Becoming a Researcher: Handling a Steep Learning Curve

Due to COVID-related logistical issues, I have only recently been allowed to physically conduct work in the lab. However, in my first couple of weeks at the Geller Lab I have been able to learn a great deal. One great aspect of being new to almost everything I am seeing is that the learning never really stops. I could turn in any direction and point at something that I will have to learn as time goes on. There are procedures to carry out, people to meet, machines to operate, and medias to make.

One of the reasons that the learning curve has been enjoyable has been the support system I have around me. My Principal Investigator is Dr. Samer Tohme. My mentor is Dr. Hamza Yazdani. Dr. Tohme and Dr. Yazdani have been extremely helpful in allowing me to understand the macro-level details of why we are doing what we are doing. I also receive an incredible amount of help from Kristen Morder, the laboratory technician in the Geller Lab. She has allowed to watch every procedure she has done for the better part of the last two weeks. Not only does she have to worry about wearing many hats at once, she also has me in her ear constantly asking questions. I really appreciate how detailed and thorough her answers are and try to make sure the quality of question I ask reflects that.

While I believe watching and taking notes has been extremely useful, nothing has been more helpful than being able to begin doing certain parts of procedures. Physically doing things has very much fast-tracked my learning. That’s one thing I am very grateful to my mentor for, allowing me to learn hands-on.

I found my mentor through my interest in the Geller Lab. I was delegated to his project upon being accepted to work in the lab. There are many things that appeal to me about the research being done. If I had to choose one it would be the fact that I get to learn and assist in transplant research at a place that is world-renowned for its contributions in that area.

To find mentors, I would simply recommend that other students email mentors who are doing things that interest you. Try not to get discouraged if you do not have initial success in the process.

The biggest uncertainty I had when starting the project was doing things correctly. At the end of the day the only thing you can do is prepare and try to execute to the best of your ability. Mistakes will happen, while costly they are part of the process. The key is not committing the same mistake twice.

Lastly, I am a strong believer that relationships are an absolutely essential part of anything you are doing. While there is much I do not know about the field, I am entirely sure that being able to work with the people I work with is an incredible benefit to me professionally and personally.

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