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URMC / Biochemistry & Biophysics / Education / Graduate Student Perspectives


Graduate Student Perspectives

Angela Balliano

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I decided to join the Ph.D. program at the University of Rochester based on the emphasis in generating inquisitive and successful scientists. The coursework required during the first year of study is designed to enhance problem-solving skills through the application of one's knowledge as well as to create new, thought-provoking questions. These skills then come into play while carrying out one's research.

The faculty members that are selected to be on a Thesis Committee also provide a great amount of support and wisdom, which they provide during annual committee meetings. These committee meetings provide a forum in which an exchange of ideas and concepts between faculty and students can take place so that research of the highest quality can be performed. Ultimately, this program is set up to train and mentor scientists so that they are confident in their abilities and ready to pursue a successful career upon completion of their degree.

Kimberly Dean

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I believe that it is important to challenge yourself by keeping abreast of current information & technology, thus I strive to accomplish this at every life transition. Three years ago, I began attending the University of Rochester and believe that the move is accomplishing this goal.

We interact with numerous inspirational scientists. Faculty members are the experts in their field and are active nationally and internationally. They strive to develop every student into the best scientist that they can be. As students, we are challenged to keep up-to-date on current scientific knowledge and to be well balanced, by thinking critically about not only our own projects, but also about the science going on in other labs. If we ask, faculty members are open to talking with us about our work, so we can continue to strive to improve our science. The department, also, invites an excellent scientist from outside the university to speak as a part of a weekly seminar series.

We also have access to a number of state-of-the-art technologies, thus allowing students and professors to develop a variety of methods to use in our work. Not only is the technology available, but the personal running the centers are extremely helpful. Currently, I am working with the Flow Cytometry Core and Functional Genomics Center and the personnel have always been willing to answer my questions and help me to utilize the equipment to get the best and most relevant data possible.

Although I have only been at the university for a few years, I have learned a tremendous amount and look forward to continuing to challenge myself.

Joshua Dewe

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I first chose to come to the University of Rochester after my interview weekend. The faculty and graduate students were extraordinarily welcoming to me, and I instantly knew there was a strong sense of community here. The students that worked in the labs I visited were often friends outside of the lab. There also seemed to be several chances to socialize at departmentally sponsored events.

But more important than the friendly atmosphere, is the outstanding science that takes place at the university. I have the privilege of working in one of the best RNA centers in the country. The department regularly hosts guest speakers from other prestigious universities, giving us a chance to interact with great scientists from all over the country. I have also been afforded several opportunities as a graduate student, including a $1000 fellowship as well as funding for my research from the National Institutes of Health. Becoming a graduate student at the University of Rochester is one of the best choices I've made.

Nicholas Leioatts

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As a physics major with only one semester of undergraduate biology I was apprehensive at first entering a graduate program in biophysics, especially after reviewing the first year course list. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the program's manageability. The students in the class come from a broad range of backgrounds, and almost everyone finds some parts easy and others very challenging. The biochemistry course in the fall is a particularly helpful survey of biochemical and biophysical techniques. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a fair number of faculty and students whose background was at least partly in physics.

One of the main strengths of the biophysics program is the first year lab rotations, which allow for an in depth (˜10 week) evaluation of several labs before committing to one in particular. This yields first hand experience of the research and the environment, and in some cases helps to supplement the coursework. This was a big advantage compared to joining a physics department, where you must choose a lab immediately, with little prior knowledge to the work environment or the day to day aspects of the research.

Joseph Liberman

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When I first visited the University of Rochester I was impressed with the sense of community within the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. There were many venues for encouraging interactions and collaboration between students and faculty outside their own research groups; these include: he student seminar series, departmental retreats, and poster sessions held each year for various specialty groups such as the Cancer Center and the Center for AIDS Research. This environment fosters a culture where ideas can be exchanged freely and creative thinking is encouraged.

Another area where the University of Rochester helps students succeed is by hosting eminent scientists from around the country to speak at weekly seminars. This has kept me informed about cutting-edge research in many fields.

Overall, the University of Rochester Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has been an excellent fit for my academic and career goals.

Geoffrey Lippa

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I made the leap from natural-product chemistry at Hobart College to the atomic-level world of protein and RNA structure in the Wedekind lab at the University of Rochester, where we primarily use X-ray crystallography to visualize biological molecules.

When looking for graduate schools the Biochemistry Program in Rochester quickly became my first choice. Interviewing with the faculty imparted a sense of excitement for research and discovery. Now that I have been here for the past four years, I realize the degree of devotion the professors have to their labs as well as their students. The success of our alumni in securing careers in academic and industrial sectors is a major factor for consideration. I realized quickly that Rochester’s program would not simply challenge me, but give me the tools to overcome research hurdles so that I can succeed in future endeavors.

The current graduate students provide a welcoming environment. In addition to long hours in the lab, they spend time unwinding by participating in a variety of activities including departmental softball, soccer, and the graduate student society, which plans various social events and seminars.

I found the city of Rochester well suited for life as a graduate student. Living expenses are low and a surprising number of cultural activities abound including local and Broadway Theater, the Rochester Jazz Festival, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Eastman School of Music recitals, as well as sporting events such as the Rochester Red Wings and the Rochester Americans Hockey Club.

Krystle McLaughlin

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From the very beginning, the biophysics program has given me many opportunities to mature as a scientist. Whether it was through classes, learning new techniques or being able to interact with leading scientists in my field. Students also have the chance to give several research presentations allowing us to further develop communication and networking skills. I've been able to attend several national conferences including the Biophysical Society meeting in my 2nd year and a Cold Spring Harbor meeting during my 3rd year. At both conferences I presented a poster on work I accomplished in the Kielkopf Lab, rendering the scientific and communication skills I had learned at Rochester invaluable.

Our department has a very supportive and open research environment. For instance, all the labs that work with RNA have a monthly 'RNA Cluster' meeting, where lab members can present ongoing work. In this way, each lab can benefit from the collective RNA expertise in the department. I had the opportunity to present at the RNA Cluster meeting during my 3rd year and the comments I received were very helpful, expanding my knowledge and ultimately allowing me design better experiments. Another project I worked on in the Kielkopf Lab has led to a first-authored Molecular Cell paper during my 4th year. Recently, I presented this work at the American Crystallographic Association meeting where it was selected as a talk during a high profile session. I think that the Biochemistry and Biophysics department provides a positive research environment where students can develop into successful, independent scientists.

Sharon Pepenella

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I chose the University of Rochester for graduate school because I was impressed not only with the quality of education and availability of resources to the students, but with the welcomed collaboration between labs and the connection between students and faculty. Throughout my time here, I feel I have advanced tremendously as a scientist due to our challenging course content and the mentoring of our faculty. The courses are designed to enhance problem solving abilities which directly correlate to the understanding and development of my research projects. My committee of professors are available to troubleshoot data as well as to offer advice and suggestions for future experiments, leaving me well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead!

Melanie Preston

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As a graduate student at the University of Rochester, I have had several opportunities to present at international meetings, including the Annual Meeting of the RNA Society and the Gordon Conference on RNA Editing. In addition, my work on the role of a tRNA modifying enzyme was selected for an oral presentation at the Annual Meeting of the RNA Society in Berlin, Germany. Participating in these meetings gave me the opportunity to interact with leaders in the field of RNA biology. This networking subsequently led me to contact one of the professors that I had met to discuss a postdoctoral position. I'll be starting this position in the near future at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Attending conferences and presenting my work was certainly a major factor in obtaining this position.

The research environment at the University of Rochester provides opportunities for collaborations between labs in various departments in the Medical Center and on River Campus. Graduate students often learn new techniques from other labs as well as participate in collaborative projects. These opportunities result in high quality, high impact research, as well as training that makes University of Rochester graduate students competitive candidates for future positions.

Graduate students at the University of Rochester do cutting edge research and routinely publish in top scientific journals. We recently published a paper on my work in the journal, RNA, and are working toward publishing another paper in the near future.