I was interested in BSURF because I had never worked in a research lab before, and I was curious about what it was like. I learned some new benchwork techniques and I learned how to use several different machines. Although some parts were tedious, I was never completely bored. A lot of lab work requires vigilance, whether it’s making sure you pipette a certain amount of buffer into each well or making sure the printer does what you want it to do after you run the print program. And when things went wrong, it felt like a puzzle. A frustrating puzzle, yes, but an interesting one as you mentally replay what you did and try to pinpoint what could have gone wrong.
I learned that 90% of the time, experiments don’t run the way you wanted them to, the reagents you need won’t be delivered when you want them to be, and the lab will run out of dichloromethane just when you need it for your experiment. It is easy to get discouraged, and I think in those moments it’s important to remember why you do research. The breast cancer and MRSA D4 assay projects I’m working on can help to democratize access to healthcare in low-resource settings. These projects have the potential to impact many lives, and I’m excited to be a part of that. I can see why people choose a lifelong career in research.
I appreciated my experiences outside of the lab, too. Despite having been in Durham for all of freshman year, I rarely went beyond 9th Street. This summer, I got to simultaneously explore the Durham area and try not to melt in the heat. I tried new restaurants that I can’t wait to return to this fall, I went to the local farmers’ market, and I finally saw a game at the Durham Bulls baseball stadium. I made some new friends in the BSURF program that I don’t think I would’ve met outside this program, and I pretended to be an adult by making dinner for myself and going to bed before midnight.
I want to thank those who made this summer as fun as it was – particularly Dr. Grunwald, Anna, the faculty members and graduate students who spoke to us, and last but certainly not least, Dan and Jake, my mentors. I also want to thank everyone at the Chilkoti Lab who supported and helped me this summer. This post shares the same title as my first blog post because I truly do see the end of the program as a beginning of my adventures in research. I really liked being in a lab this summer, and while my ultimate career goal of increasing worldwide healthcare access hasn’t changed, how I get there might. There are career options that I haven’t considered before, like pursuing a Ph.D. or working in a lab in industry. I look forward to continuing on my adventures in research this fall and beyond.