The College of the Environment and Life Sciences

URI has expanded her worldview

Robin Fidel ’23 aims to blend data analysis and biotech in her career

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The URI Learning Experience

Hands-on experience has shaped her learning

A paid summer research program during high school sparked Robin Fidel’s interest in research and the pharmaceutical industry. Four years later at URI, Fidel earned a coveted spot as a paid intern at Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Jersey, working in their non-clinical research and development lab.

Her career goal to be a pharmaceutical researcher is now solidified and her self-confidence has expanded exponentially.

“I’ve never lived outside of Rhode Island,” said Fidel. “My faculty advisor, Assistant Professor Brian Plouffe, regularly sends out internship opportunities to all the students. Those messages gave me the idea to look around for an internship.

“I used to be more timid and less ambitious. Being at URI and involved with the Seeds of Success (SOS) program in the College of the Environment and Life Science has made me willing to take risks now.”

Fidel originally chose URI because it was her most affordable option and because her older sister, who also attended URI, encouraged her. Now she’s grateful for the way it turned out—the research opportunities, the extracurricular activities, and the friends she’s made.

She entered as a biology major but quickly switched to biotechnology because she thought it would prepare her for the pharmaceutical field. While taking her lab classes, she discovered a deep interest in data and analysis.

“COVID hit in the spring of my first year and it changed everything. I decided I liked the data and analysis more than the hands-on laboratory work, so I decided to double major in data science. I think computational skills are essential to being a good scientist.”

Fidel was awarded a summer Science and Engineering Fellowship after her sophomore year and worked with Rachel Schwartz, assistant professor in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, in the computational evolutionary genetics lab.

“I consider Dr. Schwartz my mentor. She really helped me develop my analytical skills as we researched the immune-related genes in oysters.”

You might think all Fidel does is work and study, but she joined SOS, which aims to provide a sense of community for underrepresented CELS students.

“Through that cohort I met similar students and made great friends. I also joined PINK Women [Powerful, Independent, Notoriously Knowledgeable, which promotes self-exploration, professional development, and leadership opportunities for multicultural undergraduates]. This has made me willing to tackle more things.”

The opportunities at URI were supported by the scholarship she received.

“I’m very grateful for the scholarship,” said Fidel. “I can’t get help from my family, and it is very expensive to live on campus. I was worried about money, and I have been able to focus on my studies.

“I’m trying to decide if I’ll go for my master’s degree right away or work first. I’d love to work as a research scientist in a position where data analysis and biotechnology intersect for the pharmaceutical industry. I may even want a Ph.D. and work in a college.”

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