As it’s been almost 3 years since the original post below, I figure it’s time to update where I am on my science journey!
In bullet form
- Worked at a startup company for 2 years after school – Hepatochem
- Became a visiting researcher at Salem State University – Helped design research class on finding bioactive compounds from endophytic fungi
- Didn’t get into the PhD program I wanted
- Quit job to pursue research into the secondary metabolism of Actinomyces full time.
- Kept working in the basement lab…and the research paid off
- Got accepted to the IndieBio EU 2015 accelerator batch and co-founded Prospective Research, Inc.
We currently setup our new lab at Endicott College in Beverly Farms, MA and still hold some space at Salem State University where our professors have been very helpful in letting us have free run of the place all in the name of science!
Our main focus is the synthesis of signalling molecules to study the elicitation of cryptic secondary metabolites in Actinomyces.
I’d like to pursue a PhD with one of the following labs in the next few years.
-Anywhere at the John Innes Center!
Old original post, kept for posterity’s sake!
My name is Dakota and I am an at home scientist, dwelling mainly in the basement when it comes to bench work. A lot of at home scientists setup make-shift labs wherever they can; bedrooms, basements, attics, kitchens. Where your lab is isn’t important, what is important is that you make the best of what you have, and utilize to the best of your abilities the equipment and resources you do have. Remember, building a nice lab can take years, or even a lifetime for most people. Maintain a positive attitude and good things will come.
A little more about my background.
I just finished my Bachelors of Science degree in Chemistry – American Chemical Society approved focus, at Salem State College (now University) in Salem, MA. I minored in Physics, and would have liked to finish a Mathematics minor as well, but alas I was required to take badminton and indoor golf in order to graduate. Long live the not-broken education system.
I wouldn’t say I took the normal route to get where I am, having dropped out of high school my senior year and working manual labor for another two or three years before returning to school in 2007, finishing my degree in 2011. Science has always been one of the things that brings me joy, no matter what I’m doing in a lab or classroom environment, be it taking temperature readings for 12 hours straight or learning mind melting P-chem, it’s always fun! That is one of the benefits to following and immersing yourself in work you are passionate about…if you love it you really never work a day in your life.
In the summer of 2003-2004 I was lucky enough to get a summer internship at New England Biolabs, working on optimizing enzyme mixtures for repairing damaged DNA. It was without a doubt one of the most influential and rewarding educational experiences of my life, and I am still very grateful to the people who helped me there. I learned more in one summer working in the lab on PCR, gels, and gene cloning as a sophomore in high school then I did in college in my biochem courses. I mention this only because I think young people have a lot more potential and capacity for learning then the education system, or even sometimes teachers, gives them credit for, and also to stress the incredible importance of hands on learning in a real laboratory setting.
When I brought a chemistry book from Linus Pauling to school that I had been reading and asked two of my teachers to help explain to me something I didn’t understand, I remember them laughing and saying, “wait until college to learn that, you don’t need to know that now” before returning to their small talk and completely ignoring me.
I was very disheartened at how quickly someone trying to learn something new was dismissed, and I have never forgotten that moment because I promised myself I would never do that to a student when I became a teacher.
And so, that is one of the reasons I want to pursue a PhD, not only to continue research into new and thought provoking uncharted territory, but so that I can be there to answer any question any student ever has. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll say, “let’s learn this together!”
I also wish to pursue science because I believe it is vital to the survival of the human species. No other tool has saved more lives, but one could also argue the converse, that no other tool has destroyed more lives. Science and technological advancement is a double edged sword, bringing advancements in the fields of medicine, computation, and energy production, while simultaneously bringing advancements in the weapons and armaments sector. Carl Sagan said it best.
“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
Therefore, I will continue to dedicate my life to the pursuit of knowledge, and in that journey I welcome whomever would like to join me in sharing the joy of exploring the mysteries and nature and the universe.