Going into the spring semester of my sophomore year, I yearned for a research opportunity in a lab that I was actually interested in. As a Biochemistry major, I had many options. Reading through the descriptions of new faculty members, I found Professor Win Chai, a microbiology professor doing research on biofilms in the bacteria species Bacillus subtilis. I was very excited when I saw his research and emailed him asking if there would be an opportunity for a directed study.
When he responded enthusiastically that there was, the research experience began. At first, it was a slow start. The lab was still being set up and not all of the necessary chemicals or equipment were available. Freezers and incubators were coming in daily, along with enzymes and other chemicals. Watching the lab take shape was exciting in itself, but I still couldn’t wait for the experiments to start. I could feel the anticipation growing in me, ready to run PCR machines and mini prep samples.
At last, the lab was set up and the experiments began, much to my delight. Starting off, I was lost without a protocol or strict directions, but slowly my confidence built so that I could run experiments on my own. The feeling of independence in the lab was invigorating, and although I was only doing basic experiments, it felt good to know that I was doing them without the guidance of a professor or TA. The fact that I got my own, small, project that I am continuing to work on this summer, made it feel as though the work I was doing actually mattered and that it was not being done merely to learn the technique. This Directed Study research experience allowed me to grow as a student and as a science major and made me realize just how much I like lab work.
For me, being in the lab was a nice refresher from the hectic studying and work of my other classes. In the lab, I was able to micropippette samples without thinking about it or cramming my brain with information. This “doing” instead of “studying” has always appealed to me and is one of the main reasons I sought out a research experience.
This research experience also helped shape my decision to do a 6 month co-op at Genzyme in a bacteriophage lab. I am excited to use the skills I learned from this research experience in a biotechnology setting and learn the differences between academic research and industry research. Hopefully I enjoy my co-op as much as I enjoyed Professor Chai’s lab!
-Olivia Macrorie, Biology