Last summer, I embarked on my first true scientific journey—cancer research at the Center of Applied Molecular Medicine (CAMM) at USC’s Health Sciences Campus. Eager to learn what research was all about, I began with basic safety training, BSA assays, and a group of dedicated people, all eager to pass on their knowledge and help me mature into a scientist.
Since last June, research scientists Dr. Kian Kani and Dr. Taheera Ferdous have worked intimately with me, mentoring and quizzing me as I work on a research project of my own. As an undergraduate student, I feel so lucky to have a group of people who are so supportive and who want to see me learn and thrive. Dr. Kani and Dr. Ferdous have spent hours with me, helping me come up with my own project, devising a plan to carry it out, and working through the speed bumps along the road.
CAMM’s goal is to use proteomics to develop technologies for the diagnosis and management of cancer. The team’s mission (as shown above) begins with patient knowledge and highly specific therapy to target specific cells.
My time at CAMM has taught me so much. For the first time in my life, I have been exposed to and immersed in a true scientific community. Every Tuesday is Journal Club—a time to present and discuss current journal articles—broadening our understanding of cancer and science in general. Once a month the lab feeds us and brings a guest lecturer from one of the top universities around the world. These lecturers are often cancer researchers with a background in the physical sciences. This series of lectures, along with CAMM’s Physical Sciences in Oncology Symposium, has given me, as well as many others, a widened approach to cancer research.
At the symposium, I jointly presented my first poster! If anyone told me that I would be presenting my own scientific research to Master’s students, PhDs, and researchers I would have laughed and said, “No way!” The feeling of being respected and listened to by people with so much more education and experience than me is indescribable. It encouraged me to further pursue my research even when some of my experiments didn’t turnout the way I wanted them to.
Research is dedication, patience, and intelligence. Research does not produce results instantaneously. There is no set protocol for finding the cure to cancer; there is no method for the cure, but there is a mentality. A researcher’s mentality is an unstoppable force that drives them to pursue their desired result. This is what I learned from Dr. Kian Kani and Dr. Taheera Feradous. They taught me that every step in the wrong direction is actually a step in the right direction, one step closer to achieving your goal. While running my digest for one hour did not produce my desired result, it did teach me that next time I ran a digest I had to run it for longer. And I did. And that time I got results.
Overall, these past few months have deeply affected me and inspired me to consider a life in research. Working in the lab has strengthened my work ethic, made me more excited about science in general, and allowed me to make friendships and connections that I hope to always have. Despite the craziness of my schedule, there is no doubt in my mind—I will definitely continue my research during my undergraduate career at USC.