Before Cyruss Tsurgeon took his first class at Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences, he already had extensive experience in laboratory science and basic science research.
“I have worked at several biotech companies, doing some DNA sequencing work and investigating potential candidates for drug therapeutics,” says Tsurgeon. “I also held clinical laboratory administrative roles during two of my three stints with the U.S. Army.”
It was in the clinical laboratory setting that he became interested in exploring data.
“You have instruments that are running all these tests and producing so much data. I just didn’t feel satisfied by the fact that we had all these data and we couldn’t really do more with them,” says Tsurgeon.
He started learning about the different ways you can manipulate data for research and soon became interested in data science.
So Tsurgeon, who holds a master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and microbiology from the University of Washington, enrolled in the Master of Science in Biomedical Data Science program at Meharry.
As he progressed through the program he began to appreciate the practical, project-based approach to the SACS curriculum.
“At first I thought the project-based approach was so time consuming and difficult, but looking back, it was so beneficial for preparing me to go into industry because I gained experience presenting that material and writing project papers,” he says.
In fact, a project from Dr. Vibhuti Gupta’s Visualization and Unstructured Data Analysis course is turning into a paper that they hope to publish.
“My final project in that course looked at visualizations for RNA sequencing data. After my presentation, Dr. Gupta said we should turn this work into a paper,” says Tsurgeon.
The school’s online class format helped him balance the program with work. But for Tsurgeon, who is married with a 13-year-old daughter, the hardest part was missing family time taking classes and completing assignments.
“There were a couple of times that I attended class on an iPad while I was in the bleachers during my daughter’s basketball practice,” he admits. “But you know, you have to make it work.”
Tsurgeon has been retired from the Army since November of 2022 and has an eye on using his degree to help advance science.
“I want to focus my attention on software development in the bioinformatics pipeline,” he adds, “creating tools that can really advance science forward.”
For prospective students with years of experience thinking about furthering their education, Tsurgeon encourages them to take that step.
“There are so many resources available to help you prepare. If you have the interest and you have the drive, you can really do it,” he says.