My year in PREP@UCD

–Anna Georgieva

I’ve worked in a research lab since I was a freshman in college. I even worked full time in a lab during the summer, but doing a year of full-time research was a new experience, an exciting experience.

When I was first accepted into PREP@UCD, I thought the experience was mainly about growing as a scientist and as a researcher, but it has been so much more than that. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of science going on: I run Western Blots, split cells, perform assays, and analyze data every day. I definitely expanded my research skills immensely, but that was only a small portion of what PREP did for me.

I was fortunate enough to join the lab of Dr. Aldrin Gomes. That first day was so stressful, but from the second I walked into the lab, I knew I was in the right place. Dr. Gomes is very passionate about mentoring students, so when I entered his lab, there were about 15 students standing around, introducing each other. I have spent the last 11 months creating life-long friendships with some of them.

Not only did I find amazing friends in the Gomes lab, but my PREP cohort was my biggest support throughout this year. While I did not move far (SoCal -> NorCal), I really struggled with the distance and felt homesick more often than I would like to admit. My fellow PREPers became my home away from home. We had weekly meetings where we discussed everything from struggles in our research to how big Joseph’s son was getting. We laughed, we stressed, we panicked, but we did it together.

Before I even had the chance to blink, the application cycle was upon us, and applying to grad school was grueling to say the least. Once again though, not having to go through the process alone was so incredibly helpful. I remember one night while we were at ABRCMS, we all gathered our computers, sat in one of our hotel rooms, and worked on applications together. Knowing that we were all in it together gave me peace of mind. The day we all accepted our offers from our dream schools was definitely the highlight of this year.

And while I go on and on about the students I met along the way, none of this would have been possible without Dan and Carole. I had the credentials necessary to apply to graduate school during my senior year, and I most likely would have been accepted, but I did not have the confidence to do so. I was worried that I did not have what it takes to be a successful graduate student. I know, imposter syndrome at its finest, but Dan and Carole reassured me every step of the way that I have what it takes.

I applied to PREP@UCD for the support during the application process and for the preparation that they gave us. From the day the program started, Dan and Carole had us working on our applications, which was amazing because that December 1st deadline definitely creeps up on you. They offered us so many resources: a GRE course, working on personal statements as a group, multiple graduate student panels, mock interviews and so much more. We were definitely the most prepared applicants out there.

I learned a lot this year and I grew in ways that I did not expect. Yes, I learned many new research techniques, but I also learned that it’s okay to make a mistake. I learned that it’s normal to doubt myself, but that I cannot let that hold me back. I learned that the people you meet are just as important as the skills you acquire. I will forever cherish the memories and friendships that I gained this year.

Thank you PREP@UCD.