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Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin

Field: Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
SR-EIP: New York University Sackler Institute (2001)
Undergrad: University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (2002)
Graduate School: New York University Sackler Institute (2008)
Current Position: Research Fellow, Harvard University Division of Medical Sciences

Could you talk about any memorable experiences from your summer research at NYU (Sackler Institute)?
My summer as a Leadership Alliance Scholar at NYU-Sackler was full of experiences, both personal and professional, that have changed my life and have made me the person (and the scientist) I am today. I think one of the most important things I gained from the experience was the relationships I developed with my fellow SURPies at Sackler (and also the staff!). I am still in contact with many of them, as friends and as colleagues.

I also cherish the memories of my first weeks working in the lab of Dr. Andrew Darwin. Of course, nothing worked at the bench during that first part of the summer, but the lessons I learned on how to do science, how to design experiments, and how to interpret results still resonate on my current life as a post-doc. I’m sure they will continue to inspire me throughout the rest of my career.
What skills were you able to apply to your collegiate work upon returning to your undergraduate institution?  How was the remainder of your collegiate career impacted by this experience?
Aside from the lab skills I learned during those nine weeks working at NYU as an undergraduate, I learned a lot about how science is practiced, and what a scientist really does. The NYU-Sackler SURP Program creates opportunities for its students to meet and learn from some of NYU’s top scientists on a weekly basis and also creates activities aimed at experiencing the aspects of science that you cannot perform in the lab, like how to communicate your science in small 5-minute chalk talks, in longer talks, and through poster and written formats. These experiences laid the foundation for the development of these important skills, which I have continued to work on through graduate school and beyond.
Can you talk about how your summer experience prepared you for graduate school?
My summer research experience gave me the opportunity to obtain a clearer picture of what I needed to do in order to accomplish my goals of obtaining my Ph.D. and becoming a scientist. By talking to current graduate students at NYU-Sackler (our dean, Dr. Joel Oppenheim, hires former NYU SURPies as graduate student coordinators during the summers), I learned about their experience in getting in, through, and out of graduate school and received great advice on how to have fun while doing it! Also, by talking to our invited speakers at the weekly after-the-talk dinners I learned a lot about what to expect after graduate school.
Can you talk about the role of mentorship in your career?
After my summer at NYU-Sackler it was clear to me that I wanted to continue my graduate career there. This gave me the opportunity of obtaining close mentoring from both my summer research advisor, Dr. Andrew Darwin, and from our program director and dean, Dr. Joel Oppenheim. Andrew served both as teacher in some of the courses I took in my first few years and also became the chairman of my thesis committee, but, most importantly, always gave me great advice and encouragement during my stay at NYU-Sackler. Joel is more than a mentor, he is a friend. I know I can always turn to him when I need direction in my life and my career (and have done so many times) and also when I need a suggestion on where to go eat in NYC (he knows the best places!).
What advice would you give to this year's Leadership Alliance participants?
Take every opportunity that being part of your summer program and part of the Leadership Alliance offers you. Go to every talk and ask questions because people like answering them. Go to every lunch, every dinner, every outing your program offers. Learn as much as you can. Meet as many people as you can. Experience as many new things as you can. Work hard on your summer project, but also remember to have fun while doing it. Don’t give up when things don’t work; learn from the experience and keep going.  Learn about science in general, not just about what your project concerns. Feel pride in your achievements and do everything you can to become the exceptionally successful __ (fill in the blank) that you wish to become.

Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
Being part of The Leadership Alliance has had an extremely significant impact on my life. I have been a member since my senior year in college and was fortunate enough to maintain a close relationship with those of the program through graduate school and now in the next stage of my life.  The Leadership Alliance strives to give people like you and me the tools to accomplish our educational and professional goals and to become the next generation of minority professionals of this country.  Don’t take this challenge lightly.   It requires a lot of hard work so take every opportunity, every ounce of support, and every tool this great organization offers you and use them to achieve your goals.