This is an interview of Ms. Victoria Sun (University of Chicago Class of 2014). She was a BSCD fellow at the University of Chicago in the Summer of 2011. You can contact her via email with any further questions.
What is the name of your summer program?
This summer, I participated in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division (BSCD) fellowship at the University of Chicago.
Please give a brief summary of the program
The fellowship grants undergraduate students, who are aiming to concentrate in the biological sciences, the opportunity to experience working in a biology research lab for ten weeks over the summer. Students are able to contribute to the lab by having their own research project, while having a mentor, the principal investigator and/or a post-doctorate. Throughout the fellowship, seminars are given such that fellows can hear about what other labs are researching, and at the very end of the program, students are to present on their own findings.
Please give a brief summary of your experience of the program
I was a fellow in Sally-Horne Badovinac’s lab, which focuses on genetics and developmental biology. We use Drosophila fruit flies as our model system, and although I had experience working with them in my biology lab class during the school year, I have learned, and am still learning, an amazing amount about this seemingly trivial organism. Usually every week there was a seminar, during which a fellow’s principal investigator gave background information on his or her lab’s research. Each fellow had an individual project, and I was excited to have my own. The details aren’t necessary, but throughout the summer, the information my setup was giving me led me to continuously revise my approach and try new ways to be more efficient and productive. We gave a presentation on our progress after five weeks, wrote an abstract on our research after ten weeks, and are expected to give a final presentation the first weekend once school starts. I wasn’t able to complete everything I wanted to achieve, however this program’s purpose wasn’t for fellows to win a Nobel Prize, but experience the research lab environment. Everyone in my lab was fun, intelligent and always so willing to help me or answer my questions. I was very fortunate to have such lab members, and they were the ones who gave me the most valuable information and a great summer experience in general. Whether you are a first-year who is not sure about what you would like to do over the summer, or a third-year who is already working in a lab on campus, I would highly recommend that you consider looking for a lab and project to work on, and applying for this program.
Could you talk about the good/great/amazing things about your program?
As I have mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed this program because I was able to be part of a research lab. Learning things in a class lab and then actually being a member of a lab are two very different experiences, and the fact that UChicago can offer both is great. I was able to write, present and also hear about what other students were researching, which turned out to be really interesting, sometimes exciting, and overall a good introduction into the scientific realm. The research science world is all about communicating your findings through presentations and papers, which is not that obvious after emerging from twelve years of reading textbooks that makes science sound as if it’s all facts.
What about things in the program that could have been better?
I enjoyed most of the seminars, however some I couldn’t follow or understand well because the principal investigators seemed to assume we were all also doing research in their field. The very basic correction would be to make it clearer that the fellows need much more background information. Mainly, I would like to be able to know the BSCD committee better, or at least have a little more interaction with them. They were probably busy, but a brief meeting or individual discussion about our research progress would have been nice.
Anything really important that you learned there that you want to share?
Although this program and even other research programs in general seem to mainly be an introduction into future research endeavors, this doesn’t mean it isn’t for pre-meds. I am aiming to go to medical school, however I have found that I find lab research on fruit flies to be really interesting! Getting to know the research field, and realizing that a lot of medicine relies on this research, is important. And who knows, you may realize your true passion? Also, if you are interested in finding a lab to work in at any time, make sure you are interested in the lab’s research and that you meet some of the lab members. The lab environment is actually probably a very important factor in my opinion, the people you work with can really enhance your learning experience.
Where did you live, and how did that affect your experience?
I lived in an apartment off-campus, while I was living in the dorms during the school year. Therefore, this summer I didn’t feel as though I was in school at all. It helped me feel like I was working a full-time job. Also, I had to help cook and clean, which taught me some responsibility. I was living with roommates who were friends, and we all encouraged each other to do well in our internships/fellowships! So basically, I had a lot of fun at work, and a lot of fun at home this summer!
Could you explain how you found out about the program/application process/any tips for students interested in the program?
I learned about this program through my class, BIOS 20234. Students in this class were required to attend the fellowship presentations at the beginning of the school year. Also, my winter quarter BIOS 20235 professor also recommended students to apply for this program, and she volunteered to help students meet with principal investigators. I was just introduced to and starting in a lab, when my principal investigator suggested that I apply for this program. Thus, I don’t think you’ll miss it if you are taking a biology class or working in a research lab already, but the application deadline is sometime after spring break, so you’ll have time.
If you had a summer experience you would like to share with the University community, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org