Alumni Spotlight: Alex Silverman, MS’21

Like many, Alexandra Silverman (she/they) was first introduced to science in middle school in the form of a frog dissection. However, instead of the impending nausea many experience at the sight of internal organs, Silverman became enraptured by the beauty and intricacy of science.

Silverman, E’21, MS’21, bioengineering, is just now beginning their journey at the University of Pennsylvania Perelmen School of Medicine, but it was a long time coming. Born in New Jersey, Silverman began at Northeastern as an undergraduate student in the Fall of 2016. Right off the bat, they began research with Bioengineering Professor Jeffrey Ruberti in their first year at Northeastern. With a focus in Molecular, Cell, and Tissue, their research focused on corneal tissue development and the extracellular matrix in the eyes.

With the help of live cell imaging and differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy, as well as a later project involving collagen and tendon healing in rotator cuffs, Silverman’s appreciation for research solidified.

Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) images of human corneal fibroblasts creating an extracellular matrix from Silverman’s research. Magnified 600x

However, it was only after completing a co-op at a biotechnology startup that she realized her preference for academic research over industry research. “I think doing the co-ops was really important to me and … really shaped my path,” she explains. “The co-op was great because whether or not you love what you’re doing, you learn so much either way.”

Subsequently, Silverman completed a second co-op doing academic research with Professor Ruberti before completing the PlusOne program. For Silverman, the industry co-op helped her know what she didn’t want to do, a valuable aspect of career development on her path toward med school.

In addition to the co-op, Silverman reflects fondly on their relationships with the bioengineering professors while at Northeastern. “I got so much support from my professors,” they stated. “Everyone in the bioengineering department was just so welcoming and so willing to help. I was really impressed with how involved all the professors were.”

Silverman’s passion for bioengineering and science transcended the classroom while they attended Northeastern. As the co-founder of several student organizations, they made a point to give back to their community and to undergraduates.

Her extracurriculars included “Think Like a Scientist” and “Roxbury Robotics” as well as the Sigma Xi Chapter at Northeastern. These clubs involved attending local schools and talking to kids about science. “Our goal was to show kids how much diversity there is in science and to [show] them that you can be a scientist.” Silverman’s experience with science education fed her desire to help people, the ultimate goal that led her to pursue med school.

At the end of the eight years of their MD-PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, Silverman hopes to create something that will help people. Their background in cell and tissue engineering is applicable to many aspects of medicine, providing them the flexibility to explore different fields before selecting one to pursue.

“Try as many different things as possible. Try to get a sense of what brings you the most joy, and then follow that… because you’re going to be the most successful at something that is truly exciting to you. Especially with research: everyone fails. Failure is normal, expect it. And it’s just about how you move forward from that and … learn from your failure as much as possible.”

Related Faculty: Jeffrey W. Ruberti

Related Departments:Bioengineering