Finding a (scientific) home
By Bethany Johnson-Kerner | 03 April 2014
When I started in the MD/PhD program at Columbia, I knew two things: that I wanted to study the brain and that I wanted my research to (one day) make a difference for patients. I knew that to become that physician scientist, I wanted to be in lab that was focused on the mission of patient-oriented research. From the moment I started in the Project ALS lab I was blown away by the intensity and passion of the lab and its collaborators for research on ALS.
Research is a rewarding process, but admittedly, a slow process. Many of the experiments we do fail, many more must be repeated for confirmation. Day to day, it can be hard to remember what your work is for and why it is worth it. For me, knowing what the work meant to the Estess sisters and their supporters was the best encouragement. There were the small reminders, like walking past a small etching of Jenifer Estess on my way into the lab. And then there were the larger reminders: patients and family members coming in to see the lab, their hope and excitement clearly visible on their faces.
For me, finding a scientific home that fuels me has been critical in my career development. I had a great experience in the lab for my thesis work, and have identified the elements that I want to look for as I look to set up my next lab home. I will start residency in Pediatric Neurology at UCSF this summer, and hope to continue to participate in research on neurological disease throughout residency and beyond. To succeed in research, you have to know what your passion is, and my experience in the Project ALS lab was essential in developing that motivation.