Alumni Highlight: Nathaniel May

My name is Nathaniel and I participated in UBRP during the summer of 2011 in the lab of Dr. Lukas and Dr. Whiteaker at the Barrow Neurological Institute. I then continued with UBRP during the school year in the lab of Dr. Bosco. The ASPET grant provided funding for my time with the Lukas-Whiteaker lab.

Picture of Nathaniel May

I graduated with Honors from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2013. I then studied bioethics in North Carolina at the Wake Forest University, receiving my M.A. in Bioethics in 2014. After that, I returned home to Arizona and attended the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. I graduated with a J.D. from the College of Law in May of 2017 and became licensed to practice law in Arizona in November of 2017. I spent the first year and a half out of law school working at a commercial litigation law firm. In June of 2019 I took my current position as an associate legal counsel for CVS Health.

I never would have guessed that I would start my undergraduate career as a molecular and cellular biology major and then end up, eight years later, as a practicing attorney. My time and experiences with UBRP certainly helped me on this path.

As a member of UBRP, I gained access to lab experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. The ASPET grant allowed me to work in the Lukas-Whiteaker neurochemistry lab located at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. The focus of the lab’s work was to create and test nicotinic acetylcholine receptors via bacterial and frog cells for novel drug-specific responses. As a student researcher, I was thrown right into it all and received excellent training in RNA and DNA molecular techniques.

The subsequent school year, I continued with UBRP in the drosophila melanogaster lab of Dr. Giovanni Bosco. Dr. Bosco’s lab focused on genetics, specifically researching Progeria Syndrome. My time with Dr. Bosco’s lab involved becoming familiar with the standard operating procedures of caring for and working with drosophila, as well as learning how to effectively design an experiment and interpret the resulting data.

My time with UBRP allowed me to see how the research process worked, from start to finish. I was taught how to become proficient at standard laboratory procedures and practices, as well as how to design and carry out effective experiments. The experiences I had in UBRP were a fantastic extension of the core material I was exposed to in undergraduate classes. UBRP allows you to participate in the real research process, which is valuable when considering your own career path.

UBRP was certainly formative in my own career path. Although I am not a research scientist, I employ many of the skills I honed during my time with UBRP. As a UBRP member, you need to be creative and able to work alone, as well as part of a team. These are valuable skills in any workforce. UBRP also furthered my innate love of science and the research process, despite not being behind a lab bench. My decision to study bioethics was based on my experience with UBRP—I became fascinated with the ethics of research. I then decided to study law in order to become involved in the regulatory world of health care. I took numerous science and law courses during my time at law school, ultimately allowing me to end up where I am today, as an associate legal counsel for CVS Health.

I am grateful for the opportunities that UBRP/ASPET offered. The program allowed me to experience real research and set me on the path I am on today. I encourage those of you considering UBRP to apply and those of you in UBRP to make the most of your time.