From the very beginning, my experience with the Brodsky lab has been a uniquely personal one. During the second semester of my freshman year, Dr. Brodsky presented a general overview of his research to my foundations of Biology II class as a guest speaker. While explaining his research involving diseases arising from abnormal protein degradation, he specifically emphasized Cystic Fibrosis as a primary example. As I have multiple family members currently battling Cystic Fibrosis, I became fascinated with the greater purpose of Dr. Brodsky’s research, and immediately knew I wanted to become a part of it. Afterward, I reached out to Dr. Brodsky and explained my desire to learn more about his research and possibly become involved. Much to my excitement, I was interviewed and subsequently given the incredible opportunity to begin working in the lab. After some time as a lab assistant, I was then matched to my lab mentor, Katie Nguyen, a graduate student in the Brodsky lab currently studying the Renal Outer Medullary Potassium protein (encoded for by the KCNJ1 gene) and its double faceted role in Bartter disease and hypertension. I found Katie’s project particularly appealing in terms of my personal goals in that it provided a direct avenue for me to contribute to science in a meaningful way and was applicable to human diseases similar to Cystic Fibrosis. Overall, I feel incredibly privileged to work alongside Katie with the ultimate goal of learning more about Bartter disease-associated mutations in ROMK.
The moral of the story is, based on my own positive experiences, I strongly encourage other students to actively seek out professors whose projects align with their personal research goals. My greatest hope is that young scientists like myself will take advantage of the many research opportunities available here at Pitt. I highly recommend starting the process by actively connecting with researchers whose project suits your individual passions. Especially with professional goals in the medical field, it is especially important to establish valuable connections within the scientific community. Moreover, once you are connected with a research project that fulfills your passions, be sure to put your best foot forward in mastering all of the new techniques. Although it can get overwhelming at times, prioritizing your research can be incredibly rewarding. Speaking as someone who had a very little scientific background before coming to Pitt, I can honestly say that taking on my research project has been one of my best decisions as it has pushed me to grow immensely as a scientist and future healthcare professional.
As an aspiring genetic counselor, my research on hereditary diseases at the molecular level almost perfectly aligns with my professional goals. Just recently, a genetic counselor reached out to Dr. Brodsky regarding a patient with Bartter disease type II. Coincidentally, the patient was born with a particular point mutation in the KCNJ1 gene that I had already been studying in the lab. Knowing this, I aim to focus my research on the patient’s mutant form of ROMK with the hope of uncovering the potential therapeutic strategies that could later be used as a personalized healthcare approach to treat disease. As a whole, situations like this one bring an entirely new significance to my research while also highlighting the relevance of my project to human health. Conclusively, becoming a researcher has helped me grow personally and professionally as I strive to meet my future career goals.