During the summer of 2019, I had the pleasure of participating in the Meharry Medical College Summer Undergraduate Research Program (S.U.R.P) in Nashville, Tennessee. I worked along with 9 other undergraduate students who were also passionate about going into M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. careers. During the 10-week period of the program, we were responsible performing research related to cancer. We were all assigned to lab researchers who would serve as our mentors throughout the duration of the program.
My lab mentor was Dr. Jamaine Davis, Ph.D., a structural biologist. In Dr. Davis’ lab, I focused on breast cancer and how mutations in PAX-Transcription Interacting domain Protein (PAXIP1/PTIP), a DNA repair protein, that could possibly lead to chemoresistance in breast cancer patients. The first week was rough because I was adjusting to learning common terminology, standards and procedures in the lab, and knowing what tools and chemicals to use. I learned how to perform Western Blots and culturing/maintaining cells in the tissue culture lab. As the weeks went by, performing research in the lab became second nature. Although it got a little easier, it was exhausting not only from long hours of work, but also from failed attempts in my research project. During my failed attempts, I thought about all the physicians and scientists who once was in position suffering from failed attempts. This was the realization of a harsh reality; failure never stops at the undergraduate level, but it endures for the rest of your career.
This motivated me to push harder and to think critically because those failed attempts while soon turn into success, maybe even a future publication in a scientific journal.
Along the way I met some amazing individuals that included various scientists, physicians, Ph.D. candidates, and medical students. The medical students that I worked alongside in my research lab were gifted students who always provided a helping hand. I had the opportunity to attend sessions with scientists who were researching in other areas other than cancer, while also having the chance to hear a student present her dissertation thesis to earn her doctorate degree. During the end of the 10-week program, all participants were required to give a five minute speech in front of Meharry Medical College students and our family and friends. Giving the five-minute talk allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and it was all due to the support of the other program participants, my research mentor, and my family. I will be presenting my research project this fall at the 2019 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) conference.