Travis DeLano, S’17, is a University Scholar with a near-perfect GPA. He was recognized twice at the Academic Honors Convocation—first for receiving the Harold D. Hodgkinson Award, one of the university’s highest honors for graduating seniors, and then for winning a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Here, he reflects on his past five years at Northeastern and looks ahead to the future.
You studied chemistry at Northeastern and plan to attend graduate school at the California Institute of Technology. What will you focus on, and how will your area of study dovetail with your career ambitions?
I’ll be studying organic chemistry, with a particular emphasis on developing novel chemical reactions for the formation of challenging and valuable bonds. My career goals are not fully clear at this point, but I loved my time on co-op in the pharmaceutical industry and I’m really intrigued by the possibility of becoming a professor. My experience in graduate school will inform my ultimate decision.
Your undergraduate accomplishments run deep, from achieving a near-perfect GPA to publishing a scientific paper while on co-op. What would you say is your biggest achievement at Northeastern?
As part of Northeastern’s Civic Engagement Program, I volunteered for almost three years as an academic coach at SquashBusters, an after-school urban youth development program at Northeastern. I loved it. The students there are really spectacular, kind, and hardworking. It feels good to give back some of what I’ve learned at Northeastern in terms of how to study and prepare for exams, especially when you’re working with kids who come from disadvantaged neighborhoods. I was really impressed by the tight-knit community, with students entering the program in seventh grade and sticking with the same group until they graduate from high school.
How did your research experiences—including working in associate professor Michael Pollastri’s lab, where you studied neglected diseases—prepare you for the next phase of your academic journey?
My work in professor Pollastri’s lab provided good training in my basic lab skills as well as the opportunity to collaborate with spectacular scientists around the world. Mike is a fantastic chemist, who helped me to develop the skills to think like a scientist, design good research hypotheses, and make things for the right reasons.
My second co-op, at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company in Boston, afforded me the opportunity to write and publish a paper as a first author. I had never written for an academic journal article before, so that was really good preparation for graduate school. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose the career path I have is because of my co-op experience there.