Studying chemistry was an organic process for Christina Vivelo, ’12. Both of her parents are chemists. But curiosity drew her to major in biochemistry and molecular biology. 

“I’ve always loved science — how things work, why things work,” Vivelo says. “Since I was a little kid, I was bothering my parents with questions.”

Vivelo, a self-described perfectionist, seems at home in the lab. On a tour, she reacts with the enthusiasm of someone who can’t get enough of her passion. She knew early on at Richmond that she wanted to work in the sciences, but Vivelo did struggle over whether to pursue a career treating patients or pioneering research in the lab.

Ultimately, she found the perfect compromise in public health: she could continue her lab research and potentially save millions of lives without being limited to the number of patients she could see.

One particular course — U.S. Healthcare Policy and Politics — introduced Vivelo to the field. For her, that meant combining a passion for lab work with a systems-level approach to transforming health care in the U.S. and abroad.

“Public health is a really intriguing field,” Vivelo explains. “You have the opportunity to save millions of people based on policies. There’s a lot of room to help. And that’s so satisfying.”

After graduating from Richmond, she will begin pursuing a doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

“That’s an area where I can really make an impact,” Vivelo says. “It’s really appealing to me to have an impact over broad populations.”

Securing a spot in the nation’s top program for public health wasn’t an easy journey.

“It was hard balancing everything,” she says. “The process was like applying to college, but on steroids.”

Vivelo credits the Career Development Center (CDC) with helping her successfully manage applying to seven programs at six schools. CDC staff helped refine drafts of her personal statements and also prepared her for the toughest part: the interview.

“When I started to get offers for interviews, my head was spinning,” Vivelo says.

The CDC staff tailors mock interviews based off the intended program of graduate study students are seeking. This was the most valuable resource, Vivelo says.

In the fall, Vivelo starts her program with the goal of engaging in research that will help fuel advancements in public health. Specifically, she’s committed to exploring how domestic health care can be improved.

“Because I’m confronted with domestic health issues on a daily basis it grabs my interest more,” Vivelo says. “But I have the opportunity to improve health care not just in this country, but worldwide.”