By Natalie St. Denis
James Faraci is a senior majoring in biochemistry and biomedical sciences and minoring in neurobiology and psychology. Faraci is in the process of applying for medical school, which he hopes to attend after graduating to work toward his career goal of becoming a physician.
He started volunteering in a hospital at age 16 and soon knew he wanted to pursue a career in the healthcare field.
Not only was he already comfortable with the Plattsburgh area because of the yearly trips he took, but he felt SUNY Plattsburgh was a good fit for his chosen career path.
“I wanted to really make my mark somewhere and be able to craft my own experience and at a smaller institution, you’re more easily able to do that than if you were to go to a large, prestigious university where you’re kind of just on a conveyor belt,” Faraci said.
Faraci quickly became involved on campus. About halfway through his first semester freshman year, his professor Jose de Ondarza, of the biological sciences department, asked him to join his science research team.
“As a first semester freshman, I was blown away,” Faraci said. “So that very next semester I started doing it and I haven’t looked back at all. This is now going on two and a half years,”
De Ondarza has research labs with a total of about 72 students in microbiology almost every fall. About four to five weeks into the fall semester, he gets to know his students well from seeing them twice a week in lab and in lecture. So he is able to find a few students that stand out because of the interest they show.
De Ondarza said Faraci would make an effort to ask and answer questions in his class and always expressed interest in an energetic way.
“Immediately, he was somebody that I said ‘I need to ask him,’” De Ondarza said.
The microbiology lab focused on an oxidative stress of an opportunistic pathogen and how it evades the immune system. Faraci worked alongside a few other students as a research team. De Ondarza was able to see them form a bond and have fun doing work because of it.
De Ondarza has been able to see Faraci’s passion for science clearly through his “go-getter” personality. De Ondarza shared a story about a time when he came back from teaching an evening lecture and James was sitting outside the lab eager to show Dr. de Ondarza his data from an experiment he ran earlier in the day. Whenever he wanted to show or discuss something to Dr. de Ondarza, he was always bubbling over with energy. He describes it as a barely contained energy.
“[This] definitely tells me that this isn’t something that he’s just checking off a list, he’s kinda, taken on ownership,” De Ondarza said.
Faraci has taken a few courses with De Ondarza. The medical microbiology course he took with him ended up being one of his favorite courses. Faraci enjoyed being able to see the future of where he wanted his degree to take him.
“I really couldn’t put the textbook down, which isn’t something most people can say about their college textbooks,” Faraci said.
Faraci also immerses himself in many organizations on campus. He joined the Pre-Med Association and became the treasurer. He turned it into the Pre-Med/Pre-Health Association once he became the president last semester, so it was more inclusive of all different professions. Faraci and the other board members also made an effort to make the club inclusive of all different backgrounds.
“We tried to cater it more to different backgrounds as well, and I think that has really grown me as a person, grown me as a leader and also grown our club. We are now up to about 20, 25 people per meeting,” Faraci said.
This is a drastic change from when Faraci first joined the association and was among about only five people in each meeting.
Dr. Donald Slish, who is the faculty adviser of the Pre-Med/Pre-Health Association, said that Faraci does a really great job as club president and comes to him with great ideas.
Slish has also been Faraci’s adviser since he came to SUNY Plattsburgh. He has been working with Faraci to set him up to go to med school once he graduates. Faraci has also taken numerous classes with Slish. Faraci jokes that he had a “semester of Slish” because he took nine credits all in one semester with him.
Slish, who describes Faraci as affable, positive, empathetic and engaged, said that he did very well in every class of his that he took.
Another involvement of Faraci’s has been being a part of the Honors Council, which focuses on making many decisions about courses, undergraduate theses and the commencement speech.
He became an Honors Peer Mentor, which Director Dr. Tracie Church Guzzio jumpstarted. Through this role, James was able to assist students as Guzzio had with him. He helped first year students become accustomed to Plattsburgh. He has five mentees he connects with on a regular basis.
Faraci connects with other students through his position as a head community advocate in Kent Hall. At first, he found this to be a challenging endeavor because he was previously a CA in an all freshmen building, so he had to change the way he did things to tailor the needs of the all upperclassmen in Kent Hall. Most of these upperclassmen don’t need as much involvement from their CA, so the activities had to dwell more on how to transition to the world outside of college.
While in college, Faraci has discovered a mentality he maintains in order to tackle everything on his busy schedule. He makes sure to give his full self to one thing at a time.
“You have to be completely somewhere. You can’t just try to be everywhere at once,” he said.
Facari admits he has a tough time saying no to new opportunities. He likes so many different things and strives to experience everything he can, but it became a challenge to manage it all. Faraci was on the NCAA Division III cross country indoor and outdoor track and field teams but had to let it go last semester because of competing interests. Although he lost this competitive aspect of running, he was still able to build it into his daily routine by going for a run every day.
Reflecting back on himself as a freshman, he says he was very introverted and didn’t know himself very well, but now he is as extroverted as people come.
“I like to say that’s not something that’s changed in me, but I’ve just been put in an environment where I can really be my true self,” Faraci said. “Plattsburgh taught me who I was, and that’s something I am forever grateful for.”