Tutor Successes - Carlos De Niz
When did you graduate from Tech? What degree(s) did you earn?
I got my Masters in the Fall of 2014 and my Ph.D. in the Spring of 2018, both in Electrical Engineering.
When did you start working at the TECHniques Center? How long were you a tutor in the TECHniques Center? How did you find out about this job?
I had the fortune of being a tutor at the TECHniques Center for one year: Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. I found open positions for the TECHniques Center while browsing on Tech's employment website. Before joining Tech, I always helped friends and classmates solve issues with classes or study. I remember having high school friends coming over to my house at 10pm to have me help them study for a final exam they had the next morning. The idea of learning about disabilities (many of which I didn't really know) and being a formal tutor were a no-brainer, so I applied for the job right away.
Tell us about what you are doing now! Where do you work? What is your job like? What projects are you involved in? (brag about yourself!)
I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, specifically at Avillach Lab. We do research and develop tools for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology applications. These two areas are considered very interdisciplinary as they combine biology, statistics, computer science, mathematics and data engineering to analyze and process data from biological phenomena. I am currently working in a project that requires us to process and analyze a specific type of genomic data that describes mutation information of individuals (variants)... This dataset has both genotypic and phenotypic data, which means that all the individuals got their genome sequenced and they went through a very rigorous characterization of their observable physical traits involving heath and physical information. This set is of great value for the scientific community as it gives researchers priceless information to identify mechanisms specific to autism spectrum patients and to be able to improve their quality of life... It is important to identify how and where mutations (changes) in those bases occur due to the fact that in some specific cases the change of a single nucleotide can be detrimental for an individual.
What was something that being a tutor in the TECHniques Center taught you? How has your experience at the TECHniques Center influenced where you are now in life?
Being a tutor at the TECHniques Center opened a priceless opportunity for me to learn new pedagogy approaches and to be able to help students that face learning difficulties (due to their disabilities), especially in such an important life period like college. I did get a good set of tools and experience, and I was able to help tutees in my time as a tutor, but I was also able to use them as an instructor later on during my time in Grad School.
We have a lot of tutors who were once in your shoes ... Brand new, learning new skills, exploring the world of a young professional at a University. What advice would you give them about being a tutor in the TECHniques Center so that they can be as successful as possible?
I believe we have to create awareness and to understand the fact that people —specifically our tutees and classmates— have perspectives, beliefs and ideas different to ours. Hence, it is necessary for us to learn how to approach people and how to win their trust as everyone is different; unfortunately, there's no one-size fits all guide for human relationships. For good and for bad, a big part of this learning process requires time and making mistakes, just like any other thing in life... Humans share around 30% of our genome with yeast. Yeast is a a single-celled microorganism (a fungus) that is used as a food additive to give us delicious things like bread and beer (I am a brewer myself). Humans and bananas share possibly as much as 60% of the genome. Humans share 99.9% of the genome and hence our physical appearance is given only by 0.01% difference. Which leads me to say: always be humble, thankful and avoid developing an entitlement mentality.
"Always be humble, thankful and avoid developing an entitlement mentality."
How has the TECHniques Center helped you in your career / personal path?
I acquired tons of knowledge... by listening to all the different stories and both positive and negative experiences from my fellow tutors and the counselors as well. On top of it, I was able to meet great people and to make really good friendships!
What is next on your horizon?
I started looking for a big boy job. Being a postdoc is nice, but as opposed to popular belief, a post-doctoral position is just temporary and its purpose is to introduce recent Ph.D. graduates to the research/academia world. My ideal scenario is a job where I can do research and yet be able to teach and share a little bit of my knowledge and experience with others.
Anything else special you'd like to share with our audience of current and future students, tutors, parents, and other community leaders?
Places like the TECHniques Center help as a voice to communicate across the college community the fact that some people have physical disadvantages that can be properly addressed and overcome. I am left-handed, and I have a non-severe degree of dyslexia. During my student life, it took me a slightly longer time to take tests... It took some time and many iterations (lower grades included) to learn how to address these "disadvantages." That's why I told my students: "Make sure you double-check your exam before turning it in." And here's some free life advice, reading your documents (exam or assignment instructions, specifications, etc.) will make you better at what you do, no matter what it is!
Anything you want to share about how this experience has shaped you in your life and career?
After being a tutor for one year and an instructor for 3 more, I highly encouraged students and fellow professionals to be persistent, to work hard, and to target energy towards the right direction, because all that effort will be paid back. And, this is very important, you have to make sure to get the right set of tools in the process as things are not earned only by the amount of effort. Learning how to swim and wearing the correct gear will help you safely get across the glacial lake.