ASK AND YOU SHALL FIND
Sparsh Gupta, ’18, School of Engineering, VUcept Executive Board
The mantra for finding research opportunities on campus seems to be: “Ask and you shall find.” While I am happy to report this is true, the real challenge is finding a lab that is a good fit.
During my first year at Vandy, I worked in a lab in the medical center that was investigating the mechanisms of cancer metastasis to bone. I was interested in the lab’s research and I was hoping to be able to make my own creative contribution. I learned a great deal just as a byproduct of being immersed in the lab, but I spent most of my time doing routine procedures without understanding why they were important. I felt like my creativity and potential were limited along with my independence.
In the summer between my first and second years, I grappled with the idea of going back to the same lab or trying to find another one. I finally felt comfortable in my lab; I knew where things were, how equipment worked, and the lab dynamic, and I was afraid that stepping into a new lab would land me back at square one. But I simply wasn’t content with the level of contribution I was allowed. After much reflection, I decided being able to contribute to the lab was more valuable than continuity, so I started reaching out to new labs.
I found a place to work in Dr. Haselton’s Laboratory for Bionanotechnology and Nanomedicine and I was quickly taken under the wing of a post-doctoral researcher. He was incredibly supportive of my energy to contribute and found projects for me to do on my own. While it was hard to step into this new environment, I love going to work in the lab and contributing. My determination has paid off, too: I am set to be published as the second author in a paper that we developed over the past year.
Working a lab at Vanderbilt has taught me to take risks and to advocate for myself, first to find positions and then to have independence and growth within them. If you’re ready to make meaningful contributions to lab work on campus, all you need to do is ask.