OCC Alum Lands Role as Computational Biologist at Boston Children's Hospital

Michelle McNutly

Michelle McNulty loved photography. Not certain what career path she wanted to pursue, she chose Oakland Community College as an affordable way to explore her interests. It led to an associate in applied science, photographic technology degree. 

“I started in the graphic design program and switched to photography,” McNulty said. “Along the way, I realized my love for math and science.”

While she enjoyed photography as a hobby, McNulty knew she was not interested in turning it into a career. Her positive experiences in math and science classes at OCC led her to explore careers in STEM. She went to the University of Michigan–Flint and received a bachelor of arts in secondary education and was certified to teach math and biology.  

“After teaching for three years, I realized it wasn’t the career for me and again made the choice to go back to school,” she said. “I couldn’t decide between genetics or statistics, then I learned about biostatistics. I graduated with my master of science in biostatistics from the University of Michigan in 2018.”

McNulty now works at Boston Children’s Hospital as a computational biologist in a pediatric nephrology research lab.

“I use computer programming and statistics to discover genetic contributions to kidney disease,” she said. “I also work with mRNA and epigenomic data to understand how genes are regulated in the kidney.” 

The impressive career path is something that makes McNulty and her family extremely proud.

“I am the first and only in my family to complete a bachelor’s degree. My parents have been highly supportive of all my education and career changes.” 

OCC teachers taught her great lessons and made her laugh 

“My earth science professor was very enthusiastic and passionate about what he was teaching, which increased my interest in the science field,” McNulty said. “My physics professor didn’t allow calculators on exams, which challenged me to refine my math skills.”

Photography faculty member Robert Kangas also left a lasting impression on McNulty.

“He was a great professor and challenged me to become a better photographer,” she said. “Also, anyone who wears a Canadian tuxedo and listens to The Kinks in class is cool in my book.”

Tips for other students thinking about Community College 

Since it can be challenging to explore interests with the cost of education in the United States, McNulty strongly encourages those not set on their majors to explore different classes at an affordable community college.

“Do not be afraid to try something new or something you don’t think you’re ‘good’ at,” she said. “Changing fields multiple times was scary, but I’ve found that I’m much happier when I follow where my heart leads me.”

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