Julian De La Hoz left Yavapai College a few credits shy of earning an associate of arts degree. Technically, he dropped out. His reasons were equally unsought and unexpected. They were 100 percent well-deserved.

Julian immersed himself in scientific research while attending YC between fall 2017 and spring 2019. Specifically, the college granted him the time and the resources to study the effects of a plastic diet on greater wax moths as a potential means of reducing plastic waste. He presented his research at the 2019 Arizona Nevada Academy of Sciences conference where he caught the attention of a University of Arizona official.  

As much as he wanted to remain at YC -- he fell in love with the Prescott campus on a high school tour -- Julian couldn’t pass up the lucrative scholarship and research position the UofA offered.

It was at his new workplace, an entomology research lab at the UofA, where we caught up with Julian to talk about his educational journey and his future in the scientific arena…

As you might expect, Julian was one of “those” kids who was fascinated with insects from an early age. He said he still has the Arizona insect guide he carried around with him on outdoor quests for the bugs he had read about. “I would search for these bugs. I would follow them around and watch how they lived and worked. I would draw their anatomy. I loved insects.”

Despite his affinity for bugs, Julian never seriously considered a science career. “I didn’t think I had what it takes to get into science,” he recalled. Some strong encouragement from a high school teacher at Orme School, Casey Jones, changed Julian’s mindset. While at Orme, he engaged in two scientific research projects -- one involving creating artificial food for predatory insects and the other creating better compost with the help of flies.

Julian’s high school mentor also steered him to YC. “He always had good things to say about the school and the science department.” His mentor didn’t steer him wrong. “Something I really valued at Yavapai was the bond you can really make with your professors. You really get to know your teachers,” he said.

Julian credits his YC science instructors, including Beth Boyd, Jeb Bevers and Chris Dunn, and the entire YC science department for the opportunities that have come his way. “None of it -- none of it would have happened -- none of it without Yavapai,” Julian asserted, explaining that it’s uncommon for a college or a university to let underclassmen direct their own research. “You might see student involvement, but not necessarily students conducting their own research,” he said.

At YC, Julian worked largely independently on his research project. He spent countless hours in the lab, emerging only to sleep, study and fulfill other responsibilities like filling student requests for emergency food as a volunteer with the I AM YC Club. He said he still refers to a notebook full of YC research notes when he needs inspiration.

Julian said he was “torn” when the UofA scholarship was offered. “I planned on staying at YC another year. I loved it there. I hope to come back and visit soon.”

YC Professor Bevers said Julian was unique in his passion for entomology and in his drive for scientific discovery. “I am fully confident that in five years Julian will be working on his doctorate in entomology.”

While he made some important discoveries with his plastic-eating moths research at YC, Julian said he gained invaluable experience with scientific planning and processes. At the UofA, he is helping scientists pinpoint new means of controlling mosquito populations.  “I’m excited about the future,” he said.  “I’m still fascinated with insects, but I’m more interested in how to use these insects to solve real-world problems.”