Name: Natalia Patel
Major: Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
My three amazing children are my biggest accomplishments in life. I hope to inspire them the way my parents inspire me.
What is a parent’s greatest hope for a child? I ask myself this question.
My own parents always stressed the importance of education when I was growing up in Ukraine. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in management, both with honors. My career in marketing, advertising, and public relations was a logical culmination of my classroom experience and work ethic. When I moved to the U.S. I had no doubt that my professional and educational experience would help me build a home in this great country.
My life was on an upward trajectory when my dad was suddenly diagnosed with the last stage of cancer. With few treatment options, it was a death sentence. I felt like I was shot in the heart. More than 10 years have passed since my dad lost his battle. And in that time it really hit home how much his support and encouragement had meant for me. He was my mentor and friend, but most importantly he was my parent. I miss his advice and I often wonder what he would say about life's various conundrums. His life taught me about perseverance, and his death taught me about mortality. The loss made me reevaluate my goals in life.
I realized I wanted to help families going through the same painful experience that I did. But in what role? I told my mom, a retired physician, that I wanted to be an oncologist. She chuckled and said my decision was inevitable. This path was a new chapter in my life. My dad would have been proud.
With no science background, I started my journey at my local county college. I did well and gained the confidence to continue. Before transferring to Rutgers, I researched the undergraduate majors and found the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MBB). I was confident that its combination of challenging curriculum, accomplished faculty, and research opportunities would prepare me to become the best possible physician. Andrew Vershon, my adviser and the department's undergraduate director, made it clear that it wasn’t going to be easy. I had to prove that I belonged. I am very thankful to Professor Vershon for opening the door for me to this exciting program. The rigor and excellence is reflected in the achievements of its graduating class that I am fortunate to be part of. I am also fortunate to have done research for my senior thesis in the lab of Gaetano Montelione, also a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department. I am very excited to be graduating with departmental High Honors.
I want to thank my family for being my rock throughout my journey. I owe my success in life to my husband Jitendra and my three children Kyryl (22), Anjali (11), and Arjun (7). Every day, they teach me humanity, wisdom, and kindness. I thank my sister Anzhela, her husband Andrii, and their son Artem for being my biggest fans. I thank my mother Valentyna for always supporting my dreams. With sadness, I thank my father Anatolii for being the driving force of my life. Thank you all for believing in me.
I would also like to thank Rutgers for making our graduation day special by celebrating Mother’s Day with us, the graduating moms. My own mom is flying in from Ukraine to join me at commencement. I know she will cry through the whole ceremony.
I never had the chance to ask my dad what his greatest hope for me was. I have yet to ask my Mom. As a parent, I know my own answer. I want my kids to have no fear and to fly as high as their wings will take them.