What is an overall summary of your research experience?
My research experience under the Galen Magellan grant essentially covered the preliminary stage of my larger Magellan project. During this phase, I used Microsoft Excel to sort and filter enormous amounts of genetic data that pertained to a certain growth effect in the neurons we study, then conducted a large-scale database search on the genes I isolated. The purpose of doing this was simple; since we had received data on nearly 10,000 genes from a collaborator’s lab and wanted to shrink that list to approximately 100 genes, a substantial amount of screening needed to be done. Throughout the process, I worked with my mentor/principle investigator, a post-doctoral fellow in the lab, and a graduate student who was working on a similar project. The data we isolated laid the framework for the remainder of my project which will be completed over the course of this upcoming academic year.
What was the highpoint of the experience?
The highpoint of this experience was seeing my end-stage gene list come into fruition. Getting to see the concise product of hours of labor neatly put together in PowerPoint form in front of you is a very satisfying feeling. However, I did not reach this goal without my fair share of challenges. My mentor and post-doctoral fellow were both gone for long periods of time this summer, so I was left to do much of the work during this stage on my own. On top of that, research (and science as a whole) can be exceptionally frustrating sometimes; Murphy’s law is always in effect and dealing with its consequences gets discouraging at times, but that’s life and I had to learn how to adapt.
Did the experience increase your interest in research?
My experience in research thus far has both increased and decreased my interest in it as a field. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning portion of research and the satisfaction of generating usable data, the process has bordered on demoralizing at points. Granted, that is mostly due to the tedious nature of molecular biology research, but it has proven frustrating nonetheless. I would love to further pursue research in the future, but perhaps on a larger scale—for example, clinical trial or epidemiological research might prove to be more my speed.
Would you recommend the experience to other (first-year) students?
I would recommend research to any STEM major without a drop of hesitation. It is, by far, the best way to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to real-world problems and, with the right mentorship, can lead to incredible learning opportunities that simply cannot be found elsewhere. In addition, with a little bit of experience, the confidence inspired in a student via the autonomy he or she receives over time is immensely beneficial when faced with difficult academic situations further down the line. Lastly, it looks phenomenal on a resume and is an excellent way to get to know faculty on a personal level.
Do you foresee future plans in this line of research?
Neuroscience (and neurology as a whole) holds a special place in my heart for a litany of personal reasons. I would love to further pursue research in this field in the future, but not necessarily in my current capacity or specific discipline. As mentioned above, I would love to do research in this field on a larger level, such as clinical trial research or epidemiology.
Did the experience help you clarify future career/professional goals?
Research through the Magellan Galen program has given me a foray into what it means to truly be a scientist. My eyes have been opened to what career researchers do day in and day out, on top of showing me how complicated the research process is no matter the discipline. I’ve learned that publishing is not as easy as I once thought, attention to detail and analytical thinking are paramount to success, and that the only way to truly learn something forwards and backwards is by doing it. These lessons along the way have confirmed my love of science and everything that it yields; although I may not want to pursue research professionally, I have a newfound appreciation of it and the discoveries it brings.