Many academic journeys begin with an obligatory step, a prerequisite to realizing a dream. My journey as a researcher began similarly. I came into college my freshman year as a pre-med student who was informed that gaining research experience in your undergraduate career is essential to attain your dream of medical school.
The turning point came when I started reaching out to research labs seeking open undergraduate positions with the guidance of Dr. Brett Say from the University’s Honors College. To prepare for these inquiries, I skimmed numerous research papers published by the respective labs. One paper published by Dr. Anthony Kline and his preclinical traumatic brain injury (TBI) lab, caught my attention. This paper delved into the intriguing idea that chronic unpredictable stress during the formative teenage years could mitigate the severity of cognitive deficits following TBI. Reading that paper marked the awe-inspiring first step of my research journey, as I was fascinated by the confluence of juxtaposed ideas, realizing the vast scope of research projects. Fortunately, I received a positive response from Dr. Kline’s lab, which marked the beginning of my research journey.
To aspiring students who may be hesitant or uncertain about where to initiate their research quests, my advice is simple: reach out. As students at the University of Pittsburgh, we have the advantage of a vast affiliated hospital system and receptive faculty members. There is a lot of valuable research being conducted here, and the initial step of reaching out to labs can result in one or more affirmative responses from labs engaging in work that genuinely interests you. To find suitable labs, major-specific websites often feature faculty lists and brief descriptions of their research. Furthermore, your professors may have connections with labs or colleagues they can recommend.
Beyond the practical application of classroom knowledge, research has taught me a crucial lesson in patience. This patience extends to the process of conducting tests, awaiting results, and witnessing the culmination of a study over a semester. It’s a lesson I consider invaluable, one that will accompany me through undergraduate studies into medical school and, ultimately, into a medical career where patience is a virtue, as improvements in patient care are rarely immediate.
In conclusion, my research journey, born of obligation, evolved into fascination. This journey teaches the value of persistence and patience in research and fosters valuable skills and lessons that extend far beyond the bounds of the laboratory, serving as a cornerstone for success in medical school and beyond.