We’re proud of our alumni and celebrate their successes! For our research associates, that success often takes them away from our lab and on to post-graduate programs in medicine and biomedical research.
Congratulations to Belfer Alumna Allison O’Connell – MD PhD Georgetown class of 2021! While we still miss her all these years later, Allison insisted that we “stay friends,” so we asked her to reflect on her development at Belfer and how it helped her when she “just needed a change:”
I enjoyed the community the most. The Belfer’s unique structure offers the benefits of a “big lab” and a “small lab” simultaneously. By working as part of a larger team, I met many colleagues that quickly became friends. By working on an individual project, I got more mentorship to develop professionally and scientifically. This dynamic created a fun space where I could learn an infinite amount, while simultaneously being supported and encouraged to pursue my personal goals.
My experience working at the Belfer was integral to my success in medical school. While at the Belfer, the extensive research expanded the breadth and depth of my biological understanding. I also learned to critically think about scientific and medical concepts, which, when translated to medical school, allowed me to go beyond memorization and truly understand medical school content. After medical school, I will continue to leverage these skills on my never-ending journey to be an exceptional physician.
Why work at the Belfer Center? Alumna Kristin DePeaux also told us “it’s not you, it’s me” and “I’m leaving you for a PhD” before beginning her PhD training at University of Pittsburg Biomedical Graduate Studies.
I really appreciated the unique opportunity to be involved in both academic- and industry-driven projects. I was able to make a more informed decision for the next step in my career through the insight I gained in these different research settings. The variety of projects at the Belfer also helped me choose a graduate program. Through exposure to many different aspects of cancer biology I was able to determine what was most exciting to me. As the Belfer is located within the Longwood Medical Area I also had access to a variety of cutting-edge technology as well as seminars and conferences. The proximity to so much exciting research allowed me to learn an incredible amount about cancer biology and immunology during my 3 years there.
I had many opportunities at the Belfer which directly prepared me for grad school. I was able to routinely present my research, both to my project group as well as the entire Belfer which improved my scientific communication skills. This is a critical skill set I use every day in grad school. I also had many opportunities to use cutting-edge technology and techniques. This gave me an advantage while interviewing as I was already experienced in techniques that many labs were just starting to implement. This unique skill set made me a more desirable candidate. Most importantly, my time at the Belfer made me a better independent researcher. Working at the Belfer improved my skills in designing experiments, time management, analyzing data, and presenting results to a group. I was able to take these skills into grad school and immediately begin my research at a more efficient level.