“Your Knowledge Will Be Used To Help Others”

Hi my name is Charlie and I am a graduate
student in the Cole Collins Lab at the University of Pennsylvania School of
Medicine. I study antibiotic resistance and bacteria and currently am working on methods
to combat that antibiotic resistance and delay the acquisition of resistance in dangerous
pathogens. I was born in China, and at the age of 3 my parents and I left China and actually
moved to Germany, Munich. In 2003 I came here to the states, and that is when I started
Americanize school and I went to college in the states. In Germany I was actually kind
of a mediocre student, grades weren’t that good. But then when I came here, I don’t know
why but somehow I just got very motivated. I guess the major difficulty during this period
was actually the language. So having just moved here, I had no trouble really with science,
math and stuff. But for the writing intensive classes like AP European History or English
Literature, it was a little bit more of a challenge. I took organic chemistry in college,
kind of because I registered as a bio-chem major, and that just really hooked me into
science. I joined a lab in college, did almost three years of research at the lab; and that
is really what sold me on becoming a researcher. Our lab I would say is a medium size lab,
we have roughly give or take 10 people including rotation students. The people here come from
very diverse backgrounds. Some are full PHD’s, other are MDPHD, some people are veterinarians.
Our professor is a physician scientist so he has a MDPHD so he in addition to doing
research sees clinics at the hospital. The atmosphere is incredibly collegial, it’s a
really teaching oriented lab; so everyone helps each other out, no one is afraid of
asking questions. Whenever you have a problem you can just go to your next door neighbor
and just say, “Hey, I’m working on this problem, could you please help me out?” So it’s very
collegial, laid back atmosphere. We joke around a lot, but we also do really good science.
One major goal that I have, or would like to see progress is that at this stage we have
a major problem trying to combat antibiotic resistant organisms. So what this lab does,
we investigate alternative methods of combating antibiotic resistance, specifically we want
to slow down the acquisition of resistance. When you look at old pictures of scientists,
they are typically male, typically white, and that aspect of things have changed tremendously.
Nowadays I think science is a diverse field. You have people from all backgrounds, just
look at our lab, people think science is very homongonous, people are like these nerdy type
people and that’s not true. The other misconception I would like to address is that there is somehow
out there this misconception that to be a scientist you have to be incredibly smart
or like a super genius to even make it. That is also absolutely not true. Obviously being
smart is a plus, but there is so much more than that; persistence, hard work, creativity.
The ability to use your hands, which is something many people don’t appreciate. For a person
who wants to get into science they should be encouraged by this, because it’s not like
one single factor that determines whether or not you will become a scientist or even
do well in research, or many different things. Approach a lab, and just ask if you can just
spend some time working there and observe how scientists interact and work. I think
that is invaluable and certainly helped me, and I know of many others it has helped. The
other thing about research I wanted to say is doing science and working at a lab is not
just sitting at a bench and doing mindlessly doing experiments. There are many other aspects
of doing science that can sometimes distract you from occasional failures in the lab. A
lot of the people teach, in addition to that you can go to talks, you can write papers,
you can travel. So, even though when things are not working you have these others things
to potentially take your mind off the problem for awhile then you can come back with renewed
energy and so on. I think being a researcher is incredibly rewarding on many different
aspects. First and foremost, you get to work with some of the most amazing and talented
individuals you will ever meet. Second of all, you get to expand human knowledge. Some
of that human knowledge may be used to help other people; which is from a personal satisfaction
point of view, it just feels good. And finally, you get to do experiments. You get to try
cool things, use techniques, operate interesting machines, and stuff and you get paid to do
that. So, if you like that kind of work and get paid for it that is kind of a great career
to have. So I can only encourage people to get some lab experience, some research experience,
and see if that is a type of environment that feel comfortable with. If that does that’s

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