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Bioinformatics Alumna Balanced Motherhood with Coursework to Earn Degree

By Katherine Tancredi

When Anita Bowman BI’12, MBI’14 started her degree in bioinformatics at University of the Sciences, she faced a different set of challenges than most college freshman. In addition to being a full-time student, she was a young, single mother raising a son and working several part-time jobs.

Despite the obstacles she faced, Bowman was determined to balance motherhood with a full-time class schedule and the rigorous coursework that came with the program. Bowman exceeded her expectations and received inspirational advice and encouragement from several professors at USciences, notably Professor Rodriguez, during her first semester of classes.

“He was really patient. He really cared about his students learning the material. His office hours seemed to be whenever you needed him-he was always available,” said Bowman. “I don’t remember his exact words, but he basically said ‘If you want to do it, you can do it.’”

Bowman took that feedback to heart. Over the next four years, she balanced motherhood with a demanding course schedule. She successfully earned her degree in bioinformatics with a minor in statistics, which she describes as one of her proudest accomplishments as a student at USciences. At her graduation ceremony, one of the awards she received commended her journey as a nontraditional student.

Currently, Bowman works as a computational biologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The position has a heavy clinical responsibility, but also allows her opportunities for research.

As a computational biologist, Bowman analyzes patient information in real time. When a request for a diagnostic test is received, the patient’s tumor and matched normal samples are sequenced and run through one of MSKCC’s New York State approved assays. Any DNA alterations found are further scrutinized and she goes over the findings with the doctors to determine the information that is included in the patient’s chart. The findings often help determine the best course of treatment or give deeper insight into disease progression.

Bowman’s position has a research component as well. Due to the large amount of information available at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, there are ample opportunities for research projects to be created using the data. The focus could range from cancer research on a particular subtype and the alterations often observed in a cohort to helping in the design of alternative targeted-sequencing assays to address the variable nature of DNA quality and yield of many of the samples that are received.

Bowman’s time at USciences helped provide her with the personal and professional connections that set her on her career path.

“With some upper-level undergraduate courses cross-listed as graduate courses, I was afforded the opportunity to work alongside individuals who were already working in the field,” recalled Bowman. “In addition to their insight, it also offered the chance to develop invaluable professional connections.”

For incoming students, Bowman has some advice. “Be your own personal cheerleader,” said Bowman. “Even if it seems like things are easier to others around you, don’t get discouraged – you may be surprised to know that you’re not alone.”

Bowman currently lives in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, with her nine-year-old son, her fiancé, two dogs and one cat.

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