On my morning commute to the lab a few weeks back, I saw a patient strolling slowly by the front of the main hospital. She took a moment to smell one of the roses that was in full bloom right outside the main door. She had on a hot pink bandanna that matched this color of the rose so perfectly. It was unfortunate for me to see the flowers completely demolished by bulldozers the following week. This infinitesimal moment is something I think about constantly, especially now.
My knockdown experiment was unsuccessful – it only showed about 40% knockdown efficiency. This was not nearly enough for me to continue culturing my cells and running subsequent experiments on EZH2 target genes. It was devastating to find out after multiple weeks of agonizing over what could have possible gone wrong. We personally think that it has something to do with the vector we used, which subsequently led to insufficient transfection and downstream problems. Because of this setback, I am not nearly as far along in my project as I would have hoped. I restarted transfecting the KMC mouse cell line with CRISPR-CAS9 constructs of EZH2 in the hope that this slightly different approach will be more successful, in this case, in knocking out EZH2. I will also be pursuing the knockdown again but with some modifications to the protocol.
Being at this institution and meeting many graduate students this summer has made me think about the prospects of graduate school as well. Alas, this too has made me feel unequivocally terrified. As a first generation college student, I, along with many others I have spoken with in the same situation, constantly feel as though we do not have a structured support system from our family to figure out how the whole “college and graduate school thing” works. Thankfully, I was met with kind support and advice from current students within UT-Health and MD Andersons’ Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) and Dr. Melinda Yates. They run a First Generation Students Organization to talk about these concerns, flesh out solutions, and share stories. One of the first things I was told was that you should never feel like you are alone in this process. There are others before you that have gone through the application process and the five to seven years of doctoral work. They will guide you when no one else can. Current students shared their diverse paths to getting to graduate school, including applying multiple times, taking gap years to pursue related and unrelated passions, post-baccalaureate programs, entrepreneurial endeavors, supportive mentorship from employers and principal investigators, and persistence through every single moment when someone told them they would not be able to make it through. Every fear I have had is a fear that every person in that room shared and they were still able to achieve exactly what they wanted, meaning that any first generation student is capable of doing the same.
In the face of adversity, I have to remember that the flowers in front of the main hospital will eventually bloom again, just as promising results will eventually come from my project, and just as I will be able to pursue science like everyone else here has. There are always going to be setbacks in one’s health, studies, or educational endeavors. However, to overcome these obstacles, you must optimize, think critically, and practice again and again. It is about resilience. I have to remember that the little moments are what should matter most, like this patient smelling the flowers. I appreciate the techniques I have learned, the science that I am learning, the papers I have read, the seminars I have attended, and the budding scientists I have had the pleasure of interacting with so far.