My fascination with research began in high school when I used to work with Duckweed to study their genome to human genome and identify conserved sequences. I was able to continue working with Duckweed at Dr. Martin Turcotte’s lab in the Pitt biological sciences department only this time I focused on the Ecology and Evolution side as well as Microbiology aspects of duckweed growth. I was fortunate enough to work with Dr. Turcotte over the summer with a fellowship I had received my freshman year summer which allowed me to understand under what conditions certain species could grow which would make collecting samples easier for my lab. During the summer fellowship I also shadowed a physician at UPMC Shadyside within the Emergency department where I would frequently notice that an abundance of cases was heart failure related. It’s at this time when I learnt how heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) lacked viable treatment options for patients leaving them with fluid building up in their lungs and having to seek emergency medical aid. My curiosity drove me to Dr. Guy Salama’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School where I learnt about why there were no treatment options for these patients. From what I had learnt in Dr. Salama’s lab I was fortunate to receive another summer fellowship with UPMC Children’s Hospital where I joined Dr. Anita Saraf’s lab. Dr. Saraf is an adult congenital heart specialist who sees unique patients and many times would allow me to shadow her in clinic to gain a better understanding of the vast realm of adult congenital heart disorders. The research we do in the lab is extremely novel and often works around a system which there is very little information around which can be frustrating at times, but I have loved working with Dr. Saraf. She is extremely hands on and very easy to communicate with and has taught me many things, from simpler data analysis and presentation techniques to more complex molecular biology techniques as well.
For students who are new to Pitt I would recommend reaching out to your professors as they often know the various types of research going on in the department and can help put you in contact with research faculty. There are also other programs you can take advantage of such as First experiences in research which will also place you into a research lab based on your interests.
My time spent at Pitt doing research has helped me acquire skills such as how to appropriately acquire and present data as well as analyze scientific papers. Both skills I believe will be useful to me as an aspiring physician as its essential to stay on top of the current research being done within my field so that I can provide the best possible care for my patients. I also think doing research in undergrad brings in an aspect of time management as well as organization which are crucial skills to learn. When you are part of a lab you are held accountable for your projects which gives you responsibility at a smaller level allowing you to grow and mature so that by the time you graduate you are ready to take on more.