Ten questions for Goodnight Scholars alumni as part of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s 10th anniversary celebration. This month we feature one of the first inaugural members of the Goodnight Scholars Program, and current Ph.D. student at NC State, Christopher Moody ’12.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Where has life taken you since graduating from NC State?
Christopher Moody ’12: I kind of made a full circle since graduating at NC State, but as it is said it is not the destination that matters, but the journey! I graduated with my undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering in 2012, and then went to work at Clemson University as an electromechanical research associate. I worked there for about four years and then returned to NC State to go for a Ph.D. in 2016. I have now joined a new lab in biomedical engineering with Dr. Brudno that works in regenerative medicine and pharmacoengineering.
What does your research focus on?
My research involves refilling drug depots through the blood and hoping to apply the technology to the treatment of brain cancer such as glioblastoma. In only one year, I have already come so far! I started in vivo animal studies, went to a Cancer Nanotechnology Gordon Research Conference, and started collaborations with other labs at NC State and UNC Chapel Hill. The lab is new, and this past spring semester it was only me and Dr. Brudno, but we have already started to grow as we are adding undergraduates, new grad students, and post-docs! Also, my mom likes to mention that when I was five my grandfather died of lung cancer, and I told my mom I was going to cure cancer so no one had to lose his or her grandpa like me. Now years later, my research involves cancer, and I hope that I can one day make an impact to so many affected by that disease.
Back when you were an undergraduate at NC State, did you ever think you would pursue a Ph.D.?
I graduated unsure of what I wanted to do next. Graduate school was an option as well as working in the industry, but neither seemed like a great fit. I was burnt out from school, and I wasn’t ready to work on the same biomedical device for the rest of my life. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but it was how I felt. I ended up finding a job at Clemson University as a research associate at a bioengineering lab (IBIOE). For me, it was kind of a best of both worlds job where I got the benefits of working and being paid while also still working on research. It opened my eyes more in the biology aspect of engineering that had always fascinated me, but I never pursued. My background was in biomedical engineering, but I was focused in bioinstrumentation. Thus I worked in the bioengineering lab, but helped build and enhance the systems used for various research as an electromechanical engineer rather than as a bioengineer. This included building and modifying a bioprinter system, designing bioreactors, and making plastic or hydrogel beads. All really cool stuff, and I enjoyed working on these projects, but I found myself wanting to know and do more from the other side. This included the cell culture, drug interaction, drug delivery, and cell-to-cell interactions that I lacked experience in from my time as an undergraduate. This really flamed my passion of going back to school to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, but focus on regenerative medicine or drug delivery rather than what I had previously studied. got accepted into the joint department of NC State and UNC Chapel Hill’s biomedical engineering program to pursue my Ph.D. Everyone has their own paths to take and mine might not be traditional for graduate school, but I think my time off from school gave me a different perspective and a better focus on what I want to do rather than just doing what opportunity came first.
Any personal milestones since graduation?
My future-wife was still finishing her undergraduate at NC State when I graduated, and then pursued her doctor of pharmacy degree at UNC Chapel Hill. She just graduated in May 2017 and is doing a fellowship with GlaxoSmithKline in the Triangle area. We got married in May 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina and we own a labradoodle named Bennett!
How are you spending what little free time you have as a Ph.D. student?
[Laughs] Well, obviously I am spending a lot of free time with my wife and my dog! She has had a whirlwind of events going on this last year. It was her last year of pharmacy school, graduating and doing interviews, but now as things have settled in we are finding more and more time to do stuff together. Also, when I was in Clemson, my wife Kristen was still here in Raleigh/Chapel Hill. So, in perspective the time I get to spend with her now is astronomically more than what time was spent together two years ago. We do spend a lot of time with our family when we get a chance.
There literally is no single mold for what a Goodnight Scholar is, but rather a variety of molds that still have some growing and shaping to go.
You’re involved with the Goodnight Scholars Program selection process. How has the Program changed since you were an undergraduate?
Wow! None of you understand how far the Program has come since I was an undergraduate! I was a first-generation Goodnight Scholar and, from what I remember, the Program started around June 2008 and selected 25 students based on financial aid status. I got a notification two or three months before I started as a freshman that I was rewarded the scholarship. I was stunned and was so grateful! I tried to find out as much information about the scholarship that I could, but there was literally nothing!
What did those growing pains look like for the Program?
When school started I think we had a meeting in October, talked about the Program, and met a few more times over the school year but that was it. I wanted to do everything I could to help and be a part of the Program, but there was little to go on. As years went on, we started doing more events and I tried to be a part of everything I could. We got to meet The Goodnights, we sat in the box seats for a Carolina Hurricanes game, and we started having the summer retreat. I volunteered as one of the retreat leaders at the first retreat, and was one of the first captains for the maiden voyage of the cardboard boat race! I don’t want to take away from what the Program was to start, but where it is now is so much more. I feel like there is now a little community, and so many more opportunities to take advantage. I am just happy that I showed initial passion to be involved in the Program, so that I can say that I helped flame the fire to what it is today!
Are you amazed at how the selection process has evolved?
Now it is a selection process with online application reviews and in-person interviews. I see how elite the program is becoming. There literally is no single mold for what a Goodnight Scholar is, but rather a variety of molds that still have some growing and shaping to go. All [Goodnight Scholars] may not be polished yet, and that is the point. I think that reflects what the Goodnight Scholars Program is. Just like all its members, the Program is still finding its own way and taking shape.
What is your fondest memory from your undergraduate years?
Well I am a big sports fan, so I will have to initially acknowledge some of the amazing game atmospheres I was a part in as an undergraduate! One of my fondest is the Thursday night football game against Florida State, who was a top five or ten ranked team at the time, and Russell Wilson led us to victory! The atmosphere was breath taking and the last-minute strip sack by Nate Irving at the goal line was so amazing. Not sports-related, one of my fondest memories was the BME Senior Design Symposium. This was an opportunity for my team to present our projects in front of diverse crowd of faculty, mentors, and industry leaders. This was a year-long design class where we went from shadowing at hospitals and specific medical departments to finding problems and coming up with solutions that we wanted to pursue. We weren’t handed a problem and we didn’t pursue one solution, but we had to break down the problem to a core issue and determine every possible angle to go about solving until one became clear. Our design may not have been any sort of breakthrough in the medical field, but we still got to go through the entire process and I was still proud of our accomplishments.
Is there any advice you think is important for current NC State students and Goodnight Scholars to hear?
I guess my advice is that there is no mold to you becoming you. Others may do things similarly, or even better than you, but it doesn’t mean that your path is written for you. Have your own ideas or goals that you would like to accomplish and go for it. If you want to get a global perspective or you don’t want to improve on the current technology, then study abroad and think up ideas for a better technology. I should have gone straight into graduate school from undergraduate and gotten my Ph.D., but I wouldn’t have had the same perspective and I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I do now. Yhere is no right or wrong way to do things, you just have to do it. The best part is the Goodnight Scholars Program may be able to help you pursue those ideas and all of you should take advantage of that.
Photography credit: Jason Perry