Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Thomas Shay

ShayName: Thomas Shay ’06

Education (UR and additional): BS (Geomechanics), University of Rochester, 2006; MBA (Strategic Management), Pace University, 2011

Current city/state of residence: Norwalk, CT

Job Title: Civil Engineer/Project Technical Specialist

Employer: Woodard & Curran

Family: Krista (wife) and Finley (dog)


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?  

I originally learned about the University of Rochester when I was being recruited to play football. I had attended a couple other college visits but when I got to the University of Rochester it just felt like the right place for me. The Campus was beautiful, just the right size, exceptional academics, and the opportunity to play football…a recipe for success.

When and how did you choose your major?  

I decided sometime later on in high school that being a doctor was way too much school. I was always competent and interested in math and science so I ultimately decided on engineering. I narrowed that down to mechanical engineering prior to arriving at the University of Rochester and then stumbled upon the geomechanics major once I decided that I was most interested in civil, geotechnical, and environmental engineering (all programs that were not actually offered by the University of Rochester). I had no interest in transferring so I was hopeful that the geomechanics degree program would lead me to a job in civil, geotechnical, or environmental engineering, which it ultimately did.

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

I was involved with the football program over the course of my four years at Rochester. This was a very enlightening and rewarding experience for me. A few things that my college football experience taught me were how to manage my time effectively, that I had to have confidence in myself, the importance of sacrifice, and that what you get out of something depends on what you put in.

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

I decided that I was ready to take the next step in my life and get a job after graduating. I figured that this is what I had gone to college for and now it was time to get a return on my investment. In January or February of my senior year, I successfully interviewed for and was offered a position as an engineer with an engineering consulting firm in White Plains, NY. I started working in June as an entry level civil/environmental engineer and later specialized in site/civil engineering which is what I currently do today. I am currently involved with the planning, permitting, design, and construction oversight of various private and municipal site development projects.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Balancing work and my personal life is certainly a challenge, especially when you begin to develop a family, in my case a wife and a dog. I like to think of engineering consulting, or any profession for that matter, as a lifestyle decision. It is important to understand as best as possible the different demands that your profession will put on your life. In my case, I may have to attend public meeting in the evenings, work over the weekend to finish a project to meet a deadline, or travel long distance for projects for an extended period of time. At times this makes it a challenge to keep a routine for things such as recreational activities or to simply get home in time for dinner. It is important to maintain a flexible schedule and to take advantage of free time when it becomes available.

What advice do you have for current students?

Take the decision of choosing a major very seriously. Think about the types of jobs that are available for that specific major, whether those jobs will be around in the future, and if you can see yourself doing that job for the next thirty or fourty years of your life.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Andrew Lynch

LynchName: Andrew Lynch ’06

Education (UR and additional): BS (Physics and Astronomy), University of Rochester, 2006

Current city/state of residence: Marlton, NJ

Job Title: Inside Sales Manager

Employer: Edmund Optics, Inc.

Family: Wife


When and how did you choose your major?  

I fell in love with Physics and Astronomy in high school.  My high school had block scheduling, and one “semester” I ended up taking both a Physics class and an Astronomy class.  Spending a half day or more every day on those two subjects – with an extremely talented teacher I might add – really sparked my lifelong interest in those subjects.  The next semester I got a job at the local science center running planetarium shows and guiding telescopes for the public.  Those early experiences sealed the deal as far as what major I was going to choose in college.  It also led to my choice of attending UR.

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

My primary on-campus involvements revolved around my membership in a Fraternity (Sigma Chi).  Some people have strong opinions one way or another about Fraternities in general, but the life lessons that I learned from that place are too numerous to list in this questionnaire.  The absolutely ridiculous stories and anecdotes that I’ll have at my disposal are priceless as well!

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

I’m pretty sure I was the only person in my graduating class that chose to get a job after college rather than pursue grad school, and I’m so glad I did.  Whereas a lot of my friends went the grad school route for some niche topic or another, I now already have 5+ years of real world industry and business-related experiences that I can leverage for the rest of my career.  When and if I do end up pursuing a higher degree down the road, it will be that much more valuable since I can put everything into context and see the bigger picture.

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

When I started my job search, it became pretty clear that a BA in Physics and Astronomy would be a valuable degree for several different engineering fields.  With a decent background in telescopes and a firm understanding of the nature of light, Optical Engineering seemed like a good bet.  I spent my first few years as an Applications Engineer, where my main job function was to solve technical problems are questions that our customer’s had.  During that stint, I spent a year and a half living in Singapore and travelling around Asia.  When I came back to the U.S., I knew I wanted to get into the Technical Sales side of the business.  I now manage our Managed Account Inside Sales Team that services the Americas.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?  

Mainly problem solving skills and general principals.  Most of what you learn in college consists of the hairy details that you won’t necessarily have to use in practice.  You need to be familiar with all of them conversationally, but otherwise they all reside in books on the off-chance you need to reference them in the future.  I did an insane amount of integrals and derivations in college, but in my day-to-day job 99% of the math I have to do is trig and/or simple equations.

What advice do you have for current students?

For Physics and Astronomy students, hang out at the POA Library (in B&L) with your fellow nerds as often as the workload warrants it.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a better think tank for working through problem sets, and you’re guaranteed some funny and memorable sci-fi related debates.  For all students, realize that there is so much more to college than a perfect GPA.  Your GPA only marginally matters for your first job out of college, and sometimes not even then!  Make sure you get your degree, but also make sure you have a balanced social life as well.  Push yourself into situations outside of your comfort zone and take some calculated risks while it is still perfectly acceptable to do so!

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Stephen Sedita

seditaName: Stephen Sedita

Occupation: Acupuncture Physician

Education (UR and additional): BA ’03, UR, PhD FAU, MS/BS Atlantic Institute for Oriental Medicine

Current city/state/country of residence: Chattanooga TN

Current Community activities: Community Acupuncture Clinic, Tong Ren, Tai Chi, Hiking


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I like the close knit feel of the campus, the beautiful architecture, and it consistently rated highly for overall value.  As I spent most of my life in Rochester I also wanted to stay near family and friends, and it didn’t hurt that I had a Wegmans scholarship either (ended up staying on part time all through school)

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

I was originally pre-med, comp sci for two years.  I took an AI class that was cross listed with cog sci.  Around that time I also experienced LSD which further interested me in the workings of the brain and mind.  How could such a tiny amount of something completely change experience at its most fundamental level?  It blew my mind, figuratively and literally, and I wanted to know how.  Unfortunately due to the illegal status of hallucinogens very little research exists and no one can explain how a few hundred micrograms of something can totally alter the entire experience of the mind and consciousness.

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

I spent a year trying to find a job in the field with no luck.  I decided to go for my PhD in Complex Systems and Brain Sciences at Florida Atlantic University.  I was drawn to the complex systems aspect as seemed like a good approach to trying to understand one of the most complex structures in the [known] universe. 

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

I’m an acupuncturist, which developed as a natural lifestyle from my work in the martial arts.  I became increasingly disinterested in the highly political nature of academics and at the same time increasingly interested in acupuncture.  With all my credits completed and half my dissertation done I left FAU so I could devote myself full time to learning acupuncture.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

As the style of acupuncture I practice combines Eastern and Western medical knowledge, my brain sciences background has been very useful.  For example for someone with numbness of the index finger I’ll needle a point that almost touches the cervical facet at C6.  For motor coordination issues I’ll use a point or two on the scalp just above the cerebellum and premotor cortex, for emotional problems points on the prefrontal cortex, etc. 

What is your fondest memory of the University?

I always loved to walk along the river especially in the Spring and Fall.  I’d make a loop from campus, up Wilson Blvd, across the Ford St bridge, back along the Genesee riverway trail and take the footbridge back to campus.  I’d highly recommend the walk to anyone who enjoys walking or hiking.

What advice do you have for current students?

Speak with your faculty and establish good relationships, especially with those whose research you find interesting.  They will be among your best resources when looking for jobs or deciding whether to go on to grad school.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Stephanie Klenotich

defaultName: Stephanie Klenotich

Occupation: Doctoral Candidate

Education (UR and additional): University of Rochester BS ’07; University of Chicago Ph.D. ‘13

Current city/state/country of residence: Chicago, IL

Current Community activities: Chicago Youth Programs


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

I was a member of the Varsity Women’s Soccer team during my time at UR. I gained unbelievable memories and friendships through the team and that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Being a part of the team taught me valuable lessons about determination, hard work, time management, and team work.

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

After graduation I took a research technician/lab manager position at Loyola University Chicago in order to gain more research experience as well as take organic chemistry in my time off and prepare/take the GRE

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

I am currently in my 5th year of my doctorate program at the University of Chicago in Neurobiology. I chose this career with the desire to continue my training as a neuroscientist and prepare for a career in research.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In 5 years I would like to be a research scientist at a major pharmaceutical company in the Chicagoland area.

What advice do you have for current students?

If you are eager to pursue a career in academic research, be wary of the current funding climate and how that has affected the careers of young investigators. It is a long, and unstable road to tenure, and so one must be truly committed to this avenue to succeed in the current funding situation. I recommend talking to those in the field, and those who have entered recently, for their thoughts, advice, and experiences before tackling grad school.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Liz Kaminsky

kaminskyName: Liz Kaminsky

Occupation: Dental Student
Education (UR and additional):
B.A. in BCS from University of Rochester, Post-Bac Harvard University, DMD University of Connecticut

Current city/state/country of residence: West Hartford, CT

Current Community activities: Oral Health Screenings at community fairs, Special Olympics, American School for the Deaf


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I loved the freedom to chose courses that the Rochester curriculum allows. I also loved the study abroad program options.

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

I wanted a major in the Natural Sciences and did not want to take chemistry, biology or physics. Also, BCS was really interesting to me since I love learning how the body works. I was not disappointed, because looking back now I am very happy with everything I learned as a BCS major at Rochester. It has helped me to become a much better dentist.

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

Since I did not take biology, chemistry or physics at Rochester, I graduated in May and began a post-bac program that summer. For the next year, I took all the required sciences and took the dental school entrance exam (the DAT) so I could apply the following June. I interviewed at several places in the fall and finally decided to attend the University of Connecticut. Throughout both of my post-bac years, I worked as a research technician at Tufts University doing Dental Materials research. These two years were some of the toughest to manage, but it was all worth it in the end. I am very happy I got to take full advantage of all the opportunities at Rochester without worring about dental school pre-requisites.

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

Now I am a 4th year dental student at UConn. I wanted a career in science where I could work directly with people on a daily basis and one that used my hand skills. Dentistry satisfied those criteria and much more. I love helping people work through their dental anxiety, and using some of the skills I learned in BCS to do so.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, I would like to be a practicing general dentist in Chicago or Seattle. I hope to be part of a group practice with a strong connection to community health dentistry.

What is your fondest memory of the University?

My fondest memory is living in Anderson Tower during my senior year with five of my best friends. I loved living on campus and being connected to student life, but it was nice to be in a suite with our own bathroom and living area. We had a lot of fun together that year and someone was always around to talk to.

Spotlight on Humanities and Natural Sciences Alumni: Katie Hiler

hilerName: Kathryn Hiler

Occupation: Graduate Student

Education (UR and additional): (’09) B.A in Brain and Cognitive Science; B.A in English Literature

Current city/state/country of residence: New York, NY


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

By the spring semester of my freshman year I was pretty sure I would major in BCS. I was in BCS 172 with Elissa Newport and was really drawn to the study of the developing brain. I was also taking English classes, about one a semester. I love to read and I would choose the class based on what books were going to be on the syllabus. I didn’t take this interest seriously until I had racked up enough courses to fulfill an English minor, and had no interest in stopping. I was headed towards getting a second major in English, which is what I did. 

What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?

When it came time to consider what I would do after college, I found the career center to be extremely helpful. They were very knowledgeable about everything – from practical resume and cover letter stuff, to how to translate your interests into a job you will like. I still use the resume format the counselor at the career center gave me and I always take their advice of “start early and be prepared” whenever I am applying to something. They are really an incredibly helpful resource, so don’t be afraid to use them!

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

I was lucky enough to get a job right after graduation. I was already thinking about my next steps beginning in January of my senior year. I was looking for jobs at publishing houses and found what I thought was the perfect position at an academic publisher for an editorial assistant in the behavioral sciences department. I applied for the job, but was told that, while I was a good candidate for the position, they needed someone sooner, and I wouldn’t be graduating until May (it was February). I was crushed, but I waited until April and applied again to a different position at the same company. This time I got to say “Remember me?” and I was accepted right away for an interview. I definitely believe applying early and getting turned down helped me get that position.

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

I’m currently working towards getting my masters in science journalism with NYU’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. I left Rochester with degrees in BCS and English and I thought I wanted to work in academic publishing. But after working in that field for a while I realized there was an even better way to merge my interests in science and writing – by becoming a science journalist. I ended up working in publishing for three years and then applied to NYU’s science journalism program. 

Where would you like to be in five years?

Ideally I would like to be a science reporter for a public radio station somewhere in the United States.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice to current students would be to think outside of the box when it comes to figuring out what to do with your major(s). When I was considering what to do after graduation only the most obvious option stuck out at me – go to grad school and become a researcher. It took some time before I thought of going in to academic publishing, and science journalism after that. There are so many things you can do with your degree. Don’t let someone tell you an English degree is useless or that the only option you have in science is research.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Laura Osborne

osborneName: Laura Cowan Osborne

Occupation: Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

Education (UR and additional): BA Brain and Cognitive Sciences (double minor in history and psychology) University of Rochester, 2003; MA Early Childhood Special Education George Washington University, 2005; Certificate of Applied Behavior Analysis, George Mason University, 2009

Current city/state/country of residence: Alexandria, VA


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

My parents (and grandfather) both attended UR. When it was time to look at colleges, they encouraged me to look. I loved the fact that I could take lessons at Eastman and take advantage of all of the concerts there. I loved that the curriculum was open and there were no ‘freshman’ classes. I loved the diversity of classes and majors offered. The campus just felt like home from when I first came to visit!

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

I have always been fascinated by the brain and how it works. I enjoy learning about development and what can go wrong. Because I was so interested in psychology when I took my first couple of courses, but I enjoyed the more scientific lean of BCS. I was excited to know more about how the brain works, how that effects everything else, and what that means for a person.

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

I was trying to decide between pursuing a PhD in neuropsychology and becoming a special education teacher. In summers between classes, I worked as an assistant in a special education preschool program and also did work in research in both Alzheimer’s disease and neuropsychology.  I decided to take a position as an assistant in a classroom full time to make sure that I really loved working with children and I had so much fun I pursued my MA in education.

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

I am an early childhood special education teacher. I work with children ages 2-5 that have delays in one more more of the core areas (language, motor skills, social skills, and cognition). I am a non-categorical teacher, so all of my students have different abilities and disabilities. I love that it keeps me on my toes and is continually changing. Seeing my students make progress and helping them to do so means the world to me.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Having knowledge about the brain has been very helpful as a special education teacher. A lot of my students have had injuries to the brain (stroke in utero, traumatic head injury), suffer from brain related disorders (epilepsy) or have other anomalies (agenesis of the corpus callosum, cortical blindness).  My background has allowed me to better plan for what a student might need in the classroom.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Sarah Rosen Fink

rosenName: Sarah Rosen Fink

Occupation: Scientist/Entrepreneur

Education (UR and additional): BA ’13 in BCS from the University of Rochester, MA and PhD in Psychology from NYU

Current city/state/country of residence: Hoboken, NJ


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I visited the campus before choosing to attend the University of Rochester and knew right away that it was a great fit. The campus was so beautiful, I loved the idea of clusters, and the financial aid was also a big help. Most importantly, the students seemed very laid back and friendly.

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

When I was applying to the University of Rochester I saw Brain and Cognitive Science on the list of majors. I had never heard of it and didn’t really know what it was but it sounded unique and interesting so I randomly checked it off. After taking the intro course, I realized it was actually the perfect major for me. I also did the pre-med track and took American Sign Language, which conveniently fulfilled my cluster requirements and gave me two minors (biology and ASL). I really liked how many aspects of BCS, biology, and ASL overlapped. 

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

I was the head of the literacy program (we went to local city schools and helped young kids with reading). I also participated in water polo, OBOC, and Hillel. The literacy program was great because I love working with kids and it connected me to the city rather than just the campus. In general, all school activities helped me form a sense of community with my peers and I made a lot of great friends.

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

Many of the BCS professors were great mentors. Since I now work in vision science, I have been in contact with a number of them professionally.

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

I worked with autistic kids. I was always very interested in autism both before and after undergrad. Majoring in BCS gave me a great foundation for understanding the neural underpinnings of autism. While I was at the University of Rochester I was also able to take a few graduate courses focusing on autism.

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

I decided to go to graduate school at NYU for a PhD in psychology (my specific program was in Cognition and Perception, which is like BCS). I focused on vision science since that was one area of BCS that I particularly enjoyed. While at NYU, one of my projects was patented and I now have a startup company based on that patent. I never really planned my career path, it just happened.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Almost everything: designing and executing experiments, critical thinking, presenting projects, and of course knowledge  on how the brain and sensory systems work. 

How you are still connected with the University?

I met my husband and some of my best friends there.

 

What is your fondest memory of the University?

How can you pick just one?! I have so many great memories that I cherish.

What advice do you have for current students?

Enjoy every moment because it will go by so quickly. There is nothing like college.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Brittany Huber

defaultName: Brittany Huber

Occupation: PhD Student this fall 2013

Education (UR and additional): University of Rochester B.S., ‘11 Swinburne University of Technology

Current city/state/country of residence: South Burlington, VT, Fall 2013- Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Current Community activities: Youth mentoring


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I chose to attend the University of Rochester because of a very positive first impression and visit experience. Every single person I met on campus, from my tour guide to the faculty we met to the receptionist who welcomed us, was passionate about what they were doing. Whether it was what they were studying, their research, their extracurricular activities—every person I met when I first visited the U of R was excited and passionate in their field. Furthermore, I enjoyed the flexibility of scheduling and course requirements that enabled students to pursue their own unique interests.

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

I chose my major from the start of freshmen year. I decided on Brain and Cognitive Sciences because I thought it was an incredibly fascinating field and one that is constantly changing and updating with new information. 

What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?

The faculty and graduate TA’s. The BCS department touts so many prominent scholars and accomplished students, but in addition to their accomplishments, they are incredibly helpful in terms of academics and career planning among many other things!

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

Volunteer mentoring, soccer

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Analytical reading and writing skills have been the most useful in the research field. With my BCS courses I learned to critically read peer-reviewed publications which has been helpful when compiling articles for review or performing a literature search. I have been able to make meaningful comments and contributions to scientific discussions and manuscript drafts based on the knowledge I acquired as a BCS major.

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t panic about what’s next. You have time to try things and learn from them—what you enjoy, what your strengths are, and the things you don’t particularly care for. Take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Univeristy of Rochester and the doors it opens.

 

 

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Leslie Richardson

richardsonName: Leslie Richardson

Occupation: Optics Research

Education (UR and additional): UR: BS 2007 BCS, BA 2007 Linguistics, Simon: MsBA 2011 Marketing

Current city/state/country of residence: Rochester, NY


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

My freshman year, I really took advantage of U of R’s limited academic requirements (outside of your declared major), and took classes in everything from religion, to astronomy, to philosophy, and BCS. I took BCS110 in the fall, and fell in love with the subject. I decided that semester I wanted to major in it. I loved how BCS taught you aspects of both psychology and neuroscience, and how it had links to so many other growing fields from linguistics to marketing. (Both of which I ended up getting degrees in as well.)

 

What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?

The Career Center is a fantastic resource that I used, but not enough. I couldn’t recommend them strongly enough, especially Amber Graham.

 

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

Immediately after graduation, I was offered a full-time position in a BCS lab I had been working in part-time. I knew I wanted to stay in research, and was also offered a position in labs at a few other universities around the country. I stayed in Rochester because the research was fascinating, because I still had friends here, and because the cost of living could not be beat. I grew to love Rochester, especially in the summer when there are so many festivals and events going on. I am still in research, still working in the BCS department, but now in a different lab that studies advanced optics.

 

Where would you like to be in five years?

I have recently completed a graduate degree in marketing from the Simon School, and would like to utilize my cognitive science background with my new marketing experiences and work in market research. There is a growing interest in combining the fields, and it is definitely an exciting time to be a part of it all.

 

How you are still connected with the University?

I still work in the BCS department, specifically the Center for Visual Sciences. I am still on campus nearly every day. There are many changes and improvements (Danforth and the Pit come to mind first) as well as many things that are still the same. Despite graduating over 5 years ago, the university still feels like home.

 

What advice do you have for current students?

Go to as many things as you can! When I was here we were fortunate enough to get amazing speakers like Dr. Maya Angelou, and Anderson Cooper. There are countless activities and events that go on around campus that you won’t get a chance to experience later. Also take advantage of the freedom you have to read and study as much as you can on what interests you. Never again will you have this combination of freedom and ability to focus on exactly what you want to do.