CCD: Tell us about your experience. What were your responsibilities?
Michelle: At the NIH, I worked on a longstanding research project about growing cancer cells in 3D using a bioreactor and microfabricated vessels. For the time I was there, there were no post-baccalaureates or postdocs working on the project, so I became the temporary leader of it. Besides learning all about the science behind the project, I also quickly learned how to effectively and efficiently conduct my own research and to be in charge of other fellow researchers.
CCD: What was the best thing about the experience?
Michelle: The best thing about this experience was that I got to learn what it is actually like to have a full-time job as a researcher. During the semesters, I do work in a research lab. However, my full-time job is as a student, so I don’t typically spend more than a couple hours a day in lab. Spending 8+ hours on this project five days a week for ten weeks was extremely taxing but very enlightening.
CCD: What have you learned from this experience?
Michelle: This experience has helped me realize that I do not want a career that is entirely focused on research. While I want research to remain a part of my life, I learned that a full-time research job cannot satisfy me (no matter how interesting/important my project is). I figured out that I will need to supplement my research with some other job – hopefully a teaching-oriented job.
CCD: What’s next for you?
Michelle: I am now applying to graduate programs to hopefully enter into one in the Fall of 2017. My plan is to earn a PhD in either Cancer Biology or Synthetic Biology. From there, I want to become a professor/researcher.