When I transferred to my university in the fall, I immediately started joining groups that focused on my interests in science and medicine. Many of my pre-med peers questioned if I had or wanted to do research, but I hadn’t participated in any yet and wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I had heard research is an amazing opportunity but I didn’t know if it was for me.
Then, when my neighbor was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer I wanted to be more involved in the only way I knew how, which was through science. I had a rough idea of what research would entail, but I had absolutely no idea where to start to look for opportunities, or who to ask. I was thankful to find a chemistry professor who gave me an amazing opportunity in cancer research involving minimizing the cost of chemotherapy by using cheaper compounds, and experimenting with breast cancer cells. This experience was hands-on and really allowed me to get my feet wet in a field that I have grown to enjoy. The most unexpected reason I loved it so much was the broad spectrum that it had opened in which I could not only learn more, but also create new pathways to attaining even more knowledge. What surprised me the most was that I was able to be involved in creating new compounds as an undergraduate student.
By my spring semester, I was able to secure a research assistant position at a research facility that works with a nearby medical school that focuses on cancer research, primarily leukemia and lymphoma. I am responsible for making medias and buffers to provide a stable and healthy environment where our lab’s mammalian cells and yeast cells will grow. I also wash and autoclave the flasks and other containers that are used, as well as keeping up to date with inventory for anything we’ll need in the future. I am working under a small group of postdocs and researchers that are attempting to inhibit cell damage that is usually inflicted during chemotherapy through methods involving genetics and DNA replication. I am thankful that I am able to be a part of this research that uses the latest technology to go deeper into the genetic abnormalities that cause cancer. All of us in the lab are hoping that our research will lead to the further development of targeted therapies to treat people suffering from leukemia and lymphoma.
Research has been such an exciting experience for me, because I feel that, even though my accomplishments and tasks are small at the moment, I know that they are contributing to a future where cancer is no longer a household name. I’ve definitively decided that my gap year will revolve around my goal of contributing to research that gets published.
Whether you want to focus on cancer, or something else that interests you, I strongly recommend giving research a try. As someone in the process of pursuing medical school, and after working in an emergency department as a medical scribe, I have seen that it is not enough to simply treat patients. We need advancements to create a future where more diseases can be prevented or managed with new therapies. I want to live in a future where cancer doesn’t affect nearly 40% of Americans at some point in their life (source: National Cancer Institute). I’m hopeful, because as the largest American generation in history, millennials have the ability to change the world in unimaginable ways and to create the world we want to live in.
About Jacqueline Suttin
Jacqueline Suttin is a pre-medical student at the University of the Incarnate Word pursuing a Biology major with a minor in Sociology. A first-generation college student, Jacqueline volunteers extensively at several assisted living facilities in the San Antonio area. Jacqueline is currently learning Spanish to reach a broader diversity of people, and desires to help others in her local community. She enjoys writing about her experiences as a creative outlet to the demands of being a full-time student.