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
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.
advice would you give current Saint Michael's College students
interested in graduate study and/or specifically interested in your
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.