While looking through Pitt Commons, I was excited to see how many alumni of the Brackenridge Fellowship (as well as Pitt alumni in general) are willing to support and serve as a role model for current students. It made me realize just how tight knit and supportive the Pitt community is! Someone who stood out to me was a current medical school student, and I was interested to see what led him in that path and what advice he has to offer. Knowing that he is a Brackenridge and Pitt alumni, I also wanted to reach out to see how his experiences in undergraduate research shaped his role not only as a medical student, but also as a future physician. He almost immediately responded to me reaching out, and I am excited to connect with him further.
I started doing research at a university in my hometown going into my sophomore year. As much as I loved the lab and the experience, I was missing out on a longstanding research project that I could work on for more than just a summer at a time, as well as valuable connections at school. I started out by talking to my academic advisor to help go over my resume, and how to reach out to various PIs to see if I could work in their lab. While searching for labs, I came across Dr. Bernstein, and was immediately interested in her work in DNA repair, especially after I had just taken genetics. Along with other labs I was interested in, I emailed Dr. Bernstein, and we met in person where we talked about her work and she introduced me to the rest of the lab. The lab as a whole has a really great community, and everyone was so supportive to one another. I knew that Dr. Bernstein and others in the lab would help me through this process, and that I would be able to learn a lot from them. My advice to other students looking to connect with research mentors is to just go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that they say “no” (which I had plenty of when trying to find a lab). There are also a lot of great programs that Pitt offers (such as First Experiences in Research) to kickstart building a network.
What is interesting about building a network is that a lot of it happens naturally. I am not from the Pittsburgh area, so coming as an out-of-state student I felt as though I was at a disadvantage because I had to in a sense start from scratch to build my network. Despite this, I was able to build a network quite quickly- through my professors, academic advisors, and extracurricular activities; I was able to meet lots of people who have all helped guide me towards success. I would like to make more connections in the medical field, as I am looking to apply to medical school next cycle. I would love to have some guidance and feedback on the application process, and how to have a successful career in medicine. I think it is also important to hear about other people’s journeys through medicine, as no two paths towards a career goal are the same. By having connections in multiple fields and areas of interest, I think it makes your journey a lot more personalized and unique to your own interests.