I was part of the 2011 Summer Undergraduate Research Program, working under the supervision of Dr. George Church. At the time I was pursuing undergraduate studies at McMaster University in the Arts and Science Program, with a combined honors in Biology and a minor in Origins Research Specialization. I am currently a second year graduate student at the University of Toronto, studying Molecular Genetics in the Genetics and Genome Biology Program at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Through the summer OLI program, I was able to interact with many renowned leaders in the field of Origins research as well as budding scientists like myself. The program encouraged dialogue between professors and trainees. I was supervised by Dr. George Church, and in his lab, I studied protein chimerism as it relates to early building blocks of life. This academically rigorous program shaped my passion for research and laid the foundation for my graduate studies. At Harvard OLI, I was able to ask questions and think critically about how to approach a scientific question, effectively learning how to learn from my peers and mentors. With the support of fellow lab members, I was able to supplement my undergraduate courses with hands-on lab work in the hopes of understanding the world of genetics a little bit better.
While at Harvard University during the summer of 2012, I was provided an opportunity to perform research under the mentorship of Dr. Juan Perez-Mercader. I worked directly, on a daily basis, with Dr. Pérez-Mercader and a chemical engineer, Dr. Marta Dueñas Diez, on designing and simulating a fully chemically operated Turing machine. This machine is capable of performing a computation through solely chemical means; no electrical or mechanical input is used. The project was inherently interdisciplinary and therefore as a physics student I was exposed to fields of research outside the standard physics domain. Two of the most significant personal gains I attained through my experience at Harvard were absolute solidification in my desire to pursue a career in science, and that the research I want to be involved in be of a highly interdisciplinary nature. Further, I met and spent time with a number of other young scientists from different fields and was able to learn of their research and experiences. The Harvard Origins of Life Initiative Summer Research Award allowed me to temporarily step away from coursework and instead focus fully on research while having full access to Harvard University’s resources. The Origins of Life program provides an enriching experience, and one that I recommend to the highest level for other undergraduates to pursue.