Today we speak with Translational Biomedical Sciences major (TBS) junior Abigail Muccilli. She discusses her major, research within the field, internship and job opportunities, career outcomes and her personal goals as a student within the Translational Biomedical Sciences major.
What is Translational Biomedical Sciences (TBS)?
It is essentially a lot like a biology degree, but it incorporates a lot of research. It focuses on combining clinical work with bench work. The major is really aimed towards people who are maybe premedical or who will be obtaining an M.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. after their undergraduate studies.
Why did you decide to study TBS?
I decided to study it because I knew right away that I wanted to do research or to at least try it. I never really did anything in the lab prior to going to college, but it always intrigued me. I really wanted a way to get into the lab quickly because I was so excited to conduct research. I also knew I wanted to pursue medicine and that pursuing this major would help me fulfill all of those requirements. So choosing this major was just the right path for me for a couple of reasons.
Can you talk about some of the research you are doing?
I work with Dr. Keck on campus and that is in the The Department of Molecular & Cellular Biosciences (MCB). Basically in our lab, I work on the vitro side of things so that is going to be the molecular work. We test novel drugs on different dopamine receptors to see how well that they bind to them. In other words, how well the drug is working. We do this with different doses and different types of drugs, and these drugs are going to hopefully be used to treat neurological disorders like addictions or Parkinsons. Right now, we are finished with our data collecting stage and we are in our writing work stage. This means that we are in the process of crunching numbers and figuring out what is exactly working the best according to the data we collected.
Can you talk about the importance of getting hands-on experience while being a TBS major?
I think it is really important to get hands-on experience for a few reasons. First of all, science is always changing and it is really important that you are always on your toes and learning. While being in a lab, you learn that fast because you have to be really adaptive. Something can go wrong very quickly and it is important to develop problem solving skills and have the ability to apply them.
Doing research here has provided me with so many opportunities. I feel like I have been super encouraged, specifically by my mentor, but I also know so many other students found very passionate people to work, that are eager to tackle present issues.
Beside research, what other opportunities are available to students that go into this major?
There are many non-Rowan opportunities that this major will grant students that choose this major. There are internships and jobs related to the National Institute of Health (NIH) that we are related to. We also work very closely with different hospitals like Cooper.
Also, the location of Rowan grants the opportunities for seeking out jobs or internships in Philadelphia. For instance, in April, my lab is going to a conference in Philadelphia. At the conference we will be able to present our research and get to see the work and research done by other people in the area and make connections with them.
Can you talk about the relationships you have with your professors?
I definitely think that student and professor interaction is a two-way street. So it definitely depends on how you are presenting yourself to your professors when developing your relationships and networking.
I would say my personal experience has been overall very positive. I definitely put that first foot forward to make a good first impression. My lab professor, Dr. Keck has been a fantastic mentor for me. I think by coming to Rowan, I experienced for the first time the action of a teacher giving me the same respect as a person who was in his similar position.
Dr. Keck is constantly eager to hear what I have to say and treating mistakes as learning experiences. By creating this type of culture within his lab, Dr. Keck has not only made such a difference in my life and my experience within this major, but many other students who have the opportunity to learn from him. This is not just unique to Dr. Keck either. I know many professors who aspire to create this culture and a comfortable environment for their students. I have also had some really great professors in my Cell Biology classes and Chemistry courses.
If you were to describe TBS in one word or sentence, what would it be?
Medicine from beginning to end — the very first step is acknowledging that there is an issue. Then, we are bringing it into the lab to where we start testing out questions we have developed. Then we are bringing it back to the patients. It is kind of like a cycle and the translational part is that you are translating the bench work into clinical practice and seeing the process grow. You are truly part of every step.
What do you enjoy most about this major?
I really enjoy the freedom I get. Especially as an undergraduate, I feel like I have so many different options in this major. Right now, my plan is to attend medical school, however, I could also just dive right into research. I could also go to graduate school and obtain a Ph.D. There is a lot of freedom and a lot of choice within this major. For someone who is interested in multiple facets of medicine and of science, this is a great field because you can really explore those facets and find what best suits you.
Can you talk about the science department as a whole?
The Department of Molecular & Cellular Biosciences (MCB) and the Translational Biomedical Studies students consists of a very small group of students. The group of students is very encouraging and willing to help each other.
On a bigger scale, the science department as a whole is more dispersed and I think a little more competitive but still has the welcoming atmosphere and culture where everyone is willing to help each other.
How has Rowan University helped you personally try to achieve your goals?
I get a lot of financial support from Rowan like grants and scholarships. A lot of the money I have received was because of the work I put into applying for the scholarships and grants. Secondly, I have an on-campus job that is very fun and flexible with my academic schedule. I also receive my therapy resources from Rowan. Finally, Rowan grants students the access to utilize resources like the Food Pantry especially when food is too expensive or unaffordable for college students on their own.
Can you talk about the scholarship and grant opportunities Rowan provides?
Some of them are easy to find through Rowan resources like the Rowan Announcer. Others are found on websites like Scholarship Universe. I have been able to find a lot of essay based scholarships. A lot of opportunities are found by putting yourself out there and being willing to do the work.
Why did you choose to study at Rowan?
I fell in love with Rowan because when I was in high school I wanted to be a Music Therapy major, and they had a great program here. I always knew I wanted to go into medicine, but I didn’t feel completely comfortable or confident in doing so. I am a first generation student and I had no idea what I wanted to do and Rowan made it very easy and comfortable for me to step out of my comfort zone. I changed career paths and was originally going to come here as a Biology major. However, someone started talking to me about this program and at the time, really wanted to do research so on a whim I decided to switch to Translational Biomedical Sciences. I think Rowan just made me feel extremely comfortable and provided me with so many different resources in order to be successful here.
What does it mean to you as you are a first generation student?
I think initially it is scary because immediately there is an expectation that comes with being a first generation college student. I do not think that my family members are unsuccessful because they did not go to college, however, I am proud that I am able to do this, able to pay for college by myself, and able pursue this career path on my own.
See our video with Abigail here:
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Natalie DePersia, junior public relations major