I cannot believe there is less than a month left in the 2018-2019 academic year. For me this marks the end of five years (in August) at University of Richmond. My start-up funds will expire and I will be submitting my tenure package. The days have been flying by. For the seniors this marks the end of their career at University of Richmond. They will be moving on to new, and better, things, hopefully prepared for whatever the next steps might be. As is my tradition, I will be highlighting the graduating seniors of the Pollock lab over the next month as they race towards graduation. It is a bittersweet time because they have become independent, intelligent, contributing members of their projects. They leave behind big shoes to fill. This year, there are SIX graduating seniors. It is a vibrant and fun group.
First up is Ritwika Bose. Ritwika hails from India via Bahrain. The best way to describe Ritwika is with the saying “though she be but little, she is fierce.” Her stature is small, but her personality is big. She has been an integral member, and leader, of the joint project between my lab and Dr. Nolin’s lab for the past two years. She has mastered all of the techniques that we have thrown at her – MALDI, TEM, protein expression and purification, bioconjugation reactions, thermal melts, SLIM, Bradford assays, and probably more that I am forgetting now. I was very impressed by her senior seminar presentation where she was able to tie all of the parts of her project together in a cohesive and understanding manner. She is off to graduate school next year and there is no doubt in my mind that she will succeed. We had hoped to hold on to her for one more summer but unfortunately as an international student, her visa does not allow her to work on campus after graduation. My panic associated with the hole that Ritwika will leave behind is very apparent. I’ve got less than a month to siphon her knowledge and get some new students trained. She is a coauthor on a manuscript we have in review right now and her work will contribute to at least one more. I have asked Ritwika to reflect on her research experience:
Q1. Why did you decide to join the Pollock lab?
Ritwika: I wanted to do research related to the medical sciences, and I wanted to have a big picture to drive it; Protein interaction to identify causes/antidotes to breast cancer seemed perfect for that goal. However, when I spoke to Dr. Pollock, she told me about Virus-like particles, which were these protein cages used to encapsulate drugs. I heard the word “mutagenesis” and manipulation of protein made from scratch and had no idea what any of that meant, but it got me excited. I wanted to be involved in a project that was absolutely new, and could have direct implications (if it succeeds) and Team Viral Sponge was the obvious choice.
Q2. What was your favorite part about your research experience?
Ritwika: The number of instruments I picked up and got introduced to during the course of research was my favorite part. Through my grad school visits, I found that a lot of the instruments we use for our project usually have a lab tech specifically for them. I am glad we don’t…because I get to use them!
Q3. What do you plan to do after graduation?
Ritwika: I will be at Baylor College of Medicine for a phD program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Chemical, Physical, and structural biology?).
Q4. As you reflect back on your time at University of Richmond, what advice would you give to an incoming student who was interested in your career path?
Ritwika: Start looking for labs early, the spots fill up fast! Also, if you are an international student in the sciences, use that aspect as a filter for phD programs. Funding might be limited, and opportunities too, but the faculty try their best to help you make the most of it 🙂
Ritwika – thank you for being a great leader for the NoPo lab! Your thirst for knowledge and your already very developed “lab hands” will take you far in graduate school and beyond. I cannot wait to see what comes from your career. Don’t ignore any emails from me – I’ll be asking your advice on the TVS techniques or reaching out about the manuscript(s). Good luck and always stay in touch.