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Passion, Practice, Progress: Two Minerva Students’ Paths to Becoming Doctors

Minerva Students Becoming Doctors

January 4, 2018

Xiaotian Liao and Ivan Ezeigbo are third-year students in the Class of 2019. Both are double majoring in Natural Sciences and Computational Sciences and aspire to pursue medical degrees.

There are pre-med students on every college campus. You see them in biology classes and in chemistry labs, tucked in library cubbies furiously preparing for their MCATs. Each has his or her own reason for wanting to become a doctor, a motivating factor that drives the requisite long hours and hard work. Some are passionate about the sciences, others are merely following a vocational path, and most are motivated to help others. One common thread that binds these narratives together is a personal connection to the fragility of life, and a determination to fight back.


Leading the Way for Healthcare Reform

“I think medicine should be available, adequate, and affordable to people everywhere,” states Ivan Ezeigbo. Ezeigbo, who was born and raised in Nigeria, describes his country’s current healthcare system as the opposite of the ideal: expensive, inaccessible, and, most critically, inadequate. He attests that the healthcare system is broken; the country’s lack of medical equipment and experienced doctors has scared people away from undergoing even the most basic surgeries. These challenges are troubling; fewer skilled professionals mean fewer people are able to live longer, healthier, and better lives. In order to help end this cycle, Ezeigbo hopes to become a doctor and add to the healthcare sector of Nigeria’s workforce.

Ezeigbo chose Minerva because he was ready to be challenged. “Nothing truly impactful or significant comes from what is smooth and easy.” With broad academic interests, ranging from economics to statistics, Ezeigbo has taken full advantage of Minerva’s interdisciplinary curriculum, in addition to his major coursework. He has a long list of favorite classes and strives to explore new subjects that fall outside of the typical pre-med courses, like debating philosophy in email chains with faculty and following the biological networks of cancer evolution.

In addition to taking the prerequisite classes for medical school, this past summer Ezeigbo conducted genetic research at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. There, he tested whether a protein was responsible for liver autophagy in diabetic patients. He was there to learn and practice laboratory techniques, but exploring his interest in medicine was the true highlight of the experience, which you can tell from his unbridled enthusiasm for the research he was involved in. “During the night, we would sneak back in the lab and continue experimenting,” Ezeigbo covertly shares. “The community had [so much] passion; we spent most of the time in the lab trying to [finish our projects], knowing we only had two months.”

While two months is not long enough to achieve a conclusive result, or publish a peer-reviewed scientific paper, Ezeigbo was able to help the team achieve the results they were testing for, bolstering confidence that they were headed in the right direction with their research.


Creating Multifaceted Solutions to Conventional Problems

Xiaotian Liao comes to Minerva from her hometown of Chengdu, China. Initially, she was drawn to medicine in response to her family’s history with illness. She felt hopeless and frustrated because she was unable to understand or help the people she loved, so instead of standing idly by during a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Liao resolved to study diseases and become a doctor. Through her coursework, she became exhilarated by the intricacy of biomedical sciences. As her studies became more interdisciplinary, Liao’s medical interests evolved. Similar to her classmate, Liao has pursued a multitude of academic interests. At Minerva, she was able to rethink and explore research questions, and develop new answers with newfound perspectives. “I’m fascinated with the analytical and problem-solving aspects of Computational Sciences. There’s potential to better understand disease mechanisms, progression, and treatment,” Liao explains.

At Minerva Liao is able to pursue her cross-functional intellectual passions, like applying computational models to biological systems, which she predicts will enable her to become a better doctor one day. “I want to facilitate conversations between different subjects in order to tackle traditional problems with a novel perspective.”

To prepare for her career as a research-physician, Liao interned at Novartis in Cambridge, Massachusetts as part of its highly competitive Scientific Summer Scholars Program. As an oncology bioinformatics summer scholar, she applied complex statistical models to RNA data from human tissue samples to better predict sample quality. In addition to acquiring valuable research time, Liao chose Novartis for their innovative drug development model, which deviates from traditional models by testing developed drugs on patients that resemble the target population. This alternative pathway mirrors Liao’s own commitment to finding innovative solutions for traditional medical problems.

After her final research presentation this past summer, Liao had an opportunity to speak with her manager candidly. Her focus on exploring her academic options resonated with him. He confided that he values candidates who are quick to learn and scientifically curious over those that simply have extensive knowledge but are less willing to adapt to new trends. By questioning, rethinking, and retesting systems that aren’t perfect, either theoretically in the classroom or in a professional lab, more effective and accessible solutions can emerge.


A Community of Changemakers

At Minerva, students are pursuing their passions and working hard to realize their personal and professional goals. Wanting to change the world is not a requirement of admission, but it is a passion many Minerva students share. Though the coursework is challenging and can be intimidating at times, the student experience is intentionally designed to provide meaningful steps along a journey toward leadership, innovation, and global citizenship. “I am surrounded by really motivated people,” Ezeigbo relates. “If you want to keep yourself motivated, you have to have incredible people around you … and there are incredible people here at Minerva.”

Quick Facts

Name
Country
Class
Major

Cognitive Science and Economics & Political Science

Social Sciences & Business

Business & Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Computational Sciences & Social Sciences

Computer Science & Arts and Humanities

Business and Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Arts and Humanities

Business, Social Sciences

Business & Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences, Natural Sciences

Data Science, Statistics

Computational Sciences

Business

Computational Sciences, Data Science

Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Business, Natural Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Science

Social Sciences, Business

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Science

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Science, Statistic Natural Sciences

Business & Social Sciences

Computational Science, Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Business

Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Arts and Humanities

Computational Science

Minor

Computational Science & Business

Economics

Social Sciences

Concentration

Applied Problem Solving & Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence & Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Designing Societies & New Ventures

Strategic Finance & Data Science and Statistics

Brand Management and Designing Societies

Data Science & Economics

Machine Learning

Cells, Organisms, Data Science, Statistics

Arts & Literature and Historical Forces

Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science

Cells and Organisms, Mind and Emotion

Economics, Physics

Managing Operational Complexity and Strategic Finance

Global Development Studies and Brain, Cognition, and Behavior

Scalable Growth, Designing Societies

Business

Drug Discovery Research, Designing and Implementing Policies

Historical Forces, Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Artificial Intelligence, Psychology

Designing Solutions, Data Science and Statistics

Data Science and Statistic, Theoretical Foundations of Natural Science

Strategic Finance, Politics, Government, and Society

Data Analysis, Cognition

Brand Management

Data Science and Statistics & Economics

Cognitive Science & Economics

Data Science and Statistics and Contemporary Knowledge Discovery

Internship
Higia Technologies
Project Development and Marketing Analyst Intern at VIVITA, a Mistletoe company
Business Development Intern, DoSomething.org
Business Analyst, Clean Energy Associates (CEA)

Conversation

Xiaotian Liao and Ivan Ezeigbo are third-year students in the Class of 2019. Both are double majoring in Natural Sciences and Computational Sciences and aspire to pursue medical degrees.

There are pre-med students on every college campus. You see them in biology classes and in chemistry labs, tucked in library cubbies furiously preparing for their MCATs. Each has his or her own reason for wanting to become a doctor, a motivating factor that drives the requisite long hours and hard work. Some are passionate about the sciences, others are merely following a vocational path, and most are motivated to help others. One common thread that binds these narratives together is a personal connection to the fragility of life, and a determination to fight back.


Leading the Way for Healthcare Reform

“I think medicine should be available, adequate, and affordable to people everywhere,” states Ivan Ezeigbo. Ezeigbo, who was born and raised in Nigeria, describes his country’s current healthcare system as the opposite of the ideal: expensive, inaccessible, and, most critically, inadequate. He attests that the healthcare system is broken; the country’s lack of medical equipment and experienced doctors has scared people away from undergoing even the most basic surgeries. These challenges are troubling; fewer skilled professionals mean fewer people are able to live longer, healthier, and better lives. In order to help end this cycle, Ezeigbo hopes to become a doctor and add to the healthcare sector of Nigeria’s workforce.

Ezeigbo chose Minerva because he was ready to be challenged. “Nothing truly impactful or significant comes from what is smooth and easy.” With broad academic interests, ranging from economics to statistics, Ezeigbo has taken full advantage of Minerva’s interdisciplinary curriculum, in addition to his major coursework. He has a long list of favorite classes and strives to explore new subjects that fall outside of the typical pre-med courses, like debating philosophy in email chains with faculty and following the biological networks of cancer evolution.

In addition to taking the prerequisite classes for medical school, this past summer Ezeigbo conducted genetic research at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. There, he tested whether a protein was responsible for liver autophagy in diabetic patients. He was there to learn and practice laboratory techniques, but exploring his interest in medicine was the true highlight of the experience, which you can tell from his unbridled enthusiasm for the research he was involved in. “During the night, we would sneak back in the lab and continue experimenting,” Ezeigbo covertly shares. “The community had [so much] passion; we spent most of the time in the lab trying to [finish our projects], knowing we only had two months.”

While two months is not long enough to achieve a conclusive result, or publish a peer-reviewed scientific paper, Ezeigbo was able to help the team achieve the results they were testing for, bolstering confidence that they were headed in the right direction with their research.


Creating Multifaceted Solutions to Conventional Problems

Xiaotian Liao comes to Minerva from her hometown of Chengdu, China. Initially, she was drawn to medicine in response to her family’s history with illness. She felt hopeless and frustrated because she was unable to understand or help the people she loved, so instead of standing idly by during a seemingly insurmountable challenge, Liao resolved to study diseases and become a doctor. Through her coursework, she became exhilarated by the intricacy of biomedical sciences. As her studies became more interdisciplinary, Liao’s medical interests evolved. Similar to her classmate, Liao has pursued a multitude of academic interests. At Minerva, she was able to rethink and explore research questions, and develop new answers with newfound perspectives. “I’m fascinated with the analytical and problem-solving aspects of Computational Sciences. There’s potential to better understand disease mechanisms, progression, and treatment,” Liao explains.

At Minerva Liao is able to pursue her cross-functional intellectual passions, like applying computational models to biological systems, which she predicts will enable her to become a better doctor one day. “I want to facilitate conversations between different subjects in order to tackle traditional problems with a novel perspective.”

To prepare for her career as a research-physician, Liao interned at Novartis in Cambridge, Massachusetts as part of its highly competitive Scientific Summer Scholars Program. As an oncology bioinformatics summer scholar, she applied complex statistical models to RNA data from human tissue samples to better predict sample quality. In addition to acquiring valuable research time, Liao chose Novartis for their innovative drug development model, which deviates from traditional models by testing developed drugs on patients that resemble the target population. This alternative pathway mirrors Liao’s own commitment to finding innovative solutions for traditional medical problems.

After her final research presentation this past summer, Liao had an opportunity to speak with her manager candidly. Her focus on exploring her academic options resonated with him. He confided that he values candidates who are quick to learn and scientifically curious over those that simply have extensive knowledge but are less willing to adapt to new trends. By questioning, rethinking, and retesting systems that aren’t perfect, either theoretically in the classroom or in a professional lab, more effective and accessible solutions can emerge.


A Community of Changemakers

At Minerva, students are pursuing their passions and working hard to realize their personal and professional goals. Wanting to change the world is not a requirement of admission, but it is a passion many Minerva students share. Though the coursework is challenging and can be intimidating at times, the student experience is intentionally designed to provide meaningful steps along a journey toward leadership, innovation, and global citizenship. “I am surrounded by really motivated people,” Ezeigbo relates. “If you want to keep yourself motivated, you have to have incredible people around you … and there are incredible people here at Minerva.”