Please welcome Brianna, one of 13 Science Cheerleaders to be found on the New England Patriots cheerleading squad.Look for them on TV on Super Bowl Sunday!
Brianna: Chemistry enables you to explore what goes on at the molecular level that gives rise to what we observe. And it is a spiraling curriculum that builds upon previous semesters, resulting in the synthesis of information and thus fulfilling my expectations.Of all the chemistry classes that I took during my college years, organic chemistry has interested me the most. I liked being able to follow reactions step by step and understand the movement of electrons.
Tell me a little more about your majors.
Brianna: I am a double major in chemistry and biology and a member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta Health Pre-professional Honor Society as well as the Liberal Arts Honors Program at Providence College where I’m a recipient of the Liberal Arts Honors St. Catherine of Siena Scholarship and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship. I am pursuing a minor in dance, as well, and will be graduating in May 2012.
Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
Brianna: All members of my family are devout Patriots fans, even the dogs! For Christmas, my mom even got me Patriots scrubs. Being a Patriots Cheerleader has always been a dream of mine. I looked into it online and found that the auditions were the weekend I was home for spring break. My mom was the only person I told about this far-fetched goal. Then I made it! It has been such an honor to be a part of the CNBC #1 ranked NFL squad and to cheer for the reigning AFC Champions, the New England Patriots! What a season! Along with the indescribable feeling of being on the field at Gillette Stadium, my favorite part of being a Patriots Cheerleader would have to be the many opportunities to partake in promotional work, which oftentimes consists of meeting with business owners who sponsor the team. From visiting children at hospitals to participating in cancer walks, volunteerism is a fundamental part of being on the cheering squad. In particular, working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation is one experience that I’ll never forget.
Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
Brianna: I was always considered a “geek” at school, there is no doubt about that. I quickly garnered that reputation in high school, especially after taking seven Advanced Placement courses.But dance has always had a profound impact on my life. One of my fondest childhood memories was dancing the role of Clara in Boston Dance Company’s, The Nutcracker
What’s a typical day like?
Brianna: I wake up and go to classes, which consist of Comparative Anatomy with a lab, Physiology with a lab, Cell Signaling, Liberal Arts Honors Tolstoy Colloquium, and Intermediate Ballet. On Tuesdays, I’ll be working on either my cat or shark dissection in Anatomy Lab before heading off to either practice or a promotional event. Practice can include public speaking and media preparation as well as partaking in fitness training which includes Insanity, P90X, and running the ramps at Gillette Stadium. After a long day, I return to my residence hall where I am on duty as a Resident Assistant. I am responsible for over 50 freshman girls, and besides upholding the mission of Providence College, I also act as an important resource to engage the girls in campus involvement, enforce college policy, and provide counseling when dealing with different situations. Each year I bring residents to volunteer at the Special Olympics basketball tournament as well as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. During the holidays I organize a Support Our Troops program to make cards for deployed alumni of the Providence College ROTC program. This past year, a stationed alumnus actually wrote back to the ROTC office saying how much the cards from my residents meant to him. From these service experiences, I’ve definitely learned how important it is to use your gifts and talents to give back and make a difference in the community. Working both as an RA and as a Patriots Cheerleader while being a chemistry and biology double major definitely takes a lot of time management and planning in advance.
How do you balance your interests?
Brianna: In college, I discovered that dentistry is one health career which embodies the union of both science and art. I find this dual nature to be the most intriguing facet of the dental profession. My whole life, I have felt like a walking contradiction as a result of my appreciation for science as well as art, which I thought to be at opposite ends of the career spectrum. I grew up with an interest in chemistry and biology, but at the same time I excelled in dance and took great pride in the creative process of the visual arts. In the field of science, it is compelling to view the world at the atomic level in order to better understand the natural phenomena which we observe. Conducting research at the UCONN Health Center provided a rewarding experience in which I studied the dimerization within subunits of the PRC1 ubiquitin ligase complex. Being able to investigate and explain in a methodological manner why and how reactions take place is fascinating to me. With regard to dance, I was accepted to Boston Ballet at a young age and have always been moved by using the body as an instrument. In my high school AP Psychology class, learning about the lateralization of brain function was confounding to me as I related it to my own personality. If you are right-brain dominant, then you are abstract and favor the arts, while those left-brain dominant individuals are more concrete and achieve in the sciences. Was I supposed to fit the mold of one of these categorizations? Last year at UMDNJ, the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) illuminated the fact that dentistry integrated science with art. I found myself in the dental lab using different instruments to meticulously sculpt wax to form a crown, and that is when I discovered dentistry would fulfill both of my desires for a profession.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Brianna: Even in the twenty-first century, growing up as an independent young woman who appreciates physical fitness and fashion while valuing the meaning of hard work and commitment to one’s education seems to be an oxymoron to a lot of people. When considering the term, “geek,” one stereotypically imagines a socially awkward, disheveled individual with glasses and pocket protectors who is always doing homework. Yes, it is true; I always stay in to do homework and typically attend class in my glasses without any makeup, but it just so happens that I also love to put on the Patriots Cheerleader uniform and proudly represent the Kraft Organization in cheering on the best team in the AFC! It has been challenging, however, as there is still a very pronounced double standard.
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Brianna: You should never let people categorize you or put you in a mold. Be proud of living life as a nonconformist, don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams, and always remember to stay true to yourself.
What are your plans for the future?
Brianna: My career goal is to become a dentist! I received a full four-year tuition and fees fellowship for the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine entering in the fall of 2012. The dental school admissions process, however, is still underway and I have been invited for interviews at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine as well as New York University College of Dentistry.
Best cheerleading experience?
Brianna: Along with the indescribable feeling of being on the field at Gillette Stadium, my favorite part of being a Patriots Cheerleader would have to be the many opportunities to partake in promotional work, which oftentimes consists of meeting with business owners who sponsor the team. From visiting children at hospitals to participating in cancer walks, volunteerism is a fundamental part of being on the cheering squad, and working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation is one experience that I’ll never forget.
Best science-related experience?
Brianna: I encountered my best science experience when pursuing a career in dentistry. Not only did I spend 56 hours shadowing and assisting a dentist, I was accepted to the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) for the summer of 2010. I spent six weeks at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey for an academic enrichment program that provided intensive dental school preparation. There was a weekly clinic in the dental school lab where we were able to practice drilling and try doing amalgam fillings. I observed such dental procedures as an alveoplasty and attended guest lectures on endodontics, cosmetic dentistry, humanism, nutrition, and forensic dentistry. It was really interesting to learn about different branches of the dental field, and it was such a wonderful opportunity to gain the clinical exposure. Also as part of the summer program, I took a physiology course at the medical school and had anatomy lab where we worked on cadavers. At the end of the program, I was recognized for having one of the highest averages in physiology. I gained a lot of insight regarding what it takes to succeed in the dental profession and became even more confident in my decision to become a dentist.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Brianna: I love food! Being of Hispanic and Italian decent, I take pleasure in pork and empanadillas on Christmas Eve just as much as I enjoy homemade Italian soup and lasagna on Thanksgiving. Growing up with a bilingual father with family in Puerto Rico as well as traditional Italian uncles who all cook better than master chefs, my life has been rich with culture. It is family that has taught me to appreciate my nationality and to live out the values which my heritage represents.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Brianna: I’d love to be a Science Cheerleader to show little girls that they don’t have to choose between doing well in school and pursuing a career in dance or cheering. Commitment, focus, and time management are all qualities attained through the rigorous schedules of a dancer/cheerleader that will transcend into any goal you may pursue in life. If you work hard and stay true to yourself, anything is possible!