Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Claire Agrawal

agrawalName:  Claire Agrawal

UR Major:  Biology

Other UR Majors/Minors: French, Psychology as a Social Science

Additional Education: Currently in University of Pittsburgh’s DPT program

Current City, State of Residence: Pittsburgh, PA

Community Activities:  Work one-on-one with a child with Down Syndrome and Autism at a Saturday morning program promoting motor and social development through gym and swimming activities

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

I was on the Bhangra dance team and the a cappella group After-Hours. The biggest things I gained from being involved in these activities are friendships and a realization of how important it is to find something outside of schoolwork/a career that you like to do.   Doing extracurricular activities in college showed me what I could do to feel balanced in life and also gave me a skills base in dancing and singing to build upon after college.  Knowing that these are the activities I like to do, I sought out more opportunities in dancing and music after moving to a new city for grad school. Doing so has helped me adjust to the new city faster, balance the stress of grad school, and meet people who enjoy doing the same things I do.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

An internship is an excellent opportunity to develop your professional skills.  Punctuality, presentation of yourself, positivity, flexibility, and initiative are all aspects of professional behavior that have been emphasized in grad school as vital components of surviving in the work-force.   In my case, it is in regards to patient care as a physical therapist. But I believe these skills are valuable in any setting, and truly open doors for you beyond good grades alone.  An internship is an ideal setting in which to practice these skills because your position changes from student to colleague and you work within a team to achieve a goal instead of a grade.

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

I wish I had taken better advantage of intern/volunteer opportunities during college (especially during summers) to investigate different careers.  I have a friend from U of R who applied to a wide variety of internships (some unpaid) in areas she was interested in, including some that did not obviously relate to her major.   While reflecting back on college with her, I was fascinated by how each of her seemingly unrelated experiences contributed to the job she now has (she works for a think tank). I admire how she followed her interests instead of just a predictable track for her major.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying biology?

My advice would be to consider the day-to-day job routine you can see yourself in.   Do you want to work independently or with a team or with patients/clients for the majority of the day? Do you want a fast-paced atmosphere or a quieter one where you have more time to think about decisions? If you’re interested in research, I would recommend trying to get involved in both lab and clinical research to see if you prefer one more than the other before ruling research out.  If you are interested in health-related careers, don’t forget about nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, dentistry, pharmacy, and other allied health fields in addition to medicine

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

 I am currently in grad school to become a physical therapist.  I chose this path because I want a career that has me on my feet instead of behind a desk, that involves direct social interaction with people, and that relates the biological sciences to improving human health.  I also chose it because of the opportunity to do clinical work, teaching, and research all in the same job down the road. In five years, I hope to be practicing as a physical therapist with a specialty in Women’s Health Rehab or Neurology.  My goal is to practice physical therapy abroad as well, in order to gain a better perspective of the role of a PT in different health care systems.