MOLLOY COLLEGE'S SATURDAY SCIENCE
ORGANIZED BY DR. JOHN TANACREDI
Career Exploration with Biologist Noelle Cutter
By Margaux Montagner
Dr. John Tanacredi, Professor, Molloy College
On a recent Saturday, a group of high-schoolers braved one of the first chilly mornings of the fall to head to the Explorers Club in the Upper East Side. They were not there to peruse the club’s fascinating collection or pose with the taxidermied polar bear that watches over the staircase, however — they all came to listen to Dr. Noelle Cutter tell them about her career as an Associate Professor of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Molloy College. The event was part of “Saturday Science for Students”, a series of talks by scientists in various fields sponsored by Molloy’s Center for Environmental Research and Coastal Oceans Monitoring (CERCOM) and its Department of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Studies. During these talks, students learn about each speaker’s background and career evolution. Dr. Cutter, an energetic and engaging orator, delivered that as well as solid life advice to her teenaged audience, surrounded by the many retired flags of the Explorer’s club, some of which have reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the top of Mount Everest, and the surface of the Moon.
Dr. Cutter started by talking about her high school experience in Long Island, and how her ideas for her future were very different then. “If you had asked sixteen years-old me what I wanted to do with my life, I’d have just told you that I wanted to become a professional runner”, Dr. Cutter said. “You start off thinking one thing, but life has its way of switching that up”. Indeed, when time came to pick a college major, she wasn’t quite sure what to choose. A high achiever and a perfectionist, she settled on the idea of eventually going to medical school, and selected biology as a major in Molloy College, as she had always enjoyed the subject. Dr. Cutter advised her audience to do the same if they had similar doubts: Start by picking something that you like. She also highlighted the importance of getting a “complete” education, as studying theology, sociology, and literature gave her a better perspective.
After leaving Molloy, Dr. Cutter joined the Brookhaven National Laboratory for two years, following the advice of one of her mentors. There, she found herself enthralled by science research and discovery, and the idea of “looking at something no one has ever seen before”. Not only did she make numerous connections that would prove invaluable, Dr. Cutter also “learned more there than [she] could have in any masters program”. But reminding us that life doesn’t go as planned, Dr. Cutter revealed that after moving to Houston to start medical school, she and her husband had to move back to New York as her nephew was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an extremely aggressive form of cancer. This tragedy, and her subsequent time at the genetics program at Stony Brook, would shape her later specialization in cancer research. Her return to Molloy came afterwards, and Dr. Cutter then fell in love with teaching, as she had with laboratory research years before.
While some would call her success a matter of luck, Dr. Cutter insisted on the amount of hard work it took, while also recognizing how essential her support system was, and how teamwork was always essential for her. “Being part of the track team, of a team of researchers at the lab, of a family — it’s a big part of who I am”, she said. #