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Aleks Kostic joined OrACORe as a research assistant after graduating from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and a minor in Dance in 2020. Throughout her time at OrACORe, Aleks led her co-RAs in running the OAPol Model, a computer simulation model that evaluates cost-effectiveness and quality of life of potential treatment strategies for knee osteoarthritis Outside of the office, Aleks joined her colleagues in volunteering for the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) as a biking instructor. She also stayed engaged with the Boston powerlifting community. In this departing interview, Aleks reflects on her growth as a research assistant at OrACORe and her future in medicine.

1. In what ways have you grown from being first-year RAs to second-year RAs?

From learning to lead just one project in the start of my first year to coordinating a host of projects through my second year, I have been able to grow into different facets of leadership. The opportunity to train and field questions from new RAs reminded me that I always have more to learn and question about the OAPol model. Helping with several grant submissions while also working on projects with less urgent deadlines was a rehearsal of prioritization and planning that I am sure will recur in my future career. My second year gave me a chance to do dive deeper into complex work on a variety of projects.

2. How has working at OrACORe impacted your views on medicine and/or research?

I more fully appreciate the collaboration and structure that underpins medical research. Through previous research experiences, I understood the importance of collaboration between researchers and healthcare providers, which helps produce valuable research. But in these past two years, I have caught a glimpse of the work research administration does to support the undertaking of clinical studies (grant program managers, IRB administrators, REDCap database support staff, journal editors). There is a deep and complex root-system that allows and encourages scientists to think hard and develop the best research possible.

From left to right: research assistants Zoe Zimmerman and Aleksandra Kostic. Photo courtesy of Zoe Zimmerman.

3. What will you miss most about OrACORe?

I will miss sitting with my coworkers – after a partially-remote beginning to post-undergrad life, being able to chat about work and life every day while working kept me motivated. Everyone at OrACORe, but especially Drs. Losina and Katz, have provided invaluable support throughout these two years; although I know they will continue to do so from afar, I will miss seeing them as regularly as I do now!

4. What are your career goals and how have they been affected by your experience at OrACORe?

This job provided me with the chance to experience patient interactions and computational research side-by-side, reinforcing my desire to be a physician-investigator. I plan to continue contributing to healthcare outcomes research using computation modeling and data-driven methods, while also caring for patients.

5. Any advice for future research assistants?

Get comfortable documenting discussions and decisions – you will save yourself hours in the future with just a few minutes of typing in the present.

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