Men's Track & Field Student-Athlete Romario Thomas Accepted Into Harvard Stem Cell Research Institute Internship Program
St. Francis Brooklyn men's track & field junior Romario Thomas was recently accepted into the highly competitive and prestigious Harvard Stem Cell Research Institute (HSCI) Internship Program (HIP) for the summer of 2019. Thomas, a biology major who holds a 4.0 GPA, was selected from a large candidate pool of 600 students and was just one of 34 who earned a spot in the rigorous program.
"It feels amazing, especially because as a person, stem cell research is something that I've always wanted to do. I think that it's a great opportunity to experience the field before actually just jumping into the field head on to see what it feels like, see how research overall feels like and to go there and do what I've always wanted to do and what I love. It feels amazing; I feel honored," said Thomas while discussing his acceptance into the HSCI Internship Program.
The Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) Internship Program (HIP) allows undergraduate students to enhance their knowledge and skills while receiving hands-on experience in a cutting-edge stem cell science lab. HSCI interns are exposed to various professional options within the field through a stem cell seminar series, a career pathways presentation, and a weekly stem cell companion course. Interns will present their summer research findings at the HIP Symposium, which is a requirement for all participants within the program.
As a biology major at St. Francis College, Thomas has been exposed to a plethora of challenging courses that have prepared him for his journey into the HSCI Summer Internship Program. He has been guided by Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Dell of the Biology & Health Promotion department at St. Francis, who have played integral roles in his development.
"I want to say we have an amazing faculty here. I am biased to the sciences because that's what I relate to most as a Biology major. Dr. Ruiz told me about internship programs, and I applied to this one, and she told me 'we're going all the way to Harvard,' and so we applied for it and she helped me with the application process, and that's how I applied and got it," noted Thomas. "Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Dell are both mentors. I've never taken a class with Dr. Ruiz, but she goes beyond her call of duty to not just help me but to help other students. It's just been an amazing experience because I know that people here genuinely care for students."
Thomas, a native of Jamaica, came to St. Francis as an international student looking to explore a career path in the medical field. At first, he was undecided on the route that he wanted to take, but stem cell research was always something that resonated with him as he took to it as a senior in high school.
At St. Francis, he met Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Dell, who soon became his mentors as they both contributed to his development as an undergraduate student. Thomas' passion for stem cell research began to grow, and it was amid his junior year that he began searching for internships so that he could hone his skills in the field. Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Dell were there for him every step of the way as he began the process.
"It's absolutely important (to have mentors) especially for students who don't have parents or family members that have worked in that specific field then they really have no one with a background that has already been in the field that they're interested in. Like me, for instance, my parents don't do any form of sciences. To have them (mentors) there like Dr. Dell and Dr. Ruiz, to have them there to guide me throughout my steps, telling me that 'whatever it is you want to do, you can do it'. At first, I was struggling with choosing between wanting to be a medical doctor, a physician's assistant, or doing research. Dr. Ruiz told me that 'whichever I want to do I can do it, it's all about doing what you love.' Having those influential people there in your lives, in my life, it's just been a blessing. It's just been a blessing for me," Thomas explained.
With summer just around the corner and his internship fast approaching, Thomas has set goals for himself that he plans to stick by as he enters this next phase of his academic career. He intends to absorb information and gain as much experience as possible during the program. Following college, he plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in stem cell research and focus on genetics. During the internship, he is hoping to gain skills that are necessary for him to go to grad school and be successful on his journey to obtaining a Ph.D.
"St. Francis College has something special that I think has helped me prepare myself for this internship. It has people who care, people who take the time out to go beyond their call of duty to make sure that students are successful. I believe that has helped me as a person to realize that no matter what I want to do I can accomplish it. Especially when I have labs with Dr. Dell she would always be patient, and she would always point out if you're doing something wrong or praise you if you're doing something correctly. I think that kind of professor/student relationship is essential for people like me who are going on into internships to be successful. I feel like St. Francis College has done an excellent job with making sure that they put in place the professors that have the necessary tools to propel students to where they want to go. I think St. Francis has been amazing. They've been an amazing help to me," said Thomas.
Thomas has accomplished so much during his time on Remsen Street while balancing being a resident assistant and competing for the indoor and outdoor track & field teams. His passion and drive to be successful are contagious as he embarks on his next chapter, a chapter that will be spent as one of 34 members in the Harvard Stem Cell Research Institute Internship Program.