Marc Louis '24
Real-World Research Points Marc Louis ’24 to Medical Career

Degree: B.S. in Toxicology
Mentors: Nathan Lents, Ph.D., Edgardo Sanabria-Valentín, Ph.D., Erin Thompson, Ph.D.
Programs: Macaulay Honors, Program for Research Initiatives in Science & Math (PRISM)
Fellowship: Summer Research Fellowship, UNC School of Medicine

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Career Aspiration: Physician Assistant in Emergency Medicine

“The PRISM program has changed the trajectory of my life,” says first-gen student Marc Louis ’24. “It ignited my passion for toxicology and led me to incredible research opportunities with Dr. Nathan Lents and at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Thanks to PRISM, I’m on my way to becoming a physician assistant, working in emergency medicine, and helping to improve community health.” 

What was life like before John Jay?
I grew up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, specifically in the area called Little Haiti. In my neighborhood, there’s a palpable driving force to make the world a better place—a drive that is very much instilled in me. Early on, I went to public schools that weren’t well funded, but I was fortunate to attend a gifted and talented program at the Gil Hodges School, P.S. 193, in Brooklyn. It was my introduction to the real world in a lot of ways. I went to school with people from different backgrounds and learned how to navigate life with people who looked different and had different experiences than me. 

Why John Jay?
I wanted to be involved in the sciences from an early age. I knew John Jay had great science programs and that the College was super supportive of first-gen students like myself. Getting into Macaulay Honors and earning a full ride to John Jay was a relief because it lifted the financial stress off my mom and me. She worked so hard to make sure I could pursue a degree, and being able to get into John Jay and not have to worry about the cost of tuition was amazing. 

How has PRISM enhanced your John Jay experience?
PRISM has been an excellent way to gain real hands-on lab and undergraduate research experience. Before being a student at John Jay, I went on a tour of the College and met Dr. Nathan Lents during the tour. He spoke so highly of PRISM and the advantages and opportunities the program affords its students. PRISM made it possible for me to dive into the science realm. Finding the right research lab, doing tons of research, and working with incredible mentors was transformative. 

What has it been like having PRISM mentors?
It’s been an amazing experience. Dr. Lents is a caring individual who wants to see his students succeed in all walks of life. He’s always been so supportive and motivating. When I told him I was doing research over the summer at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, he got so excited and suggested it would be a great way to segue myself into a post-graduate program. His encyclopedic knowledge is impressive. He’s a great communicator and carries himself with such humility and poise that it’s really shaped how I communicate and carry myself.

Dr. Ed has also played a pivotal role in how I’ve navigated my research and clinical practice. He’s constantly pushing students to get out of their comfort zones and apply to all opportunities. Dr. Ed finds common ground with PRISM students, sharing his education and career journey, reminding us that we’re not alone and that we, too, can accomplish great things. He’s helped me find external opportunities, supported me throughout the application process, and helped me present myself to the best of my ability. He’s the one who suggested I apply for the neuropharmacology research opportunity at UNC Chapel Hill. 

What was the research experience at UNC Chapel Hill like?
I was doing neuropharmacology research at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine. I was hosted by the McElligott Lab at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, specifically looking at clinical drugs and how they reduce ethanol consumption in mice and animal models. We wanted to see how we can attenuate alcohol use disorders without breaking a person’s function of life so that they’re able to ease back into life. I gained tons of knowledge regarding wet labs, working with animals, and surgical procedures. I also learned how to spearhead my own research experiment. At the end, I presented my findings as part of the Carolina Summer Fellow Research Program at the UNC School of Medicine symposium.                                 

What drives your passion for toxicology?
Growing up, I witnessed a lot of individuals in the neighborhood suffer from substance use disorder and opioid use disorder. There’s such a stigma around addiction, and I’ve always felt a need to combat that. The people living with addictions are not evil and do not deserve to be ostracized. They need help. We have to think of addiction as a disease and figure out the best way to help treat people who are struggling.

What are your plans after graduating John Jay?
I’m working on getting more clinical hours and rounding up my recommendations so I can apply to physician assistant programs. I hope to get into a program geared toward uplifting, supporting, and taking care of communities of color. I aim to be a physician assistant working in emergency medicine and striving to impact people positively. Because of John Jay, PRISM, my mentors, and the research I’ve done, I know it’s possible.