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Grad student is programmed to succeed

When UNF master’s student Conrad Testagrose accepted a graduate research assistantship at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Now several months in, the computer science major finds the work captivating and enjoys applying the theory he’s learned in the classroom to help solve practical problems in the real world.
As a bonus, he’s also found a possible career path.
Conrad Testagrose sitting at a computer“It’s been phenomenal at Mayo,” Testagrose said. “What I’ve realized here is that in the future if I can find work in data science or Artificial Intelligence in a clinical setting, I think it would be right up my alley. I really enjoy it and find it’s just fascinating to be learning from the clinicians and data scientists here.”
Testagrose didn’t take a direct path into computer science. In his senior year as an undergrad, he realized that his choice of biology and pre-med just wasn’t the right fit. At the suggestion of a friend, he enrolled in a bioinformatics course, which uses computation and analysis to interpret biological data. That choice changed everything. “I came out of that class understanding the value of programming and realizing that computer science is applicable to so many other disciplines that I wanted to explore,” he said.
He now believes a clinical setting may be the perfect blend of his academics in biology and computing. Working in Mayo’s radiology area, Testagrose has been using his programming knowledge, yet also has some understanding of the underlying biological concepts. He’s working on a team that is trying to find ways to use artificial intelligence to assist radiologists, who review mammography images and then must assign a breast density value to each patient. If AI can help make those classifications more precise, there could be important health implications, as the risk of breast cancer increases with higher density values.
Looking back at the road he’s traveled, Testagrose is happy with the choices he’s made and feels that everything has now fallen into place. “It’s been an incredible experience here at Mayo, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Testagrose said. “You just learn so much when you’re learning from experts in the field.”