“At Great Bay, it feels like I am preparing myself, rather than just getting a degree.”
Great Bay Community College is a family affair in the Zajac family of Rochester.
Morgan Zajac, 19, is currently enrolled as a bioengineering student and is on track to graduate in the spring. Next fall, he will transfer to the University of New Hampshire to continue his studies in bioengineering.
That is a similar path that his older brother took. Dale Zajac studied biotechnology at Great Bay and UNH, then went on to do graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is now a senior researcher on the Covid-19 project at Pfizer Inc.
Younger brother Morgan is following in his brother’s footsteps even in their research. At Great Bay, Morgan Zajac is participating in National Institutes of Health-funded research related to Covid-19, supported by an NH INBRE project. “Through Great Bay, I am participating, hands-on in a tangible way in a research program for a Covid vaccine,” he said, marveling at the opportunity. “It’s hands-on, active, and really exciting.”
Morgan Zajac credits his brother for recruiting him to Great Bay. “I was living in Connecticut and was accepted into another engineering school. But my brother recommended that I come to Great Bay for a two-year degree and a great education and then go on to UNH,” he said.
In addition to taking all of his general education courses at Great Bay, he satisfying his core math and science requirements as well, paving the way for a seamless transfer to UNH in 2021.
His brother was an ace recruiter. He promoted Great Bay’s affordability and its excellent faculty, as well as the opportunities for internships and hands-on lab experience.
“To this day, I will tell anyone the best education I received was my associate degree at Great Bay,” said Dale Zajac, now 31. “I was impressed with the facilities and the willingness of teachers to work with individual students, something you don’t have at a large college. I also had many other opportunities given to me at Great Bay, like the INBRE projects and connections with individuals working in the field of interest.”
Morgan Zajac is as big a Great Bay booster as his brother.
“At Great Bay, it feels like I am preparing myself, rather than just getting a degree,” he said. “I can go to any school anywhere and learn all the theoretics, but there is no other school where I can be learning, hands-on, so that when I get my associate degree and I can say, ‘I already have all this experience.’”
Before his brother talked him out of it, Zajac was headed to school in Connecticut and facing massive student-loan debt upon graduation. He is grateful that he listened to his brother’s wise advice. “I am getting the same education – maybe a better education – for a lot less money, and I won’t have near the debt,” he said.
His older brother says amen to that.
Dale Zajac came to Great Bay after dropping out of four-year college because of finances. He was paying close to $60,000 a year at the four-year school. “After the first couple of semesters, I realized I could not afford it,” he said.
That is why when his brother started to navigate that same turbulent river of debt, Dale steered him toward the safe harbor of Great Bay, where he could afford to explore his interests and study something that inspired and motivated him. “When I enrolled at Great Bay, I wanted to study nursing. However, I soon fell in love with the science behind medicine and transferred to a degree I never heard of before, which was biotechnology,” he said.
And now he’s doing vital, hands-on work to help solve the biggest public health crisis in a century while serving as a role model for his younger brother and all the other student-scientists who dare to dream big about their future.