Daniel “DJ” Fernandez joined the PIBBS program in fall 2017 and is currently part of the Medical Biology PhD program working with his mentor, W. Martin Kast, PhD. Daniel is from Pennsylvania and chose USC because he was curious about living in Los Angeles. After attending the PIBBS campus visit, he knew he found what he was looking for in a PhD program: diverse research opportunities in the biomedical sciences and a city without snow. As a youngster, Daniel marveled at seemingly unanswerable questions he would have about nature and the universe. It was not until his time as an undergraduate student at Pennsylvania State University that Daniel realized science was much more than a favorite high school subject — it was a way to satisfy his curiosities.
A typical day for him as a graduate student consists of cell culture, experimental planning and coffee. Daniel usually has lunch with the “PIBBlettes,” the nickname given to his classmates and fellow PIBBS program members. He regularly meets with faculty and attends seminars around the Health Sciences Campus. His afternoons are filled with experiments and scouring literature as he prepares for his qualifying exam later this year. Daniel believes the PIBBS program has provided him with an environment to grow as a scientist and connect with other scientists as he explores his career options. Outside of school and lab work, Daniel volunteers for several outreach programs. He is part of the Health Science Mentors Program of USC, which allows him to mentor students at juvenile hall. He also volunteers as a substitute teacher for the Neighborhood Academic Initiative and mentors first-year PIBBS students.
Daniel manages the stress of graduate school by making sure he takes breaks throughout the day and often reminds himself of his goals. Daniel also makes time to work on his hobby of producing electronic music, under his artistic pseudonym, Crocodile Logic. He plans events for the weekend so he has something to look forward to throughout the week. In the next five years, he plans on being in a postdoctoral fellowship, possibly in Switzerland. Daniel values teaching, and his ultimate goal is to become a biology professor.