Spotlight on Systems Biology Student Joseph Ziccarelli

Joseph Ziccarelli

On the Systems Biology Program . . .

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What drew you to Virginia Tech?

I am a Pittsburgh kid born and raised. I love and am loyal to all Pittsburgh sports teams and, as a whole, love my city. I first came to Virginia Tech for the Corps of Cadets. I did so because I had some personal areas in which I realized that I needed to improve. The experience has helped me exponentially to grow into a leader and has helped me to iron out those personal issues.

Why did you decide to major in Systems Biology?

I decided to major in Systems Biology originally because I loved the Integrated Science Curriculum and wanted the ability to understand complex topics like Michaelis-Menton enzyme kinetics on a mathematical and detail level.

What has been your favorite part of the Systems Biology program so far?

I have grown to understand multiple different topics in SysBio so far. However, my favorite experience has been learning about the crazy amount of detail and cellular network interactions that are a part of both the dystrophin gene and leptin gene. Malfunctions in these genes can lead to DMD and obesity, two challenging medical diseases.

What has surprised you about Systems Biology?

The amount of depth and mathematical work has both surprised and challenged me within SysBio. However, I am enjoying it as it is.

You completed the Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC) last spring. What was your experience in ISC like?

The Integrated Science Curriculum was challenging in both the depth and the amount of work throughout the course. However, some of my favorite experiences in my first two years were in the ISC classroom. We learned from incredible teachers in a small classroom format and even though they were frustrating at times I learned so much. The friendships and academic experience I gained from the ISC program are something I will never forget.

How do you think ISC helped prepared you for your Systems Biology coursework?

ISC and Systems Biology go hand to hand and flow well together academically. I feel better prepared for the SysBio major when compared to other students who didn’t go through ISC.

Describe an experience you have had in ISC or Systems Biology that stands out to you.

The amount of personal time with your professors in ISC is a crucial facet of the program for me. I remember being able to sit down with John Tyson and talk through my homework problems, ask questions from class, and having my other friends help me understand our work in class. The collaborative environment in ISC prepared me well for other college work and the future.

How do you think ISC and Systems Biology differ from traditional science classes?

The collaborative and interactive environment involved in studying and learning complex classes is a big difference.

Have you interned anywhere? If so, where did you work? Can you describe your experience?

I have not. I have shadowed multiple doctors however and the experience has been incredible.

What career path do you hope to follow?

I want to become a medical doctor, specifically a family pediatrician, in the future. Both ISC and Systems Biology have prepared me well for understanding and collaborating in the medical world.

What impact do you hope to have on the world? How will your Systems Biology degree help you with this?

I want to have a positive impact on everyone I collaborate with and meet with in the professional world. I want to be a good doctor and above all a good person as I grow into a medical professional.

What has been the highlight of your Hokie career do far?

The highlight of my Hokie career was turning from a freshman into an upperclassman in the Corps of Cadets. The experience ended a challenging freshmen year and all the hard work I put into improving myself payed off in the end.