Anthony Troiano, Jr. is a 2010 graduate of the University Honors Program. During his time at UNH, AJ double-majored in Microbiology (Honors) and Classics, participated in a variety of extracurricular organizations, and enjoyed the New Hampshire seasons and scenery. He has since continued his education at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. Below, AJ recalls his experiences as UNH and offers some words of encouragement as a recent graduate to current UHP students.
What is your background, Anthony?
I grew up on Cape Cod in East Sandwich, Massachusetts, less than one mile from the beach, so needless to say, my childhood was one spent in the water. As a kid, riding my bike down the beach, going bridge jumping, and being outside was always something I enjoyed. To live in New England you really must enjoy all the seasons, however, which I do immensely. Beyond the beach, though, I knew from a young age that I wanted to go into medicine, one way or another; as a child I always viewed doctors and scientists as the smartest people in the world (you got candy from them when you were sick). I think my love of nature and the outdoors augmented my passion for science and medicine as well. From a young age it was apparent that I had a fascination with the natural world, something derived from my parents.
Why did you decide to attend UNH?
In all honesty, UNH was my last choice on my college list, but it jumped up to my #1 slot as soon as I visited campus. From the moment I stepped on the campus, the brick building “New England” charm (and proximity to the coast) made me feel as a sense of comfort that I felt at no other college I had applied to. During my college career at UNH, I was a double major in Microbiology (Honors) and Classics, which made for an interesting (and intense) experience.
What organizations were you involved with during your time at UNH?
Honors program, the premedical advisory program, Energy Club (founded by Jacob Aho ’08, one of my roommates), as well as many of the intramural sports that the University offered.
How did the Honors Program contribute to your experience at UNH?
If it weren’t for the Honors Program, I would not have been able to attend many of the classes I participated in, nor forged the relationships with the professors that I have. Some of my greatest memories of college stem from those experiences and I continue to keep in touch with many of my advisors and professors from Honors classes. A large majority of these people wrote wonderful letters of recommendation for me while going forward in my education.
What is your most significant memory as an Honors student?
Without a doubt, there are two classes and two professors that I will always remember:
- Greek and Roman Mythology (Honors), with Dr. Richard Clairmont
- Biology (Honors), with Dr. Andy Laudano
Dr. Clairmont’s class is one of a kind; never in my life did my hand hurt so much from writing, and I still remember seeing my first paper handed back to me from him and saying, “Gee, look at all that red” (a quote he still reminds me of to this day). Dr. Laudano is a teacher who goes above and beyond in his role as an instructor; at one point, in one of his classes he had me and another student pick him up over our shoulders in order to correctly model allosteric interactions of proteins and substrates. He would also hold Saturday study sessions before exams and bring his famous espresso maker for cappuccinos, on top of a buffet of food. I went on to take other courses with both of these professors, and enjoyed them equally as much, if not more.
Did you write a thesis while in the Honors Program?
My thesis was, “Fitness effects of mutations that enhance biofilm productions in Burkholderia cenocepacia HI2424, an opportunistic pathogen of cystic fibrosis patients.” My advisor was Dr. Vaughn Cooper, in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences.
What did you do after graduation?
After graduation I began my graduate career at the University of Connecticut Health Center, just outside of Hartford, CT, pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. Specifically, I am focusing on the spore forming bacterium Bacillus subtilis, just like that of the anthrax outbreak in 2001 (Bacillus anthracis). Currently, I am in my third year as a student at the UCHC under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Setlow.
What other things have you been doing in recent years?
I sometimes find that it is hard to stay motivated, post-college, so I began training for road races and triathlons in the early spring of 2011. Since then I have competed in three sprint triathlons, one Tough Mudder, and over a dozen road races. This spring I am training for my first half marathon in Alton, NH, as well as an Olympic Triathlon back near my home on Cape Cod. I find that training for these physically demanding events has helped me stay focused as a student (as spending nearly ten years in school can burn you out if you’re not careful).
Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with our UHP students?
Never be afraid to talk to your professors! They are normal people, like you or me, and it can be invaluable in the long run. Also, New Hampshire is a wonderful place to live and I hope one day when my career moves forward that I can move back there. I didn’t fully appreciate the landscape and the people while there during college, but in retrospect, I miss everything about it. Portsmouth is a beautiful town with a lot of great restaurants, breweries, and bars, (for the 21 and up crowd), and it isn’t too hard on a budget. I highly recommend getting out there.