Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Joanna Brougher

defaultName: Joanna Brougher ’04

Education (UR and additional): BS (Microbiology), BA (German), University of Rochester, 2004; MPH, University of Rochester; JD, Boston College Law School

Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY

Job Title: Senior Counsel

Employer: Vaccinex

Family: Married with a one-year old son and two cats.


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?  

I chose the University of Rochester for several reasons. First, my family is in Rochester and I wanted to stay close to them. Second, I wanted a school where I could get a top-notch education in science and languages while still allowing me to broaden my experiences through extra-curricular activities. The UofR allowed me to do just that. I was able to double-major in Microbiology and German, minor in Russian, spend one year abroad in Cologne, Germany, and also play on the school’s tennis team.

When and how did you choose your major?  

When I began college, I was determined to be a doctor, and specifically, a doctor who worked with infectious diseases. So, like many other pre-med students, I focused on biology. Since my interest was mainly with infectious diseases, I decided to focus on microbiology and immunology since that would give me a good foundation to learning about how diseases work. In addition to majoring in microbiology, I also majored in German. The reason I chose German is because I was born in Germany and have spent a great deal of time there.

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

The main activity that I participated in was to be a member of the UofR’s women tennis team. In fact, I was a three-time All American in tennis. I really enjoyed my time on the team. It taught be a lot about hard-work, dedication, and being able to manage my time. At the same time, it allowed me to meet a lot of great people who I am still friends with to this day. For instance, my doubles partner at the UofR was a neighbor of mine in Boston and also a bridesmaid at my wedding.

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

Instead of going to medical school like I always imagined, I decided to go to law school and become a lawyer. In law school, I decided to focus on patent law since that would allow me to use my background in science. After law school, I spent a few years working at an international law firm in Boston focusing on patent law within the biotechnology space. I moved back to Rochester in November 2010, and now work for a biotechnology company where I can combine my interests in science, medicine and the law.

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

I am involved with a number of projects these days. First and foremost, I am the in-house legal counsel at a biotechnology company in Rochester called Vaccinex, Inc. The company focuses on developing novel therapeutic antibodies for use in treating cancer and various autoimmune diseases. I handle basically any and all legal issues that the company deals with, including intellectual property. I really enjoy working with the company because I am able to get involved in all aspects of the company and learn about what it takes to develop novel therapeutics. In addition, I am an Adjunct at the Harvard School of Public Health where I teach a class on intellectual property and healthcare technologies. Teaching has always been an interest of mine because it’s such a great way to connect with students and help them understand a specific topic. Based on the class I teach, I have also been working on a book. Between work and having a one-year son at home, it’s been difficult to find time to write, but I hope to have the book finished this summer.

What advice do you have for current students?

Do not try to rush through your undergraduate experience – it will be over before you know it. Take your time to fully nurture and develop your interests. Definitely take advantage of programs like Take 5, and various other programs that let you combine your BS or BA with a graduate degree. For instance, I did a combined BS-MPH program which let me combine the last year of my undergraduate studies with the first year of my graduate studies. In the end, I was able to get a Masters degree in less time than I would have otherwise.

Research Internship Introduced Rochester Junior to German Culture

By Jordan Duncan ’14
Intern, Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

Maria Zapata ’14, a chemical engineering major at the University of Rochester, fell in love with Germany when she interned abroad at German national lab, Forschungszentrum Jülich, for four months this past summer.  She participated in the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Research Internships in Science and Engineering (DAAD RISE) program after learning about it through the University’s Center for Study Abroad & Interdepartmental Programs.

Before beginning her research in Jülich, Zapata participated in a month-long German language crash course in Münich.  “I learned more German from listening to my friends, though,” she said.  “They would repeat the same words again and again, so eventually I learned the basics.  I could hold most of this conversation in German right now.”

Throughout the length of the internship, Zapata traveled every weekend.  She visited Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Austria during her stay in Germany.  “It was amazing!” she said.  “You get to know another culture.  A lot of American people are afraid to leave the country, but I think it’s important to show that you’re not scared of going to a new place.”

Zapata met her traveling companions at the gym in Jülich, and she spent a lot of her free time with them.  “Everything in Germany is closed on Sundays, so I had a lot of time to myself,” she said.  “We went backpacking, and we learned a lot about different cultures.”

Besides experiencing a new culture, Zapata gained valuable experience in chemical engineering. “Doing research in Germany was great,” she said. “The system of doing research at the German national lab is totally different from our campus.”

The German lab offered her access to many resources that aren’t available on Rochester’s campus.  She learned how to operate new machines that are directly relevant to her field of research, and she learned from the more experienced researchers with whom she worked.

“My supervisor was amazing.  He taught me a lot and he was always helpful.”  Zapata was able to request microscope images from technicians, so she spent more time focusing on her research.  “I had more freedom to do what I think could work,” she said.  “I felt that my ideas were important for the group, and that my voice was heard.”

Zapata was pleased to discover that her peers and co-workers always supported each other and spent time together outside of work.  Everyone in her research group ate lunch together during the week, and after lunch they shared coffee time.  “It was great because we could talk about our different projects there,” she said.

The program provided Zapata with a $6,500 stipend throughout her stay for her work in the research lab.  The lodging was free and the flight was free, so she only paid for food and personal expenses during her time abroad.  “It’s a great way to go and explore Europe, even if you don’t want to spend a lot of money,” she said.

Zapata hopes to return to Germany after she earns her undergraduate degree.  “They told me that I can get a masters degree in engineering in a year and a half,” she said.  “Now, I am sure that I want to do my masters in Germany!”

Read More About Rochester Students Who Traveled Abroad Through Fellowships

Photo courtesy of Maria Zapata.

Modern Languages & Cultures Department Honors Book Award Recipients

Dept. of Modern Languages and Cultures – On May 3, 2012, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures hosted the 2012 Book Awards where they lauded students studying a variety of languages. The students that were presented with the book awards are as follows:

French: Kriti Thapa ’14, Emma Alperin ’15, Rebecca Herlich ’14, Christopher Nishimura ’15

Japanese: Jonathan Budnik ’14, Cameron La Point ’13, Valerie Mueller ’14

German: Kathryn Conheady ’15, Leslie Gordon ’13, Veronica Price ’13

Comparative Literature: Hannah Chute ’14, Laura Dolan ’13, Olivia Earle ’13

Russian Studies: Kathleen Dickson ’14, Eric Hand ’14

Italian: Philip Sutera ’14, Ke Xiang ’14, Simone Zehren ’14

Chinese: Carolyn Magri ’13, Quinlan Mitchell ’13, Cihangir Okuyan ’12, Emily Slack ’12

Russian: Zhao Li ’14 May Zhee Lim ’14, Yiyang Zhu ’14

Spanish: Samuel Beckwith ’14, Amelia Engel ’14, Marjorie Grace Van der Ven ’14, Victoria Zhou ’14

Article and photo courtesy of Yick Chong Lam ’13. In the Photo: Kriti Thapa ’14 is given a 2012 Book Award

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.