UB Honors College, Class of 2002
Like so many other young nerds, I originally enrolled as an undergraduate wanting to pursue a medical career. Those plans changed when I had the uncommon pre-med experience of actually enjoying organic chemistry. My enthusiastic professor, Dr. Michael R. Detty, encouraged me to try chemical research in his laboratory. There, I synthesized quirky molecules that, when drawn on paper, have a striking resemblance to overgrown trees. It was often frustrating work, but never dull.
Leaving a medical school application unfinished, I decided instead to pursue a PhD in chemistry at Harvard University. I chose to study under Dr. David R. Liu, a brilliant young professor once exiled from a Las Vegas casino for card counting. My doctoral research focused on developing a novel technique called DNA-templated synthesis—essentially, an evolution-inspired approach to identifying new biochemical probes. I still can’t explain it to my parents, but they are proud nevertheless.
After graduating, I stuck around Harvard for a year as teaching faculty, developing science curricula for non-science majors. In one memorable exercise, I used live silkworm moths as a potent demonstration of sex pheromones (I’ll pause now if you’d like to Google it). For added edutainment, I also convinced cologne manufacturers to prepare blind samples of their “pheromone-enhanced” products for the class. Based on the ensuing reports, either pheromones don’t work as well on undergrads, or the cologne manufacturers have some serious explaining to do.
Having had my fill of bitter New England winters, I relocated to the District of Columbia for a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship at the National Academy of Sciences. As a fellow, I helped develop an interactive museum exhibit on climate change. In all fairness, global warming is not a hard sell in the sweltering heat of a DC summer.
My new found interest in policy work led me to apply to the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship, a program that places science professionals in the Federal Government—kind of like speed-dating between PhDs and federal agencies. My career took a more serious turn when I took a position (and later, a full-time job) at the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. I now work in an office that supports the development of new medical products for public health emergencies. It’s interesting and fulfilling work, a unique mixture of program management, scientific analysis, and policy work. I often have entire conversations using nothing but acronyms.
I never did finish that medical school application. Maybe someday.
Rachel DiDomizio, a Buffalo, New York native, obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Spanish from the University at Buffalo. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain, and taught English at Campo Charro elementary school. Actively involved in the Buffalo community, Rachel volunteered regularly with Habitat for Humanity and Ten Thousand Villages, as well as serving on the executive board at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center.
While earning her Master of Science degree in Higher Education Student Affairs from Indiana University, Rachel worked in the Office of Community Service at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). In this role she advised students in the Sam H. Jones Community Service Scholarship Program and aided in the coordination of campus-wide service events. Rachel also participated in the “To Mexico with Love” service-learning program and helped develop the Mary Cable Social Justice Center at IUPUI.
Currently, Rachel works at Colgate University’s Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE). As Associate Director of the COVE, she advises a variety of community-based teams focused on poverty fighting and awareness-raising. She also oversees the alternative break program, and develops integrated partnerships between the COVE and other offices and programs. The alternative breaks program has taken Rachel and a number of student volunteers to work in partnership with communities in the Dominican Republic, Kenya and the Lakota Native American Reservation in South Dakota. Rachel lives in Hamilton, New York with her wonderful husband Joseph, and their dog Pudge.
When I started college, I felt like many students—unsure of the path I wanted to take. After doing well in high school, I had a number of options and interests. The Honors College provided me with the opportunity to explore a variety of areas of discipline. While I don’t recommend switching majors from engineering, to theater, to psychology, to biochemistry (like I did!), it was wonderful to be able to graduate in four years with such sweeping exposure to superb professors and professions. The diversity on my transcript led to my acceptance to medical school, law school and business school in the same month, and the guidance I received from the Honors College helped me choose the path where I ultimately found great happiness.
Now, as a New York Supreme Court Justice 22 years later, I treasure the experiences and friendships I developed at the University at Buffalo. The challenges presented in court often require various skills and approaches, which I began to develop in the Honors College. The education and support I received as an undergraduate paved the way for successful graduate studies and a fulfilling legal career.
Last updated: September 07, 2016 4:22 pm EST