Student Profiles

Student name:
Andrew Judell-Halfpenny

Started program in:
Fall 2017 | Bioinformatics Track

Country of origin:
USA

Degrees held:
BS | Biology (computational-focus) | University of Massachusetts Boston

Research interests:
Analysis of high-throughput RNA-sequence data in order to identify biomarkers associated with disease (cancer in particular).

Curriculum Vitae
Andrew Judell Halfpenny.pdf

IB Program in a nutshell:
For the past two years, I enjoyed an exciting research position at the Riley Bioinformatics Lab. I worked directly with Dr. Todd Riley or autonomously on several exciting projects at UMass Boston’s Genomics Core and Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy. I had unlimited access to the guidance of my mentor, as well as responsibility for the completion of cutting edge analysis. I didn’t realize how incredibly rare those phenomena are outside of UMass Boston until I visited Brown University. I chose to continue my work here because I had unfinished science to do and because remaining at UMass Boston allowed me to take advantage of a small head-start on my PhD credit requirements.

Ideal job after graduation
I hope that in the future I am able to consistently work on biomedical research projects in industry or academia that serve to ameliorate the unnecessary human suffering caused by diseases like cancer.

Fun fact:
Throughout most of my undergraduate studies, I competed in Muay Thai (kickboxing) bouts and became semi-retired after tearing my bicep during my final bought and finishing the match to preserve my undefeated amateur record.

 

Student Name:
Jeffrey La

Started program in
Spring 2017 | Biophysics Track

Country of origin
USA

Degrees held:
MS | Applied Physics | University of Massachusetts Boston
BS  | Physics  | University of Massachusetts Boston

Research interests
Quantitative phase imaging, image processing, cancer biophysics, nonlinear photoacoustics, and photoacoustic imaging

Curriculum Vitae
Jeffrey La.pdf

IB Program in a nutshell:
After applying physics for biomedical purposes for my master’s thesis, following through with a degree in biophysics in Boston seems like a good choice.

Ideal job after graduation
Ideally I’ll be able to land something that can let me dive into tech and research and will give me enough freedom to further pursue music and art.

Fun fact
I’ve played the Chinese hammered dulcimer in a number of bands, including doom metal, pop folk, world fusion, and noise. 

 

Student Name:
Joshua Rivera

Started program in
2017  | Track: Biochemistry

Country of origin
Astoria- Queens, New York

Degrees held:
BS | Molecular and Cell Biology | 2014

Research interests:
I am working with Dr. Shailja Pathania to understand the genetic factors involved in the multi-step tumorigensis progression of breast cancer is challenging and rewarding work. Working with our collaborators at MIT will allow me to grow along side the best engineers and scientists in the world.

Another interesting aspect of science that is transpiring today is, understanding the microbiome. Until recently we didn’t we have had little understanding of the bacteria in our gut, and its influence on the human body as a whole- from our everyday health to the pathogenesis of several serious diseases. I was able to study the microbiome in the context of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease at the Immunology Institute at Mount Sinai.

A major revolution that my generation of scientist will have an active roll in is the marrying and integration computer science to the natural sciences. More importantly integrating artificial intelligence to introduce a new component to the analysis of complex problems. This last December, Google X used AI to call SNP variants independent of other findings and was able to do it with a much lower percentage of false discovery rates when compared to published algorithms used for variant calling. Merging of AI to science should be embraced as an exciting part of an emerging field.

Curriculum Vitae
Joshua Rivera.pdf

IB Program in a nutshell
I knew I wanted to be in Boston for my PhD. I’ve spent my life in New York City and I wanted to embark on a new adventure, as I feel I have left an impact on this city. I felt it was time to move. Fortunately, Dr. Pathania welcomed me into her lab and is leveraging my knowledge of RNA-seq to tackle the big challenges ahead of us. The proximity and connections UMass has to other great institutes can make for exciting collaborations. Boston is also the heart of science in America, I feel right at home.

Ideal job after graduation
My most ambitious dream is to start a biotech company in New York City. Compared to other cities like Philadelphia, Boston, or San Francisco, NYC is a few years behind in biotech. The recent additions of New York Genome Center and Sema4 are making their contributions to the scene, but I also want to learn the biotech culture from Boston and bring it back to my home city as a founder of an organization.

Fun fact:
I’ve been a part of the fashion and music industries in New York. I have been fortunate enough to work with Apropo Studio in Chelsea for a fashion show I was hosting.  Also, brushings with Ethik Clothing and Renaissance Records has made me more industrious and helped me forge skills in business development and marketing. Hopefully I can transition those skills into science.