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Nathaniel Tippens

Because the administration supports collaborations across three institutions, my research has brought together scientists from diverse disciplines.
Nate is a graduate student co-mentored by John Lis’ lab in Cornell Ithaca and Todd Evans’ lab in Weill Cornell, NYC, working on understanding the role of epigenetic memory in cellular reprogramming and directed differentiation from reprogrammed cells.

I chose the CBM program because of its strong emphasis on both experimental and computational expertise, which has allowed me to develop as a molecular biologist while continuing to apply my computational background to medical problems. This felt like the perfect program for me before I joined, and I still feel that way as I continue my studies in the program; I’m very excited about the projects I’ve started. One of the most rewarding things about my research has been helping to bring together scientists from diverse disciplines. Because the administration supports collaborations across three institutions, I’ve been able to assemble a team that includes a medical scientist, a biochemist, and a computational biologist to advise me in an effort to unlock new possibilities in regenerative medicine. Specifically, I am developing a new experimental technique that we hope will enable engineering a better understanding of the molecular circuitry that governs cell identity. I’ve been working on this technique in Ithaca in Dr. Lis’ lab for the past few months, and probably will for the remainder of my 2nd year. Dr. Lis provides day to day guidance and feedback, based on decades of experience developing novel biochemical techniques. Despite my belief in the power of this new technique, I chose to join the lab of Dr. Todd Evans in NYC to ensure that I can apply my expertise to challenges in regenerative medicine. I hope to apply my technique to study cellular differentiation and improve our understanding of how cellular identity is regulated.

I can offer some advice based on the past year and a half in the program: Don’t be surprised at how much work it takes to succeed, and how much you still have to learn! I had two years’ experience as a research technician in addition to the research projects I was involved with as an undergraduate. However, it’s very different when you are developing your own project and at an even earlier stage where you are the only one working on a new project. There were a couple of projects that I spent time developing, and from the early results had to accept that they weren’t feasible. And that’s fine, that’s a healthy part of research and learning that is important as well.

I really like the diversity of scientific interests between the Ithaca campus and the New York City campus. For example, in Ithaca there’s a lot of research into agriculture, entomology and sustainability (to name a few). It’s great to meet scientists working in such different fields and hear what they do; it can expand your perspective as a biologist. However, there are fewer medical researchers here – and that’s where the collaborations and opportunities in NYC are invaluable.