My PI, Dr. Chilkoti, was introduced to research and science in general a bit differently than others: through necessity. He grew up in India, and after high school he didn’t have many options for higher education. He entered college and began studying engineering, but he found himself lacking passion or interest in his studies. He also worked towards an MBA, which he thought was even more disinteresting, and found business to be “bogus” to him. In the end, he decided he wanted to explore more options, but most importantly outside of India.
Dr. Chilkoti set his sights on the US as the best place to find better opportunities, but he was struggling to find the funds for such a move. He only had enough money for a plane ticket, and so he began searching for other ways to afford living in the US. He was able to find and apply for a PhD program that would pay for his living expenses, and he was accepted to work on his own project. Because of the program, he was able to move out of India and work on his own terms, which he preferred much more over working for a business. He enjoyed exploring hypotheses and asking difficult questions, and in the end began to work towards a postdoc.
Around this time, he changed his focus to molecular biology, and that was when he believed he found his passion. He enjoyed his work and continued to studying molecular biology at his job at Duke, where he is currently working on the study of proteins for drug delivery. His favorite part about his job is having the chance to discover new aspects of molecular biology and combine them with engineering to further improve the scientific field.
In the end, I asked Dr. Chilkoti if he had any advice for someone beginning their search for a career. Staying true to his story, he told me to “follow my passion,” and never try to choose a career based solely on money or stability. No matter what path you choose, Dr. Chilkoti suggests “if you are excited, you will do well.” Speaking with Dr. Chilkoti was a great experience, and I look forward to continue researching in his lab this summer.