Is it already that time of the year already? When the seniors graduate and move on to bigger and better things? I cannot believe it (I know, I know, I say this every year, but it is always true). Graduation is in just over a week and this year there are two remarkable lab members who will be walking across the stage.

First up is BMB major, Ted Corl. Ted joined the lab in 2021 and worked on an interesting new aspect of the MEMO1 project; unfortunately as science sometimes goes, that project did not pan out as expected. He continued to dabble in research throughout his junior year and then worked at a pharmaceutical company in summer 2022. What impressed me most about Ted was how he came back to campus invigorated about a new direction for his project designed from his experience in Dr. Hamm’s med chem course as well as his summer internship. He secured funding and made significant progress. We have a few things to tie up this summer but be on the look out for a manuscript that will come out hopefully soon. Ted has such an inquisitive mind and is always eager to learn. It has served him well in college and will allow him to flourish beyond UR. 

As is the tradition, I asked Ted to reflect on his experiences. Let’s see what he says:

1. Why did you decide to join the Pollock lab?

Ted: I recall meeting with Dr. Hamm first and I had discussed my profound interest in cancer and biochemistry and she pointed me in the direction of the Pollock Lab. I think I read every page on the lab website and several blog posts before deciding this was my dream lab. I was drawn to all the projects that the lab was doing at the time, some of which have concluded, some of which are still ongoing. I also had spoken to a lab member by happenstance; I was working at a COVID testing lab with Peace Nyeche a ’22 graduate, and she had told me how the whole lab operated and how much fun it was. I could tell the Pollock lab definitely had a sense of comradery and that was reinforced as soon as I joined February of ’21. That summer my labmates and I frequently made plans for after research and continued to spend time together until they all graduated in ’22. I could tell from the outside that the pollock lab was more than just a place to do research, it was a second family; and boy was I right about that.

2. What was your favorite part about your research experience?

Ted: I met a ton of new people in my major and outside of my major and that was definitely an exciting experience for me. A relationship built through research is not like a typical classroom friendship and I really enjoy reminiscing on the memories from my summer research. I also learned a lot about how academic research is conducted compared to clinical and industrial. I think having experience in all three helped me refine my career path and also helped me further sharpen my lab skills and technique. I also really value my failed attempts at research. Not enough people talk about their failed experiments. I learned a lot of valuable lessons from my experiments that did not work out and the troubleshooting of experiments always led to profound connections between my coursework and my research.

3. What do you plan to do after graduation?

Ted: I will be working at Pfizer as a Next Generation Sequencing Associate Scientist. There, I will be working in the Viral Vaccines R&D department validating the mRNA constructs the mRNA synthesis team develops in hopes of developing an mRNA vaccine for influenza. I’ve worked with NGS just once before at a previous job and I found it incredibly interesting and am excited to learn more about it and improve my lab skills. I have not completely turned my back on medical school but for the foreseeable future, I will be working at Pfizer.

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? 

Ted: Take risks, meet people, do research, and have fun. College has been the most formative years of my life and I know others feel the same. When I first moved into Lora Robins Court, I was definitely scared of how to navigate making friends and the social scene all while remaining competitive as a medical school applicant and how I could ever juggle everything. I made conscious efforts to do all of them to the best of my abilities and I honestly didn’t “figure it all out” until midway through college. Even then, I had no idea what my immediate plans after college were and that was okay. Stressful, but okay. I figured it out eventually! I think many other people felt the same during their first years but I would definitely find a healthy outlet for your stress and have fun because at some point in your Gottwald career, you will be reminded why science is hard hahaha.

Ted – I love that last piece of advice. Science is hard (no matter how long you have worked in your field) so make sure that you are having fun. Please remember that as you continue in your career at Pfizer. I am so proud of you! Don’t forget to respond to my emails because we will get this paper written and submitted soon. Congratulations!