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Thomas Newton

From a love of numbers to pursuing a cure for dyslexia

Tommy Knowles

Thomas Newton

Robert and Harriett Druskin Scholarship

Class of 2022 School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program

Biomathematics (BS) and Music (Minor or possibly a BA)

How did you decide on your major?

After taking my Honors Biology class as a freshman in high school, I knew that I loved the topics of genetics and biochemistry. What fascinated me the most was when we talked about DNA and how it is used by the body in order to manufacture the millions of proteins necessary for everyday life. On the other hand, ever since I was little, numbers have been my thing. At the age of two, my mom would quiz me on phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, etc. I was always known as the numbers man in the family. As I continued on through my years of school, I quickly became known as the math connoisseur, while still maintaining my love for genetics and the like. When I found out that Rutgers has biomathematics as an option for a major, I jumped on it immediately. No other schools in the area had a major quite like it, and it meshed the two areas of study that I was truly passionate about perfectly.

What is it about your chosen field (and the department) that appeals to you?

I chose biomathematics because I know that I would be able to learn more about not just one study I loved, but my two favorite disciplines. There is, of course, the SAS Core and SASHP requirements that must be fulfilled. However, the biomathematics major is an interdisciplinary field of study in and of itself, giving me the opportunity to see science from two points of view, while simultaneously combining the two. The biomathematics department, being so new, is extremely small. In fact, the biomathematics major doesn’t have its own department, as it is a branch of the mathematics department. Funny enough, I have only ever met one other person with the same major as me, that being my current RA. Thus, the tight knit group of people that share the same major is a huge appeal. Also, the department offers a multitude of different options for electives, both biology and math related. Therefore, I have a huge range of topics that I can study inside of the major.

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation, I plan to continue in academics and receive my Master’s and/or my Ph.D. Whether I pursue my Master’s Degree or not, I will achieve my doctorate. However, with the specificity of my discipline, it is hard to find graduate or doctoral programs that are similar to that of the biomathematics department. Therefore, I will most likely earn a doctorate in genetics or genomics.

What are your dreams and aspirations?

My dream is to be a research scientist. Ever since I was little, my mom told me that I would make a difference in this world. I know that that is just something that your parents are supposed to say, but it really stuck with me. One of my friends suffers with dyslexia. Currently, he just takes medication to aid in diminishing his disorder. But there is no cure. So, my mom and his mom always told me to find a cure for dyslexia. Although it seems nearly impossible now, getting into a research lab would be that start to something that could prove successful.

What challenges or barriers did you feel were between you and your goals?

Challenges that I have experienced that have forced a wedge between me and my goals are minimal, but highly impactful. There is one challenge in particular that limited my ability to become comfortable in a lab. I come from a very small town. We were an extremely small district, where my graduating class was a mere 170 students. Because of the tiny size, there was not as much funding as needed for specific departments, such as the science or arts departments. With that, we were limited in our resources for laboratory research. For instance, when studying chemical composition and precipitation in AP Chemistry, we found out that we had been given a brand new centrifuge. But, this was the only machine of its kind in the entire school district, and only the teacher could handle the machine. When we needed to use the centrifuge, we had to hand our solutions to the teacher, who would walk to the machine and use it without us touching it or going near it. Therefore, I was restricted from having a hand-on experience with laboratory equipment, along with the exposure to different research methods and opportunities.

How did this scholarship transform your educational experience?

The Harriet and Robert Druskin Endowed Scholarship has impacted my educational experience in such a positive way. I come from a single parent household, where all expenses are paid for by my mother. With two sons in college, we knew that the next couple years would be hard on us financially. With the scholarship, the burden of taking out several loans that would need to be paid off after graduation has been lifted. With this generous donation from the Druskin family, the stress of my loan payment that was upon my mother has been suppressed and eased, immensely.

What did this scholarship make possible?

This scholarship made one thing in particular possible. As I have said, I plan on going into research upon graduation from all of my copious years of schooling. With that, I knew that I wanted to get experience in a lab before going to grad school, where they would expect me to know as much as everyone else. I have researched many programs, ranging from Michigan to Maine to Georgia, that offer summer internships in a research lab for first-year undergraduate students. With this scholarship, I will be able to pay the large travelling fees, along with the application fees for all the programs. Without the kindness of the Druskin family, the ability to even try to attend one of the research programs would not have been possible.

What was it like the moment you found out you had the scholarship?

The moment I found out I had received the scholarship was a huge shock. Two days before move-in day, I received an email from the scholarship office that they would like to meet with me to speak about a scholarship that I was being considered for. I wasn’t expecting much of it, at the start. When I came in for the interview, the day before move-in day, I sat down in the scholarship office, extremely nervous about speaking with Dean Cahill, shaking in my chair. I had no idea what I was being considered for, and had no idea what kind of questions were going to be asked. After about 30 minutes of questions, answers, and laughs, Dean Cahill informed me that she was confident that I would be the right fit for the Druskin Scholarship. I was completely taken aback. I expected to be going into school, with the federal loans given from the FAFSA,


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