Former Biology major now plays critical role surveilling Covid-19 and its impact on public health
Charlens Beneche (Biology, '18) knew from a young age he enjoyed studying science and medicine, and used his time at UMass Dartmouth to propel that interest into a top graduate program for Public Health and launch an impressive start to his young career: surveiling Covid-19 and its impact on public health.
“When picking my undergraduate university, UMass Dartmouth had the perfect balance between affordability, a quality education, and a social life, making it the best value for me,” said Beneche. “My time at UMassD bolstered my passion in science and peaked my commitment to and participation in social justice, leading me to focus on health disparities.”
Beneche, a first-generation college student, quickly made himself busy during his collegiate experience, working in two on-campus jobs, volunteering at Crossroads for Kids, joining the Sigma Phi Rho Fraternity, becoming a member of six student organizations and founding one himself: Moors Engaged Noble.
“I think on-campus jobs are so important,” said Beneche. “They allow for easy commuting, communication, and an understanding that you are a student first. Student leaders and organizations are key to improving and maintaining a successful campus.
“Experience matters. Whether through extracurriculars, coursework, student organizations, on-campus positions, or internships, gaining experience makes life easier and helps you figure out what you want in your career.”
Beneche, who says he was encouraged to study medicine and science from a young age, used this experience to figure out what area of health science he wanted to concentrate on, which led him to his current role as a Microbiologist II at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
“In my role, I run diagnostic testing and genomic sequencing of pathogens for state surveillance,” said Beneche. “I enjoy the crossover of working in the lab and practicing technical skills, with the mission of bettering marginalized communities.”
Entering the workforce in November of 2020, and in public health no less, Beneche faced an uphill battle landing his dream career, as safety issues and budget cuts slowed hiring processes around the world, and virtual interviews made the process of feeling an organization’s work environment much harder. Beneche cites having a strong community of friends, mentors, and colleagues to seek support and guidance from as being key to his success.
“If you want to go fast, go alone,” said Beneche. “If you want to go far, go in group.”
In a 2018 feature story, Beneche said in his last year at UMass Dartmouth that ‘what makes UMassD unique is the people. The biggest goldmine that this university has to offer is the talent, compassion, and hope that walk these campus grounds.’
When asked if he stands by that today, Beneche added:
“Absolutely. This pandemic really showed us that brick and mortar is not what makes a community, it's the people. As we progress through this pandemic and get back to some form of normal rekindling, it’s the social communities and interactions that will be paramount to creating positive communities, such as the one at UMass Dartmouth.
“When looking back to my time at UMassD, I have especially fond memories of the Frederick Douglass Unity House, which was such a safe space for me. I’m also especially proud of the progress and events created by student leaders and organizations.”