Amirali Modir Shanechi ’08
M.D. Candidate, Washington University School of Medicine
I entered Princeton University in 2004 knowing that I would study electrical engineering. My father and older sister are both electrical engineers, so to an extent I simply joined the family tradition. But more so than that, I always had been interested in mathematics and especially its application to either the sciences or the solving of practical problems. I was skilled at quantitative studies and enjoyed what I did as well, but at the same time I tried to keep an open mind about my options. In particular, during my second year, I started entertaining the possibility of going to medical school. Medicine increasingly appeared to me as a discipline that is utilizing interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding and treating of disease.
I started taking the required premedical courses, and, in doing so, I developed an appreciation for biology in its own right. I took an elective neuroscience course during my junior year, and this turned out to be one of milestones of my undergraduate experience. Not only was I fascinated by the workings of the human brain, but the course also introduced quantitative techniques very similar to those I had already learned in engineering and physics and showed how they can be used to study the nervous system. I found the prospect of applying skills from my engineering background to fields such as biology or neuroscience to be very appealing, a fact that has come to shape my current career path.
During my final year in Princeton, I applied to both graduate and medical schools, and ended up joining the Washington University School of Medicine, with the idea that I would aim for a balance between clinical work and research. Now that I have finished the first two years of medical school, I am spending a year doing neuroscience research as part of the HHMI-NIH Research Scholars Program.
My studies at Princeton have served me very well at every stage of my short time away. Even in the first two years of medical school, I felt that the strong problem-solving approach that I had retained since my days at Princeton allowed me to succeed in medicine and be able to reduce the intimidating array of knowledge into a set of more manageable concepts that I could apply to different situations. Also, Princeton’s focus on independent learning has helped tremendously in my research year, as I am able to quickly understand the different ways of studying the human brain and analyzing the resulting data.