With the Health Sciences Research Fellowship coming to an end, I am proud looking back on the work I have accomplished in lab this summer. The experience has broadened my perspective on research and provided me the opportunity of devoting more of my time to being in the lab. Given the constraints of the school year with classes and other extracurriculars, I do not get the chance to perform experiments from start to finish. This summer, I was able to completely immerse myself in the work by doing every part of the experiment, analyzing the data, and staying up to date with new literature. My understanding of research has also changed. Before, seeing how my post doc conducted experiments, the procedures seemed simpler and more straightforward. Once I sat down to do it myself, I quickly realized that mastering these techniques requires lots of patience and time. Simple mistakes such as using the wrong buffer, forgetting to add a reagent, or the experiment just not working can feel like huge setbacks. However, my mentors were supportive and encouraging to keep trying again. With improvement each day, it is incredibly rewarding when you get it right and can begin to ask new questions with the data you collected. As a result, developing a greater understanding and resilience with research was the most valuable experience of HSRF.
In addition to dedicating more time to improving my technique, the fellowship has provided the opportunity to learn more about academia, how research is funded, and ethical considerations for breakthroughs enabled by research. A memorable workshop was discussing Jonas Salk’s development of the polio vaccine and who technically owned the vaccine. Salk released it for the public, but some researchers would not have. This sparked an interesting conversation about whether the public or institutions own the research being done.
I am eager to incorporate the skills and lessons I have learned from this summer to my research in the future. In this upcoming school year, I will continue working in the lab and plan to write an article on my project. In addition, I want to explore more areas of interdisciplinary research such as looking at the intersection of socioeconomic factors and healthcare related to autoimmune diseases. This aligns with my goal as a physician to address healthcare disparities and create a more inclusive environment for diverse communities. After graduating, I plan to attend medical school and continue conducting research that contributes to developing novel immunotherapies.