by Tatiana Soboleva
Being a junior in biochemistry last year placed me in the hot spot of academic development, and more importantly, the ardent desire to get outside my comfort-zone and explore new worlds. My prodigious excitement of this past summer was joining the summer research internship offered by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University through a fellowship I received with the help of the Office of University Fellowships.
Applying for my fellowship was quite a challenging process, but a rewarding one! In essence, the application required a thoughtful approach towards several parameters about myself as student, an objective auto-analysis if you will: discovering what tools I had in my tool box that made me of interest to the programs I applied to. This was the perfect time to work closely with the Office of University Fellowships and professors from my department. They offered me great advice in connecting with research organizations I was interested in, including potential schools and labs that offer such opportunities. When it came to searching for specific fellowships and putting together my application, I found the staff at the Office of University Fellowships extremely helpful. They reviewed my applications multiple times, giving constructive and objective feedback. They helped me to write and re-write my essays until I had a well-rounded product that reflected my best personal capabilities, goals, and motivations.
I pursued an inorganic and organometallic synthesis research opportunity and became part of a new scientific family- Dr. L. Berreau’s research lab. This is not an exaggeration- by joining the program, I became a member of an entire family where everyone was responsible for me and I was responsible for my project.
My experience at Utah State University helped me to determine my research field for my ultimate PhD career. I absolutely fell in love with the brainstorming of reaction design, its practical execution, and the analysis of outcomes and potential improvements.
During my internship, I learned a lot about the manner in which graduate school operates. I did observe only the summer work regime of the graduate students I collaborated with; however, I got an accurate image of what I could expect to see during my graduate studies. I was able to ask questions about graduate school experiences from the graduate students I knew in the lab. That helped me to understand what that realm of academia looks like. To summarize graduate studies in a sentence, it is a hard work! Graduate students spend a lot of time researching and studying. Working with graduate students gave me the opportunity to hear the heart rate of the lab.
My fellowship opportunity let me clearly see the cracks in the walls of my knowledge in chemistry and biochemistry. It also revealed areas that I was interested in, but did not have a prior exposure to. I like to nickname my experience, “the diagnostic center for my academic car.” It might sound strange, but truly, it was exciting to be able to visualize what I need to remodel, refresh, repair and buy for my academic-knowledge car. I love shopping in this case!
A lesson I learned about the process of becoming a professional is that it is often staggered by a person’s inability to determine areas that need improvement. Gradually they become satisfied with where they are at; that is not what science is about! They have to be perpetually mobile; otherwise, the flame that was once lit in them will cease to exist with the lack of oxygen.
To conclude this short discussion, I would like to thank the scientific family of Dr. Berreau’s lab that adopted me for the past summer, showing me the path of my interests and giving me tools to get close to the destination; letting me perceive the density of my quantum states and inspiring me to extensively replenish my knowledge.