CBA is proud to have alumni leading the way in the classroom, in the community, and across every industry. Each month, we shine a light on one such alumnus who upholds the legacy and proud tradition of our Academy.
In this edition of Alumni Spotlight, we spoke with Chris Podracky ’11, a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry at Harvard University.
Being ready for the rigors of a doctorate program starts with having good study habits. For Class of 2011’s Chris Podracky, those skills were sharpened during his time at the Academy.
As valedictorian of his class, a top Varsity wrestler in the Shore Conference, and Vice President of National Honor Society, Podracky certainly challenged himself. He credits that level of preparation, afforded by CBA, as what enabled him to make the most of the next step of his education.
“I felt like I was able to get to Duke [University] and hit the ground running,” he said in an interview. Intent on medical school, Podracky took to a “lighter” course load of 4 and 5-class semesters like a duck to water. But after getting involved with some laboratory work during his first few years, Podracky knew he had found his niche.
CBA’s Chemistry department, however, was the true springboard for his choice to pursue scientific study. “They [CBA science teachers Carol Baker & David Duh] were phenomenal, and got me interested and started on the path I’m on now,” he said.
He graduated from Duke in 2015 with a BS in Chemistry and minor studies in Biology before moving on to Harvard University.
Currently, Podracky is halfway through the apprenticeship-like Ph.D. program, working under Dr. David Liu—a well-respected authority in the field of directed evolution. His day-to-day work centers on manipulating proteins in the hopes of creating relevant practical applications.
For readers interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in the sciences, Podracky recommends enrolling at a school with 2-3 professors you would want to work under.
While the weeks may seem arduous (Podracky notes the typical student in his program spends 55-70 hours a week studying), the program offers him a decidedly unique opportunity.
“A lab really is like a small company…but you get to interact with the CEO,” he said. “The amount of access I have to somebody who’s a global leader in what he’s doing, and what I want to do, is pretty cool.” Likewise, Podracky explained that the program creates an environment that allows him to be hyper-focused on the work he enjoys. “I get to think about things I’m interested in all day,” he said.
Podracky’s current goals are to finish up his doctorate studies and thereafter pursue either a professorship or pharmaceutical research. He reflects fondly on his time at the Academy, and is thankful for the way it shaped his perspective.
“Thinking about my faith and values, who I was and what I valued…if I ever got to a point of indecision, I could turn around and look where I had been,” he said.
About Christian Brothers Academy:
Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) is a private, Catholic, academic preparatory school for boys located in Lincroft, New Jersey. Over $23.5 million in merit-based scholarships was awarded to the Class of 2017. Learn more at CBA At-A-Glance.