Final Musings from the 2015-16 FIRe Blog Writer

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I’m Mya Roberson and for the past academic year I have been the author behind the CRC FIRe blog. Today is my final shift at the CRC and I thought that I would post some final reflections on my experiences with fellowships and research at Brown, as well as on my role as the FiRE Coordinator this year.

I was fortunate to have an AP Biology teacher in high school who was so wildly passionate about science in research. As students in his class, we would always try to get him to diverge from the prescribed curriculum and tell us about his experience conducting research for his graduate work. While others may have viewed these digressions as tangents, they were where the real learning took place for me. Sparked by my innate curiosity for finding out more about everything I knew that I wanted to do research when I got to Brown.

I was fortunate in my freshman year that I stumbled upon great mentorship from a professor who took me under his wing and allowed me to work on one of his projects in my first spring semester. I was nervous that I would mess things up, I came in with no hard skills, but that was all part of the process I quickly came to find out. If we all knew everything already there would be nothing to learn.

From that point on, I was hooked on research, I loved how I got to go in every day and just ask and work on solving questions. I had spent the rest of my Brown undergraduate career trying to figure out what type of research really inspired me and was something I could see myself working on long term. Through some more great mentorship as well as inspiring courses, I found my calling at the intersection of science and public service by doing public health research on cancer disparities in marginalized populations.

This new found interest led me to conduct research at Princeton University as part of  the Leadership Alliance, in Birmingham, AL as a Royce Fellow, and finally at Brown as a senior honors thesis writer. Having the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic that I love cemented my future plans to go to graduate school and become a career researcher. There are so many questions that remain unanswered, particularly within the realm of health disparities and I hope that I can one day leave my mark within that area of knowledge.

In my role as the CRC Fellowships, Internships, and Research Coordinator over the past year I made it my goal to increase awareness of fellowship and research opportunities, particularly for historically underrepresented groups, and support students to the best of my ability as they worked through their applications. This blog has been an act of consolidating resources and opportunities for students into one neat place. While it is by no means comprehensive, I enjoy the fact that students can identify opportunities, read up on application tips, and see student experiences all in one place.

Supporting students with their applications has by far been the most gratifying part of my job. I have gotten so see so many students’ passions from  history to physics and everything in between. Having seen so many great proposals and applications gives me great hope for the next generation of scholarship. It has been a wonderful year for me in this role and I look forward to seeing what future scholarship comes out of Brown.

 

Signing Off,

Mya

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Student Spotlight- Nimesha Gerlus

Nimesha

  • Name: Nimesha Gerlus
  • Year: 2017
  • Concentration: Cognitive Neuroscience
  1. What type of research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?

Up to this point, I have had two major research experiences at Brown. During the summer of 2014 after freshman year, I participated in a research collaboration between Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Brown University meant to help first-years and second-years develop foundational biology research skills. I worked with a team called “Drug Discovery” toward a collective goal of using three-dimensional cell culture technology to test chemotherapeutic drug models in human cancer cell lines. Specifically, my partner and I examined whether certain drug models could reverse drug resistance in cancer cells by inhibiting proteins responsible for efflux of common chemotherapeutics. Funded by an UTRA during the summer of 2015, I began working for Drs. Richard Liu and Tony Spirito as a summer undergraduate research assistant for a clinical study at Bradley Hospital investigating whether intensive cognitive behavioral therapy would have different treatment outcomes for teens with suicidal behavior compared to standard community care. This summer I will again be working at Bradley under the Royce Fellowship, studying the prediction of behavioral symptoms using computational methods used by Dr. Michael Frank’s lab.


  1. How did you find out about this opportunity/these opportunities?

I found out about HHMI-Brown because I took a biology class taught by a professor who directed the program at the time and encouraged students to apply. However, I came to Bradley a different way; I attended a small symposium on mental health in high-achieving college students of color advertised through Morning Mail, and met a psychology post-doctoral fellow who began mentoring me on my journey toward a career in psychiatry. She worked with Dr. Spirito on a different clinical study, but connected us when his lab was looking for undergraduate research assistants.


  1. What is your favorite part about the research process?

I love the flexibility of my research work schedule and my primary investigators’ accommodation of those who prefer working late as well as those who prefer working early in the morning, so long as all the work is done. But favorite part about the research process is the learning experience. Throughout the past three years, I have found that even if I set out to answer one question, other questions will inevitably arise. My research experiences have taught me to redefine failure and to embrace opportunities to think critically about approaching questions in innovative ways.


  1. How has doing undergraduate research shaped your potential career plans?

Undergraduate research has changed the trajectory of my career plans. I came to Brown planning to eventually practice medicine, particularly psychiatry. After my clinical research experiences, however, I am interested in fusing my medical interests with research and becoming a physician-scientist; next year I now plan to apply to programs (M.D./Ph.D.) that combine medical and research training.


  1. Any advice for students looking to find out what research interests them?

Don’t commit to a lab that is that you’re not passionate about! This sounds intuitive, but I have met many people who joined a lab during their second or third semesters and stuck with the experience because they wanted to be in a lab even though they were not particularly interested in what the lab was doing. Undergraduate research positions should be as enriching for students as they are helpful to professors, and I would encourage my peers who are interested in research to talk to professors whose classes they find engaging and inquire about opportunities in the field. I think it is also important to keep in mind that research experiences are not monolithic; they depend on the discipline, the investigator, and the lab’s dynamic, so one bad research experience shouldn’t turn you completely away from research in general! I personally find working with people much more rewarding that “wet lab” research, and I would not have discovered my interest in clinical research if I hadn’t been open-minded toward the new experience.