How is being involved in the research option different/better than just doing research?

Being a research option student, your research is coincided with proposal and thesis writing courses. These courses have really challenged me to withdraw from the narrow focus of my research in order to see the bigger picture. By writing my research proposal and thesis, however, I have allowed myself to see my research with a wider lens answering questions like “How does this research relevant to current research in the field?” “How am I incorporating what I have learned in the classroom into my work?” or “What could be the real life applications of my research, what could it potentially lead to that will impact people?”.

What have you learned during your experience that goes beyond the classroom?

Critical thinking skills. When you are faced with a open ended problem in research with many potential solutions, your critical thinking skills are truly put to the test. Critical thinking is truly invaluable, mainly because it translates to all aspects of your life. I have seen firsthand how the critical thinking skills that I have developed in the laboratory are able to be applied in everything from my extracurricular involvements to even how I approach challenging assignments or tasks.

What was the relationship with your faculty mentor like?

Dr. Harvey, my mentor, is awesome. He, like so many other faculty at Tech, was entirely willing to having a 2nd-year undergraduate come into his lab to pursue research. He has provided me with various challenging but appropriate projects over the past two years. The project that I am currently working on was proposed by him last spring. This project is a collaboration between our lab and a Cystic Fibrosis lab at Emory. Without Dr. Harvey, I would have never been exposed to the incredible research opportunities I have been involved with, both on and off campus. In addition, he is always willing to talk Tech sports with me, discussing everything from the upcoming football game to the new basketball recruiting class.

Have you written your thesis? How is the process going ? What has been positive about the experience?

I am in the process. It is going well. Unlike every other research paper I have ever written, my thesis is unique because the experiments that I discuss are ones that performed, the analyses were done by me, the results are those that found. Some people would perceive a thesis like a really long lab report. Trust me, it’s not. Writing my thesis has almost been like writing my own story, just documenting the path that I have taken with my project.

What impact has this project made on your academic experience while at Georgia Tech?

Research has been that linkage between the classroom and the real-world for me. Opportunities to engage in research, especially research that overlaps with your major, are incredible ways to supplement your overall academic experience.

What are your future career goals?

I am currently planning on taking a gap year or two after I graduate Tech next spring and working for AmeriCorps, a domestic version of the Peace Corps. Following that, I will attend medical school. I’m still not sure where, in medicine, I will find myself, but I have shadowed several Pediatric Hematology/Oncology physicians and I have really enjoyed those experiences.

Do you plan on incorporating research into your future plans?

I am hoping that I will be able to continue research once I begin medical school. Many schools offer summer research programs. Since most of my research at Tech has been heavily computational, this would be a great opportunity to explore more clinical-based research.

Have you presented or published your work anywhere?

The first project that I worked on in Dr. Harvey’s lab focused on HIV-1 RNA secondary structure. I collaborated on a manuscript that is currently being reviewed by Nucleic Acids Research. My research at Tech actually lead to a summer research internship at the Medical College of Georgia. The project that I worked on this past summer was also incorporated into a paper that is currently being review by Genome Research. Once I have completed my thesis, I am hoping to find a conference next spring to attend in order to present my findings.

What advice would you share with other students who are considering the research option?

Do it. You are at a school that is not only known because of its premiere academics, but also because of its world-class research programs. Take advantage of that! There are abundant opportunities for you, in your time as a student, to become part of this research and even contribute to it. Find a lab that interests you, identify a problem that motivates you, and create real, impactful change in this world by solving that problem.