When I started at the University of Arizona, I declared as a molecular and cellular biology major. But I always had an interest in evolutionary biology and wanted to be an evolutionary biologist. When I was accepted into UBRP, I joined Michael Hammer’s lab, which at the time was focused on studying human evolutionary genetics by studying human Y-chromosome variation in different continental ancestry groups. Working there really cemented my love of human genetics. The best part of my experience there was working alongside my fellow labmates, many of whom I remain in touch with today.
In my junior year I signed up for a bioinformatics elective course and an introductory level programming course in the computer science department. I struggled through a computer programming course in high school and didn’t really like the subject. But this course was much better experience, so much so I added a computer science minor, even though I ended up staying an extra semester.
Through my positive research experience through UBRP, I knew I wanted to get a PhD. But it would be 13 years between finishing at UofA till earning my PhD in bioinformatics at Boston College in 2013. In between I got some valuable work experience as bioinformatics programmer, earned a master’s degree, felt the disappointment of getting rejected from PhD programs, then re-applying a few years later when the right opportunity came.
Today, I’m a bioinformatics scientist in the cancer vaccines group at Pfizer. Getting where I am today definitely wasn’t a straight line. But my research experience and education I received in UBRP and UofA, put me on the right path.