My mentor–Connor — is from North Carolina and is about to finish his final year at Duke. He plans on majoring in biology with a minor in neuroscience. According to him, his interest in these two fields began when he first took an introductory neuroscience class during the fall of his freshman year. At this time, he was in the Pratt School of Engineering pursuing a major in environmental engineering. While he did like engineering, he knew that he also had an interest in the intersections of biology and neuroscience. After taking a medical leave for six months, he returned back to Duke and transferred to the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, where he sought out to study this intersection. He credits his medical leave as a major factor in deciding to pursue a career in medicine.
While Connor is pre-med, he plans to take a gap year to potentially work in the research field as a lab manager. Other possible plans he has thought to pursue are temporary careers in technical work, medical scribing, and in general, pursuing activities to strengthen clinical experience. When I asked Connor what piqued his interest in getting involved in research, he expressed his desire to examine the quantitative aspects of biology and neuroscience– engaging in quantitative research experiments to answer and even create questions. He didn’t want to just read about research experiments in the textbook- he wanted to see and to even conduct research that was related to neuroscience and biology. So, Connor emailed professors and interviewed with my current PI, Dr. Calakos, and was interested in the way she conducted the interview–she asked questions that would challenge his scientific mind and cause him to think in a different way. Once he was comfortable working in the lab, he then started taking on independent projects.
During our interview, Connor also elaborated a bit on his first research experience, any lab disasters the has had so far in his research experience, as well as any accomplishments he is proud of. His first academic research experience was during the pre-orientation Project Search. During the program, students learn valuable lab techniques by doing the labs from Duke’s molecular biology class. Similar to BSURF, students listen to faculty talks and participate in Intro to Science Seminars. So far, Connor has not had any major lab disasters, but he says that he sometimes falls into autopilot mode when doing tedious benchwork, especially during a western blot analysis and pipetting samples. Finally, in terms of accomplishments, Connor is most proud of his ability to take on independent projects in a lab as an undergraduate and working on things that no one else in the lab is doing, as well as “pioneering the way” for certain experimental protocols.