Rekindling Research: Looking Back at a Year of Growth and Realization

The dim flickering lights at the end of the hall and the clinking of slides ready to be imaged is all I remember from my high school research experience. It was a dull schedule from 6am-6pm trapped in a dark room sectioning and imaging in an endless cycle to prove to the world that I can find the answer to my research question.

From that experience, I took my newfound skills and an averse reaction to research. Still stubborn in my quest to learn more about the brain, I decided to join research labs at the University of Pittsburgh and to participate in research programs on campus. Then, I found my antidote to this grudge against research – the UHC Fellowship and CURF. Through these programs and the amazing mentorship of Dr. Brett Say and many others later mentioned, I started to rediscover my love of research and have committed to a career in research.

I first participated in the UHC Fellowship and under the guidance of Dr. Say and Dr. Ashutosh Jadhav, I found a nurturing environment that helped enlighten myself on research. Research is not just the wet lab – a long arduous process. It can be, in the case of Dr. Jadhav’s research, archival and secondary. This brief break from a physical lab allowed me to appreciate the beauty of research and rekindled my passion in discovering more about neuroscience. Furthermore, the UHC Fellowship introduced me to peers with a love for research, which further encouraged me.

After enjoying the UHC Fellowship, I wanted to gain more independence for my research and applied for the CURF in the Spring semester. Through the CURF, I led my own independent research project on the racial biases of medicine – a passion project I am still working on and hope to publish. This fellowship encouraged me to do that same critical thinking involved in research, but on my own. It allowed me to appreciate the complexity of research as my own principal investigator.

Around summer after sophomore year, my original mentor, Dr. Jadhav, had transferred to another hospital, so after multiple interviews and hours of reading research articles, I found my perfect match – the Sun Lab. The Sun Lab was a great transition back to research I initially enjoyed doing – physical lab work doing research on mechanisms and basic neuroscience. I joined the lab during COVID-19, so I was led to a new struggle – how can I participate in research while at home over 200 miles away? The answer was participating in image analysis and waiting for everything to work out.

However, my thirst for wet lab research was not quenched and with encouragement from Dr. David Fraser at the Honors College, I applied to the 2021 CNUP Summer Undergraduate Research Program. A mouthful to say, but the perfect way to get in-person research experience during COVID-19. During this 8-week summer program, I closely worked with Dr. Dandan Sun and was able to produce my own data and figures to present my work to my CNUP peers and mentors.

In a duration of a year, my disagreeable emotions towards research had transformed into a passion and interest for a lifelong commitment to learning and discovering. Without these opportunities, I doubt I would have thought my graduation plans would include a Ph.D.

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