Figuring it out and following her dreams

Figuring it out and following her dreams

Meet Young Alumni Council and Women’s Network Leader Marcelina Martynek ’18

Marcelina wearing hiking gear, pictured at the summit of a cliff

Marcelina Martynek ’18

Tell us about your time as a student.

Like many students at Rochester, I did a lot!  Most of my time was taken up working towards my degrees in Brain & Cognitive Science and Computer Science and I remember many long nights in the Rush Rhees stacks. When I wasn’t studying, I was running in circles as a member of the Varsity Track & Field team. The track team was one of my saving graces. With my demanding course load, I looked forward to practice and competition days as it was a dedicated time where I didn’t have to think about the next exam or problem set. I am still an active runner and look upon my track and field days fondly. I was also an active member of the women’s club soccer team, Meridian Society (tour guide), the Brain & Cognitive Science/Neuroscience (BCS/NSC) Undergraduate Council, and the Women In Computing group.

How did your experience at the University of Rochester influence your life?

Oh boy, where to begin? There’s so many! I would say the most important influence was in the development of my scientific pursuits. I joined research labs as an undergraduate researcher during my junior year because I was simply curious. Soon after, I was hooked. Learning about the scientific method firsthand and seeing what being a “researcher” really means was hands down some of the most important experiences of my life. I had never considered the career of “scientist” until I came to the University. Could I do it? Did I have what it takes? Some of the incredible female scientists I had the pleasure of working with and learning from also contributed heavily to my decisions. I needed some extra encouragement after graduation (thanks Young Alumni Council and New York Metro Women!) but in the end, it was meant to be and I am currently working towards that dream.

What inspired you to get involved and volunteer?

After graduation, I went back to my hometown in upstate New York for a couple months. I was unsure of where or in what field I wanted to start my career. I knew I wanted it to be science-related but from there I was stumped. So, I figured that connecting with alumni would be a good place to start. I was close to New York City and I had a lot of friends that were living in the city. I knew there were alumni events that occurred frequently in NYC and attended events to stay in the loop and network. It was through these events that I learned about the NYC chapter of the Young Alumni Council (YAC). When I learned that I could join the YAC, I enthusiastically applied. I figured it would be a great way to stay involved with the University and be able to advocate for young alumni such as myself, as well as a way to network and stay in touch with friends. When I got a job in Philly as a research specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, I transferred to the Philadelphia YAC. I moved to Philly without any close connections. It was somewhat lonely for those first couple months, but the YAC provided me with support.

As for the New York Metro Women (NYMW), I joined the group very early, it may have even been before I graduated! I was really looking for a women’s group to connect with. The NYMW had monthly networking breakfasts in NYC and I attended them when I could. I met an amazing group of women, from all graduation years and professions, and I loved learning about their time at the University, their professions, and the rich advice and life lessons they graciously supplied. Since I was still “figuring it out,” I asked many members about their career paths and I was so grateful that many of them were happy to share where their career and life paths had taken them. Those months after graduation were a bit of a whirlwind but the gracious support the NYMW provided me was priceless. I am now a committee member of the NYMW.

What’s the most rewarding part of staying connected with your alma mater?

The most rewarding part is helping to curate events and programs that resonate with the Rochester alumni community. For example, with the NYMW, we work hard to organize programs that serve the University of Rochester Women’s Network and implement support for them. From career panels to financial advice to women’s health focused events, I am proud that I have directly contributed to the NYMW’s programming that has connected and continues to connect the fantastic alumna of the University.

What are you looking forward to next?

I am currently in the biology PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania, so I have a few years of work ahead of me! I research the intersection of environmental diversity and climate change and how that effects global coral populations across coral reefs. Like any job, there are good weeks and bad weeks but overall, I love my program, my research, and the pursuit of scientific discovery. As for afterwards…who knows? I’m not set on any specific career path, but I do know that I want to be involved in coral reef conservation, biotech, and environmental advocacy.

What advice do you have for others looking to get involved?

I’ve remained involved with the YAC because I remember how I felt when I first moved to Philly ­— alone and no friends. But, I also remember how much I looked forward to the local Rochester events and how everything felt a bit better after attending them. If I can be someone that can make even one person feel like they’re not alone, by providing tips on the city or connections or suggesting the best place for a cheesesteak (it’s Dalessandro’s, don’t @ me), then I’m happy. I may not know it, but it’s the thought that’s enough for me.