A Summer of Facing Fears

When I first got to Duke, the word “research” intimidated me. Research implies thinking out of the box and asking big questions. For me, it implies sitting in a brightly lit lab somewhere on Science Drive. But scariest of all (in my opinion), it implies me becoming a “researcher.” Being a researcher comes with a multitude of responsibilities and expectations: that I am knowledgeable, dependable, inquisitive, among other traits we all know well by now. They say the best way to get over a fear is to face it head-on, and this is what this summer is offering me. So the question remains, what do I expect of my summer with BSURF?

First and foremost, I expect to be challenged. I expect to learn things I wouldn’t have learned in your average biology course. I expect to ask and be asked hard questions. I hope to become more confident in myself and my modes of thinking. I expect to fail over and over again, but to remain persistent and hopeful through it all. Yet, if there’s one thing I’ve always known about myself, it’s that I love a challenge. I’ve been a lover of the sciences for as long as I can remember, and to see that excitement and enthusiasm finally get channeled into research is an extremely gratifying feeling. With that in mind, I hope to learn much more about molecular genetics, a field I’ve been interested in since high school, and to finally get involved in exploring new questions and ideas about this exciting field. Being able to now take on a project in my lab allows me to delve deeper into different modes of exploration, specifically by exploring a new type of model system I haven’t been exposed to yet–fruit flies! I am very fortunate to be spending the summer in Dr. Nina Sherwood’s lab, where they use Drosophila as a model to study the spastin gene and its role in neural development. That being said, another goal of mine, although not quite important (but a little ironic), is to stop being so squeamish around bugs (spoiler: two days into my lab and I can say this is becoming much less of a problem). Although I’m just working with what are arguably some of the least intimidating of all bugs, I’m taking baby steps! 

Now to address the first sentence of my post: “intimidated,” emphasis on the past tense. In talking not only with my PI but with other peers involved in research, as well as the pointers from Dr. Grunwald and Dr. Harrell, the anxiety I had around research has become adrenaline. However, that is not to say that I am 100% worry-free going into this experience. Nevertheless, I am beyond excited for my summer in the Sherwood lab, despite our short timeframe here at Duke. I can only hope to continue facing my fears head-on, and come out of this summer feeling fulfilled and proud of my work and my growth as a researcher.

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