Keith Viccaro '11

Keith Viccaro and Engineers Without Borders

Keith Viccaro is currently a scientist at Curaleaf Research and Development in Boston, Mass. Read more about Viccaro’s experience at UHart and how it has inspired his career.


How did your experience at the University of Hartford impact your career trajectory?

My undergraduate education at the University was a transformative period of my life. It instilled in me the knowledge, passion, perseverance, and confidence that I have carried close to my “hart” through my doctorate program and post-doctoral training, and into the world of cannabis research and development that I am proud to be an integral part of today. During my time at UHart, I had the privilege of being educated by the inspirational and dedicated faculty within the departments of chemistry, biology, and philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences. My first research advisor was chemistry Professor Edward Gray, PhD, whose intelligence, energy, and love of science propelled me to push my education to the limits—which ultimately culminated in me achieving my doctoral degree from Purdue University through its multifaceted Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Program. His mentorship, along with support from the rest of the faculty in UHart’s College of Arts and Sciences, inspired me to engage in the University’s honors program, where I was able to conduct my own scientific investigations and draft an undergraduate thesis based on my work at the intersection of chemistry and biology. I graduated from UHart in 2011 summa cum laude, with University honors, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology, and a minor in philosophy. 
What led you to the career you have?

I continue to thrive in the world of scientific research, discovery, and innovation that I fell in love with during my inspirational education at the University of Hartford—an experience that set me on my way to the amazing and ever-evolving career I have today. My commitment to science and research fueled me to pursue my doctorate at Purdue University, where I had the honor of working under world-recognized chemical biologist Dr. Kavita Shah, discovering and validating novel therapeutic targets in highly aggressive cancers and Alzhiemer's Disease–creating the next generation of chemotherapy treatments. After receiving my doctoral degree in 2017, I worked in a number of biotech start-up companies, and as a junior faculty member at Eastern Connecticut State University. During my time at ECSU, I designed and taught the senior-level biochemistry lecture and lab courses during the height of COVID-19. Upon completing my teaching contract, I moved on to start my position as a scientist at Curaleaf Research and Development in Boston, Mass.,a leading medical and wellness cannabis operator in the United States. My journey through academia into industry has been exactly that—a journey. Speaking from the heart, I can truly say that it is not the destination that matters, but, rather, the road that you carried you to the place in which you find yourself today.

Viccaro after PhD graduation

Do you have a particular UHart experience that you are particularly fond of?

I had the honor of working alongside Professor Bernard Den'Ouden and Professor Monica Moen in the Department of Philosophy, through which I became a member of the UHart Chapter of Engineers Without Borders.


As a member of the chapter's first interdisciplinary travel team, I received an opportunity to study abroad in India, where we applied our efforts within the rural village of Abheypur. We worked with the local community and school to educate and aid their citizens in water collection devices and conservation practices. I would say this experience was one of the more defining moments at UHart that led me to where I am today.

Aside from that, I also loved Spring Fling. It was a time to take a break from all the hard work of the academic year and have some fun with my nearest and dearest friends and roommates.

Of all the classes you took as a student, what is the one class you would recommend everyone take as a must-do, life-changing course?

Introduction to Philosophy—Den'Ouden inspired me in this course to expand my education beyond academia into humanitarian work through his teachings and heart-touching stories.

Many alumni choose to stay engaged with UHart after they graduate. Can you tell us what inspires you to give back and stay connected?

At this point at my life, I have achieved a career of my dreams. Today, I often think of how my journey started with the inspiration and education I received from the University of Hartford.

What advice/career tips would you give to current students and young alumni?

Never give up on your dreams. Set your goals at reasonable heights so you can feel the pleasure of accomplishment and let that fuel you to continue to raise the bar. Don't be afraid to be different. That is what will make you truly stand out from the crowd, be noticed, and succeed in your future career.

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