HomepageAlumniFrom Curiosity in Thomas Hall to Computational Biology at Invitae

From Curiosity in Thomas Hall to Computational Biology at Invitae

Paola Correra ’08

Ursinus taught me how far curiosity and hard work can take you. I vividly remember my scientific discussions with peers and faculty members, which constantly led me back to the lab or the library to fulfill the need to know more about neurons, genetics, and the small, yet amazing world of cell biology. During my sophomore year, I started research in the lab of Dr. Kohn, studying neuronal communication. She was a great advocate for including minorities in research and helped get funding for my first summer internship. The countless hours spent in the lab that summer paid off, as we published our results in a peer-reviewed journal. The early exposure to cutting-edge research at UC inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. This is something I wouldn’t have imagined at the age of 21, but the hands-on experience gained at Ursinus made me a strong doctoral candidate. After completing my graduate studies, I continued independent research as a neuroscientist and bioinformatician at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Currently, the curiosity that started in Thomas Hall has led to my role as a computational biologist at Invitae, where my team combines AI and genomic sequencing to get patients better diagnoses.


During my college years, I not only found my passion for science but also for teaching. Working as a chemistry and biology tutor at Ursinus was truly rewarding. Years later, I would expand this skill as a teaching assistant at my graduate institution, and eventually join George Washington University as an adjunct faculty. In an attempt to follow in the footsteps of my teachers at UC, and give underrepresented minorities a firsthand research experience, I joined the REPU (research experience for Peruvian undergraduates) program as a mentor. Helping summer interns was very fulfilling as many mentees found themselves in love with their projects and ended up pursuing doctoral or master programs.

Another great experience that Ursinus gave me was exposure to diverse people. These strangers at first sight would become my long-lasting friends. Through conversations with my close friends and sorority sisters, I learned that the world was more than the two places I knew, leading to my studies abroad in Spain during junior year and to many more overseas adventures. I was also fortunate to exchange ideas with friends from humanities majors, who shared their passion for equal rights, a cause that I continue to champion by advocating for more women in science. My list of acquired family members couldn’t be complete without my best friend until this date; someone who provided her unconditional support since I first ran into her at Paisley Hall. I am very grateful for my Ursinus years, as the diverse community, friendships, and stellar academics have made my dreams a reality


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