taught him how to utilize different research tools and databases such as Scopus and UpToDate.

Within the limitations of his study, Rojas observed that adding the ointment to the treatment plan improved pain management compared with combatting muscle soreness with the alternative medicine therapy alone. Rojas’ conclusion has real-world applicability: those seeking natural remedies can rest assured that the same healing properties observed in individually expensive active ingredients are at work in an inexpensive, easily accessible and effective household item.

During his internship, Rojas also learned that he’s capable of doing methodical research. He’s improved his attention to detail when it comes to reading dense, scientific articles while also becoming fluent in various databases and tools of the trade. “Formulating my study design was by far the most rewarding and humbling thing I have experienced so far,” he said.

Rojas cites many of his courses in the Exercise & Sport Sciences Department as instrumental to his success at his internship, especially Sports and Exercise Psychology. A study the class conducted on progressive muscle relaxation helped prepare Rojas for similar modalities at NUNM.

Colby-Sawyer also supported Rojas’ internship by awarding him a grant funded by Jean Cragin Ingwersen '54. The grant helped defray some of the costs of undertaking an unpaid internship.

In the future, Rojas hopes to put his education to use by helping lower-income and minority communities on improving their health. He’s now more confident than ever about achieving that goal.