Throughout my eight weeks as a BSURFer, we had various faculty members present their research along with their inspiring stories about their journey to a faculty postition. An overall theme in each of their stories was the uncertainty about their path in life. Most of the professors had never thought about entering academia and a few had gone to medical school only to fall in love with research later. Of these faculty seminars, my favorite was Nutrition: the Human Microbiome (and me) by Dr. Lawrence David.
Dr. David’s research focuses on how dietary compounds stimulate growth and metabolism of gut microbes. Previous experiments explored the differences between high-fiber plant-based diets and low-carb animal-based diets through the analyzing of stool samples. Currently, his lab is investigating the most beneficial pre-biotic supplements to feed the microbes in a human gut. Since a large part of staying healthy and preventing disease in a majority of the population is based on diet, the experiments conducted in the David Lab are important for the overall health of the masses.
While his research was amazing to learn about, the advice portion of his presentation is what impacted me the most. He advised us to stay with our undergraduate lab for a long period of time, because good science can’t be done in just a semester. He also discussed his experience with graduate school because though he had some uncertainties at first, he realized that the experiments he was conducting made him happy and he enjoyed the process of scientific research. His final piece of advice was about knowing when to graduate. Once he finally felt like he knew what he was doing and became comfortable, his PI told him it was time to graduate. When he felt comfortable in his understanding of research, he stopped learning new things and stopped growing as a person, so it was time to take on a new adventure and learn something different. This constant sacrifice of intellectual comfort for new experiences is the difference between good and great, so I’ll be sure to carry that piece of advice with me through the rest of my journey in science.