Coming into college, I always knew I wanted to pursue research experiences. However, I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do. It can be overwhelming with the plethora of opportunities available and it’s hard to decide what you want to focus on. I found that when it comes to finding research opportunities, it helps to be open-minded. Infact, I did not think I would pursue computational biology research coming into college. But when I found this opportunity, I realized that I enjoyed this type of research a lot and it taught me a lot of skills I would not have learned elsewhere.
I came across the opportunity to do my CURF project through my Honors Foundations of Biology class. In class, I always enjoyed the biochemistry learning that we did, particularly the lectures looking at how chemical compounds from different amino acids in proteins interact with each other. I found it intriguing that these interactions could determine the structure and function of proteins, thereby changing how they exist in our body. I realized that this type of research has important biological and health implications in our society. I also enjoyed the way we learned about these interactions in class through using 3D models of proteins. When I was conversing with Dr. Swigonova about my interest in these models, she invited me to join her research project. I realized that this research was the perfect way to combine my interest in biochemistry and computational methods.
This unique learning opportunity has taught me that research can come in many different forms and our undergraduate career is the perfect time to explore the vast world of research. If someone wants to find research opportunities and does not know where to start, I would advise them to talk to the people around them and be open to new types of research experiences. I gained a lot of helpful insight from my peers and professors, and I would not have found this opportunity if I had not talked to my biology professor Dr. Swigonova. My professional goals are to pursue a career in research and healthcare through an MD or an MD-PHD. Learning how to do research is a great way for me to figure out if this pathway is the one I want to pursue. In addition, it gives me the fundamental skills I will need to be successful in this type of career.
This is a digital model of Beta Galactosidase that I have developed, this is a protein involved in the lac operon. In this model, the ligand (galactose) and amino acid side chains that interact with the ligand are shown.