Personally Speaking: Chris Dasaro ’20

Chris Dasaro ’20 is a pre-med neuroscience major from Oceanside, New York, who will be conducting research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after graduation.

 Tuesday, February 11, 2020 03:06 PM

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Photos by Maggie Ewald

Personally Speaking is a feature of Muhlenberg Magazine in which our writers interview students and alumni about their own personal stories.

His first resident advisor (RA) helped him find his major...
“When I came to Muhlenberg, I planned to pursue biochemistry. I figured, ‘I like bio somewhat. I like chem somewhat. I might as well combine them, I guess.’ My first-year RA, Trevor Luck ’17, was a neuroscience major who worked in [Stanley Road Associate Professor of Neuroscience Jeremy] Teissére’s lab, and he was telling me all about what the major entailed. It was very interdisciplinary. It incorporated a lot of philosophy, a lot of molecular stuff, a lot of sociology, and that’s what ultimately made me switch over. I was pretty much set on the major after that conversation.”

...and inspired him to become an RA, too.
“I just liked Trevor’s role a lot. I find mentorship really cool, and the opportunity to help people who are not as knowledgeable in a specific field. When I first came to college, I had no idea what was going on. So I thought it’d be cool to use my experiences to help people who were in my shoes. It’s funny, because all three years I’ve applied to be a RA in a first-year residence hall, and only this year did I finally get it. Now I’m a hall director in Walz. It’s a totally different experience from being an RA for upperclassmen. It’s exactly what I wanted, with the mentorship and all that. Plus, I get my own apartment.”

He interned last summer at a neurology lab…
“It’s called South Shore Neurologic. It’s a multiple sclerosis lab, and my particular project was trying to relate brain atrophy with bloodwork data so we could predict diagnosing patterns ahead of time. Yesterday, they published the research that we did—they submitted an abstract to the American Academy of Neurology. So that was super cool. It was my first time doing clinical research.”

...but his true passion is the research he does on campus.
“I have a very structural and architectural mind. In clinical research, we would test some random drug on a population of patients, and it would help them or it wouldn’t. But it felt very unsatisfying in the sense that you give the patient the medicine and then they improve and it’s never really questioned why. It helps them, and that’s great for the patient and great for medicine. But in Dr. Teissere’s lab, we test one very specific receptor with one very specific drug, and we just go to town on it. We see where it binds in the receptor, we see how it affects the cell that it’s in. It’s a one-to-one type of thing. You see the effect, you know what it did and then you can analyze the structure of it from there. There’s less vagueness in that.”

He started a podcast for fellow pre-med students called CardinalMed...
“In the pre-med and med student world, there’s an expectation that you’ll put your face in a book for eight years and then one day you’ll emerge a doctor. That type of lifestyle can have grave effects. There’s a very high suicide rate among med students and residents. My main motivation with the podcast is to cultivate a much healthier lifestyle early on to mitigate those effects. For example, I did an episode about study strategies. My first year at Muhlenberg, you'd see me in the Light Lounge until two in the morning studying for an exam. Now, you wouldn’t catch me dead studying past 11 p.m. Over the years, I’ve learned how to optimize study strategies and developed a greater awareness of what benefits me as a person, and I wanted to share that knowledge with others.”

...but he’s planning to defer med school to do research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“I was offered a position via a program called the Post-Baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award. A fellow lab member who graduated last year [Julia Rocereta ’19] is there now as part of the program, and I’m planning on working in the same lab as her. The research they do is super interesting to me. It’s very receptor-y and very architectural. I reached out to the principal investigator who runs the lab and expressed interest. I had a phone interview, then they offered me the position like three days later. Once I get to med school, I want to do neurology, toxicology, neuropsychiatry of addiction—anything that can influence drug policy. I can never see myself leaving the brain. I just find it so interesting.”