Nelson Perez Catalan discovered he was interested in pursuing science while working at a student job at the University of Oregon cleaning glass in the labs. He found himself drawn to research around the brain, and thought about pursuing an MD/PhD, but there was no medical school at his university and as a transplant from Chile, he says much of the U.S. college process was mystifying to him. He knew he wanted to continue the research he’d begun on a type of glial cell in the brain called astrocytes. He attended the University of Chicago for his post-baccalaureate and continued his work examining how astrocytes coordinate neuron assembly, moving from fruit flies to mouse models. But he wasn’t sure about next steps.
That’s when Catalan received a fortuitous email about PATHS, or Program to Advance Training in Health and Sciences at Yale School of Medicine (YSM). The program offered the guidance that Catalan needed — trainings on how to apply to an MD, PhD, or MD/PhD program; connection to Yale faculty; mentorship from a current YSM student on the track of interest (in his case, MD/PhD), and a community of diverse students like him with whom he could connect and learn from.