Phillip Geter

Can you think of a specific time when you found science or pursuing science challenging?

“My second year and part of my third year in graduate school. This is where the work truly begins, when your project begins to sink or swim. Sometimes being a good scientist means knowing when to change directions and ask a different question. Well, I was at that point and I thought my project was sinking. I went through every emotion from anger to depression. I talked about my project to several people and found a solution to my problem. And just like that my dissertation was born.”

What’s your favorite thing about being a scientist?

“Getting to tell other people that I am a scientist. I love the reaction I get when someone asks me what I do for a living, and I reply ‘I’m a scientist.’ Actually, I never saw myself as a scientist when I was younger. I always thought I would be a physician. But after my freshman year of college, I was introduced to research and I was hooked.”

What is the funniest/strangest thing that you’ve seen in NYC? 

“I saw a woman hug a tree outside of the NYU Medical Center. I will admit it caught me by surprise.”

Where did you grow up? How are things different/the same in NYC?

I was born and raised in Maryland. I am from the Prince George’s County area. The biggest difference between NYC and Maryland is the public transportation system. The NYC system is 24hrs, not like that in Maryland. It is also super easy to get food delivered in NYC.”

If you were a lab animal/model organism, which would you be and why?

I guess I would be a mouse. I don’t really have a good reason as to why I would be a mouse. I just prefer mouse over the other model organisms.”

How do you spend your time outside of lab? 

“I like to read and eat, often simultaneously. I also enjoy tasting new beers. It’s not an experiment or anything but I do enjoy exploring beers. I also enjoy watching Netflix and Hulu. I recently purchased a skateboard and have plans to learn over the summer.”

Why did you decide to come to NYC? 

Well when I was younger my mother and I would always visit my aunts and uncles in New York for the holidays. So I grew up always wondering about the city and what city life was like, but funny enough I never actually wanted to live in NYC. In college I met the then dean of the graduate program, Dr. Joel Oppenheim, and he really encouraged me to check out NYU. So I did and my mind was set. It also helped that I had friends in city already.”

When you are done training, do you plan to stay in NYC?

“I honestly do not know. I really want to move to California at some point in my life, but maybe not right after graduate school. I am thinking about doing my postdoctoral training at UPenn, but nothing is set in stone. I still have about a year before I am finished so I’m just seeing what the future holds.”

If you hadn’t pursued science, what would you have done instead? 

“I get asked this question a lot and yet I still do not have a true answer. I was a psychology minor in college and found it fascinating. Not to mention I am an avid reader of crime novels and an avid watcher of Criminal Minds. But it’s still a science. Then I thought about law, but I really do not like history. Then I thought about business or accounting. So I really don’t know.”

Have you ever made something explode or otherwise wildly go wrong in lab? 

“Well I guess I did ‘technically’ make something explode once in the lab. I was doing an organic synthetic reaction and needed to bubble in hydrogen chloride gas. So I set up my hood and began the experiment, well I guess I had the gas flow too high, but the the tubing blew out of the reaction and began to spray hydrogen chloride gas all over my hood. Not a fun situation.”

Scientists come from a huge variety of backgrounds. Through Scientists of New York (ScioNY), we hope to change the stereotypical perceptions of what a scientist looks like and highlight the diversity of STEM professionals in NYC. 

When Phillip Geter came to the #RockEdu lab the other week to give a presentation to NYC teachers on nuclear chemistry, we got a chance to chat with him about his life as a PhD candidate at NYU School of Medicine, where he studies the impact of translational control pathways on tamoxifen resistance in estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. Phillip also mentors underrepresented minorities in STEM, including high school students from NYC public schools.

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