A component of the BSURF program that sets it apart from just a summer research experience is the opportunity to hear interesting and informative talks given by Duke faculty members. All of them are PIs and were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to talk to us about their research and their career paths.
One talk that stood out to me was Dr. Silva’s. The Silva Lab studies the ubiquitin-proteasome system and its role in cellular oxidative stress response. I just learned about ubiquitin-proteasome system this past semester in Molecular Biology. We mostly focused on its role in keeping the cell healthy by degrading proteins. It was interesting to learn that this system also has a role in oxidative stress response and that there was a lot of nuance in the mechanisms of this system.
During his talk, Dr. Silva also gave us a lot of advice about what he learned in his journey to where he is now. He earned his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Sao Paolo. He then completed his postdoctoral training at New York University before coming to Duke. He had a lot of advice for us, especially if we were interested in a path that led to a career in academia. He told us what he wished he had known and considered when he was in our position. Some specific advice was about criteria to consider when applying to and choosing a graduate program. He emphasized the importance of connecting with the people you work with, whether that be as a mentor, a friend, or as part of the larger network of people you know in science.
All of the different faculty members’ journeys in science were very different from each other. They studied at different institutions, followed different timelines, and some even earned an M.D. in addition to a Ph.D. Despite none of their paths being the same, there was one unifying trait: they all absolutely love their research. When they talk about it, you can tell that it immediately excites them. I think when you find something that brings so much personal joy and fulfillment, you know that it is what you’re meant to be doing. I am grateful to these faculty members for sharing their joy and passion with us.