"Go with the flow. It’s important to have goals, but it’s equally important to be flexible. You cannot foresee everything that will happen to you over the next 4-8 years, and you will be amazed at how different the person you are now is from the person you will be."
Hear Spencer talk about his career in biological researching & advice for people pursuing that pathway!
My career roadmap has been somewhat defined.
Discovering my love of biology in freshman biology at AOC.
Nurturing that love with relevant COC courses taken both during the normal school year and over summer sessions.
Independently learning programming during my free time in high school.
Enrolling at RIT as a Biotechnology major
Discovering bioinformatics and immediately switching majors.
Attending a networking event where I met my Master’s dissertation advisor and now boss.
Successfully defending my Master’s dissertation.
Accepting a full time position as a researcher at the Center for Clinical Systems Biology.
Here are my extracurriculars relevant to this pathway
DURING MY HIGH SCHOOL CAREER
DURING MY COLLEGE CAREER
Leadership role with RIT Biotech Club
Leadership role with RIT Bioinformatics Journal Club
Independent research projects with professors
Presenting my research at national conferences
What I'm currently doing/hope to do
I am currently a researcher at the Center for Clinical Systems Biology at Rochester General Hospital. I work with a team of fellow scientists studying complex immune disorders for which effective treatments don’t currently exist. Using information from mathematical models of these diseases, I am developing automated drug-repurposing strategies in an attempt to find viable treatments for these disorders. Over the next year or so, I plan to transition into a more industry-facing role at a biotechnology or pharmaceutical company, though my long term goal is to found a non-profit research institute dedicated to developing drugs for orphan diseases.
How to maximize my time in high school?
Advice #1: Don’t learn to memorize, learn to think critically. A lot of people have this notion that biology is all rote memorization, but that could not be further from the truth. If you are serious about entering a life sciences field as a researcher, you will need to learn to digest problems put before you, think critically about them, develop strategies to overcome these problems, and ultimately test them.
Advice #2: Learn to fail forward. It’s okay to be wrong and it’s okay for your plans to not work out. You can make as many mistakes as you have to so long as you learn something from each one of them.
Advice #3: Learn to communicate your ideas clearly. Many areas of the life sciences are highly interdisciplinary. On any given day I work with computer scientists, psychologists, immunologists, and clinicians. Every single one of us speaks a different language (not literally, of course). If you can’t explain your work to those that don’t have the same job, you can’t succeed.
Advice #4: Don’t hyperfocus. It’s important to have interests outside of your major / future major / career. Being well-rounded is important not only for your mental health, but also for your career! The smartest and most accomplished of my peers and my professors have all had diverse interests outside of their work.
Advice #5: Go with the flow. It’s important to have goals, but it’s equally important to be flexible. You cannot foresee everything that will happen to you over the next 4-8 years, and you will be amazed at how different the person you are now is from the person you will be. It’s okay to second guess your major, career, and everything else. One of my best mentors says “as long as you don’t commit a felony, everything in life is reversible.”