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Impact on Others

Rensselaer has a diverse community of students who love to tackle complex problems and have a sincere desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

While many new graduates can claim practical work experience, even the most accomplished among them likely can’t admit to helping deliver two babies. Tuesday Fisher, who graduated with a dual degree in biochemistry and biophysics, and psychology, takes it all in stride as she calmly explains that one of the bundles of joy was delivered into her arms right in the ambulance that she was staffing that night.

Fisher, an aspiring U.S. Army doctor, worked upward of 40 hours every week as a trained emergency medical technician for Mohawk Ambulance Service. She worked nights and weekends to pay for her Rensselaer tuition—all while maintaining a full course load for two separate majors, earning top grades, and working in the lab as a researcher studying cell development.

“I was always interested in science,” she says. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t.”

Fisher used her love of science to excel in her classes as well as the lab. She worked since her sophomore year in the lab of Assistant Professor of Biology Fern Finger. Fisher’s research helps Finger better understand the role of specific proteins known as septins that are believed to be very important in human development. The findings could have important implications for studying human development and disease. “I was given a really super science experience within the lab,” Fisher says. “That lab experience, as well as the medical experience as an EMT, really helped define what I wanted to be.”

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Fisher was officially commissioned as an Army officer in March. She aspires to be an Army surgeon, but is keeping her options open on what exact field of medicine she will take on once she arrives at medical school. She has already been accepted to many top medical schools, and is currently leaning toward Tufts University. This summer, she will attend her first military training. Following medical school, she will be matched with a military residency and then serve at least four years on active duty.

Another graduate who is motivated by her passion to help others as well as her desire to save and preserve the environment is Brittany Tofinchio, who says she is equipped to make a difference in any community that she chooses to live in.

But, the truth is that Tofinchio has been making a difference in the lives of her family, classmates, friends, community members, and strangers since birth.

“For a long time, I’ve known that you can’t take life for granted, and in anything that I choose to pursue, I am always looking to help people and let them know that despite life’s challenges, things will be fine,” says Tofinchio, who graduated with a double degree in biology and management.

Known by many for her self-confidence, fierce determination, passion for learning, innovative approach to problem-solving, and leadership and negotiation skills, Tofinchio has never allowed the fact that she is a congenital bilateral, below-elbow amputee impede her progress. Born missing both her hands and part of her arms below the elbow, she has overcome tremendous challenges. In her own words, she sees herself “a normal person like everyone else.”

For the last three years at Rensselaer, Tofinchio took up to 20 credits toward her degrees each semester. Along the way, she found time to work as an intern for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the Office of the General Counsel. In 2008, she held a summer internship position with the Environmental Protection Agency in New York City. A year earlier, Tofinchio worked as an intern for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Gloucester, Mass., in the National Marine Fisheries Service division.

“Many people may look at me and wonder how I write or type,” Tofinchio says. “One of the first things that I will try to bring up in an interview is that I am able to do everything that the job requires, and in case I do need help, I have no problem asking for it.”

While at Rensselaer, Tofinchio took part in activities that included joining the Alpha Phi International Fraternity, the Rensselaer crew team, intramural soccer, and serving as a team leader for several projects in her management classes.

“I have had many great opportunities in my lifetime and at Rensselaer that have helped me to grow as a person,” Tofinchio says. “Graduating is the greatest accomplishment for me in my life thus far. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.”

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.