For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Meet Student Commencement Speaker Michael Minkovsky

By sarah hojsak


April 26, 2024

Michael Minkovsky will represent the class of 2024 as the student speaker at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony on Friday, June 14. Minkovsky is a biological sciences major in the honors program with minors in neuroscience and biochemistry.

During his time at Drexel, he has completed research with the Department of Biology’s SEA-PHAGES and SEA-GENES groups, served as a research assistant in biology and neuroscience labs, worked as an intern medical assistant and tutored Ukrainian refugee students. Learn more about him in the Q&A below.

Why did you decide to attend Drexel?

As a first generation American, education has always been really important to me and my family. I was lucky to grow up not too far from Drexel, so I was definitely aware of it throughout my childhood. I have a strong love for biology, and Drexel has a great reputation for its biology program, and specifically research, and that piqued my attention. Drexel’s co-op program is what confirmed that this was the school for me. The idea that I was going to get experience in the field I want to work in while also getting a great education was something I was excited about.

What are some of your favorite things you were involved with during your time at Drexel?

Hands down, my favorite thing I was involved with was research. I had the honor of working with a number of very knowledgeable mentors who taught me a lot. Right from the outset of my time at Drexel I was in the SEA-PHAGES program, and that led to the publication of one of my papers. I learned a lot from Dr. Gurney and Dr. Condon when I was in that program. And later that program continued into SEA-GENES, where I got to learn from Dr. Séman. I also had the honor of working with Dr. Ricard in Dr. Bethea’s laboratory, studying neuroscience. It was great to work with professors who have different ways of running their labs, and peers who have different methodologies and ideas. Learning from this amazing and diverse group of people reminded me that science is a growing and breathing field.

Where did you do your co-op?

I had one co-op at Jefferson University in Dr. Erik Debler’s infectious disease lab. It was interesting to work with him and Dr. Hashimoto, the postdoc in his lab. I got to see how his lab works, did a lot of DNA ligation transformation as well as purification, and I also got to participate in some lab decisions, like "Where do we put funds and resources?” “How do we address this?” It was good hands-on experience in both research and logistics. I got to contribute to Dr. Debler’s work with trypanosomes, and that kind of work has a serious philanthropic side, which made me feel like I was contributing to help people in the way that I can.

You also give back to the community by tutoring. Can you share more about that?

I started tutoring K–12 students in 2020, and when the war started in Ukraine, I was able to take on a lot of students who were coming here as refugees because I'm bilingual and can speak Ukrainian. You can imagine that the transition from being a student in Ukraine to coming here and being thrown into a completely new environment, with a language that you've never even heard in your life, could be very jarring and difficult. I work with students and their families and teachers to help them be able to thrive in that environment. Depending on the age of the student, I teach them how to read or speak basic English, and some of the older students who know some English I teach more advanced material like how to evaluate passages or write an essay. Every student has unique needs that I've learned to help them with, and it's been a really great experience to have that opportunity to help people. It certainly hasn't been easy, because you can imagine some of the stories that they have and some of the things they've been through. But the feeling of having helped them succeed is very rewarding.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine?

It started with a general love for biology. I have the microscope to thank for that — I remember being a little kid and going to a science night at a local high school and looking at tiny organisms under the microscope. That got me really interested in science, and I started diving in and reading about it and learning more.  

When I was a kid, my mom got sick with cancer, and I started researching that. What was just an interest in biology turned into more of a research project. I felt like I needed to study and figure out what I could do to help my mom. I started to read a lot about medicine and read a lot of research papers about experimental medications. From something really awful came a genuine interest in medicine and wanting to learn to help people. When I got to Drexel, the decision to study biology was easy, because I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn about these concepts, go to medical school, become a doctor and help as many people as I can.

What do you hope to convey to the class of 2024 in your commencement speech?

The big message from my speech is going to be gratefulness. Everybody has had their unique journey from starting at Drexel to graduating. My success has been a team effort.  I'm proud of myself for working hard and doing well in my classes, but I would not have been able to accomplish it if it wasn't for family supporting me and my amazing professors at Drexel. I think a lot of people experience success as a team effort. People can say they were able to succeed because of hard work, but also because of who helped them or who was there to support them. Sometimes while we're working on something or going through college, we stumble, but it's important to keep going through those difficulties. I lost my mom while I was at Drexel. That was really difficult, and I fell down. But the thing that helped me get back up and keep going was Drexel's amazing community. I owe it all to the people — my professors, my academic advisor, my peers — who checked up on me every day and helped me work through those difficulties. Here I am graduating, and the reality is, even though we're graduating, we're still Dragons. And even though this is going to be the last time that we're all in one room together, that doesn't mean that we're not Dragons and can't reach out to each other and keep in touch. 

Do you have any advice for students just starting their college journey at Drexel?

First of all, work hard. You'll get out of your time at college what you put in. If you work hard, you'll get a lot out of the experience, and if you choose to put your all in, you'll get an immense amount out. You're going to learn a lot. You're going to meet a lot of interesting people, which leads me to my next point, which is, socialize. Meet new people, meet people with diverse ideas, and learn from them. The other thing is, learn from your mentors, because their expertise can help you. It might be intimidating to go to office hours and get one-on-one time with professors, but it's a great opportunity to learn about the concepts they're teaching you and also about their experiences.  

And lastly, it's okay to fail. I think a lot of people go into college thinking they will coast through, but that's rarely the case. And it's okay to fail, as long as that's not where you stop. Looking back at my college experience, what I remember the most are the difficult moments when I thought, “How am I going to do this?” The moments where I dug in and pushed through and ended up doing well. Those are the moments when you prove yourself and define who you are. So define yourself as someone who works hard in the face of challenges.