International student finds passion during his practice training

September 19, 2023

Nicholas Isaac smiles at the camera in a plaid shirt

Nicholas Isaac MHS ’22 finds that describing where exactly he’s from is a challenge. Born and raised in the Kingdom of Bahrain, established with Indian citizenship from his parents, and then forced to move to India at age eighteen, the idea of being ‘from’ somewhere specific is hard to grasp.

In comparison, his plan for his F-1 visa is much easier to explain.

“I was aware of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) from my undergraduate degree and I always planned to utilize it,” said Isaac. “It’s a great way to gain in-field learning and experience.”

OPT programs allow international students studying in the United States the opportunity to find a job and stay in the country to gain more experience in their desired field.

While exploring the biomedical sciences field during his undergraduate OPT, Isaac worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a laboratory as a histology technologist. This was the first time he learned about cancer genomics.

"I was interested and wanted to learn more and progress in the field,” said Isaac. “It was one of the reasons I decided on Quinnipiac for my graduate degree in biomedical sciences. After I graduated, one of my professors at Quinnipiac sent an email about a molecular technologist position at the Yale New Haven Hospital.”

Being interested, Isaac applied to the position and the rest became history. Now, Isaac works in the tumor profiling laboratory within the molecular pathology department. In this role he receives biological specimens and extracts DNA and RNA in order to help collect information for another team to analyze. They then go on to formulate a specific treatment plan for each individual patient.

All of this falls under the title of ‘cancer genomics,’ he explained. Essentially, the study of cancer genes to better understand the various kinds of cancer and its genetic aspects, something that becomes ever more crucial in humanity’s drive to eradicate the disease.

“I had a good understanding of molecular processes from my time working at Foundation Medicine, but Quinnipiac was able to provide me with both the theoretical knowledge and basic laboratory experience to learn and grow in the work that I currently do,” said Isaac. “Courses such as immunology, pathogenic microbiology, virology, advanced biochemistry and biomarkers all had aspects related to molecular biology. We even extracted plant DNA and performed other molecular processes in research methods and immunology laboratory courses.”

With everything Quinnipiac and Foundation Medicine prepared him with, he knew he would do well at Yale New Haven Hospital. His master of health sciences in biomedical sciences gave him the courses and laboratory instructions that he would need in his career within cancer genomics, he said.

“Being an international student can be challenging at times,” said Isaac. “In addition to handling the normal stress of student life, we have to manage the rest of being new to a country. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but it’s important to always stay focused and be positive. I found all my professors at Quinnipiac and the Department of Global and Cultural Affairs are an invaluable resource in ensuring that your time at Quinnipiac and during your OPT goes as smoothly as possible.”

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