BS biomedical engineering
(MS biotechnology, University of Pennsylvania)
Occupation: Scientist, cell technologies, Janssen R&D (Johnson & Johnson)
Residence: Philadelphia, PA
Family: Wife Aimee Ruscio (BS ChemE '04, MBA Simon School '05); two sons, Owen, Jonah
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
Growing up in Sodus, a small town outside of Rochester, everyone knew of the prestige of the U of R. When I began to apply to colleges, U of R was always at the top of my list because of this and also because it was close to home. The thing that sealed the deal was the fact that there was a brand new major, biomedical engineering, that blended biology and engineering.
When and how did you choose your major(s)?
When I was in high school, I absolutely loved science –especially biology and physics. So when I was a senior deciding what I was going to be studying for the next 4 years as an undergrad, it made sense to me to choose biomedical engineering since it was a nice blend of the two subjects I liked best. Plus, I initially wanted to go pre-med and this was a challenging way to meet the pre-med requirements.
What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?
When I was a sophomore at the U of R, I wanted to gain experience in a graduate lab to prepare me for the next level. Fortunately, I was able to land a position as a part-time research assistant in Dr. J.H. David Wu's lab. Dr. Wu set me up with a PhD student as a mentor and he taught me a tremendous amount of molecular biology skills that I could not have learned in class. EVERY engineering student should find a professor who does research in a field that you are in interested in and volunteer to work in their lab WITHOUT PAY. The experience you gain will be invaluable and the University offers you this amazing resource.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I work for Janssen R&D (within the pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson) as a scientist developing biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes. These are processes to make medicines from living cells. I kind of "fell into" this career: when I was a senior at the U of R, I was taking a CHE class with Dr. Wu and he brought in a speaker from the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb. I approached the speaker afterwards and expressed my interest, and next thing I knew, I was working in the industry and have been here ever since. I am sincerely grateful for Dr. Wu's help in getting me into my career – he also let me work in his lab as an undergrad to gain experience to build my resume.
What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?
1) Enjoy the friendships you have formed and keep them strong. Some of my closest friends today are the people I met at the U of R. Having good friends will help you achieve the proper work/life balance. Plus, I met my wife at the U of R!
2) Think about your future beyond just what you want to do for a living: Where do you want to live and are those jobs available there? Do you want to have a family by a certain age and will your career get in the way (or vice versa)? Are there jobs available in your field?