What years did you participate in UROP? 2013-2014

What made you choose UROP?

Coming to college, I had no idea what 'research' was or how it was conducted. I knew I liked science in high school, but I didn't really know how to turn those interests and talents into a career if I wasn’t interested in medical school. I chose UROP because it had a lot of flexibility, and it allowed me to get my foot in the door and interview with many different labs before picking the lab that was right for me.

What do you think you have learned from your UROP experience?

First and foremost, I learned a lot about the scientific process, proper experimental design, and many different bench skills that have been extremely valuable toward my career. UROP helped me to improve my skills in scientific communication and gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with faculty from many different disciplines. My only previous work experience was being a sales associate at TJMaxx, so I felt unprepared and intimidated by the UROP process at first, but UROP showed me that I had the ability to be a researcher, and that my skillset and input could be valuable in a laboratory environment.

What is the extent to which you have kept in contact with your Research Mentor?

My situation is very unique – I worked for my research mentor as a technician for three years following my UROP year. He was instrumental in my decision to go to graduate school, and now I am pursuing my PhD in the University of Michigan Department of Pharmacology – with my old research mentor as my PhD co-mentor!

How did your UROP experience shape or inform the next steps you took in your academic and professional journey?

UROP was instrumental in guiding the next steps of my career. UROP opened the door for me to multiple summer research experiences at the Mayo Clinic and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that I would never have been qualified enough or confident enough to pursue otherwise. Building a strong research background helped me be a competitive applicant when it came time to apply for graduate school.

Where are you in your professional journey?

I am currently a fifth year graduate student in the Pharmacology department. As I work on finishing my dissertation, I am applying to fellowships/jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. In the future, I hope to be able to build on my UROP and graduate school experiences to impact patient care through the development of new targeted therapies for the treatment of aggressive cancer.

What advice would you give to a current UROP student?

Join a lab where there is a strong mentorship structure – both with the PI and with your day-to-day research mentor. Even though its intimidating, consistent attendance at lab meetings/journal clubs, and meetings with the PI a few times a semester can help you better understand the context of the research you’re doing – even if you’re still learning how to do it. You will be more successful if you plan to block out chunks of time to commit to lab rather than just going in 1-2 hours at a time between classes, especially if you’re working in a biomedical research lab. Time management skills are critical to develop, if you haven’t already, so that you can be successful in the lab but also so you can succeed in your classes and have free time to pursue the hobbies and leisure activities that make you happy.

What are some recent publications or accomplishments that you are proud of?

I recently published my first, first author manuscript in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics with another graduate student in my lab, which lead to a Phase II clinical trial for patients with inflammatory breast cancer. Michigan has incredible translational research, and even for students who aren’t interested in medical school, your research has the ability to really impact patient care – which is something I never truly appreciated before. I was also able to publish both with my undergraduate mentors and some of my summer research mentors, and I am grateful that they appreciated my experimental contributions enough to help me take part in the writing and publication process.

Is there any other advice you would like to impart to current or future UROP students?

A lot of your experience depends on the lab you select, so take some time looking through all of the projects and make sure that you ask questions during the interviews that will really allow you to determine if that lab is a great fit for you. Don’t feel pressured to choose the first lab that accepts you! The research is great everywhere on campus, so make sure you’re in an environment with people that are there to support you and help you make the most of this experience. Of course you are there to learn and make a contribution to the lab, but you also want to work for someone that is invested in your growth and who will help you get to the next step in your career – whatever that may be. To be honest, I still remembering calling my mom after interviewing with one lab and telling her I knew, without a doubt, it was the lab I wanted to join. It can be intimidating to be the person in the lab with the least amount of experience, but before you know it you might be the one showing the next UROP students in the lab the ropes!