Justin Silverman ’07
“I think that Crossroads fosters a good deal of rebelliousness and a good deal of creativity.”
Justin Silverman is an assistant professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State University. He earned both an MD and PhD at Duke University. As a college junior at Johns Hopkins University, he applied for—and received—the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in part through an essay about his lifelong love of “Star Trek.” His application to Johns Hopkins, where he would major in biophysics and physics, included a photo portfolio of sculptures he’d welded from scrap metal.
He attributes this intellectual risk-taking to the influence of Crossroads, which he entered in the third grade. “I think that Crossroads fosters a good deal of rebelliousness and a good deal of creativity,” he says. “It encourages students to go out and do something different.”
At Crossroads, Justin got his science fix in some unexpected places. He believes that the School’s “excellent” math program helped prepare him for a science career, and recalls a world history class that delved into physics to explore compression-based European technology versus tension-based South American technology during the pre-Columbus era.
While at Johns Hopkins, Justin was a research technologist working to adapt cylindrically shaped carbon structures called nanotubes for applications including biomedical and electronics and developed algorithms to automate evaluation and identification of nanotubes in microscopy images.
Justin attended Duke University on a Medical Scientist Training Program grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences within the National Institutes of Health. In 2019, he earned his PhD in computational biology and bioinformatics. His dual degree will enable him to engage in both clinical work treating patients and computational research. Justin believes that Crossroads’ emphasis on independent thought will serve him well in his career.
“That’s a prized commodity in research and in clinical work,” he says. “You need to be able to call things into question and ask, ‘Why is this?’ If you’re seeing a patient, don’t just accept what the attending physician is suggesting is the best diagnosis, but really think for yourself. That’s something I definitely learned to do at Crossroads.”