Alumni Profile: Benjamin Greenbaum ('06PhD, Physics)

January 01, 2020
Benjamin Greenbaum

What is your current role?
Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

What are you working on now?
I study how the immune system affects the evolution of tumors and viruses. In particular, I am trying to model responses to cancer immunotherapies.

What drew you to your field?
Several physicists had contributed to HIV research in a way that advanced treatment. I saw that my background could be applied to a field in which basic research could inform both our fundamental understanding of the world and patient care.

What lessons from graduate school have you found useful in your professional life?
The value of conducting basic research. The PhD experience teaches you to research a field and apply that knowledge to an original problem. The current research climate makes this hard, and this skill has become much more valuable.

What skill has unexpectedly helped you in your career?
Communication skills are always unappreciated. I work with clinicians, computer scientists, physicists, oncologists, and immunologists, to name a few. It is important to communicate effectively and always to listen to and respect what your colleagues have to say.

What is your favorite memory from your graduate years?
If I had to pick one, it would be meeting my wife, Lindsay!

What are your passions outside of your work?
I enjoy cooking, listening to music, and spending time with my family (particularly my daughter Eleanor).

What is your advice for current GSAS students?
The best projects are the ones that people are passionate about. I think students worry now that if they do not have everything perfect quickly, then they won't be successful—but the best results are still curiosity driven, so it’s important to not lose your excitement and joy for the field you are in.

What motivates you to give to Columbia?
I was an undergraduate and graduate student at Columbia. The University has a great environment that balances the latest knowledge with a healthy respect for research in a dynamic urban environment. It is a uniquely wonderful place to learn.