I graduated from The George Washington University in May 2009, and afterwards spent a semester working as a research assistant at Alabama State University in the Center for Nanobiotechnology Research. This sparked interest in the possibility of continuing a career doing research, and drove me to enroll in UAB’s PREP program in January 2010. I started working in the Department of Microbiology in the productive lab of Dr. David Briles, where we are studying the important mechanisms in protection and virulence against colonization and invasive disease of Streptococcus pneumoniae. I was given an independent project to examine the effect of pneumococcal capsule expression and mucoid phenotype on early biofilm formation from Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates collected from cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. We are hoping to determine if the ability of these mucoid isolates to form biofilms might help to explain their prevalence and lethality in the lungs of CF patients.

In my first semester of PREP I enrolled in a course titled Writing & Reviewing Research which is designed to prepare students to effectively review literature in their field and develop the skills necessary to begin writing scientific papers. This course helped provide the foundation needed when I was ready to begin writing my own paper for publication. Other courses I completed while in PREP include Human Anatomy, Bacterial Pathogenesis, Fundamentals of Biochemistry, and Molecular Genetics. These advanced courses prepared me for coursework that I will be expected to take in graduate school.

One of the most exciting opportunities during my time in PREP was our trip to the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in fall 2010. This was a great opportunity for networking with other students, meeting with admissions representatives of various graduate schools, and attending informational lectures and workshops. Additional valuable portions of my PREP experience include GRE Prep and development of my presentation skills. We were provided with one-on-one essay writing and test taking help which was useful in the grad school application/interview process.

After completing PREP, due to the success of my project in the Briles lab, I decided to remain in the lab for an additional year to continue my research and obtain my MS. I am currently working on publishing 2 papers and completing my Master’s Thesis. I am also in the process of applying into MD/PhD programs across the country. I am grateful for my time spent in PREP and the recourses it has provided for me. PREP thoroughly prepared me for research and course work in graduate school, and helped to create a competitive application for PhD and MD/PhD Programs. This experience has made an invaluable impact on the course of my career, and I recommend it to any student who has an interest in research or who is thinking about pursuing a career in the sciences.