Julia Schaffer

Alumni Connections Help W&J Senior Start Her Medical Career

Created: May 3, 2021  |  Last Updated: May 3, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged: ,

WASHINGTON, PA (May 3, 2021) – Julia Schaffer is ready to start her career – in fact, she already has and it’s not even graduation day yet.

Julia, a neuroscience and spanish double major on the pre health track, is continuing her research at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences while she applies to medical schools. She already has a fulltime job as a research manager in the laboratory of W&J alumna Dr. Catherine Davis-Takacs (Psychology ’04), a full month before she’s set to graduate from W&J. Julia said the alumni connection has been invaluable.

“I could probably talk about this for hours,” Schaffer said. “This is actually something that’s very common, and you’ll see it happen a lot at W&J. We have incredible alumni relationships so it was easy for me to reach out to Dr. Davis.”

Julia began working with Dr. Davis at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine during summer 2019, and continued working with her remotely during fall 2019, summer 2020, and the current academic year. Dr. Davis’ research focus is effects of radiation on behavior and cognition in rats as a model for long-term human spaceflight.

“I’ve spent the last two years working with her on a NASA research grant project where I’ve done two presentations at the NASA conference in Galveston, Texas,” Julia said. “She asked me to work full time with her during my gap year before medical school.”

In addition to strong alumni connections, Julia’s internships and conference presentations were made possible by funding from W&J. Her internships were supported by two awards from W&J’s Merck Internships for Excellence in Science program, and her trip to the 2020 NASA workshop was supported by funds from W&J’s PrezProject, the W&J Neuroscience Program, and the W&J Department of Psychology.

“I think that W&J makes it affordable for students like me to be able to do research like this and to continue to make connections like this at W&J and beyond,” she said.

Julia is also involved with W&J’s Office of Admission, helping to recruit the next generation of Presidents, and she’s a member of the women’s tennis team. She said these experiences have already helped her in medical school interviews, because they show her ability to balance her schedule and to work well as part of a team.

During W&J Take Action Day in April, Julia told prospective students that they should take advantage of the opportunities W&J gives them and step out of their comfort zones.

“Through W&J funds I’ve lived in four different cities and been to 12 different countries in the past four years, and every single second of it I was terrified but I’m definitely a better person for it,” Julia said. “Don’t be afraid to fail because that’s how you learn and I think W&J does a really good job of supporting you through that whole process.”


About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.