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Alumni Profile
Dr.
Richard C. Centore '03

 

 


 

 
 
 
Richard Centore graduated with a biology major from Saint Michael�s College in 2003. He is currently an NIH-funded postdoctoral research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Cancer Research and Harvard Medical School.

What got you interested in your current field, and what led you down the path to where you are now?

When I first learned about DNA and the genetic code in middle school, I was fascinated by biotechnology and the possibilities it could offer to society.  I continued to be very interested in science throughout high school and decided to major in biology at Saint Michael�s College.  While at Saint Mike�s, I was able to take a wide variety of courses in biology, and, while I found them all very interesting, I learned that I was particularly drawn to the fields of molecular biology and genetics.  I went on to graduate school at UMass Amherst and received excellent training in molecular genetics and cell biology to study cellular processes such as DNA repair and DNA replication in E. coli.  When I finished my Ph.D., I wished to extend my knowledge of the DNA damage response to a eukaryotic system.  Now, I am studying how human cells respond to and repair DNA damage, as well as how they coordinate the complex processes of DNA replication and cell division.  I think that this work is extremely important because perturbations to these fundamental cellular responses are often involved in oncogenesis.

Explain what a post-doc is and describe your post-doc experience.

A post-doctoral fellowship (or post-doc for short) is a position that one takes after completion of a Ph.D. to acquire additional training before going on to become an independent researcher.  Most academic positions (i.e., college professor) and many jobs in industry now require a few years of postdoctoral training as a prerequisite.  For me, it was important to do a post-doc so that I could take what I had learned in graduate school about the DNA damage response of E. coli and apply it to mammalian cells.  Of course, this also gave me a chance to learn many new experimental techniques as well.  My postdoctoral experience will make me a well-rounded researcher and help to prepare me for a career as an independent investigator.  Many post-docs often apply for their own funding through federal (such as the National Institutes of Health) or non-profit (such as the American Cancer Society) agencies.  I am currently supported by a three-year postdoctoral fellowship from the NIH.  Applying for grants is a constant part of the job description for independent academic researchers, and so learning how to write a fundable grant proposal has also been an important part of my postdoctoral training.

What is your long-term career goal?

When I graduated from Saint Mike�s, I truly admired my professors and wanted to go on to get a Ph.D. so that I could teach at a small liberal arts college, like SMC.  However, during grad school I really enjoyed doing research, and so now I am also starting to consider a career as an investigator at a larger research university.   

What experiences in the Saint Michael's College biology department prepared you for your career?

Unlike many larger universities, Saint Michael�s College has a single biology department that encompasses all aspects of biology, from molecular biology and genetics to animal physiology and aquatic biology.  I think being able to take courses in diverse topics has been beneficial to the way I think about my research.  I have learned that many aspects of biology are interconnected, and answers to a particular problem are sometimes found by learning about something else in biology that might seem completely unrelated.  Additionally, being a liberal arts college, Saint Mike�s has a strong emphasis on developing writing and communication skills.  As a scientist, it is critical that I be able to explain my work to my peers and also to the public through the publication of articles in scientific journals as well as through oral presentations at meetings. 

What options or opportunities do you see in your field for SMC biology graduates?

There are many options for SMC biology graduates.  Doing research at an academic university or at a biotech company are probably the most common jobs.  However there are lots of �non-traditional� jobs as well, including becoming an editor of a scientific journal, or a lawyer who specializes in patent law.

Are there specific opportunities you think biology majors should pursue before graduation?

I think that depends on what you think you might be interested in doing after graduation.  If you think you might want to become a teacher, try being a TA for a semester.  If you want to do research, work with a professor on a student research project.  If you want to join the Peace Corps, go on a MOVE service trip.  Any project you can take on outside of the classroom now will help you decide whether or not it�s something you will enjoy doing for your career.

Finally, what advice would you give current Saint Michael's College students interested in graduate study and/or specifically interested in your field?

If you�re thinking about going on for a Ph.D., I would highly recommend getting some research experience under your belt.  Whether this is an undergraduate research project with an SMC faculty member or a summer research project at a biotech company, I think that many graduate programs are looking for students with previous research experience.  Also, if you are unsure about whether or not you want to go to grad school right away, take some time to think about it.  It is a big commitment to enroll in a Ph.D. program and you will be paid very little and work quite a bit for the next 5 or 6 years of your life.  Make sure that it�s something that you are really interested in.  That being said, if you do decide to go to graduate school, it is a very rewarding and exciting experience.

 

 

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