'The Quarter of the New'

Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) student Federico Cammarata reflects on his first quarter at Northwestern University.

Federico Cammarata grew up in Italy and received his Bachelor's degree in management and technology in Germany. While at the Technical University of Munich, he specialized in chemistry. Now he's brought that unique background to Evanston, Ill., where he recently completed his first quarter in Northwestern University's Master of Biotechnology program (MBP).

Federico CammarataCammarata recently spoke about the value of teamwork, his ongoing research and the "magic" that came with the season's first snowfall.

How would you describe your fall quarter experience? 

Fall 2019 was the start of a new chapter for many of us. Coming from Europe, the first few months for me have been all about facing new experiences and challenges, acquiring new skills and, above all, finding new friends. I think you could call it the quarter of the “New”. 

What were two of the most important lessons you learned? 

Regarding workload and course-related activities, everything is doable, but having (and maintaining) good time management is key. Moreover, coming from a large public university in Germany, group work has been something relatively new to me. Here, I have learned how essential good teamwork is for the overall quality of the group’s final product. It is important to always keep in mind that your team members will rely on you and your commitment as much as you will on them. 

What were your personal highlights from the quarter? 

A lot happened in those first three months and there are too many highlights to recall them all. One, in particular, I remember happened during a class trip to the Feinberg School of Medicine with Prof. Felse. That day it started snowing in Chicago and many of us were seeing snow for the first time. It was a magic moment. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced in starting the program? 

As an international student, it definitely has not been easy to adapt to the US academic system as well as the language. The rigor of MBP was already felt in the very first week of classes, so there was not much time for settling in. Thanks to the small size of the program, however, you feel like no student is left behind. The great faculty and staff make sure you always feel stimulated rather than discouraged or overwhelmed. 

What are you most excited about moving forward in the program? 

I recently started my research project on bladder tissue regeneration at the Center for Advanced Regenerative Engineering in Prof. Guillermo Ameer's Lab. I am excited to be part of an interdisciplinary research team and feel I will learn a lot of extremely useful skills here. I am looking forward to what the future holds. 

What are your career aspirations and how do you think MBP will help you achieve those goals? 

I still am going back and forth between a future PhD and an industry-based position. I definitely see myself in the biotech industry in the long term. The MBP program encourages you to have an interest in both areas and equips you with the best technical and non-technical skills, which will be valuable assets regardless of whether they're used for research or industry. Whatever path I may choose to take after graduation, I am confident that MBP will gear me up for that.