Why did you decide to earn a degree at Harvard Extension?

I’ve wanted to pursue graduate education in bioengineering to learn more about how nanomaterials and nanoparticles can be used in medicine and medical devices. However, as a person who suffers from narcolepsy, traditional daytime programs are not usually a viable option for me to pursue continuing education. Harvard Extension School offered a world-class education with the flexibility in class schedules I needed to achieve my goals. 

How has/will this experience help you in your career or personal development?

It’s already paid off in so many ways. Professionally, I was able to directly apply what I learned in the classroom (like protein structures and behaviors) to how our team at MGH models the effects of clinical treatments on protein concentrations specific to heart failure. Our models have enabled us to better understand key differences in how patients have responded to newer treatments for heart failure and will ultimately improve how clinicians monitor treatment response at a larger scale. 

What was the most challenging aspect of your time at Extension? What was the most rewarding?

Going back to school nearly a decade after I graduated was not easy. Thankfully, the student body at HES is rich in diversity and I was able to meet and study with classmates from all walks of life. The most rewarding part of my program were the hands-on opportunities to learn about and experience significant scientific advances, like gene editing and delivery of treatments with nanostructures, that weren’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.

How did you manage to balance your studies with work and family responsibilities? 

My employer is strongly supportive of professional development and continuing education. Overall, I found that being communicative with my supervisor was helpful in managing the work-life-student balance and avoiding feeling overwhelmed. I constantly looked for ways to apply what we learned in bioengineering courses to the types of research studies our team works on, which helped reinforce the importance of continued learning. 

What types of student resources and special options did you take advantage of as a student at Harvard? How did they help?

I have to say that student advising was helpful during my program. My advisor, Joan Short, connected me with student disability services that, in turn, introduced me to new technologies for notetaking (LiveScribe®) and set up proctored exams during the day when I tend to be more alert. This was a huge lifesaver and I am very grateful to both offices!

In which ways did you connect with the Harvard community?

I made it a point to get to know my classmates, participate in study groups, vote in student body elections, and learn more about this history of Harvard itself. There are so many opportunities to get involved and the experience is certainly what you make of it.

Describe your Extension School experience in one word.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.