I cannot believe it is already this time of the year – we have less than a week left in classes and finals and then it is graduation time. This past year has been a memorable one. We started 2020 with the COVID pandemic which cancelled summer research and had everyone (students, faculty, staff) scrambling to figure out how to do academia with masks, physical distancing, and medical precautions. To say that the COVID pandemic has rocked the Pollock research lab is to say the least. We ran into a number of walls with the projects, haven’t made as much progress as previous years, and I have not been the most involved advisor. However, I am constantly impressed by my students. They are encouraging in their enthusiasm, optimism, and willingness to work hard. As is tradition, I will be highlighting the graduating seniors of the class of 2021.
Up first is Joann Chongsaritsinsuk. Joann joined the lab the summer after her first-year through her participation in the IQS program. From the start, she was enthusiastic and thorough about her research. She started on a new synthetic project related to MEMO1 and used some techniques that no one in my lab had yet worked with. We had significant ups and downs throughout her time in the lab. However, Joann has always been one of the most thoughtful researchers; she is constantly asking questions and trying to understand her project at a deep level. Joann has also had a breadth of research experiences, not just in the techniques she used in my lab, but through her two summer internships at other institutions. I have been impressed by her reflection on her experiences and how they have shaped her future career plans. She is off to graduate school next year ready to focus on chemical biology. There is no doubt in my mind that she is going to be a phenomenal scientist and I can’t wait to see it.
Let’s hear from Joann as she reflects on her experiences:
1. Why did you decide to join the Pollock lab?
Joann: I joined the Pollock lab after participating in IQS, which supported us with one summer of funding for research. I remember I talked to a couple of professors in the biology and chemistry departments but I was really interested in the translational aspect of Dr. Pollock’s research and the focus on cancer!
2. What was your favorite part about your research experience?
Joann: My favorite part about my research experience has been studying the protein-protein interaction between MEMO1 and ERBB2. When I first joined the lab, I didn’t know anything about PPIs and now that is one of my main research interests. I really like how the problems we solve in the lab require a mix of biochemistry, chemistry and chemical biology skills and even though I sat under the hood for one summer synthesizing (which I actually really enjoyed), I also learned protein expression and purification!
3. What do you plan to do after graduation?
Joann: After graduation, I will be starting a Ph.D. in chemistry at Yale University in the fall (Fall 2021). I am really excited and will be on the chemical biology track!
4. 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?
Joann: I think advice I would give to an incoming student interested in research or potentially interested in research would be to try different research experiences. I know that professors want you to stay in their labs for multiple summers but I think the thing that has really benefited me was the span of research experiences I had. I got to explore different cities and different institutions (before COVID was a thing), but also different research fields and areas, which helped me narrow down what I wanted to do for graduate school. Having a variety of experiences in different fields really helped me be able to identify research areas that excited me and areas that didn’t excite me as much. I would also say to try doing research if you haven’t had experience with it before. I had no idea what research was when I came into college and after doing research for two weeks, I fell in love with it.
Joann – You are going to rock the classroom and research lab at Yale. I can’t wait to see what cutting edge chemical biology you use. Look for an invitation to come back and give a seminar at UR. Keep trusting your skills! And always keep in touch. I’m rooting for you always!