Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Riley O’Neil

O'Neil.Name: Riley O’Neil
UR Major:  Biology
Other UR Majors/Minors: Psychology, BA
Current City, State of Residence: Albany, NY
Job Title: Medical Student, Ensign
Employer: Albany Medical College, United States Navy
Community Activities: Youth mentoring/tutoring/educational programs

How did you choose your major(s)?

I choose both biology and psychology as a result of the great amount of freedom provided by UR’s cluster system.  I had the freedom to explore the areas I was interested in most.  I decided getting a broad introduction to each field was best for my career goals and me.

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

As a RA/CA, I gained significant practice in interacting and communicating with my peers in both casual conversations and about sensitive topics; something that has given me confidence as I begin the practice of patient interviews.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

I spent a significant amount of my time working and doing research in the lab of Douglas Portman, PhD.  The lab provided me with many important opportunities to expand my education and I’ve done my best to stop in and visit when I’m back in the area.

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

One thing I’ve come to appreciate more as my time at Rochester continued was the importance of networking.  The people you meet can be a great resource later on especially when it comes time to start getting interviews for your next step forward after graduation.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

I can certainly see the benefits of both.  I think it’s highly dependent on the field you wish to pursue.  I’m personally happy with my decision to move directly on to a graduate program.  There have been times where I’m a bit jealous of the experiences my current colleagues have gained by working before starting their graduation education. 

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

I choose to pursue a career in medicine.  This was then, and is now, the most rewarding career I could think to enter.  I also made the decision to commission to the United States Navy through their Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).  The program covers the cost of medical school in exchange for your future service.  Five years from now, I’d like to be well into the residency program of my choice and proudly serving our country.