The Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. in Biochemistry
Duke University '19
Advisor: Hashim Al-Hashimi
B.S. in Chemistry
UNC Chapel Hill
Laura is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Sua Myong's lab. She wants to understand the dynamic RNA-protein interactions that underlie phase separation using single-molecule techniques.
A Start in Science
I was always drawn to science and in high school, I thought I was interested in medicine. I took an anatomy and advanced placement biology course and attended a medical-related summer camp which helped me realize that I was more interested in the science side rather than the medicine side.
Choosing Duke Biochemistry
It was a tough decision to say yes to Duke because I went to UNC as an undergraduate. But when I decided on Duke it came down to two things. First, I liked the feel of the department—it was small, I wouldn’t get lost, and I had good interactions with all the people. Second, Duke is strong in structure/function, more so than other programs I visited. As an aside, I loved the area.
I was successful in terms of my research and publications but I also felt my involvement in the department and the connections I made were important. I didn’t want to just go to school, I wanted to get involved in the Durham community and build my community and network at Duke.
Preparation for Next Step
I’m currently in a postdoc which is a typical next step for a PhD. Although similar, there is definitely a mind shift where you become more independent and gain more confidence. During graduate school, I wrote a lot of grants and papers which has been helpful during my postdoc.
Five to Ten Years Out
I’m still open to exploring. Currently, I’m still considering staying in academics so I chose to do a postdoc. I can test the waters being in a new lab with more independence. I also think a postdoc is a good time to figure out what you want to do next—it’s important to have an open mind and make sure you’re in the right place.
On Being a Postdoc
I like the independence, setting my own schedule, and deciding where I want to put my energies. I also enjoy mentoring students and writing papers and grants.
You have to realize a PhD is a marathon, not a sprint. You should also have balance in your life—the ride can be bumpy and your research doesn’t always go as planned. Finally, this isn’t something people typically talk about but try not to take things personally or compare yourself to others. Everyone’s project and situation are unique.