Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Paul Del Prato
Occupation: Junior Research Scientist, NYU
Education (UR and additional): BS BCS / BA Linguistics, ‘12
Current city/state/country of residence: NY, NY
Current Community activities: research, gallivanting
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
I chose to attend UR because it was close to home, it is a quality research institution, and the University has a nurturing and supportive campus environment that was important to me at the time. They are also generous with financial aid.
When and how did you choose your major(s)?
Freshman year I stumbled into BCS 110 – I was immediately interested in the cutting-edge research that was going on in the department. The breadth of the course requirements ensured that I experienced (almost) the entire spectrum of science – biology, computer science, language science; to name a few. And I was too smart to be an Economics major.
What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?
The uninspiring answer would be for me to say the Career Center, but that is the wrong answer. From what I’ve seen, in order to progress through a certain career track, there are field-specific things that people need to know that they often find out too late to efficiently utilize. Therefore, the resources I recommend you use are the ones that give you a sense of direction of who you are or where you want to be, and then get as informed as possible anyway you know how (I prefer Googling and approaching smart people with a smile). ASAP.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
Sorry in being a little one-track-minded – I was involved in academic research since my sophomore year. I gained a sense of belonging and a muse to which I could apply my brainpower to generate something useful that I was proud of.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
My mentors were Brad Mahon, and to a lesser degree, Jeff Runner. I am still more afraid of Brad than my current research advisor, which I am sure he would be glad to hear. Brad still responds to my e-mails with characteristic one-line all-lowercase responses, and I have seen and spoken to Jeff at conferences. They know me and I know them and because of them I am here. You know?
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take this path?
I packed up my things and moved to New York. I began my research position almost immediately and haven’t looked back. The decision was essentially made for me – once I received my job offer in February of my graduating year, I knew I had to take it. Being here has been incredibly formative in my personal growth and in developing my research goals. New York has surrounded me with opportunity and excitement, and has fruitfully raised my expectations for myself to strive towards being the best.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I study how the brain processes language and I help others in our lab do the same. I chose this career because the content is similar to what I worked on at UR, and the scientific process is an outlet to exercise my nascent skills in reading, writing, listening, learning, implementing, computing, and wondering.
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
Besides those above, important skills I acquired at UR include: learning how to read academic literature, Googling, and understanding which rules put in place are meant to be broken.
Where would you like to be in five years?
Ideally I will still be working on something that I care about. Logistically, in five years, I will likely be dissertating and hopefully I will not have turned into a joyless grind by then.
How you are still connected with the University?
I can still locate Rochester on a map.
What is your fondest memory of the University?
My fondest memory is of being with my best friend at 4 AM, at the fringes of sanity, convinced we wouldn’t make it through the next day.
What advice do you have for current students?
My advice is to wake up early, treat yourself right, focus on what matters (producing results), and at the end of the day, call somebody you care about and tell them that you love them.