I was always interested in biology and medicine, but I was also interested in computation. As an undergraduate, I was introduced to a bioinformatics professor and discovered this new field that merged my interests. It was an exciting time for me, and I decided to explore this path further.
What I really liked about this program was its flexibility. The program allows students to grow into the scientist they want to become, in the way that they want to do it. The program appreciates that students come into the program from very diverse backgrounds. The first year coursework is designed in collaboration with academic advisors, to maximize opportunities to develop for each student individually. I had a good experience with mentoring and the leadership of the program is particularly great. They were always supportive of me and helped me get access to resources that I needed for my work and well being.
The institutions affiliated with the program have fantastic researchers doing important work so it’s an environment that prepares you to succeed. I appreciated getting different types of experience at the different institutions. At the medical college there are a lot more translational projects available in collaboration with clinicians. Up at the main campus I got the opportunity to interact with people working on methodological developments and fundamental theoretical advances.
In my first summer as a CBM student. I completed lab rotations in the Weill Cornell New York City campus, so I got to explore the area when there was a lot of stuff going on. Our class then moved to the Cornell Ithaca campus in the fall when it was incredibly beautiful. It was a nice transition from being an undergraduate in that you still felt part of the campus community in a university town. But the best part of this program really was that we have interesting people of different backgrounds coming into the program, which makes for some interesting discourse.
My graduate training coincided with the rapid rise of next-generation sequencing. I explored analysis methods for high-throughput epigenomic and transcriptomic datasets. I published several papers and one of them became a cornerstone of my thesis. In this paper we described our study of DNA methylation patterns in Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphomas. We used differences in DNA methylation patterns to classify patients into subtypes and looked at prognosis in these newly described subtypes. Further validations studies are needed to determine if this type of finding can be translated into the clinic.
The institutions affiliated with the program have fantastic researchers doing important work so it’s an environment that prepares you to succeed and publish. After my postdoc I am considering starting my own research group or a career as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry. Most of my family is in Zimbabwe so I am keeping an eye out for opportunities in southern Africa so I can be closer to them.