Life Missions: Accomplished – A Talk With My PI

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing my PI, Dr. Amanda Hargrove, last week. I remember walking into her office very nervous, as I had not been able to meet her yet, but quickly felt comfortable and found Dr. Hargrove to be easy to talk to.

Dr. Hargrove went to college at Trinity University in Texas. She grew up in Houston and wanted to stay near family for college, which I found to be a very endearing detail. She originally wanted to be a doctor, but had a research experience over one summer that changed her mind. She described how she felt that everyone has gifts, and she thought the best way to use hers to help society was be to become a researcher instead of a doctor. I really liked this particular ideology, because I also believe that every person has their own gift. The shift from doctor to scientist also resonated with me because I used to want to be a doctor all throughout middle and high school, but then fell in love with chemistry in my later high school years.

Dr. Hargrove then decided to go to graduate school at the University of Texas, where she continued her research and loved TAing. She then continued on to the California Institute of Technology for her post-doc in chemical biology. Finally, she got a faculty position at Duke where she has been since. Her goal at Duke was to build a lab with undergraduates and graduates students, where everyone feels supported. Based on my experience at her lab so far, I would say Dr. Hargrove has done a great job of accomplishing this goal.

Another goal Dr. Hargrove had was to be a good mother to her children, which she feels she has also accomplished. She described how she chose priorities throughout her life so that not only her research would thrive, but her family life as well. I really like and appreciate that Dr. Hargrove shared this with me, as I also find family to be one of my priorities in life. Hearing Dr. Hargrove share how she was able to accomplish both goals professionally and personally was really inspiring, as I definitely want that for my life in the future as well.

When asked what she didn’t like about science, Dr. Hargrove said she feels that science tends to focus on papers and grants instead of training good scientists or including all good ideas. She also doesn’t like how the people who get grants tend to be the people who have already received grants before, and it’s very hard for those that don’t start of well initially. I thought this was a very interesting answer, and unfortunately, this is true of lots of aspects of society.

On a lighter note, Dr. Hargrove said what she likes about science is discovering things no one knew before or even thought were possible. I share this opinion, as that is also my favorite part of science: the mysteries we have yet to solve. Her favorite part of the job is training students, and her most fun part of the job is helping students realize they discovered something new.

A funny story Dr. Hargrove shared with me was how one time she was working in a lab and she left behind a compound without putting it where it belonged. One of her labmates moved the compound and hid it from her to teach her a lesson about leaving things around. She was very upset when she got back to the lab and couldn’t find it. The funny thing is that when she finally got her compound back, it turns out she hadn’t even made the right compound she needed in the first place and she went through all that frustration for nothing!

All in all, I really enjoyed speaking with Dr. Hargrove. I feel as though I got to know her more on a personal level, and am very excited to keep working with her in the lab.

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