Joe Thomas


I initially thought my time at Pitt would be consumed by science courses and medical school aspirations, but through the Honors College I discovered that it was not only possible to pursue subjects outside my intended course of study, it was encouraged. Because of the support of UHC advisors I was able to turn my life-long interest in politics into a second major. I’m now a senior with majors in Biological Science and Political Science (focusing on International Relations) with a minor in Chemistry. The UHC encouraged me to take my academic interests outside of the classroom and into my extra-curricular life. With the support of Brackenridge and Chancellor’s research fellowships, I’ve been able to delve further into scientific problems through my research on surface attachment and biofilm formation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Through my love of discussing global political and social issues I co-founded AIDPitt, a student-led global issues discussion forum that focuses on bringing students together to talk, brainstorm, and organize to take action and affect change. Out of AIDPitt, I helped organize a coalition of over 50 student organizations, NoSweat: Pitt Coalition Against Sweatshops, calling on Pitt administrators to ensure that our Pitt apparel isn’t made with the sweat of exploited labor. We successfully organized a campaign to get Pitt to affiliate with the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor rights monitoring organization, which provides public reports on the working conditions in factories that produce Pitt apparel. My work with the Coalition currently involves trying to bring more ethically made Pitt apparel to the University Store and asking that the University ensures that its licensees affiliate with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. I’ve also had the opportunity to engage with the Honors College through National Scholarships Advising with Judy Zang, Dean Stricker’s advisory committee, and by sharing my Honors College experience with freshmen as a UHC Ambassador.