During the six or more years spent pursuing a Ph.D. degree, students spend much of their time in the laboratory working on their dissertation research. Some barely come up for air during those years of grueling study, while others manage to turn up everywhere. Chris Pappas is one of those “everywhere” people, representing fellow students in the Graduate Student Association, competing in research forums, mentoring other students and volunteering in the community.
You are currently working for your Ph.D. in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, but you already have a master’s degree that you earned here. Explain?
I’ve just completed my fourth year at New York Medical College. For the past two and half years I’ve been working on my thesis in the laboratory of Ira Schwartz, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the department. My thesis involves studying metabolism in Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent that causes Lyme disease. During my first two years here I studied and completed my M.S. in the same field. After completing my masters, I entered into the Ph.D. program because I felt the additional, education, practical knowledge and mentoring I would receive would better prepare me for a future as a biomedical researcher.
In what other ways are you involved in student life?
I was president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) in 2006-2007, and student advisor of the GSA the following year. From the fall 2007 to the present, I’ve represented the BMS graduate students at the New York Academy of Sciences/Science Alliance, a mentoring group for students in the sciences. Also through the GSA, I’ve helped organize activities like career seminars and community activities.
What kind of community activities?
In the past we’ve organized volunteerism of graduate students at a fall festival in a nearby community, and around Halloween we hold a “Haunted Playground” for the children of medical and graduate students living in the student housing complex. We also conduct an annual holiday toy drive for the Behavioral Health Center here in Valhalla.
Is any of this related to science and education?
Sure. Every year we recruit graduate students to judge the top regional high school science researchers at the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair, the regional qualifying competition leading to the Intel® International Science and Engineering Fair. I also helped coordinate our Take a Break seminar series, which allows professors to showcase and discuss their latest work in the relaxed environment of a Friday afternoon with beverages and snacks. There must always be beverages and snacks! I’ve also been involved in helping prepare for the Graduate Student Research Forum for the past two years, a cornerstone of the academic calendar for the entire university.
What are you best known for?
Hmm… possibly my association with the GSA (President 2006-2007, student advisor 2007-2008) over the past few years, and the attendant huge volume of e-mails associated with it! The GSA president gets be one of two flag-bearers who lead the procession into Carnegie Hall for Commencement each year, so people might know me from that. But even as a member of the GSA, you get involved with so much of what’s going on all over campus, interacting with students, faculty and administration in all three schools, as well as the outside community.
What are you proudest of?
I’m really proud of my interactions with medical students as a preceptor in the medical microbiology laboratories that all medical students are required to take. I love to teach. I taught English abroad in Spain for three years before coming to NYMC, and I also taught at a nearby middle school while I was pursuing my Masters. So, the chance to teach again—especially teaching in my selected field at the medical school level—was very rewarding. Precepting the labs makes me love teaching all over again.
Name one thing that struck you as you were making your decision to study at New York Medical College.
Like they say in the brochures—location, location, location. I was happy to be moving back to New York, and mainly the tri-state area. I got my undergraduate degree at Syracuse and I grew up in Corning—both in upstate New York. After graduation I moved to Madrid, Spain, for three years. When I knew I’d be returning to America, I was especially glad to be around a metropolitan area since I’ve grown accustomed to this sort of hustle and bustle atmosphere.
What is your next goal?
Finish my thesis! Past that, I’m actually not quite sure yet. I’m looking into a variety of venues where I can best apply the skills and knowledge I’ve learned during my time at NYMC.
What do you want prospective students to know about New York Medical College?
I went to a large undergraduate school, and being at a small graduate-only school is quite a change. While I miss the big school sports programs, the close-knit grouping at NYMC means that faculty are more accessible and open to all students. I think that’s important, and really conducive to a deeper educational experience.