The past eight weeks in the BSURF program have truly been amazing. My time in the program and in the Brennan Lab has exceeded all my expectations coming into this summer. I remember that some of my most important goals coming into this summer was getting a better idea of what I wanted to study, do meaningful research, to build a bigger network, and lastly to bond with other students in the program. Although eight weeks is still a relatively short amount of time, I felt that I truly got to take great strides in these regards, if not successfully complete them.
Tackling the idea of figuring out what I wanted to study was something that was made more clear to me through my own research and also the guidance of my mentor and guest speakers. I’ve always felt that a lot of things in science were interesting and that if I set my mind on any one subject, I would eventually be passionate in it. During this summer, with the abundance of guest speakers, I sort of got to test that theory out. Listening to speakers investigating a wide range of sciences allowed me to get a better idea of what I wanted to study. I found that while certain topics of science were interesting, they didn’t quite align with the way my curiosity was urging me to investigate. Growing up, I had always been a visually learner. If I could see it happening and see the moving pieces of why it was happening, that helped me better understand a certain idea. This exact concept was practiced upon in the lab I worked on this summer. X-ray crystallography in the Brennan Lab was an interesting concept that while I had heard of, never had the chance to deeply explore until now. Working to build structures of protein and seeing how certain sites interacted with other molecules was really fascinating. And while my research this summer was attempting to progress towards possibly solving a structure, building from the very base of expression, this type of thinking gave me an idea of what I wanted to study in the near future: attempting to build structures and models of proteins and see how they interact with other molecules. This curiosity also steers my courses towards a more biochemistry focused schedule, somewhat clearing up my dilemma of what to study. I also still do believe that a scientist will go through many phases of wanting to learn about many different things, leaving the future with exciting possibilities.
I came into this summer unsure exactly what “meaningful research” meant. From an outside perspective, it seemed that all meaningful research had to be groundbreaking or on a “hot” topic. This summer has completely changed what I define as meaningful research. I’m sure this definition will change many times as my career evolves but currently meaningful research to me is simply research that allows me to deeply learn about a topic I find interesting. Hands-on work and visual work has always been a dimension of learning that I haven’t been able to experience outside the classroom, so through this summer my work has certainly been meaningful. Further, I will also add that working towards a larger goal, in this case solving a protein structure, certainly brings meaning in my own mind. Being able to possibly contribute knowledge to other and also learn to myself is definitely meaningful to me.
The variety of individuals in science I have met this summer has truly expanded my perspective and also my network. Even a simple conversation or listening to a new speaker allowed me to get an idea how different scientist think and approach their work. Throughout this program an emphasis has been put on communicating work and that ties directly into interacting with other scientists. The amount of researchers at Duke I have met this summer as definitely given me a better idea and perspective of the landscape of research as a whole here at Duke.
Finally, this summer has allowed me to build friendships with other students in the program. With everybody doing challenging research, getting lost in literature papers and being overwhelmed by lab protocols has definitely humorously brought us all closer together. This is possibly the most rewarding part of this summer as these friendships were certainly last as all of us continue our time at Duke.
I’d personally like to thank Dr. Brennan for allowing me to work in his lab this summer. It has been a wonderful experience and I am very much excited to continue working next semester. I’d also like to thank Grace for her mentorship and her patience to help me throughout my learning process. In addition, I’d like to thank all the members of the Brennan Lab for creating a friendly and learning environment and also for helping me whenever I asked a question. Dr. Grunwald and Jason were also crucial to my growth and experience this summer and I would like to thank them for their time and sacrifices.
And for the last time,
Thanks for reading!