When results go wrong Natella Maglakelidze cheers. For this senior biology student, any results mean that she is one step closer to finding answers.
Maglakelidze grew up with medicine and science her whole life. Both her parents are in the medical field, and Maglakelidze was fascinated whenever they talked about work.
“As a child, I would always tell my dad that I was going to do something really special when I grew up. I was convinced that I would be the one to find a cure for cancer,” explained Maglakelidze. “My goal was always to make a difference in the medical field.”
The aspiring doctor came into TCNJ simply pre-med. Once Maglakelidze participated in MUSE (Mentor Undergraduate Summer Experience) with Dr. Marcia O’Connell, she fell in love with research.
“Every day [during the summer] I was excited because I thought I was going to learn something new. Until MUSE, I was stuck in this pre-med bubble, but I realized that there is actually a whole medical research universe out there!” Maglakelidze exclaimed.
Maglakelidze believes her stubbornness and need for answers are what drive her to do research. Her passion in research eventually turned into doing an honors thesis.
“I believe her greatest assets is that she likes to learn and wants to know how things work,” said Dr. Sudhir Nayak, Maglakelidze’s academic advisor. “She does not get discouraged if she does not pick something up immediately and will work at it until she has mastered it.”
Maglakelidze’s mentor, O’Connell, had nothing but positive things to say about her student.
“There’s a lot I could say, she is so wonderful,” said O’Connell. “Natella can do three different things at once. She is tremendously competent, which is a huge compliment in my family.”
Maglakelidze’s competence, hard work and independence made O’Connell’s decision very easy to make the independent research student the lab manager.
“She has a delightful personality,” added O’Connell. “She also has a genuine sense of curiosity.”
The biology building is Maglakelidze’s second home. One can find her working on her thesis in the study room or looking at a gel in the dark room. Her dedication—or stubbornness—to her research led her to pulling almost an all-nighter in the lab trying to find answers in her gels.
Still wanting to pursue medicine, Maglakelidze is considering MD/PhD programs in the future.
“I don’t want to choose one or the other,” said Maglakelidze. “Once I discovered these options, I rethought my entire life. I still want to go into medicine whether it is MD/PhD or MD with research. Either way it’s in the clinical field.”
Maglakelidze grew an appreciation for research and understood the importance of research in the medical field.
For now, Maglakelidze will be working for the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland after graduation. As a part of the Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, she will study T-cell immunity in the scope of graft-versus-host disease, with the hope of generating therapies for this disease.
When she is not hulled up in the lab, Maglakelidze works as a Community Advisor for Residential Education and Housing, mathematics and science tutor, PERSIST mentor, and Biology Guide Chair for Tri Beta Biological Honor Society. Additionally, she is pursing a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies.
– Danielle Leng