I’ve had an amazing experience this summer in the B-SURF program. Before starting my research, I knew it would be an eye-opening experience one way or another, but I am ultimately still surprised by how much knowledge I’ve gained this summer, whether it’s in the form of lab techniques, C. elegans and genetics terminology, or simply communicating my work to both my peers and members of my lab. I’ve also discovered new things about myself that I wouldn’t have expected otherwise: for one, I enjoy working with worms more than I thought I would, and I also enjoy working with my hands. I was never really one for hands-on application of concepts from the classroom in high school, but I found myself enjoying it immensely in the lab as I did tasks like helping my mentor begin the process of setting up crosses and thinking of what sorts of genotypes the offspring would have based on Mendelian genetics.
Seeing myself improve so rapidly over the course of several weeks in regards to bench work, reading papers, communicating with my mentors, etc. was immensely gratifying. Although I entered this summer worried about how quickly I would (or would not) gain independence from my mentor, I became increasingly able to carry my own weight in the lab. After a few weeks, I felt like I had finally contributed information of worth to the projects I worked on and my lab in general. Consequently, I felt more and more integrated as a proper member of my lab both intellectually and socially as I became more independent, which greatly contributed to my overall enjoyment of my experience over time.
Something that has never failed to surprise me this summer is thinking about how truly little I know about biology and research, even with all of my improvements over time put into consideration. Compared to the other members of my lab, who have been there for years, I still know barely anything about C. elegans. Thus, every week brings with it novel experiences where I encounter new problems or new techniques and concepts that I have to ask many questions about before I can begin processing the new information. There is a steady learning curve for everything, including physical bench work, communicating with other lab members, scientific concepts and techniques, and so on. Although it has been difficult to constantly be subjected to new ideas or problems just as I began to feel comfortable, it also made my experience in the lab much more exciting and made me really start to try and think like a scientist.
As much as I enjoyed research, however, I’m not entirely sure if I’d like to pursue it as a career just yet, though I know that I’ll definitely be immersing myself in research over the course of my undergraduate studies at the very least. Even if I ultimately choose not to continue doing research in the long run, I’ll carry with me a great appreciation for scientists and all of their hard work for the rest of my life after experiencing research first-hand. Ridiculously cheesy as this is, the end is only the beginning, after all.
Thank you to Becky Kaplan and Dr. Ryan Baugh for being wonderful mentors this summer, and thank you to Dr. Ron Grunwald and Jason Long as well for organizing this program. I wish all the other B-SURF fellows good luck for whatever they may be pursuing in the future, research or otherwise, and I hope all of you have a great rest of the summer!