Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Joseph Inigo, Verrrazano Honors Class of 2013, has completed his first semester of a PhD program in Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics. He reflects on how earning a biochemistry degree and Verrazano honors at CSI, has prepared him for this next stage of his career.

Hello friends,

Just a month ago, I completed the first semester of my PhD program in Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The winter break has given me time to reflect upon my experiences and I wish to share some of them with you. As I ready to type, with coffee in hand and a wintry view offered by the window beside me, my memory shifts to the previous spring. I was actually away for a conference where I was due to present my research on brain tumors, when I received an email from the Roswell Institute. They seemed pleased with my recent interview and more importantly, they had offered me acceptance into their graduate program. I welled up with great excitement and could not believe what I had just read. In fact, the next day I frequently looked for that same email just to make sure that it was not a dream I conjured the previous night.
Joseph Inigo on campus (during the day!)

Fast forward to the fall where I had just moved into my first apartment in downtown Buffalo. It was quite an adjustment that I had to make. Now in a new city filled with strangers, I felt as if I were starting my life from scratch. Although this stirred up a sense of apprehension, along with it came feelings of excitement and joy. I resolved to approach this new phase of my academic career with the utmost enthusiasm and vigor, in the same manner that one of my heroes, Theodore Roosevelt, would have (To my great surprise, the Theodore Roosevelt inaugural site is only a block away from my apartment!). On the first day of student orientation I rose earlier than normal. And as I arrived at the auditorium, I pushed through the doors with eyes beaming and bellowed a hearty “hello” to what awaited me on the other side. I was greeted with a flickering light and an empty room. This was when I came to realize that perhaps I was a bit overzealous in my arrival; I was over an hour early to the event and the sun had barely risen.
                Yet for the months to come, I aimed to face each day with the same degree of enthusiasm and fervor. As a newcomer at Roswell, I was well aware that my colleagues and superiors would be years ahead in terms of knowledge and experience pertaining to oncology. There were many aspects of the field I had yet to uncover and it was quite a shift. Although I had previously delved into cancer research, my primary training was in neuroscience. However, looking back I now realize that I was more than ready to face any challenge that was to come my way due to my years at the College of Staten Island.
During my time at CSI I had the honor of working with Dr. Probal Banerjee and his lab for several years.  One of the greatest assets at CSI, I realized, is the opportunity for students to work closely with faculty members and perform high-level research. I took advantage of this environment and along the way, I gained many skills through my involvement in various projects. For example, I was trained to record electrical activity of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex with the aim of discovering effects elicited by drug-receptor interactions. I learned to work with cell lines, perform animal surgery, and synthesize drug compounds during my work in combating brain tumors. Equally as important, I was also taught how to think like a scientist, which involves the ability to analyze data while detecting the most minute of details, to assemble facts and form theories, and to question the prevailing dogma. This ultimately brought forth from myself a great appreciation for the sciences and it prepared me well for what was to come at the Roswell Institute.
I was then able to quickly integrate myself into my current lab environment at the Roswell Institute because of the mindset and practical skills I came armed with. Within the past few months, I have been able to further broaden my skills, allowing me to research prostate and pancreatic cancer as well as aging and genetic damage. I have been able to greatly expand my understanding of cancer biology, in terms of how it originates at the cellular level and what novel techniques are available for battling this disease.  And along the way, I have met some quite interesting personalities and made friends with some spirited individuals.

Going forward, I feel that I can make an impact on the world at large and make my dreams into a reality. And I will forever be grateful for the staff, colleagues, and friends at CSI who provided the lessons and experiences necessary for me to reach this point in my life. A life in which I am able to realize my passion and purpose.

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