Next in our dynamic MEMO duo is BMB major, Sonia Mecorapaj. Although I have never learned to properly say her last name, Sonia has been a dedicated researcher in the lab. Her honors’ thesis that she just completed is well written and she has made some phenomenal illustrations of her work that will certainly make their way into my next grant proposal! Since I have known Sonia she has been motivated to get her PhD and work in the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to working in my lab, on a new direction for MEMO, she secured an internship at NYU before her senior year. Although I wish she would have spent two summers in my lab full-time, I was happy that she was able to expand her laboratory skill set. That, plus learning what it is like to work with academics at a large institution, will help her hit the ground running in graduate school. Let’s hear from Sonia about her time at UR:

Q: Why did you decide to join the Pollock lab?

Sonia: Since the beginning of my academic journey when I left my home country to go study in China, I knew I wanted to devote my life to cancer research. When I came to the University of Richmond I did not know it was possible to be part of a research lab while pursuing undergraduate studies. I remember reading through the faculty research here at the University of Richmond and came across Dr. Pollock’s research lab. I was truly captivated by Dr. Pollock’s research in breast cancer. It felt like a perfect match—I found that the lab’s goals resonated deeply with my own interests.

Q: What was your favorite part about your research experience?

Sonia: My favourite part about research was collaborating with Dr. Pollock to troubleshoot and find solutions to problems/challenges faced in the lab. In research, it is common to face unexpected results and also failures, as research is not a linear path. But what my experience so far has taught me is to approach these setbacks as learning opportunities rather than as failures. Although you might not get the results you anticipated, that is still a result. You can think back and realize it is actually important that we studied this and have used this method to test this hypothesis, and now we know it doesn’t work or that now we know we need to change the parameters and try something different. The entire process matters because it is contributing to our understanding of this disease. And I think I like going through the process navigating my way through the problem and then watching everything unfold. And then looking back at the whole journey and realizing how far I have come.

Q: What do you plan to do after graduation?

Sonia: After graduation from the University of Richmond, I will go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at Emory University.

Q: 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?

Sonia: In the journey of pursuing our goals, there are moments when the road seems steep and challenges loom large. Yet, amidst the hustle and bustle, it’s crucial to pause and appreciate the present moment. Instead of allowing worries to consume you, you should strive to live fully in the now, embracing each experience with gratitude and resilience.

It’s natural to grapple with feelings such as imposter syndrome, especially when faced with daunting tasks or unfamiliar territory. However, it’s important to remember that everyone progresses at their own pace. Comparing ourselves to others only serves to hinder our growth. Instead, we should focus on our own journey, celebrating our achievements and learning from our mistakes along the way.

My last advice would be, don’t hesitate to start exploring your interests and potential career paths from day one. Take advantage of research opportunities available on campus. Whether it’s through faculty-led projects, internships, or volunteering, hands-on experience is invaluable in understanding the field.


Sonia – I am so proud of what you have accomplished at UR and although I wish we could have run that one next experiment, I promise to keep you in the loop as all your hard work comes to some set of completion in the form of a manuscript. I can’t wait to hear all about what you do at Emory. I’ll be here rooting for you always! Congratulations on graduation.