How I Got Involved with Research and What It Meant to Me

— QUINN BEEK

When I came to UNH I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in biochemistry but I had no idea what direction I wanted to take for that degree. I loved science labs in high school and was fascinated by the topics I was learning about. These topics included how cells function and what jobs different parts of the cell do. Chemical reactions also really fascinated me. I liked figuring out the steps of a reaction and what caused them. Being able to figure out an unknown and work as a team to solve problems was exciting and new to me. Once I got to UNH I decided that I needed to see what career options were available for me to pursue. I had heard a lot of people talking about research being such a large and important field within biochemistry. I took the lab portion of Introductory Biology: Molecular and Cellular in the fall of 2020 and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I knew that I wanted to try working in a lab.

To start, I looked into clubs that matched my interests of research, biology, and chemistry and joined the UNH chapter of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering. I also reviewed professors' pages on the UNH staff directory about the research they were doing in their labs, and some of their pages said to reach out to be a part of their team. I emailed a few professors to see if they were hiring lab assistants. One responded, Dr. Estelle Hrabak, and offered me an interview for the position. I was nervous because I had no idea what that conversation was going to be like. Before the interview I made sure to look up everything I could about the lab, the professor, her past research, and what research she was doing at that moment. In the interview we talked about her lab work, my qualifications and interests, and why I would be a good fit for the lab. Although stressful, the interview went well and I got the position.

I was, once again, nervous, because I was not sure what the lab would be like and I was only in my first year. I was worried that the skills I learned in high school would not transfer to a university setting. After starting the job, I realized I had no need to be nervous; my mentor was there every step of the way to answer my questions and help me learn new techniques.

This experience taught me to reach out to accomplish my goals and not hold back because of nerves. I learned new lab techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction, plant assays, and gel electrophoresis, and more information about plant genomics. I was able to continue my research by applying for an Undergraduate Research Award (URA). Through the process of applying, I learned how to write my own research proposal. It was not easy, but it helped me grow in my ability to write scientifically, and if I ever had a question my mentor was there to answer it.

Working in the lab taught me that UNH was a great choice, as there are many ways to pursue new hands-on experiences that help students grow and learn. I gained confidence from these research experiences and found the career I want to pursue, which is working for a biotech company doing research. While I'm not sure what specific research I want to do, I know I want to pursue something with treating human diseases.