Where Are They Now: Amanda Corbel Finds Her Perfect Match

By Kate McDermott; images by Chris Worthington and Richard Frederickson
Amanda Corbel at a lecturn.

By her own admission, Amanda Corbel is a people person. She enjoys interacting with others and collaborating on new and exciting projects. But she is also passionate about science.

Corbel completed four internships at the National Cancer Institute while earning her bachelor’s degree in biology from Shepherd University, followed them up with a postbaccalaureate fellowship, and co-authored five publications. When it was time to take the next step in her career, she opted for medical school, believing that as a doctor, she could meld her people skills with her love of science.

With her stellar resume, she was accepted into the pre-med postbaccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t long before Corbel began to question her decision.

“I realized being a doctor was not really what would make me happy,” she recalls.

She decided to step back and regroup. Corbel returned in 2017 to Frederick National Laboratory, a place that she admits “feels like home.” She conducted research in the Cancer Immunoprevention Laboratory while she pursued her master’s degree in biotechnology and management from Mount St. Mary’s University. She also earned her project management professional (PMP) certification.

Along the way, she continued to call upon the mentors who had helped her during her undergraduate studies, including James Cherry, Ph.D., who currently serves as the scientific program director in the Office of Scientific Operations under the NCI Office of the Director.

“Dr. Cherry has been with me since the beginning,” Corbel says. “He has been instrumental in encouraging me when I wanted to give up or change my mind.”

With input from Cherry and her other internship mentors, Brandon F. Keele, Ph.D., and Ligia Pinto, Ph.D., Corbel gained more than just scientific insights. She began to acquire life knowledge, including how she could pursue a career in science while balancing her personal aspirations.

“Amanda has grown up a lot,” Cherry says. “It has been rewarding to see her confidence grow.”

In 2019, Corbel found a position in the Frederick National Laboratory Partnership Development Office that enables her to use her people skills and her scientific knowledge. As the partnership alliance manager, she helps establish collaborations between FNL scientists and outside researchers in government, academia, industry, and nonprofits.

“It is a great fit for me because I use my scientific training to review the agreements, the details of the scientific material exchanges, etc., but I can also use my people skills to promote FNL, who we are and what we do,” she says.

Corbel is pleased that she can still contribute to groundbreaking science, but in a way that takes her beyond the solitude of a lab. “That can be hard for someone like me who is an extrovert and who likes talking to people,” she admits.

Now Corbel strives to support the next generation of interns in the same way her mentors helped her. “I always try to be available to answer their questions about things like college applications and resumes,” she says. “And I always encourage kids to take full advantage of the opportunities they have and to apply to internships. That’s where you learn what the science is really like.”

But she also shares one more important piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid to try new things. I have learned that there are ways you can combine more than one of your passions into a career.”

That’s exactly what Cherry hoped Corbel would discover. He believed medical school was not the right fit for her, “but she had to explore it and figure it out for herself,” he says. Cherry encouraged her with a message that she has taken to heart.

“You should never view failure as a failure,” she says. “Every step I took contributed to me figuring out what I wanted to do.”

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