A look into the successful life of a Seneca College graduate

Because it Matters

Image: Fabio Rotondo

Fabio Rotondo is an inspiration to anyone who wants to achieve the impossible – but isn’t that all of us? Are you a twenty-something still trying to figure out what to do as a career? Are you torn by which grad school to attend? We sat down with Fabio to talk about goals, schools, life and how he got to where he is – without too much stress.

Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Toronto. My parents are Italian and came to Canada in the late 1950’s. I grew up and went to school in the Jane and Finch area. After graduating from high school, I had the opportunity to go to university very close to home (York University or U of T) but I chose to commute all the way to the Don Mills campus at Seneca. It used to take me more than an hour, and 3 bus changes each way but I did not care. I loved the program at Seneca and I used my commute time to catch up on my course readings.

When did you know science was your passion?
I realized early on in life that I wanted a profession where I could incorporate my desire to both advance science and improve the health and well-being of the community with my academic interests as well. My interest in medical science began in high school or as a child with a curious fascination in the biological and social sciences. The breadth of knowledge and skills that a career in a science-related field demanded strongly appealed to me from a very early age. No other field can pull so many varying academic disciplines together under one common goal: the prevention, treatment and cure of the sick within the community.

Why did you choose Seneca College over university education?
Seneca offered the program that I wanted in terms of combining the theoretical and the laboratory components. I wanted a program that stressed a “hands-on” component as much as the theoretical approach. The course outline was enough for me to make my decision. It covered all aspects of science. I knew that graduating from the Biological Research Technology program, would best prepare me to enter the workforce with the skills I needed to perform well in my new role.

What are you doing now?
I probably have the best career ever! I am a Research Associate and Research Laboratory Manager in the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Division of Pathology and the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital. My specialty is in the area of endocrine disorders and my focus is on pituitary tumors. My work is focused on finding ways to diagnose tumours better with the ultimate goal of improving care and treatment for people suffering from this disease. I am fortunate to work with some of the best pathologists, surgeons and endocrinologists in the field of pituitary disease. Seneca gave me the confidence and knowledge to walk into the lab and be able to start contributing right away.

What were the aspects of Seneca College that you think has molded your career?
First and foremost, the strong guidance and leadership of the program faculty members gave me the theoretical and technical knowledge I needed, to excel in my career. Second, the hands-on skills and applicable learning allowed me to really apply what I learned to propel forward in my job and career.

Why do you think Seneca’s “Because It Matters” campaign is so important in today’s world?
The campaign is such an amazing idea because it not only allows the College to connect Alumni with currents students, but also with students in high school who are exploring options for undergraduate and graduate studies. The campaign is able to highlight the successes of the Alumni and offers young students insight into career options. It inspires students to push for excellence as they complete their studies and start their journey in the workforce.

Do you have any advice for students looking at Seneca as their graduate school?
My advice: Make Seneca your FIRST option! The programs are designed to provide you with the complex skills and knowledge that allow graduates the opportunity for gainful employment opportunities in their field of choice. The programs at Seneca allow students to apply the skills that they learn to solve real-world problems.

Do you have a special school memory you can share with us?
Honestly, I have so many but the one that always comes to mind is when we were taught a technique called in situ hybridization in one of our mandatory classes. It was a radioactive technique and I recall telling my classmates while in the laboratory “where will we ever use this technique”? Well, as luck would have it, when I started working in the pathology research laboratory at St. Michael’s Hospital, the principal investigator and Head of the laboratory called me into his office and told me that my role was to introduce the in situ hybridization technique in the laboratory because it was important for us to localize the messenger RNA in the tumors tissues we were studying!!! I walked out of that office in utter amazement because the very technique that I thought I would never use was the first technique that I had to introduce into the laboratory!!! By the way, our laboratory became internationally known for our prolific use of in situ hybridization in the study of pituitary tumors, so, in hindsight, I wish I had taken better notes during that class!!!!

Finish this sentence: I can’t live without my…
Morning espresso!!! Hahaha!
Actually, I could not live without my analytical abilities that I acquired while at Seneca because not only must I use it in every aspect of my career but it has also allowed me to look at things in my personal life way in a very different, logical manner. It definitely does decrease the pressures and stresses when faced with a situation where your input is vital.

Your best advice for young people in today’s world?
The best advice I can offer young people today is the very advice that I have used throughout my life. It is a quote from Francis of Assisi: Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Read more about Fabio here.

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