- Name: Michelle Hoang
- Concentration: Biology and English
- Year: 2017
- What type of research experiences and research conferences have you been involved with during your time in college?
Thus far, I have participated in two summer research internships outside of Brown’s campus and volunteered in the Lab for Cognitive Perceptual Learning during the fall semester of my junior year. My summer internships were completely different. In my first experience, I studied treatment-resistant prostate cancer at a private research institute while in my second summer, I conducted an independent project in the neuroscience learning and memory at a large public university.
- How did you find out about these opportunities?
I did an extensive Google search and found a database with co-ops and internship opportunities. For my position at Brown, I asked my peers about their previous lab experiences.
- What is your favorite part about the research process?
My favorite part about the research is also the most challenging aspect – developing my own theory from prior knowledge. As a university student, most of my coursework involves memorization and rote learning. But, in research, I go beyond those skills to develop my own ideas. In my most-recent summer internship, the scientists around me taught me the necessary skills to run my own experiments. Then, they told me to design my own never-before-done experiment. The immense freedom involved in that process was wonderful. What I found to be just as important if not more important than background knowledge or critical reasoning ability is creativity. The generation of intellectual property, the development of novel ideas is the most exciting part of research.
- What was it like attending and presenting at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students?
Attending and presenting at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students was a whirlwind. I was nervous, overjoyed, enthusiastic, worried, and exhausted all at the same time. First and foremost, it was very affirming to be in a space that acknowledged the struggles of minority students in biomedical research. Often, science avoids the sociopolitical realm, ignoring the needs of the scientists themselves. ABRCMS recognizes that many students face barriers to careers in research and works to alleviate these issues. I met so many other scientists in various different stages in their careers who also faced socioeconomic barriers. Their support and their wisdom was encouraging and very useful.
Additionally, part of ABRCMS is a grad school/career fair. During this time, I was able to network with grad school representatives as well as future employers. Never in my college experience have I attended a career fair that had opportunities for students interested in academia or research.
Lastly, presenting at the conference forced me to understand every minute aspect of my work. I became an expert in my preparations to speak. But also, I learned how to present my research to an audience that had no prior knowledge of neuroscience. It is easy in research to forget about the big picture. I spent 12 weeks, looking at the translation levels of two genes in a sack of neurons in a marine snail. My entire life was about levels of CREB-2 and CREB-1 in Aplysia californica. I was so focused on the minutia involved in my research, but having to present to a wide audience forced me to contextualize these details and to evaluate the importance of my research.
- Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?
I would recommend that they seek diverse and in-depth experiences. There are so many different types of research – molecular, behavioral, systems, computational, etc. The best way to figure out what research interests them is to get first-hand experience. I also recommend that students do research before they join labs. It is not good for the lab or the student if a student begins research that they are not genuine interested in. Also, I would like to remind others to not get discouraged. Labs are always gaining and losing new members. Finding the right lab is a matter of luck and perseverance.