Daniel Aguilar ’23 Secures Mount Sinai Research Job

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Toxicology
Program: PRISM
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Career aspiration: Toxicologist

Daniel Aguilar

“My goal is to be a toxicologist whose work helps create change—promoting equity, shaping policy, and increasing awareness on the harmful effects of drugs and chemicals. After interning at a research lab at Mount Sinai Hospital, I was excited to be offered a full-time position at Mount Sinai where I’ll continue to conduct research that advances environmental medicine and public health.”

Why John Jay?
I’ve always enjoyed the sciences, and, like many of my peers, I was a fan of shows like CSI. Because of thatI was drawn to John Jay and its STEM programming. Once I was at the College, I joined PRISM, and through the research projects I conducted, I grew to really like toxicology and decided to major in the field.

How did PRISM make your John Jay experience fulfilling?
Being in PRISM opened my eyes to what was possible with research. PRISM not only reinforced what I was learning in the classroom, it also put me in spaces where I could meet new people, work closely with professors, conduct exciting research, present my work, and find supportive mentors like Dr. Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín and Dr. Marta Concheiro-Guisan. While at John Jay, Dr. Ed and Dr. Concheiro-Guisan guided me, shared their expertise, and encouraged me to strive for more.

How did your internships affirm your career aspirations?
Before interning at Mount Sinai, I interned as a Tri-Institutional Minority Society Summer Scholars Research Program Scholar at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and at Alliance Laboratories, a clinical toxicology lab. All these internships gave me valuable hands-on experience in the sciences. I was able to conduct biomedical research, do forensic work, and see science’s impact on society.

How did your research with Dr. Marta Concheiro-Guisan enhance your education?
Getting to research with Dr. Concheiro-Guisan has been a top-quality experience. As a first-generation college student, being mentored by someone who has worked in a government agency, earned her Ph.D., has a pharmaceutical degree, and is also supportive of her students has been very motivating.

We studied synthetic enzymes and the breakdown of opioids in urine to improve testing detection. Our hope is that a better screening test could enable doctors to more effectively monitor a patient’s use of opioids. Given the current opioid crisis, I was excited to present this project at the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program Regional competition and thrilled when I won first prize.

In 10 years, where do you see yourself?
After earning my Ph.D., I’d like to be working in toxicology at a public health institution, medical school, or pharmaceutical company. I also want to be a mentor and resource to future STEM students. Helping people—especially students of color—is really important to me.

Finish this sentence: Because of John Jay…
I can proudly and confidently call myself a scientist. I didn’t feel comfortable saying that a few years ago, but after the research experience I’ve gained at John Jay, there’s no doubt that I am a scientist.