A Conversation with Princesca Dorsaint 

A Conversation with Princesca Dorsaint 

Princesca Dorsaint is a Bioinformatics Analyst at the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine. She was born and raised in New York, and received her undergraduate degree in Health Science from The University of Hartford, and then later pursued a second undergraduate degree in Biomedical Informatics from The New York City College of Technology. She has been at Weill Cornell Medicine for a year and a half.

We hope you enjoy learning more about Princesca, her career goals, and how she’s staying healthy during the global pandemic.

Please tell me about yourself?

I started as an intern at the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine, with a research project focused on enhancing user experience with PubMed.gov using speech recognition.

How are you staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

I am staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic by practicing social distancing. Taking vitamins daily to help boost my immune system. When I do go outside for essential items, I make sure to take safety precautions by wearing a mask and gloves and also washing my hands as much as possible, especially when I come in from outside.

How you have been spending your pandemic time both personally and professionally, how has it impacted you?

I have been spending a lot of time working during the COVID-19 pandemic. As bioinformaticians, computational work can be done remotely so it has been an easy transition. Aside from work I have been exercising and taking walks to remain active. The toughest aspect of the pandemic is not being able to see family members that I am used to seeing on a weekly basis.

Did you always want to work in science?

Ever since I can remember I’ve always wanted to work in science. Growing up my mom was a Junior High School science teacher. As a teacher, she would often plan her lessons for her classes at home. I always found her lessons fascinating. As I got older I became very interested in the field of medicine. I majored in Health Science during my time at The University of Hartford but became interested in computer science during my junior year.

My new-found interest in computer science pushed me to start exploring different medical professions. As I was exploring, I stumbled across the field of Bioinformatics. A field that fuses together computer science and medicine, I was instantly sold! After graduating from the University of Hartford I came back to New York and started researching schools where courses in bioinformatics were offered. I saw that The New York City College of Technology offered these courses. From there I enrolled in the courses needed to qualify for an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Informatics.

Tell me about your current work?

Currently, my projects are focused on RNA sequencing data. I work on gene expression analyses of EIPM’s RNA sequencing data. I also work on using RNA sequencing data to detect and identify somatic mutations. Recently, I started working on converting our current bioinformatic pipelines to reproducible computational workflows using Nextflow scripting.

What kind of technology do you use? 

I use many different computer languages depending on the project that I am working on. I use R programming language for data analysis projects. I use Python and Bash scripting to run bioinformatics pipelines, and I use Nextflow scripting when creating computational workflows.

You were an intern in EIPM Director Olivier Elemento’s lab when you were a senior in college, was it difficult to get that internship and what kind of work do you perform in the lab?

Yes, I was an intern during my last semester at the New York City College of Technology. Getting the internship wasn’t too difficult. I felt that if I took the application process seriously, studied before the interviews, and applied myself that I would be a strong candidate. Fortunately for me, the application process went well, and I was chosen to be a part of that year’s cohort of students. After being selected I had 5 months of training. I took courses in several computer languages to prepare for the internship at Weill Cornell Medicine. As an intern, my research project consisted of enhancing user experience with PubMed.gov using speech recognition. I used JavaScript programming language to create a bot that, when activated, would retrieve articles from PubMed based on the user’s spoken input.

Did you have a mentor during this internship? 

Yes, Director Olivier Elemento was my mentor during my internship at EIPM. He was a great mentor. We met once a week to follow up on the status of my project. He made suggestions during those meetings and did a wonderful job in guiding me throughout the completion of my project.

Have you had a chance to mentor students? If so, do you enjoy it? 

I have had the opportunity to provide mentorship to an intern at EIPM. It was a very brief mentorship, but I enjoyed it very much. It was great to share my knowledge on certain aspects of bioinformatics with a student who was eager to learn.

What makes EIPM a special place to work?

Being able to work with such a diverse group of people is one aspect that makes EIPM such a special place to work. I am able to learn from each and every one of them. The ability to work on many different projects makes it a special place to work as well. With this comes the opportunity to learn something new with every project.

Would you recommend people apply for open positions at the EIPM? 

Absolutely, I would recommend people apply for open positions at EIPM. We are a growing institute and are looking for fresh minds to join our team and help us grow! There is plenty of room for growth and the opportunity to expand on your current skills.

What do you want to be doing professionally in five years?

I think this is a very important time for the field of bioinformatics, particularly as we are faced with the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. I think this pandemic is bringing awareness and highlighting the importance of bioinformatics. I am really enjoying the workflow building projects that I am currently working on. I plan to complete my graduate studies and become a Bioinformatics Engineer.

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

When I’m not working I like to spend time catching up on some of my favorite shows. My fiancé and I love learning how to cook new meals, so we spend a lot of time together in the kitchen.

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