Welcome to “3 Questions with …”, a new feature on the Career Center blog. We’re asking alumni of all graduation years and career interests to share a bit of their experiences and advice.
Jesse Osmar Najarro, A’19, Research Associate, Behavioral Sciences
1. In just a few sentences, please tell us about your current job/graduate program/vocational endeavor.
I am currently pursuing my Master of Public Health in social behavior and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. My program is focused on understanding and intervening on the social determinants of health in addition to studying disease frequency, distribution, and epidemiologic methodology. I decided to pursue graduate school after working at a federally qualified-community health center as a research assistant. I realized that I wanted to lead my own research/public health interventions, but I needed to acquire and apply certain programmatic and technical skills.
2. How did your time at Tufts influence your career journey?
My undergraduate experience at Tufts, particularly in the community health department, had a tremendous influence on my career trajectory. Through courses such as, research methods and statistics, I learned about population-level research from asking a research question to analyzing your data and disseminating findings to the community. I also had the opportunity to participate in research projects through my internship and senior honors thesis where I worked with Massachusetts General Brigham and a syringe service program. These experiences not only prepared me to conduct research upon graduation and a knowledge base that still serves me in the classroom today, but they also solidified my interest in scientifically-rigorous community-oriented research.
3. What advice would you offer to a student who wants to pursue a career path like yours?
For students who are interested in pursuing a career in public health research, I offer three pieces of advice. First, public health is an incredibly interdisciplinary field, and you will most likely find yourself working with people from a range of professional and academic backgrounds. Thus, you should feel free to explore and pursue opportunities outside of your comfort zone. While my professional experiences have mainly been in clinical research, I recently completed an internship in the epidemiology department of a biotech/pharma company. Second, feel free to ask about research opportunities whether that be people in your network or cold-emailing a researcher. However, make sure you are clear about why you want to work with them and be prepared to not receive a response or even a rejection. Third, take advantage of courses that provided you with technical skills, especially programs like R, Stata, SAS, SPSS, Python, etc. These are becoming more and more important in public health research and knowing them can provide you with a competitive advantage when applying for graduate programs and jobs.
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