Skip to Content
Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Thomas O’Hara (’18)Two months after he graduated from Thomas Aquinas College in 2018, Thomas O’Hara married classmate Misha (Johnston ’18), and the couple departed for Prague. Mr. O’Hara had discovered that he could pursue an electrical-engineering degree inexpensively at the Czech Technical University, and his wife — who spent much of her childhood in the Czech Republic and spoke the language fluently — would be very much at home.

Once in Prague, however, he realized that his interests lay elsewhere — and that his Thomas Aquinas College education had prepared him in ways he didn’t even know.

“I got really interested in the programming classes that I was taking,” Mr. O’Hara says. “A lot of my associates complimented me on how fast I picked it up, which was the result of the logical reasoning  — and especially the math — that I had learned at TAC. Programming is really just applied math and logic, and the College had prepared me well in both.”

So he decided to pursue a computer-science degree and to seek employment in a computer lab. When applying for a job, he found himself, once again, relying in ways unexpected on his Catholic liberal education.

“There were 30 other people applying for the same position and, frankly, most of them were much more qualified than I was in terms of their knowledge of programming. But they hired me because of my enthusiasm for learning,” Mr. O’Hara says. “I like to think that I love learning naturally, but I know that I learned to love learning even more at the College. I became very enthusiastic about just figuring things out, analyzing, trying to think outside the box. All of that was cultivated at TAC, especially the analytics and working with people in order to solve a specific problem.”

Now Mr. O’Hara works at Stratosphere Labs, which conducts research for, among others, Avast Software, one of the world’s largest cybersecurity, machine learning, and AI firms. Among his projects, he maintains “honeypots” — machines that have been left deliberately unsecure, or infected with malware — in order to monitor the strategies of hackers, and thus develop Intrusion Prevent Systems. In October, Google sponsored him to attend Virus Bulletin, an international cybersecurity conference in London, and he also participated in the Cyber Sec & AI conference in Prague.

On top of his busy academic and professional life, Mr. O’Hara is also a new father. Six months ago he and Mrs. O’Hara welcomed twins — Thomas Edmund and Hannah Marie. The young family plans to stay in Prague until he completes his degree, then return stateside.

The family of Misha (Johnston ’18) and Thomas O’Hara


Olivia Cobb ('16)Olivia Cobb (’16) reports from Washington University in St. Louis, where she is “studying biostatistics and loving every minute of it” in one of the field’s top academic programs. She is learning various statistical and computational methodologies, particularly as they pertain to biomedical data analysis and genomics research. She is also working part-time at an oncology lab, where she conducts statistical analysis on a rare form of sarcoma cancer.

“All of my classes are going well,” she writes. “My training at TAC has obviously been very helpful, and my philosophical training has turned out to be quite applicable to this scientific field.”

Still, having a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts makes her something of an outlier in this rigorous, STEM-focused graduate program. “The faculty is constantly checking in with me, as it turns out that I am their guinea pig for accepting students with a background in humanities rather than strictly math or biology,” she says. Nonetheless, “everyone I have talked to has been thoroughly impressed with my background and excited to find a position for me in the biostatistics field.”

She is delighting in the moment and looks forward to what lies ahead: “I absolutely love seeing where God is taking me on this path!”


 Daina Andries (’09) Daina Andries (’09), photo: Donna Sokol, Library of Congress

The website of the Library of Congress has published an interview with Daina Andries (’09), a metadata technician with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. In it Miss Andries discusses her work at the library — “capturing and reviewing metadata, or data about data, which renders a resource more searchable by supplying identification information about the resource” — as well as her background, which includes a master’s degree in French from the University of Delaware and a master’s of science in information from the University of Michigan.

She also describes her education at Thomas Aquinas College, and how it prepared her for the complex, detailed-oriented line of work that has become her passion. “The curriculum at Thomas Aquinas was rigorous and interdisciplinary. Every class was taught as a seminar, providing practice in critical thinking, reasoning logically from first principles, and grappling with scientific, literary, and philosophical texts held to have shaped Western thought,” she says. This “foundation in logical reasoning and philosophy” helped, she adds, “with learning about semantics and knowledge organization, object-oriented programming, and analytics.”

Having graduated from Michigan and moved to Washington, D.C., just last year, Miss Andries is still very much a newcomer to the Library of Congress. It is “a place that stirs the imagination,” she says. “It’s the largest library in the world, and you’re guaranteed to find something with regard to any topic you can imagine. It’s a privilege to help with the work of making the Library’s wealth of unique resources accessible to researchers and to the public.”


September
04, 2014

Aaron Lee (’07)Having completed his coursework, Aaron Lee (’07) will soon be declaring candidacy for a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. Mr. Lee works with the university’s Joint Quantum Institute, conducting research in the areas of atomic physics, condensed matter, and quantum information. He is a contributing author to two large studies that the group published within the last year in the journals of Nature and Science.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Mr. Lee and his wife, Ada (Doi ’07), have announced the arrival of their third child and first son, Andrew Joseph McArthur, born in June.


Jon B, Syren ('87)In 1993, one year after one of its former medical students died of cancer, the University of Alaska Anchorage created an award in his honor. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of that award, named for Jon B. Syren, a member of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 1987.

The university website notes:

Jon Benedict Syren expected to graduate from the University of Washington School of Medicine in the Class of 1993. He began his medical training in Anchorage, Alaska, in the fall of 1989 as a member of the first class of WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) students enrolled in the Biomedical Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.…

Jon distinguished himself by earning honors in several categories of studies, both in Anchorage and Seattle. He is also remembered by those who knew him for his strong commitment to his family and his faith, and for his unflagging courage and equanimity in the face of personal adversity.

The Jon B. Syren Award recognizes a first-year medical student in the University of Alaska Anchorage WWAMI School of Medical Education who has demonstrated personal qualities of character, integrity, and compassion, combined with a commitment to and promise of community service in medicine.

Mr. Syren’s widow, Angela (Andersen ’87) Connelly is a member of the College’s Board of Governors. She has spoken eloquently about the blessing that accompanied her first husband’s holy death for those around him:

When Jon died, it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. I saw the effect that our education at the College had had on him. It was absolutely beautiful. And there was a ripple effect on the entire medical community and all that knew him and watched him suffer — in a way so beautifully, not dismayed or broken by it. His suffering was so faith-filled that it was just triumphant.

Twenty-one years later, Jon Syren’s life and death continue to touch lives. May he rest in peace.


Jonathan Doylend ('96)

It was a reunion of two Thomas Aquinas College classmates when Dr. Jonathan Doylend (’96), a postdoctoral researcher with the Optoelectronics Research Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently spoke before the Catholic Business and Professional Group in Reno, Nevada. The group’s president, attorney Jeremy McNeil (’96), had invited his onetime roommate to address members about the alleged contradiction between faith and modern science. Among Dr. Doylend’s remarks was the following observation about why the Christian is especially suited for the natural sciences:

“Rather than being unmotivated to uncover explanations of what he sees in nature, a scientist who is also a Christian has two motivations that a non-Christian might not have. Firstly: He is confident that sense can be made of the universe, since he attributes its design to an intelligent being. His inquiry, in other words, is inherently optimistic.

“Secondly: He knows that by uncovering the secrets of the universe, he is not discovering a world which is chaotic and inelegant, and thus lesser than himself. Rather he is delving into the designs of the ultimate intelligence, and thus learning indirectly about God Himself.”

Mr. Doylend is, notably, one of several Thomas Aquinas College alumni to speak before the Catholic Business and Professional Group, including Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94)


Blog Categories

Kathleen Murphy (’16) on integrated curriculum

“I think about the entire world differently since I have come here. I have learned certain truths, whether in the natural sciences or philosophy, that I never would have imagined I could know.”

– Kathleen Murphy (’16)

Cheshire, Connecticut

NEWS FROM THE COLLEGE

“The students that have had an opportunity to be part of the life of the College have been enriched by their experience in an environment conducive to achievement. Now in all walks of life, graduates of Thomas Aquinas College are contributing, by following a wide variety of pursuits, to the betterment of society.”

– Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino

President, Pontifical Council

for Justice and Peace