When I decided to make the microbiology major happen, I figured I should try my hand at research, just to see how it was. I had this idea that I wouldn't like it and that I was just doing my due diligence, trying every option in case I liked it after all. My first internship was close to home, in the J wing of the health sciences complex. I began working with Heather Felise, a research fellow, during winter quarter of my junior year assisting her with the data collection for a project she was doing with Salmonella typhimurium. She was testing small molecules crafted by a medical chemist to see if they would inhibit Type III secretion, a process critical in the causation salmonellosis. Heather was a fantastic, patient instructor. She taught me tricks about how to stay organized while inoculating many many Eppendorf tubes, how to keep a steady hand when loading gels, how to autoclave media and pour plates, and how to be a good lab assistant in general. Though I thought I was going to dislike research, I was interested in what we were working on, enjoyed the tasks I had to perform, and honestly wasn't as bored as I thought I would be. Heather's willingness to thoroughly explain the principles behind the project and to open up her work to my inexperienced hand was critical to the development of my research interests. I can only imagine how my life could have been different had she been more demanding or less understanding, or done anything to make me dislike research. Instead she was a nurturing mentor and a fabulous person to work with. I was sad when Heather left the UW to take a professorship at Moravian University, but also proud that she would be able to teach more students like myself how to love the microbial world.
After my internship with Heather ended, the professor who had recommended me for her lab found a new opening for me to apply to. I began working with a pathobiology PhD student, Maxwel Majiwa Omenda, in Julie Overbaugh's lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in November of my senior year. This is the research position that has afforded me one of the most practical, exciting, trying, and fun experiential learning opportunities of my entire undergraduate career. I have assisted Max for almost 2 years with cloning and data collection for his dissertation research on the role of neutralizing antibodies in mother to infant transmission of HIV. I have learned and practiced many of my tangible lab skills working in the Overbaugh lab and made lasting friendships and connections at the same time. I learned how to keep a lab notebook, how to troubleshoot protocols when they weren't working, how to give a lab meeting presentation, and how to be a helpful colleague. I felt like I was contributing to the field of scientific research, and was overjoyed to find out that I would be published as an author on one of the papers Max is writing about his research. My experience with Julie's lab has given me real-world skills that I can put on a resume and use to find a job after graduation. But more importantly, working in Julie's lab has helped me learn that though I really love research, it will not be the primary focus of my career. I don't think I'll abandon research entirely as my career as a physician develops, but through testing the waters firsthand, I have discovered that I would be happier mixing and matching patient care with research rather than focusing whole-heartedly on one or the other. You can find some of the work I produced while in Julie's lab under the Microbiology tab, in the course MICROM 496.