Cell Biology Pre Grad Intern Jesse Luu
For the first half of my college career, I had no idea what I really wanted to do after graduating. My motives at the time for an education were based on a pre-existing notion of family expectations to pursue a career in a stable health profession. Much of these expectations were based on the decision that I needed to be financially stable and achieve the status of a doctor or a pharmacist or a dentist. I just wasn't happy with the direction I was going in since I had no interest, internally, of pursuing those things. I did enjoy going to the classes that were in the curriculum of the professional health track and the science-focused routes of these classes. I didn't have my epiphany of realizing that going into the research route was what I wanted until the summer where I was in a research lab. Research applied everything that we learn in these classes into a hands-on approach that utilized creativity and innovation rather than the "in the motion" style of achieving good grades to get into professional school, something I had been doing for so long. However, even with research, I wasn't expecting to pursue graduate school until my current graduate mentor led me to the IE experience.
The IE program and my research lab have opened my mind to the many possibilities that I can pursue. Before being introduced to IE, I was just doing research to have something on my resume for the professional schools to see. However, the more time I spent doing the research the more I wanted to change my career plans, but I just didn't know what I wanted to focus on. With the many conversations I had with my graduate mentor, he eventually recommended me to IE to give me insight into the possibility of graduate school. Going into IE, I had an idea of some of the possibilities I wanted to focus on. With the different meetings and my time in the lab, I eventually was able to narrow down what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go.
When I joined the Poenie lab, I knew I wanted to get experience in the field of immunology but didn't know where I wanted to go with it. I started the lab with learning the background information in immunology, focusing on the basics of the immune system and the cells and structures of that system. Most my first few times in lab was getting acquainted with the academic materials, the laboratory materials, safety procedures, certain chemicals, and some lab protocols. Come time for the first meeting, I was still in the ship where I didn't know what I wanted to do. The first meeting where we did introductions first got me to thinking a certain direction for my career. Being in the presence of other students that knew what they wanted to do, after talking to some of them before, during, and after the meeting, gave me some different insight on what I wanted to do. For some of the people I talked to, some of them were actually going back to school. Entering my senior year of my undergraduate career, I was scared of finding a job out of necessity and doing something that I didn't want to do for the rest of my life. Figuring out my uncertainties, the people I talked to gave me the advice of going out and finding a job that would interest me and gain experience that way. Also, the comfort that people had in choosing their careers showed me that I should pick something that interests and comforts me. This brought me to think about the things that interested me in school, the current research I was doing, and my past research experience. I had been very interested in organic chemistry and broad subject of biology. I really liked fabricating polymers from different chemical components, something I had done in my last lab. I also looked at something that has a big effect in my life, eczema, which is a skin disorder that affects me and millions of people every day. And there is no cure. At this moment, I decided what I wanted to do was to focus on was researching eczema and developing treatments/a cure for this bothersome disorder.
With more time in the lab, I have gained more experience in the experiments done in the lab. I have learned the process of Western Blotting, Immunostaining, and cell culturing, among the many things that I have learned. This has helped me operating many of the machines and techniques traditionally utilized in the science world. Much of the time has been with the aid of my mentor but now I am doing some of the procedures on my own without any aid. While I am not doing any independent research this semester, I am poised to begin my own independent research next semester. At the second meeting, I was grateful to hear the many wonderful experiences of the graduate students to get their own insight about what graduate school life is like. The talk gave me inspiration of wanting to go further into my own research interests and possibly pursue them for graduate school. I have looked into different researchers and graduate schools across the country for the purpose of aligning their interests with mine and to narrow down my decision if I do choose to attend. At this point, I want to get more experience in autoimmune diseases and therapeutics before I head out to graduate school. With the things that I have learned from my lab, I can now apply to many of the biotechnology and biomedical companies out there with some of the experience I seek. With the future experience that I envision, I will then be able to attend graduate school with a more complete set of skills to optimize my time with my own graduate research.
I am eternally grateful for my time in the lab and with IE this semester. It has taught me so many valuable lessons and skills in my pursuit. I am hoping to attend my conference in Philadelphia to get some insight on how others conduct their own research, which will help guide me when I conduct my own. I have been seeking jobs around the Austin area for when I graduate in the spring. Right now, I am focusing on getting a job in the bioengineering sector as a nanotechnologist for a startup founded by a UT professor. This job entails the bottom-up fabrication of polymers that will help my chemistry, biology, and therapeutics synthesis skills. This is part of the plan that will then help me pursue my passions and live a greater life.