Why did you choose UB?
I was drawn to UB because it had the PhD program in biomedical sciences. In the beginning, I did not know what department I wanted to join, or what type of research I wanted to pursue. By rotating through many labs I was able to figure out what I did and did not like.
As a student, what did you want to be “when you grew up?”
I wanted to be a musician right before college. But during my undergraduate education in chemistry, I knew I wanted to go into something biomedical.
How did you end up choosing engineering?
I think rather than knowing I wanted to become an engineer, I think I knew I wanted to work in a multidisciplinary environment that addressed important problems. Translational research was a perfect fit for a biomedical engineer.
Was there a memorable UB experience that stuck with you and helped shape your future?
The most memorable facet of my UB education is being part of the Canon (previously Toshiba) Stroke and Vascular Research Center – CSVRC. Being part of their multidisciplinary team that was focused on translational research that meant something to patients was, and is, amazing!
Tell us about your current job and what you like most about it.
In both my “jobs” as a Research Assistant Professor in Neurosurgery (with appointments in Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, and the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) and as the CEO of a startup, Neurovascular Diagnostics, I enjoy the freedom to pursue research questions that address unmet healthcare needs. It is really gratifying to be conducting research that can directly impact patients’ lives.
What are you are working on right now?
I am currently working on a project to understand the pathobiology of thrombi (blood clot) that causes a person to have a stroke. If we can understand this biology, we can exploit it to create diagnostic and prognostic biologic and image-based biomarkers that can assist doctors in disease management.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
Because we receive a lot of funding from private donors and charitable foundations, like the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, I regularly interact with people (and their family members) who have been touched by neurovascular disease, such as brain aneurysm. They really motivate me to pursue my research goals.
What lessons and skills have you learned along the way that have helped prepare you for your current role?
Being both a researcher and an entrepreneur, I’ve learned a lot along the way. But to be brief: Have thick skin. Be willing to work long hours with little recognition. Never give up.
What do you like about being a Research Assistant Professor?
I very much like the focus on research – finding the right questions to answer and the right problems to solve, and finding innovative ways to address these. I also enjoy mentoring students, and teaching them how to ask the right questions and how to employ the scientific method for translational research.
Looking back, is there anything about your career that you’d change? Anything that you wish you’d known earlier on?
Don’t be afraid to ask for things – whether for a raise, an opportunity, a seat at the table, funding – all you can be told is “no.” Pursue your goals with all that you got and good things will happen.