Hometown: South Brunswick, New Jersey
Undergraduate: Rutgers University, BS in Microbiology
Graduate: Drexel University College of Medicine, MS in Infectious Disease
Can you tell me a little about yourself before you came to Drexel?
Before I came to Drexel to pursue my graduate degree, I was working in the quality control department at a small biotech company in Central New Jersey. I graduated from Rutgers University in May 2014 and a few months later started working to get some experience under my belt. I realized that working in the QC department was not for me and that I wanted to go into research and development. During this time, I was thinking about the next steps to help me advance in my career and get the necessary credentials and qualifications. I did some research and saw potential graduate programs that I wanted to apply to.
Why did you apply to Drexel’s Infectious Disease (INFD) program?
Drexel was the only school that offered what I wanted to do and the flexibility to work at the same time. I remember reading on the website that the program focused on vaccines and vaccine development; bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal pathogens; and experimental therapeutics. When I read that I was sold.
When I applied to Drexel’s Master of Science in Infectious Disease program, I quit my permanent position and took a contracting job in the Bacterial Vaccines Department at Johnson and Johnson. At the time, I took two huge risks, and both paid off in the long run.
What was your experience like in the program?
My experience was great. I cannot stress enough how flexible the program was for working students. I worked in Raritan, NJ, which is in Central Jersey. Traveling from Raritan to Philadelphia during rush hour to go to class in the evening was not doable for me. Fortunately, my classes were online where I could take the time to go through the lectures and content on my own time. Additionally, for classes that required participation, like Introduction to Infectious Diseases, Clinical Correlations and seminars, there was a conference call option using ZOOM. After work was done, I would go into an empty conference room and call in. Sometimes these conference rooms would have leftover food and snacks from corporate meetings, so knowing that no one would eat it, I decided to take it upon myself to eat it. Good times.
What was your relationship with the faculty like?
My relationship with various faculty members was pretty good. Even though I was an online student and called into class, all the faculty members were very accessible and helpful. The faculty answered all my questions and concerns during their virtual office hours or when I sent an email. They are all awesome people and I keep in touch with them.
What was your relationship with your classmates like?
I developed good relationships with my classmates during my time at Drexel. Since some classes had group collaborations, I got to interact with other online students and students who attended in person. We still keep in touch.
Where was your research internship?
My research internship was in the Bacterial Vaccines Department under the umbrella of Infectious Diseases and Vaccines at Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson and Johnson). I was fortunate enough to present one of the projects for my research internship. My project was about a bacterial vaccine and the clinical trial results of the vaccine.
What was the biggest benefit of doing this program?
The biggest benefit of doing this program was that it expanded my knowledge in infectious diseases, vaccines and immunology, and most importantly, it helped me to develop my critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which helps me in research and assay development.
What are you doing now for work?
Previously I mentioned when I applied to the MS in Infectious Disease program, I quit my permanent position and took a contracting job at Johnson and Johnson. A year later I was converted to a full-time employee as an Associate Scientist in the Bacterial Vaccines group, and I have been at Johnson and Johnson ever since. I recently joined the Biotherapeutics Development group in Malvern, PA, as a Senior Associate Scientist developing bioassays. I started my career at Johnson and Johnson in the Bacterial Vaccines group and it was hard for me to leave, but a new chapter of my life is beginning – not only did I start a new position, but I am also getting married soon.
Would you recommend the INFD program to others?
Yes, I would. The program certainly has helped me develop the necessary skills to be where I am today.
What advice do you have for prospective students to be successful in the INFD program?
My advice to future students is to manage your time wisely and work smarter, not harder. It’s easier said than done, but think about what gets the best results for you and use that knowledge to work smarter. For example, are you more of a visual or auditory learner? Think about when you are typically most productive and use that to your advantage. Also, don’t sacrifice your health – eat right and get sleep. Finally, my last piece of general advice is to not let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, one of my favorite speakers, "Fear kills growth."