More than a body of knowledge, science is a way of thinking based on empirical observation. William Lawrence Bragg once said, “The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” Science makes use of that wonderful blend of curiosity, skepticism, and imagination to create and innovate. In practice, medical investigators combine innovation and efficiency, and this dualistic aspect of medical research is what draws me most to the field. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry & molecular biology, I plan to pursue an MD-PhD program in order to train in both clinical medicine and research methodology.
If I had to describe the focus of medical research in one word, I would say communication: the internal dialogue within a patient’s body. Almost all pathology can be traced back to a failure to communicate. Cells can go deaf and fail to respond to certain chemicals such as insulin, as is the case in type 2 diabetes or they can go mute and fail to release insulin at all, as is the case in type 1 diabetes. Cells may misinterpret messages, send incorrect signals, or act at inappropriate times, all of which have pathogenic potential. As a research assistant, I investigated specific cancerous interactions between scaffolding proteins and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), which is involved in many cellular processes from neurotransmitter metabolism to gene transcription, illustrating the interconnectedness inherent in the human body. This interconnectedness poses both opportunities and challenges in the field of medicine, for the targeting of a common substrate can offer therapeutic solutions for several related conditions but may also result in wide-ranging biological responses, underlying the need for treatment that addresses the source of the problem without causing too many additional side effects. The development of new therapeutics warrants an equally multifaceted approach, requiring collaboration between researchers and clinicians. For this reason, I intend to continue my education in translational and clinical research to help move novel drugs from the bench to the bedside.
Through research, I realized my love of discovery and innovation. My work in the laboratory has given me the skills to solve problems, optimize processes, and develop more efficient tools. Research has also given me an appreciation for the meticulousness that should characterize both experimental design and data interpretation in order to ensure the most accurate and precise results possible. Most importantly, research has taught me to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and identify existing areas where improvements can be made. Scientific research thrives on criticism, debate, and the application of new ideas. Of course, medicine still has many unknowns: cause and effect relationships are often unclear and diagnoses of exclusion are sometimes difficult to treat. While medicine still has its limitations, remarkable progress has been made in the past few decades, and I hope to take my place as an agent of that continual innovation.