Freedom of Choice Unlike Any Other Career

Br: Grace Garrett

As I was growing up and encouraged to explore career areas, I didn’t realize at the time how wide of a field science is. Current scientific research can be used for application in all aspects of life and this limitless quality is one of my favorite things about science today. I enjoy how I can relate my curiosities emanating from a personal connection or academic interest to work. Two scientific areas in particular I have enjoyed learning about include reproductive health and genetics, the former being a personal connection and the latter an academic fascination. 

Reproductive health is always something I have been conscious of, as my existence started with issues my parents were having conceiving and carrying a baby. When I finally arrived, they named me “Grace,” considering me a gift from God. At my undergraduate institution, my independent research project examines the influence of the intestinal microbiome on fertility. I am intrigued by the many factors influencing reproductive health and appreciate the vulnerability necessitated by disclosure of struggles. Holding compassionate space for people to meet that vulnerability is a tool I have practiced by my experience volunteering and conducting patient interviews, but also by listening to my parents. Since this difficult reality is so integral to who I am, I am aware listening to people’s experiences can make the difference for existence of life. This could be the creation of a child, or the emotional well-being of potential parents. As naturally as empathy comes to me, actually tackling the biochemical issues at the root of the problem can be daunting. I think more time in the lab will help me trust I have effectively controlled for other contributing factors, allowing me to focus in on the targeted experimental modulation. However, I also hope to experiment with clinical research and see if I enjoy attempting to understand and solve issues from a different type of approach. I am fairly new to doing basic science, wet-lab research, but research in my other interest would likely take form computationally. 

My interest in genetics really took off in the first principles of genetics class I took, and the paired wet-lab experience was one of my favorites among all my other science classes. I really started to see where genetics could take me this past semester when I enrolled in an advanced genetics course. Our lab was computational, and it provided me a foundational knowledge of python, writing and running code to answer scientific questions, and how to utilize genome browser services. During the semester, our professor introduced us to two statistical models, which I enjoyed because it came close to math. I have enjoyed and excelled in math throughout my education, but I thought by choosing science I would have to give it up. However, these models provided a possible avenue for me to return to math in science. This was reinforced when attending a talk by Dr. Elsie Ross from Stanford University who discussed her research using machine learning to assess which patients might be at risk for pulmonary arterial disease. This type of research compiles different sets of data like the electronic health record and genetic sequencing into the model to create an overall assessment of risk. This is one of the most exciting research talks I have heard to date as it felt like a return to calculus (which I loved) with its output – the area under the curve (a key part of calculus) indicating the model’s accuracy. In the future, I hope to explore using large data sets and statistical modeling as an area of research and take advantage of my math skills. 

I appreciate how the field of science allows me to delve into my curiosities and passions wholeheartedly. I also hope to encourage others who are unsure science’s applicability to their passions, like my high-school self who thought she had to give up math, that there is almost certainly a connection. At this point in my training, I want to continue exploring different ways of approaching problems I’m interested in to find what I enjoy and am most effective in. 

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