Spotlight on Natural Sciences and Humanities Alumni:Katherine Lelli

Name: Katherine Lelli
Age: 27
Occupation: Postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Molecular Genetics and B.A. German, University of Rochester; Columbia: M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. in Genetics and Development
Current city/state of residence: New York, NY
Community activities: I am involved in a mentoring program through the New York Academy of Science teaching after school science labs. I’ve also volunteered as an SAT tutor for students from low income households and as a science fair judge.

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Out of all the schools I was accepted to, the University of Rochester had the strongest programs in both science and language studies. I also liked the flexible course set-up, which didn’t restrict me to a required set of core classes my first year.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in several activities around campus including a panhellenic sorority and the Ballet Performance Group. Not only did I have lot of fun, but participating in these groups also laid the foundation for many lasting friendships. Additionally, holding leadership positions also taught me important managerial and communication skills.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Immediately after graduation I spent two months in Germany before heading to graduate school in the fall.  I spent six weeks in Berlin with a program through the UR German department and two weeks traveling around the country. It was a great experience and I highly recommend spending some time traveling after graduation.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am finishing my Ph.D. at Columbia University in Genetics and Development. I chose to go to graduate school because I have always been intrigued by science and enjoy being on the cutting edge. After I defend I will move to a new lab for a postdoctoral fellowship, where I hope to gain the credentials necessary to open my own lab as a professor at a university.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

How do you balance your work and professional life?

This can be precarious, especially if you go on to any kind of professional school after undergrad. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind but I make sure to schedule time for activities I enjoy. In addition to just hanging out with my fiancé and puppy or reading a good book, I also attend yoga, pilates and dance classes every week. It’s important to manage your spare time wisely being sure to balance more relaxing activities with more active ones.

What advice do you have for current students?

My best advice to current students is to enjoy your time in undergrad. Take interesting classes, meet new people, try something new and most importantly study something you love. Don’t spend so much time preparing for the future that you forget to live in the present.