When I first applied to BSURF, I had no idea what to expect. I had no experience working in a research lab, and the thought of dedicating my entire summer to it seemed daunting, to say the least. I felt thoroughly unprepared for what was to come (and that feeling probably carried on with me until Week 3). But as the program started and I began immersing myself more in it, my fears were replaced with enjoyment. I am confident to say that these past couple of weeks have been amazing, and I would not have wanted to do anything else with my time.
From technical laboratory skills to presentations of research, the program has allowed me to learn a lot on my path to becoming a scientist. Under the guidance of supportive mentors, I have gained skills like learning how to run an ITC or plating yeast colonies. Besides technical skills, working in a lab this summer has taught me several life skills as well. The most important one is patience. Sitting for hours on end, waiting for a centrifuge to spin a sample down to a desired volume is a boring task for anyone. Having to do that for every single protein purification made me realize the importance of being patient in science. Results or methods do not appear or finish immediately. Yes, I had to wait more than 6 hours for it to get to the desired volume, but hey, it ended up being worth it as my purifications were successful. Another valuable life skill that I learned was accepting failures. For the past 6 weeks, the data that I was getting from the ITC (calorimetry) instrument was not usable. Sharp changes in a baseline that should be flat, small differences in values between the blank and sample runs, and overnight equilibration that resulted in no run were some of the setbacks I experienced when using the instrument. While I was not able to get the data I needed to get this summer (I’ll try again during the year!), each setback allowed me to learn more about potential problems in our method and potential solutions. Under the guidance of one of my grad students, we were able to fix some problems and have been able to get it to somewhat work recently. Finally, I think this experience has given me direction. I was not 100% sure about wanting to work in a lab in the future, but after this experience, I have realized that research is for me. Whether in industry or academia, I want to continue on my path to become a scientist. This summer was a rigorous, but enjoyable experience that reinforced my goals of being a scientist.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of disappointments (but productive ones!), discoveries, and delights. I am sad that the experience is over, but I feel like I have a lot more direction on what I want to do in the future thanks to the program. So while this summer is ending, my time in research is only beginning.