“Grant writing requires a cappuccino. And ideas. But mostly the cappuccino.” This was the line that pushed me to join the Kohan Lab in the Fall of 2020, where I have been ever since. Throughout my early school years, I have always asked why and how to better explain the world around me and define concepts that seemed so foreign. As I grew older, this sentiment extended into understanding the purpose behind scientific research and the broader implications of its findings, motivating me to actively engage in it. I came into college with general interests in endocrinology and metabolism based on previous shadowing experiences in high school, but I did not fully know what I wanted to study. Perusing the list of faculty in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism as a freshman, I felt overwhelmed by the breadth of research focuses, but I was drawn to Dr. Alison Kohan’s website. The combination of clear explanations about chylomicrons and a genuine joy for science led me to join the lab and my current project of studying lipid transport.
Although joining a lab and getting involved in research may seem difficult at first, there is a wide range of opportunities—from taking a First Experiences in Research course to finding research assistant positions in the Pitt Talent Center—and faculty willing to support students in their scientific journey. My best advice to students looking to conduct research is to reach out to faculty and professors with interests that align with their own; even if you do not know what your interests are, talking to people who are currently doing research can help provide guidance. I also want to add that picking a mentor who will help you grow is an equally important part of choosing what research to do, especially if you have no experience. They will be there to support you each step of the way, from understanding the research question and background to learning specific techniques.
My project has continued to show me the breadth and potential of research, reaffirming my passion for science and the innate curiosity that first pushed me into the field. While I may not continue studying lipid transport in the intestines long-term, the critical thinking, resilience, and drive that I will foster from conducting this project will help me overcome future obstacles and become successful in my field. The lab techniques like mouse dissection, Folch lipid extraction, and thin-layer chromatography that I have learned will further serve as a foundation for me to develop new skills and thrive in any area of research.