Bright lights, big dreams


Yonathan ArarsoFrom the capital of Ethiopia to rural Virginia to New York City, Yonathan Ararso's academic path has wound its way to many interesting places. He has enjoyed them all, but kept his focus squarely on being the best student he possibly can.

This past summer, Yonathan, a senior pre-med biology major, traded the quiet country roads of Hampden-Sydney for the bustling avenues of Cornell University's medical school in New York City.

After making his way through a rigorous application process, he worked with a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow on cancer stem cells. They were investigating why cancer in remission sometimes comes back and how these cancer stem cells may repopulate tumors.

"Being in a different environment, working with big-time scientists, interacting with other undergraduate researchers-it all was an amazing experience," says Yonathan. "Some of my favorite times were the brainstorming sessions we would have during lab meetings because everyone was talking about their various projects and thinking through problems together. It was a great professional environment."

During the first few weeks of his summer, Yonathan was busy learning the layout of the lab and familiarizing himself with the equipment and procedures. Before long, though, Yonathan's mentor would just outline the goals for the week and let him work on his own.

"In addition to several Ph.D. and M.D. students, the lab was full of post docs, traveling physicians, and researchers from all over the world including China, France, Russia, and Israel. It was great to see so many people with a great passion for science, but I also saw signs of the cut-throat business of racing to get published."

This is Yonathan's senior year and he is actively working on his graduate school applications with the hope of pursuing a joint M.D./Ph.D. in infectious diseases at a school like Vanderbilt, Emory, Columbia, or maybe Cornell.
As a scholarship student at Woodberry Forest prep school and at Hampden-Sydney, Yonathan feels a great debt of gratitude and a responsibility to repay those who have given him so many opportunities. He is anxious to put his knowledge to work helping others.

He says, "A Ph.D. is prestigious and important to me, but I also want that medical degree. I don't want to get lost in academia. I want to be a doctor seeing patients, helping people, just like people have helped me."