Mikesell juggles chemistry studies with residence hall duties and Rubik’s Cubes

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There is a hard-working, studious side to Iowa State University student Justin Mikesell…and there’s also the fun side when it’s time to relax. And he knows how to juggle all his duties.

Justin is a chemistry student at Iowa State who wants to use the challenging major to enter dental school when he graduates. "It’s mainly because all of the prerequisites for dental school are required for a chemistry degree," he explained.

He has had his eye on becoming a dentist for some time. The Clear Lake, Iowa, native said a local dentist was a role model for him, and the dentistry field would allow him to help people everyday. Chemistry entered the picture when he took it in high school, learning he enjoyed the subject. "I decided here at Iowa State that I’d go with chemistry."

The second-year student is also a CA (community adviser) for Iowa State’s Department Residence. He began the school year with 56 men and women (many of whom were away from home for the first time) on his Wilson Hall house at the Towers south of central campus. Each house has one live-in CA who provides leadership to the development of programs and activities in the house and hall, and serves as a resource to residents.

Justin went through some intense CA training sessions to prepare him for possible situations like a noise complaint, burst pipe or vandalism. Role-playing was sometimes utilized. "It was a lot better to learn by doing rather than by watching," he said.

When Justin is not in a chemistry lab or wearing his CA hat, he’s juggling – not his busy schedule but items such as balls and clubs. Justin is the vice president of the ISU Juggling and Unicycle Club, which performs for free for several central Iowa organizations.

"My freshman roommate started a juggling club in high school, and he taught me to juggle," explained Justin, who picked up the skill initially by using balls. "I learned to juggle clubs and pass them to another person in just a matter of three to four weeks." Now he’s even juggling flaming torches, saying it was difficult the first time because the "light almost blinded me."

Justin also is a member of the ISU Rubik’s Cube Club, where members solve anything from a 2-by-2-by-2 to a 12-by-12-by-12 cube. "I’ve been solving Rubik’s Cubes for five years," Justin said. It took him 45 seconds to solve a traditional cube when he joined the club, but his record as of this writing had dropped to a swift 23 seconds.

"In any arrangement, you can solve the cube in 20 moves if you do everything perfectly," Justin said. That involves seeing patterns in the arrangements then knowing what algorithms to use in addition to always planning the next move.

"You have to think in three-dimension," Justin said. Watch Justin Solve a Rubik’s Cube