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ASU graduate looks toward the future of medicine with computational biology

Havell Markus

Havell Markus received his B.S. degree in biochemistry and mathematics from ASU in 2016.

March 01, 2018

This profile is part of a series showcasing alumni of the School of Molecular Sciences.

Havell Markus received his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and mathematics from Arizona State University in 2016. As a highly accomplished student of ASU’s Barrett, the The Honors College, Markus received the School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medal in fall 2016. While attending ASU, Markus also conducted extensive research as a Helios Scholar in the Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics at the Translational Genomics Research Center and multiple labs at ASU. His research and thesis work were presented in four conferences and resulted in a first author publication in the Journal of Young Investigators. Not only that, Markus was involved in several service programs at ASU, including the STEM in the Middle program, ASU’s Math Tutoring Center and the Chicanos Por La Causa program.

We asked Markus a few questions about what he has been working on since graduating from ASU, as well as how his experience as an ASU student helped prepare him for his current career path.

Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you are currently doing.

Answer: I am currently attending University of Cambridge for a master’s degree in computational biology. I want to pursue a future as a physician scientist, and I envision genomics to be a greater part of medicine in the future, as we are beginning to uncover the genetic links to many diseases. As a physician, I want to be able not only to carry out my own research but also to understand the mathematical and statistical framework that goes into the analysis of complex data.

Q: Why or how did you choose your current career path?

A: My interest in this career path was relatively sequential, but ultimately was mainly due to constantly being involved in research and shadowing physicians. I was always interested in math, biology, and chemistry. This led me to pursue a double major in mathematics and biochemistry. My study then led me to pursue research in areas that required knowledge from both fields. I soon realized that at times research could be very distant and censored from clinical work and actual patients. This in turn led me to work under physician scientists and shadow doctors. As a result, I decided to pursue a career as a physician scientist, where I could stay connected to the clinical side of medicine, and perform research that is personal and patient-driven.

Q: How did your undergraduate experience in the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU prepare you for your current career path?

A: My college experience was very goal-oriented: I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do in the future. From day one, I was involved in research. Every summer, I was part of some research program. I never took a class because it was easy, but instead picked my classes based on what interested me, whether it was chemistry, biology, math, statistics, or computer science. Every class and research opportunity shaped my interests and helped establish my preferences; this long process eventually helped me figure out what I wanted to do in the future. Furthermore, being a CLAS (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) student taught me how to be an independent learner and how to maximize the utilization of resources around me.

Q: What is it like applying your degree in a new area?

A: Applying my degree in a new area is very rewarding, because it validates the fact that my time and effort as an undergraduate was spent on something substantial that can be used to solve real-life problems and impact the lives of others.

Q: What is your advice for current students in the School of Molecular Sciences who are thinking of pursuing a career path similar to yours?

A: I would tell incoming students to aim for mastery in whatever subject or classes they take.  It is easy to simply pass a class, but eventually lack of mastery will catch up to you. Taking time now to learn the material thoroughly will definitely pay off in the future. Also, be open-minded choosing which professors to take classes from, as I have taken many great classes with professors who might not have suited other students. If you have any doubts, just go talk to the professor.

Q: What would you tell a prospective ASU student that they need to know about studying in the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU?

A: I would tell students not to compare themselves to others. You will meet a lot of talented students in your courses or degree program, and comparing yourself to them is pointless, as everyone is on a different path and has a different background. Just focus on yourself and your goals, and everything should work out.