Paving the Road to HSURV Success: Chris Kabincinski Does it All and More
By: Maggie Chen, Harvard College '22; Esther Koh, Harvard College '22, Varshini Odayar '23; PRISE
Two Tuesdays ago, we met up with the wonderful URAF Administrative Coordinator Chris Kabacinski to talk about his journey to URAF, summer book recs for us scientists, and places to visit (and foods to eat!) around campus!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your journey from undergrad to working with URAF!
A: My first role out of college was at the clinical trials center of Brigham Brigham and Women's Hospital. It’s a clinical research Think Tank based at the Brigham and at Harvard. I spent a year working there as a program coordinator, focusing on projects related to competencies for clinical research coordinators, bioethics, and returning results. As an undergrad, I didn't study science at all really! I was an English major and a medical humanities minor. But I was more interested in the representation of illness and health and the body and like literature and art as opposed to the actual science behind it. Working at the clinical trials center taught me a lot of project management skills, as well as how nonprofit and organizations are run, especially organizations that bring together a lot of different stakeholders. And one of the things I like most about that was being in both a research and educational setting.
I knew that I wanted to get back into higher ed in some capacity, so I was lucky to land a job with URAF in July 2017. And I've been here ever since!
I think that moving to URAF has been one of the best decisions I've made. For a while I was thinking about maybe going back for a PhD in English or some humanities field. But since working in URAF, I've kind of decided that I really do like the administrative side of higher ed. And, I actually just finished my first year in a master's program at the Ed school!
Q: Follow-up question: favorite book?
A: I've been reading a ton of poetry - Carl Philips, Ocean Vuong, Marie Howe, Claudia Rankine. All of their books are really good, also - Natalie Diaz and Tracy Brimhall. Lorrie Moore has some really great short stories in her book called Words of America. There's one short story about a mother whose baby gets diagnosed with cancer. The story focuses on the treatment surrounding cancer. I read it probably four or five times in undergrad and in different classes, and it's one of my absolute favorites.
Q: We’re so grateful for your organizational skills with all of these wonderful workshops! How do you manage it all? What does a day in your life look like?
A: It's kind of hard to talk about in a remote setting, because I feel like in a normal summer, there's just so much planning that takes place months and months ahead of the move in the research village in June. But more or less at the start of every day, I'm looking at my inbox and then looking at the calendar more broadly seeing what's popped up or what I need to be thinking about. I usually try to stay like a week ahead of what's going to be happening. So especially during the summer, a week out from any event that we're hosting, I like to touch base with whoever is going to be participating in making sure they have room information, the zoom link, any kind of technology needs that needs to be squared away.
Q: What has been your favorite part of HSURV, and particularly virtual HSURV this year?
A: Honestly, the best part of HSURV is meeting all of the students. Typically during the normal summer, I am the point person for processing reimbursements, so I usually meet students who bring me piles and piles of receipts. It’s just so fun to talk to the students about events and their particular interests. I love to connect with them on that level, so I really do miss these moments when I got to interact with students. I’m hoping to pop into more summer virtual events and speak to more students! But, as for my favorite event, I love the closing dinners that we typically have, and hope that we can plan a similar event for HSURV 2020 in the future.
Typically during the fall and spring, I see many HSURV students come back to apply for fellowships and post-graduate opportunities, and it’s so nice to see their trajectory, and hear about their projects, and how their thinking and interests have evolved across the years.
Q: It seems like you’ve been in Boston for a while! What’s your favorite Harvard food place, and any recommendations?
A: I really really really miss Pavement Coffee. Having been in Boston for 8 years, I have lived very near to a Pavement (and the URAF office is just down the street from Pavement) so I feel like I'm just there every day before work getting a nice coffee. But I can start that habit again now, which is nice!
As far as other food goes, I really love Pammy’s and Guilia for pasta and Italian. They're just so good. If ever you want to treat yourself or your family and friends, those are two incredible incredible spots for the best pasta. On the other side of the river, I've lived over in Allston and in Back Bay, so I'm more familiar with that side of things. There's this really lovely restaurant called Anchovies in the South, and another restaurant called Audubon that has really good food and nice patio out back. If anybody's ever over in Cleveland Circle, there's this place called Moogy’s. It's near Boston College. They have pancake night where you can get 50 cent pancakes!
Q: Any advice to HSURV participants about research or life in general?
A: I'd say, thinking about research and life in general, don’t be afraid to pivot or roll with the punches or change what you had originally planned on doing. A lot of roadblocks and things can come up that can seem really scary because you're veering away from your certain path. I know thinking about even my own experience as an undergrad researcher or even as a young professional, nothing occurs exactly how I had expected or planned it. Thinking about my senior thesis, I had so many plans at the start of it, and I just went in a completely different direction. But I found so many odd, weird things that were really interesting to me, and I really created an interesting paper to work on. And even professionally, I was so sure that I was going to go back and get a PhD in English and now, not that it’s completely off the table, but it feels off the table. So don't be afraid to embrace opportunities as they come up like the URAF job posting was absolutely out of the blue. I'd say if you're interested in something, go down the path, even if it doesn't necessarily fit your plan or the map that you have in your head.
And remember to take care of yourself. Don't be afraid to step away for a little bit. It's important to turn your brain off and go for a walk or step away from the computer, especially in this remote world. Getting away from it all is all the more important.
Thank you so much, Chris, for all that you do to make HSURV happen, and we hope to keep some of those Boston recommendations in mind for when we all return to campus!