Life is rarely straightforward, and I carved out an unusual path toward my future in biomedical engineering by gaining valuable insight and skills from each and every person along that way.
I grew up as the youngest of a family with three older siblings in a small suburb just north of Boston, MA. With my two sisters being the oldest of us four, my brother and I were “close”, but our relationship would be better summarized as a contest. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to beat him at his favorite sports, so I decided to pick up a sport he didn’t play, basketball. Later, as the captain of the Trinity College Men’s Basketball Team, I was tasked with not only performing on the court, but also leading and motivating my teammates. This was a huge responsibility, and one that I took very seriously. I quickly learned that being a successful captain required me to be accountable and dependable, both in my own performance and in my ability to bring out the best in my teammates. This experience served as a foundation for a strong work ethic, which has proven to be crucial for scientific research.
I have always had a curious mind and a love for trying new things. With my father being an engineer and my mother being a nurse, I found my passion fell equally between them in the space of biomedical engineering. My path to this space was everything but straight forward; like many students studying the sciences, I started out aspiring to be a doctor, but the rigorous course schedule and intimidating cost of medical school drove me to pursue other directions.
During my undergraduate years, I explored various research labs before finally finding my niche in a co-op program at the University of Connecticut Glial Pathology Lab. That’s where I met Rob Pijewski (Co-director of Beyond the Ph.D.), who sparked my interest in doctorate-level research and helped me hone my skills. After earning my Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience in 2019, I was hired as a lab technician at Tufts University Silklab in the Biomedical Engineering Department. While, at the time, I didn’t have a background in engineering, what I did have was a willingness to learn. My time at Silklab has been an incredible learning experience. I initially specialized in high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), but later got hands on experience with many other research fields like biophotonics, bioelectronics, biochemistry, and sustainable design – all through the lens of silk research. And after a year as a technician, I was accepted into the PhD program at Silklab and have been happily working there for the past three years. My work has given me an entirely new appreciation for the bridge between science and nature, I am excited to pursue a career in biomaterial design in the near future.
Despite all I’ve learned so far, I feel like I know even less each day, but I’m not alone. That’s why I joined Beyond the PhD – to share the lessons I’ve learned from the many scientists I’ve met, one of which is the importance of cultivating creativity. It’s that creative spark that drives innovation and ultimately propels careers in industry. For example, in my field, bridging the gap between sustainability and tangible materials requires a unique perspective, a sense of the natural world’s beauty, and its subtle attention to detail. However, it’s not always easy maintaining that perspective, especially when my experiments seem to go wrong week after week. But as my high school basketball coach used to say, “it’s all part of the process,” and a PhD or a career in science is definitely a process!