These identical twins launched research careers – as freshmen

Northeastern biology major Dillon Nishigaya, conducts cancer research in a Mugar lab. Nishigaya was inspired to student science after overcoming scoliosis.
Biology major Dillon Nishigaya conducts cancer research in a Northeastern lab. Nishigaya, an identical twin, was inspired to student science after overcoming scoliosis. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Three days after he started as an freshman in Greece last fall, Dillon Nishigaya approached a biology professor about research opportunities. One day later, he was contributing to a breast cancer project.

His identical twin, Dominic Nishigaya, has also been pursuing research as a Northeastern freshman in criminal justice. They are roommates on the Boston campus, supporting and pushing each other per their special relationship.

“It was a revelation for me that I would be getting involved in these things so soon,” says Dillon Nishigaya, who participated in ovarian cancer research after arriving at the Boston campus for spring semester.

He recently received a $1,500 Northeastern PEAK Ascent Award to continue his research this summer.

Dillon is especially driven by his own personal experience with medicine. He grew up with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine (an affliction that spared his brother), and at age 15 he decided to undergo a difficult surgical procedure.

“A lot of the time, when he’s having a hard time, I feel that,” Dominic says. “Back when we were younger, when he used to cry, I used to cry—just because he was crying. I definitely felt like I wished it was me in that chair going through that surgery.”

In his first game of club soccer after the surgery, Dillon scored two goals alongside his brother.

“My life has completely changed,” Dillon says. “I was able to walk straight. My performance has increased. My back doesn’t hurt and it’s amazing—I have two rods and 18 screws in my spine.”

One and a half years after the surgery, Dillon realized the pain was gone. His experiences inspired him to major in biology as a pre-med student with the goal of becoming a surgeon or pediatrician in order to help others as he has been helped.

“Ever since then, I’ve said I want to do that for other people,” Dillon says. “It definitely empowered me to get into the medical field, to do research, and to maybe one day become a doctor.”

He says Northeastern was the obvious choice for him and his brother, who are from San Jose, California.

“We always wanted to push each other,” Dillon says. “We’re best friends, and we just love trying to build ourselves and helping each other along that journey.”

Dillon (left) and his twin brother Dominic Nishigaya, a criminal justice major, have been roommates as freshmen at Northeastern. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Dominic, who spent his initial semester in London, has been researching patterns of labor violations in the agricultural industry, which can be related to human trafficking.

“I wanted to get involved here immediately,” Dominic says of his research efforts. “It’s incredible work and the team is spectacular.”

This summer, Dillon is serving as biology ambassador for a new research initiative for Northeastern undergraduates. He has seen his aspirations come full circle since his tour of the Boston campus a little more than a year ago.

“I was a prospective student and I visited the laboratory that I’m currently working in,” says Dillon, who operates from the Laboratory for Aging and Infertility Research (LAIR) . . “I saw the desk that I’m now sitting at. And I thought, ‘I have to come here, to get involved in this.’ It super inspired me.”

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