From Med School to Research

I find that it is not uncommon for a first-year Pre-Biology student to say they want to go to med school. It’s the majority. I wondered what other people’s reason for wanting to go to med school was. I didn’t have a concrete reason. I want to help people and truthfully, I thought it was the “correct” path as a biology major.

I didn’t want to close myself off to any other options, but a lot of the decisions I made as a first-year was so I can study medicine. Everyone told me it was “impossible” to get into medical school. I repeated to myself, “keep your hopes up, grades higher.”

I had a rough first year. I devoted my time to my studies and getting good grades without doing much else. However, by my second year, I began doing other extracurriculars, one of which was joining a research lab. I was intrigued by the idea of research, and I ended up enjoying it. I worked in a marine biology and ecology laboratory. Even though I liked the work we were doing, I did not see myself having a career in that field in the future. So I went back to focusing on medicine.

Then I got an email.

Still keeping my options open, the email stated I would be a good candidate for a biomedical research scholarship. This caught my attention. A combination of medicine and research seemed like the right fit for me. After talking to people, considering what I like most and what would be best for me, I decided to apply.

And I got it. Now, I am a proud MARC Scholar.

With the scholarship, I was able to have an intensive summer research experience in a virology and host interaction laboratory. I enjoyed every minute, from the late nights in the lab to interpreting the results of a western blot to getting lunch with some lab members. I fell in love with the work we are doing and with the people. I have finally found something I am truly passionate about.

I now have a better idea of what I want to do in the future, and research will definitely be a part of that. Even though I am happy I was able to come to this decision, it has been a tough couple of years. It took a lot of ups and downs, questioning and debating, and trying things out.

The overall point is this: it’s okay not to know. About anything. It’s okay to explore different things. It’s okay to move around, drop some things, focus on some others. And most importantly, if you don’t know, keep your options open.

When it comes to research, there are so many fields you could go into, some I hadn’t even heard about before. One very important thing: don’t get discouraged if one doesn’t excite you. It might not be the one for you. Try another one, who knows what will happen?

What I have learned as well is that if research is something you are interested in, definitely try to get some experience, whenever you can! There’s one thing liking the research and another thing physically doing the research, being in a lab for hours, and devoting a lot of your time to it.

The truth is also this: research is not easy. Most of the time, it’s failures. But, at the end of the day, it is so rewarding when something does work. Or when you see results that have never been seen before! It is truly fascinating.

If you are saying you want to go to med school as you walk through the doors of your first chemistry course, and you don’t know why but it just seems like the right thing to do, think about all the other careers you could go into. Think about all the options you have. Maybe I’m a little biased, but research is a very good one.

Explore your options, whether that be different careers or within research, you never know where you will end up. Keep your hopes high, options higher.