Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Nicketti Handy

handyName: Nicketti Handy

Occupation: Student at Tufts University School of Medicine

Education (UR and additional): University of Rochester, Portland Community College, Tufts Medical.

Current city/state/country of residence: Boston, MA

Current Community activities: Volunteer at Tufts Medical Students’ Sharewood free health clinic (Boston)


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I grew up in Portland, Oregon…and when I was 18 years old, I was eager to jump far from home and try someplace new and different than what I was familiar with. University of Rochester had a good reputation for the natural sciences and research while also fostering a strong liberal arts community, so as somebody who wanted to keep my academic options open, I was attracted to the versatility of the curriculum.  I visited the campus, and the school charmed me!

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I didn’t solidify my major (Brain & Cognitive Sciences) until my junior year. I really stumbled upon it! I was taking a pretty random selection of courses my freshman/sophomore year to see what fields attracted me most, and that included my enrolling in an “Animal Minds” course my sophomore year. After loving that class, I started taking more and more BCS courses that interested me without much of an agenda. When it came time to hone in on a specific major my junior year, I realized I’d actually taken a significant number of BCS courses and it would be wise for me to declare myself a BCS major.  I already had the interest in the field as well as a fair number of courses under my belt….it worked out perfectly!

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

I was a founding member of UR Rotaract Club, which contributed a multitude of richness and depth to my college experience. I went on an alternative spring break trip with the Rotaract crew during our inaugural year, and my closest friends to this day are people that were on the trip with me to Stinking Creek, Kentucky! Rotaract was also a great way to strengthen my connection to my community here in Rochester: we tutored refugee children, arranged cultural events for families without access to theater/arts/music, and partnered with other campus groups to support UR-Rochester interaction.  Additionally, I was involved with several other groups on campus, notably Urban Exploring and Water Polo team.

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

I was a vagabond! I travelled to Mongolia and worked in a tuberculosis hospital for a few weeks before venturing around Europe…. Upon returning to the USA, I was skipping around between Oregon and Colorado and California. (I worked on-and-off as an Environmental Consultant in Portland, OR for a while to support my nomadic lifestyle.) I eventually decided I’d like to become a doctor, so I got studious at Portland Community College to take the med school pre-reqs (I was never pre-med during undergrad, but BCS helped knock a lot of those courses out along the way) before applying to medical schools. I’m very happy I took those 4 years to adventure and explore my world and options before committing to med school; my path is a bit unconventional, but it helped me gain a lot of experience and a strong sense of self.

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

I am currently a first year medical student at Tufts University in Boston, MA! The idea of healing people and being intimately involved in human health care has always been a deeply resonant notion to me. So far, medical school has been fun, engaging, and fast-paced! I love it.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I will be a sleep-deprived resident, but happily so!

How you are still connected with the University?

It’s amazing how deep my roots grew during my time at the University of Rochester: I have come back to visit the campus a couple times since moving back to the East Coast, and it’s truly impressive how many good memories I am flooded with upon my arrival on campus. Every step seems to transport me back in time to where and how I first did such-and-such with so-and-so… It’s a magical memory land, reminding me of how special my time here was! My closest friends are still my college friends. Academically, the quality of education that I received from the University of Rochester has no doubt made more opportunities available to me. I’m happy to have the UR as my alma mater!

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t be afraid to take risks. I actually unenrolled from college my senior year and chose to backpack around South America on my own for several months instead of attending school. I had to work really hard to make sure I still graduated on time, but those 5 months were critical to my personal development. I highly recommend students supplementing their academics with real-world experience. The University of Rochester is wonderfully accommodating for students who choose to pursue something outside of the norm, so you can take advantage of the school’s willingness to advocate for you if you decide that you need to take your own brain on an adventure beyond the textbooks!