In the weeks before the beginning of the program, I was really unsure of what was to come, since I had absolutely no research experience. I entered Duke with an extreme interest in researching genetics, though I’m majoring in BME/ECE, so my academic goals are a bit in contrast to my research goals. Although I spent a significant proportion of the summer growing increasingly worried about what I wanted to do with my life, I think I’ve begun to accept that it’s all right to still be uncertain. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the faculty seminars, it’s that scientists don’t always plan on being scientists, and people don’t always end up where they expect to end up. So, even if I’m still a bit worried and unsure of my future as I’m writing this last blog post, I’m definitely more open to the idea of approaching the remainder of my undergraduate career without the rest of my life supposedly set in stone.
Throughout this summer, I learned so much about the daily life of researchers, and I feel exponentially more comfortable in that type of academic environment. Even though I’m initially intimidated by everyone with a Ph.D., my mentors have been extremely supportive and I now know that I can rely on faculty for great advice in the future. Personally, I think I’ve grown a lot over the summer, as well. Other than the fact that I am becoming more skilled at handling plates without dropping them, I am significantly more capable of doing work independently than I was before this summer. Honestly, after having to run statistics of data from five different variables in R (a program I’ve never used before, with no programming experience other than MATLAB, and no college-level statistics class as of yet) with what initially seemed like a million different interactions I could examine, I’m a bit more confident in my ability to face challenges that come my way.
Even though I really enjoyed this exposure to research and my introduction to genetics research, I wouldn’t say I’ve had anymore clarity on what I should pursue in the future. While I still want to participate in undergraduate research and think research in genetics is a possibility for me in the years afterwards, I’m still in love with being an engineering major. For now, I think I’ll hold on to the dream of combining both my interests in genetics and engineering (maybe gene therapy?), but I really look forward to possibly continuing my involvement with the Donohue Lab, if my dense schedule permits. Thank you so much to everyone who made BSURF possible (including Dr. G and Jason!), because I was able to spend my summer involved in amazing research, learning more about Duke’s faculty and more about myself, and it has definitely made an impact on my life. I also enjoyed learning from all of the other fellows and what their experiences were from the summer (like when I recounted how I filled 2300 plates with agar, and Demi responded with “oh, I just have a plate pourer to do all that work for me.”)!