I first became interested in research by speaking with some students about their experiences in research labs. I then did some exploring online and found a wealth of amazing and intriguing research going on at Pitt and began reaching out to labs that I saw were looking for students or that just sounded interesting. I met my mentor by reaching out to him over email, and then setting up a zoom meeting to talk about opportunities in his lab. After some brief discussion about the different projects going on in the lab, I came in one day to visit, and got to meet the other students in the lab. Everyone was very welcoming, and the environment seemed conducive to learning. I was very excited by the ability to physically see and work with human brain tissue and see the anatomy I had learned about in my classes. My mentor’s lab is primarily based in neurodevelopment and places a heavy emphasis on understanding the anatomy of different critical brain regions and how they change throughout development. This was also appealing to me from a medical standpoint as I hope to go on to medical school and treat disorders of the nervous system.
My advice to any student looking to get involved in research would be to start thinking about your research goals and find areas of interest. Then look online to see which PIs are doing research in that field and reach out. Reach out to anyone who you might have an interest in, because you never know what kind of opportunity might be waiting! I’d recommend trying to set up a zoom or in person meeting with the professor or a student in the lab and get involved as quickly as you can. Even if that means just attending lab meetings or shadowing another student in the lab. It can seem scary but most people are friendly and eager to take on a student and share their knowledge with you!
Research has been incredibly helpful for me in working towards my professional goals. It has taught me how to get comfortable learning new skills, using complex equipment, and also how to think long term when planning an experiment or project. It has also taught me how to ask for help, because there is always a lot to learn. My research has pushed me to leave my comfort zone and get stuck, make mistakes, and learn from them. And it has the added bonus of improving my resume, allowing me to learn a lot more in depth about neuroanatomy and the brain, and helping me make connections between the classes I take and the future job I hope to work in.