Valdez 1Michael Valdez

Major: Genetics 

Graduation Year: 2015

How did you decide on your major?

I knew I wanted to become a doctor or a researcher and so I was choosing between the two research forward biology majors: MBB or Genetics. I took the intro Genetics course and loved the teaching style of the department, the awesome faculty, and my classmates. So I stayed there and never looked back.

What did you like most about it?

The research forward mentality, my awesome classmates, and the excellent mentorship from the professors I interacted with closely.

Valdez 2What is your current position, what do you, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I am currently a third year graduate student at the University of California, San Diego. I study the stem cells of the lung and how they are activated by injury in the airways. What I enjoy most is my ability to set my own hours. It gives me the flexibility to enjoy the natural beauty and city life that I’m surrounded by in a way that a 9-5 wouldn’t allow.

What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?

Soon after graduating, I began a Research assistant Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland while I prepared to apply to grad school. I applied with the guidance of my mentors.

How did you move from that first job to your current position?

Working hard and doing well on grad school applications!

Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?

While at Rutgers, I maxed out the available credit space for research, and then took some more! That time in the lab with Dr. Michael Verzi, and the rest of the lab, prepared me for the test that grad school has been. In addition, I still reference material from my upper level electives from both the Genetics and MBB departments, like Developmental Genetics and Chromatin& Epigenetics, in my research today.

What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?

Take full advantage of the wealth of undergrad-accessible labs at Rutgers! The culture is extraordinarily conducive to growth for undergraduates, which isn’t the case everywhere else you go.

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