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University graduates inspire students at Science Career Symposium

WTHS Science Symposium
Thomas Jefferson University neuroscience PhD candidate Elana Molotsky explains the variety of routes that can lead students to careers in science.

In addition to exceling in science and math and having a desire to flourish in a science related field, there are many qualities, both tangible and intangible, that will lead to success in a scientific career. Four invited guests – Dr. David Koerner, Elana Molotsky, Joseph Pancoast and David Andrews – offered insights on these qualities during a science career symposium hosted by the Washington Township High Science League on Feb. 14. The audience of mostly juniors and seniors were encouraged to be curious and flexible, stay current and resourceful, to network, ask questions and persevere.

“Science is pushing until you hit a roadblock, and then jumping over it,” Molotsky, a Cornell University graduate and PhD candidate in neuroscience at Thomas Jefferson University, said, “because that’s were you make new discoveries and reach new frontiers. I think science is magic because you get to see things happen right before your eyes. It is a lot of doing stuff wrong, and then fixing it.”

Family practitioner and 1988 WTHS graduate, Dr. David Koerner, who attended Bucknell University and earned his medical degree at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, emphasized not only the undeniable rigors of medical school but also the versatility of career options that a medical school degree can provide.

“I chose to practice family medicine, but many people with medical degrees teach or do research,” Dr. Koerner said. He emphasized the importance of adaptability and the willingness to ask for help for those who aspire to be doctors or make health care their life’s work.
“You have access to a lot of resources,” he said. “Reach out to your mentors. People really want to help you succeed. Ask for help and support, and then do what you are trained to do.”
Drexel University-trained mechanical engineer Joseph Pancoast admitted to trying out a variety of jobs before he discovered his love of engineering. “Science in college is like boot camp for your brain,” Pancoast said, “and once you get your brain going, it’s a lot easier to figure out the course your want to be on. Engineering appealed to me because engineers solve problems. I like to work with my hands, so mechanical engineering and its creative process, that allows you to figure out complicated problems, was a good fit for a technical-minded person like me.”

Inspira senior MRI technologist David Andrews – who attended the community college of Philadelphia, Cooper University MRI school and Wilmington University – shared not only the training that he amassed to operate in his current capacity, but also emphasized the importance of communication skills and empathy.

“I need to be able to communicate with patients and the doctors who have referred them to me,” Andrews said. “Nobody wants to come to see me. A lot of people have a fear of the MRI process and are claustrophobic. They don’t feel well. In addition to the science behind my job, it is important that I show empathy and help to put them at ease.”

The panel encouraged the students to keep their options open, to set goals, work hard and to continue to seek out opportunities that will put them on unique, challenging paths that will point them toward fulfilling science-related careers and lifelong learning.“I wish my high school would have had a symposium like this when I was in school,” Andrews said. “This is a great event.”

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