This week, we're spotlighting Max, one of our exceptional biology and MCAT tutors!
Max was born down the street from the National Institutes of Health, outside of Washington, D.C., and has been a lab rat ever since. He graduated from Yale Phi Beta Kappa with both a B.S. and M.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry while announcing hockey games as a TV broadcaster. As an undergrad, he achieved a 4.0 GPA in all graduate coursework and his lab work earned the departmental prize for excellence in research and scholarship. After graduating, Max completed a research fellowship at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He is an author on multiple scientific papers and is currently pursuing a M.D. and a Ph.D. through the combined Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program.
Let's get started with the basics, Max. Where are you from?
I'm from Bethesda, MD -- just outside of Washington, DC. Growing up, my life centered around baseball. I played on far too many teams and spent the rest of my free time watching and reading about the game. My parents like to joke that the appearance of box scores in the newspapers, and not the flowers blooming in my mother's garden, was my favorite sign of the spring.
What did you decide to study, and why?
When I was in high school, a family friend finally succeeded in convincing me that professional baseball was not a great career choice for someone coming off the bench on his high school team. I had always enjoyed science in school and he encouraged me to pursue a internship at the National Institutes of Health. I spent the summer in a lab learning how to isolate, manipulate, and experiment with proteins that interact with DNA. It was incredibly exciting to play with individual biological components and test the different ways they could interact to perform a complex task! I hung around the lab for another year before majoring in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and I haven't looked back since.
What are you up to now? How did you decide to pursue this?
I'm a third year student in the MD-PhD program at Harvard Medical School and MIT. I've completed a few years of med school and I'm currently working on my PhD at MIT. For me, this program is a dream come true. I had always aspired to train as a scientist and have my own research lab. During college, I realized that I was drawn to investigating how the complex molecular dance of these fundamental biological pieces produces a healthy living organism as well as what happens when things go awry. I hope that focusing on both science and medicine will allow me to solve problems that can change the way we diagnose and care for our patients.
What do you imagine your life will look like in 5-10 years?
Hopefully, I’ll be done with the training program. Afterwards, I’m looking forward to completing medical residency and specializing my clinical focus. I’m not sure what type of medicine that will be but I hope to be working in a field that allows me to chase my dreams of having my own lab as well as working directly with patients.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from teaching?
It's incredibly important to simply listen to students and how they describe their goals or tackle their problems. There are many different ways to approach any challenge and a student's instinctive way of doing so may be very different from my own! Meeting a student where s/he is coming from is central to how I teach. I find my students are far more gratified (and successful) when they learn how to work out a problem as they see it rather than through someone else's system.
What’s something you’ve changed your mind about?
I used to think that purpose of education was simply to acquire knowledge. It's easy to burden oneself with the mindset of 'learn this' or 'memorize that' without questioning what it's all good for. I realize now that the ability to creatively solve problems or communicate big ideas are more important than learning facts. Everyone thinks differently which means that everyone has something to teach.
What does your daily information consumption diet look like?
I try to make it through most of the NYTimes each day. I also enjoy RealClearPolitics, which aggregates political editorials and allows me to explore opinions different from my own. I keep tabs on new papers published in the major journals of biology and medicine. While doing routine labwork, I'm usually plugged into NPR podcasts or TED talks. Any other free time I spend on ESPN or on deep dives into whatever Wikipedia links look enticing.
What would you consider an amazing feat from your field (or any field)?
Sequencing the entire human genome has had an unmeasurable impact on how we think about problems in biology and make new discoveries. Within the next few decades, it will also change how we practice medicine. Understanding our genetic information should lead to personalized recommendations, and maybe even cures, that will have big impacts on our health. I'm excited to see this revolution, both as a future scientist and physician.
Are you interested in working with Max, either in Cambridge or online?
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