It is hard to imagine that in the blink of an eye, the summer is nearly gone. Looking back at all the work I have done and the experiences I have gained during these weeks, I am truly grateful for the community and practical knowledge and experiences that the Health Sciences Research Fellowship has provided. Before the Health Sciences Research Fellowship, my experience as an independent researcher was largely limited. Since I joined my lab about a year ago, I had mostly been learning techniques and helping with various parts of other projects. Sometimes it was difficult to fit the pieces together because I learned tidbits of various isolated portions of projects. This summer, following through one aspect of a project from beginning to end, I have a much better idea of the research process, the obstacles that arise, and the adaptations that must take place to overcome these obstacles. For example, researchers must often modify protocols, re-do experiments, re-evaluate procedures and data, and make small directional changes in a project. While the overall project objective and purpose will not change, the path to the results is not straightforward but windy. It is important to stay flexible and curious, being able to adapt to unexpected results and the like.
Thanks to the diversity of research conducted among the members of my cohort, I was also exposed to just how varied research in the health sciences can entail. I find similarities between my research and others in terms of topics, research philosophy or purpose, or even methods, but there is also so much variety as well. This was the most valuable part of HSRF for me, being able to grow with various other student researchers in the health sciences and learn about their topics while recognizing how what they are doing are very much similar and different to what I am doing. The HSRF also brings together researchers from different grade levels, different academic and professional goals, and different backgrounds and experiences. It was also enlightening to learn about the paths that people in my cohort have walked to see what I can do as well.
Into my junior year, I plan to finish this project I am currently working on and continue assisting with other work and projects in my lab. I want to continue exploring my interests in research, recognizing how vast the field of health sciences research is. After my undergraduate years at Pitt, I plan to attend medical school to become a physician while continuing to conduct research.