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Reflections from a Scholar: Axel Perez

As the visit through the Bristol Myers Squibb facility commenced, I reflected upon how fortunate I was to be surrounded by like-minded Scholars who were as excited to hear from distinguished speakers in the scientific field and explore the laboratories equipped with cutting-edge technology. 

The speakers, all Bristol Myers Squibb employees, demonstrated their enthusiasm to inform others about their significant work in developing innovative drugs that represent hope for those who need them. It was enlightening to hear from experienced professionals who work in the same industry and long to help society through science. It was also inspiring to listen to the speakers share stories about their careers, from which we learned of cases where they showed strong passion for science from a young age but were hesitant about their career choice, a case common among many young scientists. 

One of the panelists, Ashley N. McDonald, M.Sc./MBA, is a memorable example of success despite career changes. As she entered dental school, she was fully committed to finishing her studies; however, during her first semester she realized that dental school was not for her. Continuing her career, McDonald obtained her Master of Science in Biotechnology and a Master of Business Administration, recognizing the importance of being a well rounded professional. Currently, at Bristol Myers Squibb, she utilizes her background in science and business, serving as an Associate Director, Supplier Relationship Manager. Her case demonstrates that although one’s journey may not go as planned, passion drives success, and one should base their ultimate choice on it. 

Another example of perseverance driven by passion is the case of Jennifer Albaneze-Walker, Ph.D., Scientific Director, who has always had an immense interest in science. Due to complicated situations, she could not attend university right after high school graduation; however, after some time and full of determination, she defeated many obstacles and completed her undergraduate studies in two years. She went on to pursue her graduate studies and now enthusiastically expresses the joy of developing promising drugs and mentoring beginner scientists. 

In addition to these two speakers, all the other panelists offered inspirational stories regarding their careers, showing the obstacles and joy they found along the way. They inspired a room full of young scientists who share a passion for innovation, personally sparking my interest in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry by helping society through the development of novel drugs.

Written by Axel Perez, 2024 Scholar

Axel Perez is a sophomore at Jose Marti STEM Academy. He has conducted molecular biology and bioinformatics research as part of the Rutgers Waksman Student Scholars Program where he isolated, purified and analyzed novel Landoltia Punctata DNA sequences to be published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Additionally, he has investigated the effect of Hericium erinaceus on Parkinson’s disease. His STEM interests lie in biology. He is the Vice President of the Brain Bee Club, where he teaches his peers various neuroscience topics, and he was a finalist in the 2023 state competition. He also serves as the Parliamentarian of his HOSA chapter and is a dedicated member of the NJ PREP Youth Advisory Board and the New Jersey Department of Health’s Voice of Youth Committee. Axel aspires to pursue a career in the medical field and give back to his underserved Hispanic community.


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