Where Are They Now? – Paul W. Rothlauf

My name is Paul W. Rothlauf, and I was an honorable-mention recipient of 2013 NJCTS Children’s Scholarship Award. Since receiving this award, I attended Rowan University and graduated summa cum laude in 2017 with Bachelor of Science degrees in both Biological Science and Biochemistry, a minor in Chemistry, and a concentration in Honors Studies. Aside from my studies, working in a molecular biology laboratory, teaching swimming lessons to children, and doing an internship as an Amgen Scholar at Harvard University, I participated and held leadership positions in several clubs at Rowan, with my favorites including Colleges Against Cancer (organized Rowan’s Relay for Life event) and Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere (traveled to Tanzania to provide medical support and education to individuals in remote villages). I’m also a proud recipient of the Excellence in Biological Sciences Medallion.

After college I enrolled in the PhD Program in Virology at Harvard University, was awarded an NIH grant to study the molecular mechanisms that emerging viruses employ to enter host cells, and received my doctorate degree in 2023. While pursuing my PhD at Harvard, I tutored other students, volunteered to teach biology skills to high school and college students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in STEM, and mentored members of the laboratory. I’m currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where I study the basic biology of neglected and emerging viruses with the goal of contributing to the development of therapeutics and vaccines targeting these viruses. With the help of my brilliant colleagues, I’ve published over 20 articles in major scientific journals and am an inventor on a patent. My career goal is to one day lead an academic virology laboratory at a major university with the goal of creating a more inclusive environment for individuals who have disabilities that might negatively impact their ability to achieve success as scientists.

In 2022 I married my beautiful, intelligent, and compassionate wife, Julia, who received her MD from Harvard Medical School and is currently employed as a resident at Duke University. Together we enjoy hiking with our 2 black lab puppies, spending time with family, and being active. My hobbies include spending time outdoors, swimming, writing and playing music, reading, and playing sports. Of everything I have in life, the things that I’m most proud of are the relationships I have with the members of my family.

Receiving the NJCTS award 11 years ago was a pivotal moment in my life. While the award financially contributed to my ability to pursue higher education, the most significant impact the award had was the confidence that it instilled in me. Before NJCTS published a short article highlighting my achievements and announcing that I had won the honorable-mention award, very few people knew that I had Tourette Syndrome. After the article was published and it became public knowledge that I had Tourette’s, I stopped trying to hide it and instead embraced it, which was exceptionally freeing. While at times Tourette’s makes life (performing mundane tasks), work (needing to be very still while performing experiments), and relationships (peacefully holding my wife’s hand) difficult and embarrassing, it’s also fundamentally part of who I am. Over the years this disorder has taught me to become more understanding, patient, and accepting of myself, as well as of others. While this sentiment might not be held by all, I’m proud to have Tourette’s. I am who I am because of my Tourette’s, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I can only hope that my efforts in life will help others gain acceptance of who they are, as well as feel like they have everything they need to achieve their life goals. NJCTS helped me to accept myself and pursue higher education, which allowed me to get to where I am today, and now I aim to pay that forward.

To celebrate 20 years of NJCTS we will be showcasing 20 stories of adults with TS who were once involved in the organization and now all grown up! Stay tuned as we share all of these incredible and successful stories!