Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. -Albert Szent-Gyorgy
Approximately 8 weeks ago I was sitting in an airport in Hyderabad, India wondering how I was possibly going to catch up on a week’s worth of lab experience that I missed. I was worried that 7 weeks was not enough to get any data and that I might have just missed the most important week of the program. Well I sort of did, I missed a wonderful Opening breakfast and faculty talks. However, my first meeting with my mentor allowed me to understand the pace at which the rest of my summer would go as she set out the goals she has for my project. Considering I was still very jet lagged, all I heard was kinases, PfPK9, and Pf…something and phosphorylation. I had a feeling it had something to do with malaria considering this was the main research interest of the Derbyshire lab. I immediately realized that I eventually had no option but to read the folder of papers sitting in my inbox. This opened up a whole new perspective for me. On top of the daily lab work, reading the papers gave me insight to the way scientists think, perform experiments, and present their work. In some papers, I even felt their passion for research and especially treating malaria through their words.
After becoming fully engaged with the literature, the lab’s goals, and my own project, I hit my first stumbling block. For a whole week’s worth of work, none of my experiments worked. I questioned my competence but most of all, the process of science. It took a while to understand that I can allocate all these resources and time to an experiment and it is still very possible, in fact likely, that I will end the week at the same point in which I started. My fear came true, however, as this was the result for the remaining 7 weeks. Often times, it seemed like a tug of war where if I express PfPK9 well then somehow cleaving it would destroy the protein. Despite this, there were many small victories and these are what made my entire experience worth it. Being able to purify just a few more microliters than the week before, seeing cleaner and darker bands on a Western blot, getting the chromatography machine to work in order to batch-bind overnight, and laughing our way through the mistakes with my mentor.
I though BSURF would solidify and reaffirm my career choice. Though this would have been the ideal outcome, I am leaving BSURF with more questions than answers. I am more sure than ever that I want to pursue an MD degree but now I am faced with the knowledge that I enjoy asking questions and I can see myself entering the world of translational research. Dr. Lefkowitz said, we should look forward to not knowing where life will take us and that is what excites and motivates me.
I would like to thank Trinity College for funding my summer research experience, Dr. Grunwald and Jason for ensuring everything ran smoothly, my mentor, Amber Eubanks and the Derbyshire lab for being patient with me, and lastly my peers in the BSURF program.