Similar to me, Dr. Wray (my PI) grew up across the pond, a ways away from where he was originally from. After graduating from his high school in India, he already knew that he would follow a career in biology. Dr. Wray obtained his Md/PhD from Duke studying Sea Urchin development and transcriptional regulation. As a visual learner, he loved that you could watch as the transparent sea urchin embryo matures within a few weeks. After doing 2 postdocs on Australian Sea Urchins at various established institutions, Dr. Wray found himself back at Duke to lead his own lab and become a professor. He teamed up with Dr. Mclay, his former Sea Urchin mentor, and they both lead a cutting edge lab side by side, still supporting and learning from each other.
When asked about the most rewarding parts of his job, Dr. Wray said that the mentoring and teaching parts of his job are just as rewarding as the research he does at the bench. He mentioned that while mentoring others, you constantly have to learn and adapt to each of your mentees, because everyone requires different support – some people need structure, some people need help troubleshooting, and others may just want to bounce ideas back and forth. Even more rewarding to Dr. Wray was seeing his mentees go on to do amazing things, sometimes even surpassing him in his own accomplishments.
Even though Dr. Wray has stepped away from the bench and is doing more administrative responsibilities in his role at the moment, he hopes that in a few years’ time he will transition back to answering complex questions at the bench. When he started his work on sea urchin gene regulation, the basic lab tools and technology were just at their infancy. Genetics research has made leaps and bounds – such as the use of CRISPR and iPSCs – since he first started, and he is excited about the new questions he can ask and systems he can uncover.
When asked about his current job at Duke, Dr. Wray proudly revealed that he feels like he’s in his dream environment. Duke has a really special culture that is highly collaborative, filled with students and other professors who are eager to learn, discover, and make an impact at all levels. And with the medical school nearby, you can easily collaborate with doctors, a perfect match when focusing your research on helping others and saving lives.
I’ve learnt a great deal working in Dr. Wray’s lab these past few weeks. Not only is the research cutting edge, but the lab culture is collaborative, and the PI is involved and supportive; I look forward to everything I have to learn in the coming weeks. A special thanks to Dr. Wray for all the lessons – outside of Bio203L – he has taught me so far.