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I tend to get one of two reactions whenever I tell people I want to be a dentist. The first being some variation of, “I could never put my hands in someone’s mouth!” or “Mouths are so gross; I have no idea why you would want to do that.” The second is some reference to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Hermey saying “I want to be a dentist.” (shout out to you, Dad). Since the 7th grade, I have had my mind set on being a dentist, and the path Juniata has taken me on is one that continues to turn this goal into a reality.
A unique component of Juniata’s pre-health professions program is specialized advising from summer orientation before your freshman year. As a pre-dental student, I was matched with an adviser who specializes in pre-dental advising, making it easier for my advising sessions to be personalized to me. As a student in health professions, you have an adviser specifically for this, as well as a general adviser outside of your designated POE to help you incorporate a holistic approach into your education and help you include your other passions into your academics. From your first day of classes, you are immediately introduced to the entry-level science courses you will need for professional school. With small class sizes, it is easy to seek out help from your professors in class and build personal relationships with them.(more…)
This summer may have been the best summer of my life. Some version of this clichéd line can be found at the end of any nineties summer coming of age story, but it does accurately sum up my three months in Huntingdon doing research and experiencing just a little bit of what my life might be like after graduate school. The beauty of a summer internship experience is that it allows you to not only get hands-on experience in your desired field of work, but it also helps you to decide if the work you are doing over that summer is what you want to do for the rest of your life. In the last few days, in fact, I was lucky enough to realize that I do want to go into microbiology and bioinformatics. However, this realization also came with a gut wrenching, panic stricken moment because suddenly I was no longer set on going into neuroscience, something I have wanted to study since I was a Junior in high school. With this change of my heart has come several moments of panicking and internally hyperventilating about my future and everything that I must complete for graduate school between now and December 1, 2017.
So, what could have possibly caused my sudden change of heart? What groundbreaking research have I done that has convinced me to completely switch career paths? To be honest my work really hasn’t been that groundbreaking. It has been fun though. I am sure that it is hard to imagine how sitting at a desk for eight hours a day staring at a computer can be considered ‘fun’, believe me I understand where you are coming from. That’s not the part of the job I found glamorous. It was discovering relationships between bacterial species and the gut cells of mice that I found so fascinating. I have had a minor interest in the gut microbiome since I read a book on how the gut microbiome is thought to influence some neurodegenerative disorders, but it was not until my research this summer that I really began to appreciate our microbial gut friends. The project was made even more fun since it was my own project. I oversaw the analysis and it was on me to determine what the results of my analysis meant.
The partnerships that Dr. Lamendella and Justin Wright, my two mentors this summer, have cultivated through their bioinformatics company Wright Labs (a startup company funded in part by Juniata’s Business Incubator) have allowed students like myself to get an almost graduate school level of research experience while still at our undergraduate institution. This opportunity, as I have already pointed out, has been instrumental in the decision of a career path. I am excited to continue working with Dr. Lamendella and Justin through this next year, which will sadly be my last at Juniata. Though I’ll be leaving in a few short months, I know that the work I have done for Wright Labs has set me up well for graduate school and all the research work I have ahead of me.