Name: Luis Rosario
Hometown: Newark, New Jersey
Major: Cognitive Science with a concentration in Neuroscience
Activities: previous president, artistic director, new member coordinator, and secretary of Onda Latina, Cipactli Latino Honor Society, Osiris Honor Society, CHOP Center for Autism Research assistant, Brannon Labs Cognitive Development research assistant
34th Street: What was it like growing up in Newark?
Luis Rosario: Newark is really interesting. It's been listed as one of the least friendly cities, but I don't see it that way. But I also didn't go out much because my parents were really focused on getting me and my siblings focused on school and what was important. So when I think of Newark, I think of family. My grandparents are still there, so we go there for Thanksgiving. It's an interesting difference between what Newark is, or how people see it as so dangerous, and how I see it as family and where I really rooted my education.
Street: Why did you decide to come to Penn?
LR: Ever since we were kids—I have a twin brother so that’s why I’ll keep saying we. We were smart to begin with, and in a Latino household as soon as you’re smart, your parents are like, 'Well it's time to get good grades!' They pushed us, but there was also this inner drive that wanted to keep learning, and actually being interested, which is rare to see kids in that area interested in learning. So actually, my top choice was not Penn, and I applied to a bunch of schools last minute. I hadn’t gotten into my first choice, and I freaked out, but then Penn extended their deadline until January 5th, and I submitted it on January 5th at 11p.m. But when I got into Penn, I was still really excited because it is a great school. And then coming to Quaker Days just changed everything for me. Being in Philly was awesome, all the people here were great, and I actually went to an Onda Quaker Days workshop. Just seeing the culture and everything Onda had and just how excited everyone was was also something that encouraged me to come to Penn.
Street: Why did you join Onda, and what is it like being a part of the dance group?
LR: I joined my freshman fall. When I came and they were hosting auditions, I wasn't sure I wanted to join because I've never actually danced before coming to Penn. But then there were people on Locust Walk who saw me when I was just walking back and forth like, 'Hey you're that kid from Quaker Days!' Just knowing that people remembered you and took the time out of their busy lives to remember you from months ago was enough for me to come and audition. And since then I've just improved so much in something I never thought I would do. I did sports in high school but dancing is such a different experience and something I really, really care about. So Onda does this New York International Salsa Congress, and we're the only college group that gets to go each year. I've been twice. Over the summer we choreograph a new piece, and it's three couples, and we get to go and perform with a bunch of professional people. It's been awesome. I don't know if you've seen World of Dance, like Karen and Ricardo? Karen and Ricardo were two huge, huge salsa people that got second place in JLo’s show–where the best dancers come, and we got to see them perform in New York. They were just one of the big salsa names at the conference.
Street: What were some of the pieces you choreographed for Onda?
LR: I was artistic director for our 20th anniversary show. Being artistic director for that was just awesome. The theme we picked for that show was literally the history of Latin dance and Onda, so we got to explore everything from the roots of Latin dance to Afro–Caribbean dances, all the way through modern times like the salsa or bachata you’d hear on the radio now. I even reached out to a bunch of alums and made a video asking them, 'What does Onda mean to you?' I got to see 20 years of people who have put this at the heart of themselves and to see how Onda has grown and changed, but also stayed the same.
Street: So, what does Onda mean to you?
LR: The first thing that comes to mind is growth. I feel like I’ve really grown up just through Onda because it becomes more than just a dance group. It becomes almost a second family here at Penn. These are the people you practice with up to 10 hours a week, so then afterwards we'll go get dinner or hangout in someone’s room. I remember my new member coordinator, we called him our 'dad'. Stephan was such a cool guy and he taught me how to dance. And then other guys taught me how to dance. And now I see I'm the guy teaching kids how to dance. And I was also new member coordinator, so I got to teach my newbies how to dance. It's just a passing–of–the–baton growth experience.
Street: Why did you decide to major in Cognitive Science? And specifically concentrate in Neuroscience?
LR: All through high school I could never decide what to do. So, sometimes parents don't understand—well, they do understand, but they want you to know what you're doing before you get into college, and that was always stressful. I really had no idea what I wanted to do, but then I took AP Psych my senior year of high school. I really fell in love with the material and seeing how it could apply to a bigger picture because I've always wanted to do something with my life that I know will impact society and benefit other people. So then I got to Penn and realized that I wanted to do something a little bit more intricate than just psychology, because it can get kind of broad. I took BBB 109 sophomore fall, and people hated it, but I fell in love with the material and all of its intricacies. And then, I was deciding between BBB and Cogsci, and I saw Cogsci as such an interdisciplinary major. You have to take a semester of CIS, a semester of Linguistics, and a bunch of other stuff. And on top of it, the concentration of neuroscience included a bunch of BBB classes. So Cogsci allowed me to explore everything while still keeping it focused at the same time. I just think the brain is dope. We know so much and so little at the same time.
Street: What work do you do at Brannon labs?
LR: I’ve been working at Brannon since my sophomore fall. At Brannon I work on what’s called the 'approximate number system' in children. They’ve found a brain mechanism that has a sense of numbers, like you have for languages. We’ve been exploring how that kind of develops. So I give assessments to kids on numbers. You would think a kindergartner can’t do division but they have a good sense of what they’re doing, if you present it in the right way.
Street: What work do you do at CHOP?
LR: I work at the MEG lab, and that’s under Tim Roberts. In this lab we’re looking for biomarkers of autism. There are specific auditory markers, so there is what they say is a 'delayed auditory response' in kids with autism. One of the biggest features of autism are social deficits. So even if the [auditory] delay they’re seeing is a millisecond, in social interactions, milliseconds add up. This could be a reason for why there is such delayed social interaction.
Street: Why did you decide to join Osiris Honor Society?
LR: Osiris has also been really, really cool. It brings leaders of different arts groups together. You wouldn't know it unless you're in the arts community, but it's so diverse, between the singing, the dancing, the acting, and so on. But we’re also very spread out so I’ve never met anyone in the arts community that wasn't in Onda or some dance groups. Through Osiris I've gotten to meet amazing people who sing and act. I’ve been to more and more shows. And the artistic community at Penn is so talented. All of these shows are just amazing, and I’ve gotten to meet the faces behind some of these shows.
Street: Why did you decide to join the Cipactli Latino Honor Society?
LR: As a freshman, the seniors then, and the sophomores and junior that became seniors, were a bunch of people that I looked up to in these spaces. As a Latino here at Penn, I went to La Casa a lot, and then also got to experience being with a lot of Latinx people while in Onda. Being able to be in the only Latinx honor society in the Ivy League is being able to be a part of something bigger than myself. We are a bunch of people with similar backgrounds who are coming together to show that we are here and we belong. We're not just Latinx individuals who got into Penn, but we’re thriving here.
Street: If you were a building on campus which would you be?
LR: Probably Levin. So not Levine, but Levin, which is the new building by Leidy. I’ve spent so much time there, and that’s where most of the Cogsci research is.
Street: What is one place on your travel bucket list?
LR: Definitely Cuba. I’m part Cuban, and I haven’t had a chance to connect with it just because my grandfather is so hush–hush about his experience there. I want to go and just explore my Cuban heritage.
Street: Are you a morning bird or a night owl?
LR: I would say morning bird. I would rather get up early and do stuff then. I’m always falling asleep even when I’m trying to stay up.
Street: What is your favorite number that Onda has done?
LR: Last semester, my girlfriend and I choreographed a piece dedicated to Hurricane Maria victims. We really pushed ourselves to make a difficult piece. It was also a song we were both waiting to do until we felt ready. It felt like we were able to grow choreographing that piece, especially with what it meant to us both as Puerto Ricans. It was really powerful.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn...
LR: Those who drink coffee every day and those who don’t.
Street: What is your drink order?
LR: I don’t drink coffee that often, but I do love coffee. When I do, I go to Dunkin' Donuts and get a medium coffee, light and sweet.