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Dr. Rebecca's Advice to Trainees: Take Advantage of Opportunities

"Moffitt’s reputation of research excellence made the decision to train there an easy one,” says Dr. Vito Rebecca, reflecting on his choice to train at Moffitt Cancer Center. "I will never forget my graduate school interviews at Moffitt, how welcoming the faculty were and how exciting the research performed there is."

Vito RebeccaDr. Rebecca earned his PhD in the Cancer Biology PhD Program at Moffitt in 2009. He was a member of Dr. Keiran Smalley’s lab but also worked on multiple multidisciplinary projects with investigators from the Integrated Mathematical Oncology department and the Proteomics Core Facility. "These groups along with Dr. Smalley’s mentorship helped shape me into the scientist I am today," says Dr. Rebecca.

Now an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Rebecca gets to pursue research questions near and dear to his heart. One facet he truly enjoys is the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists.

"Guiding and shaping my trainees is by far one of the most rewarding aspects of my experience as an assistant professor," says Dr. Rebecca, "This first year has been one of the most challenging and satisfying years of my life and I look forward to what the future brings," he says.

An important area of focus for Dr. Rebecca is building diversity, equity and inclusion in the scientific community. He participates in initiatives to promote these notions and serves on multiple Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Science Committees. He concentrates a lot of his efforts on forming new collaborations that encourage these philosophies in science.

For current trainees, Dr. Rebecca offered up this advice: "I would highly recommend learning more about all of the various career trajectories receiving a PhD from Moffitt will prepare you to be successful in. The professor track is not the only one and many colleagues of mine that have gone down other career avenues experience immense satisfaction and meaning in their current roles."

He believes that finding mentors early on that will support your interests in other career paths is important and advises taking advantage of opportunities at Moffitt to gain experiences that can make you competitive immediately upon graduation.

Dr. Rebecca knows a thing or two about taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way. He states that in the scientifically stimulating environment at Moffitt, he first gained confidence in his ability to both perform technically rigorous science and effectively present his work to the wider scientific community.

"Through travel awards available via the Cancer Biology PhD Program, as well as Dr. Smalley’s support of my attendance to annual Society for Melanoma Research meetings, I was able to network and develop relationships with my future postdoctoral advisor, my future staff scientist advisor, and the current chair of my department at Johns Hopkins University.”

Dr. Rebecca is an admirable example of where networking can lead you.