In my experience, it’s not often you meet someone who works with poop regularly. So when I learned that Dr. Lawrence David studied the microbiome using human stool samples, I was immediately intrigued. But it wasn’t Dr. David’s research that made me choose to write this blog about him. Instead, I appreciated how honest and open he was about his career path.
I felt like Dr. David’s background on his undergraduate career was very relatable in some aspects. During his undergraduate studies as a Biomedical Engineering major at Columbia University, Dr. David was immersed in an environment where majority of his classmates had medical school on their minds. As a prospective biology major with no intention on going to medical school, taking courses alongside pre-med students is something I’m familiar with. With medical school off the table, I plan on going to graduate school. And unlike those who went to medical school, Dr. David decided to attend graduate school, which I think proved to be a great decision for him.
While working towards his PhD in Computational and Systems Biology at MIT, Dr. David studied the microbiome by tracking the bacteria active in the gut. From how he presented his experiences, it seemed like he finessed his mentor to fund his trip to Asia alongside his partner. Since he was eating meals different from meals in the US, this change was reflected in the bacterial activity in his gut, which he was able to track after collecting fecal samples throughout his trip. (And fortunately, he saved an image of his fridge full of samples as proof!)
Despite being a relatively young scientist, Dr. David’s talk was full of insight and helpful advice. He found that making short-term decisions worked out well for him, and what ultimately matters is whether you’re happy in the present moment, not whether you’ll be happy 10 years from now. A part of being happy is getting to know others while doing something fun. While it’s great to be passionate about your work and dedicate a lot of time to it, it’s just as important to have other hobbies and socialize with others in a non-professional environment.
One of the biggest takeaways from this talk was to do something unique. During your career, you may have some moments that could be weird. But based off of Dr. David’s experience, these weird moments can be monumental and influence how you continue progressing in your career. And even if things don’t turn out like you expect, at least you have unique memories along the way.