When Jody Albright took a temporary job in January 2012 helping to set-up the lab for Brian Bennett, PhD, assistant professor with the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute (NRI), he didn’t imagine it would turn into a fulltime job as a research assistant.
After graduating from Gospel Light High School in Salisbury in 1993, Albright attended Rowan-Cabarrus Community College after high school with the intention of transferring to a four-year school.
“I couldn’t make up my mind on what direction to go,” he said. “There were a few things I enjoyed- biology, chemistry and computing. So I thought I’d take a year off and that turned into something like 13 years.”
Albright’s wide-ranging abilities and interests led him to a number of careers from electrician to masonry to owning an online paintball store. In 2008, when the economy and his landscaping business sank, he decided to go back to school. When he started looking at Rowan-Cabarrus degree programs in 2009, he found biotechnology. The fact it was a mixture of subjects in science and math and even computing appealed to him.
“I was fortunate landing in his lab,” Albright reflected. “Dr. Bennett is varied in some of things he does- a little bit of molecular biology and some genetics and some bioinformatics and from there we’ve progressed into cell culture and molecular biology. So you get this broad view of a lot of different things.”
Albright’s broad view is one of the qualities Bennett appreciates. “One of the reasons why I think the Rowan-Cabarrus programs work well is that a lot of the people who have been hired at the NRI are more mature students when they go back and are often part of a retraining program. There ’s richness there (and) life experience where someone like Jody has had his own business and has done lots of interesting and cool things before he decided to go back to school. He brings all of that to the position.”
Albright credits Rowan-Cabarrus’ program for giving him the foundation for his success. “The core classes of the biotech program are really good at giving a nice overview of what goes on in labs. You get to play around with recombinant DNA and cloning DNA and bacteria. You learn about bioprocessing and what it would be like to work in industry. It is a good program.”
Albright’s progressed from the basic knowledge he learned at Rowan-Cabarrus to developing what Bennett describes as skills around specific procedures such as quantitative PCR, cloning and western blotting. Right now, his direction seems clear. First, enjoy the stability of his current job, spend time with his family, and then advance his education even further.
“My advice would be to look at what you really like doing and head that direction,” Albright said. “That’s important no matter where you are in life to find that one thing that is important to you, that one thing that you like. Even if you’re a little older, go after it anyway. Going that direction, you’ll end up being happier in the long run.”