Biology (Molecular Biology Pre-Grad Intern) Sophomore
Justin Jefferson

Read Justin's op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and in the Austin American-Statesman

Watch a Video Clip of Justin from UT's Gone To Texas

Watch Justin's Commencement Speech

Justin JeffersonEnrolling in the Pre-Graduate School Internship has been very beneficial to my decision on whether or not I will be attending graduate school. There were many truths that I found about graduate school. I strongly recommend this program to any person considering going to graduate school. In this program, the truths about graduate school were brought to light, and I mean everything from financial to social issues. I was paired with a great mentor, Deena Walker, and she gave me great insight on what graduate school would be like.

Deena does research in a neurobiology lab, and is currently researching the progression of puberty and reproduction in rats. I was paired with Deena, because we were both compatible in the natural sciences. I actually started off hoping to find a lab to work in so I could obtain some lab experience, but instead I ended up in the Pre-Graduate School Internship. Well I was not officially a member of the lab even when I shadowed Deena's work. She taught me many different lab techniques. Deena recommended me to Dr. Gore who is over the lab, and as of next semester I will be an official member of the lab. This is one of the most compelling characteristics I like about the program, which is me being able to establish networks and communications with other undergraduate students, graduate students, and professors. So, through the program I was still able to accomplish my goal which was to join a lab. I honestly believe the Pre-Graduate School Internship is "what you make it." It has a universal purpose, which is to help you get out into the graduate and professional world.

As far as what I contributed to the lab as a volunteer was reliability and eagerness. I did everything that was asked of me and made a great impression on Dr. Gore. Some roles I had in the lab were: handling the rats (to get them use to human contact), practice dissections of the rats, and help out with organizing the lab equipment. The reason the rats have to be use to human contact is because it can possibly upset the hormones in the rats' brains, which are needed for the research project. The rats are beheaded and their brain tissues are analyzed. The rats' gonads are removed as well, which includes the uterus and ovaries, to be analyzed. Since I was handy at these surgeries, I was assigned to this job when I come back in the spring. This will be my role in the lab next semester, and since I am a pre-medical student, this will actually look great on my application for medical school. Although, medical school does not always happen for everyone, which is a reality that I am prepared for, I will definitely attend graduate school and continue research. I see myself in a "win-win" situation. Only positive things have come out of this program.

Working alongside my graduate mentor, I learned that graduate school is for people who are serious about continuing their education. She explained to me that she worked for a few years after undergraduate school and that she made decent money, but she did not want to continue doing that job for the rest of her life. Then she informed me that she took a big pay cut going into graduate school, but she did not mind because she was doing something that she loved, which was research. I learned that the field of research especially at a graduate school level is very competitive, because if your research is not funded it is possible that you could be laid off, or get paid even less for your work. This means that I have to be dedicated to whatever I decide to do if I attend graduate school. Also, I learned that graduate school requires lots of time in the lab and a graduate student must be good at management and organization of their schedule. Deena spends lots of time in the lab, and still has to take care of non-academic priorities as well.

When I came into this program, I did not know much about how the application process worked or consisted of. Now, I understand that I need things such as good GRE scores, I originally thought that GRE scores had to be extremely high, but I found out that is not always true. In the program, I learned that schools also look at other things on the application such as the personal statement, because a person's GRE scores is not the only determining factor. Although, higher GRE scores can separate a person's application from another person's when a school needs to make a close decision. I found out that the personal statement is a very big part of the application, because it is the only thing on the application that lets the school your applying to know you as an individual. It distinguishes you from the other applicants.

My thoughts about graduate school have changed through out the course of this program. I did not know that graduate school consisted of lots of research, and I expected it to be really similar to undergraduate school. Graduate school is very independent, and is what the graduate student makes it to be. If a graduate student dedicates time and puts forth effort to their research then they will be successful. Deena for example puts in plenty of work with her research project, and I admire that a great deal about her. I am very interested in attending graduate school in the future, and it is definitely an option for me!

Through out the semester I have had to balance time to study, go to meetings, class, and go to the lab with my mentor. All of my school activities are connected by the fact that they all contribute to my major and goals for the future. I am in two organizations which are Health Occupation Students of America, and Micro and Molecular Biology Student Society which both organizations are associated with my major and career goal, which I am a human biology major and I want to be a doctor. Then, I am also joining the neurobiology lab with my mentor, and now I am going to be working right next to her. So, I am moving in the right direction with my future education and career goals.

The Pre-Graduate School Internship has been a great opportunity to get the facts about graduate school. All of the questions I had about graduate school were answered. I am really glad that this program is available to students, and think that it is a great opportunity. I am lucky to have been a part of this program. This program has prepared me for my future academic success and graduate school.

Justin's story is spotlighted in a UT web banner feature.