IN LSAMP Scholar prepares for an exciting future in Biomedicine at TSRI DiVERGE

Keon Jones, a 2017-18 IN LSAMP Scholar at Indiana University South Bend was selected to attend the 2018 Diversity Visitation Event for Research and Graduate Education (DiVERGE) program held on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in January.

Keon shares his experience – While at the DiVERGE program we were able to meet with current graduate students in an informal setting for dinner. This experience helped me realize the people we aspire to be are no different from us and we too can achieve our goals. As STEM majors we are often cooped together and living in our own world. I invite you to take the time to interact with other people who have different interests than you. Through the interactions with the intellectual group invited to participate in DiVERGE, I came to the realization that I was there for a reason as well. I’ve worked hard with a passion to succeed and as I finish my degree strong, I feel like the fight is well worth it. Throughout my education, I struggled to understand some chemical concepts and I needed to strive to be better than myself and not others.

Keon shares how attending DiVERGE prepared him for his future career – My participation in DiVERGE allowed me to further explore my interests and gain a better understanding about graduate school. The interactions I had with current graduate students and faculty at The Scripps Research Institute showed me the determination it takes to be a scientist. I also learned communication skills will serve as an excellent asset throughout my career. As medicine advances, research needs to follow suit. Biomedicine is a revolutionary field so there are many questions yet to be answered.

Keon’s advice for students preparing for graduate school – Allowing yourself to have confidence and patience if you want to pursue a career in medical research. In order to answer the unknown, you’re going to incur a lot of failure on the path to success. Ultimately, research can be very rewarding if you are willing to persevere through the difficult times. When applying to graduate school your application is looked at as a whole, with research experience playing a critical role. Participation in research through your home school or REUs is essential. Many opportunities exist for undergraduates to explore different fields in STEM.

I recommend that students apply early and not be afraid to express your truth while writing your personal statement. You must decide for yourself what makes you interested in science. This program is designed to reach out to students with varying degrees of interests and research. For students who do not possess any prior research experience explain how a program like this may benefit you. Understanding the qualities of a researcher and demonstrating from personal experience skills such critical thinking, creativity, patience, and dedication will go a long way in your application.

Keon’s strategies for building a strong support network for your STEM career – As I continue with my studies as a biologist, I’ve learned that you must develop a breadth of knowledge and appreciation for other fields as well. Science has so many fields that are interconnected and one person simply cannot know it all, so collaboration with your colleagues can go a long way. Your curiosity should never peak as a scientist, there’s too many questions to answer! For my future STEM career, I hope to apply more communication skills in order to speak to the world about scientific research. In today’s world, it is no longer good enough to only be able to perform the science, you have to be able to talk about it and sell it as well.

Building a strong relationship with my professors throughout my education has always been critical in my development as a student. Without their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Also, having a close network of friends to support and push me through the tough times has been helpful, surrounding yourself with people who want to see you succeed and believe in you is uplifting and motivating. Science is difficult and demanding, so I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help.


IN LSAMP Scholar shares strategies from her experience at TSRI DiVERGE

Sunny research in January! This is a dream for most of us enjoying the frigid temperatures and snowfall in Indiana from the winter cyclone that welcomed 2018. Learn how one student used her skills and experience to make this dream a reality.

Celia Ochoa, a 2017-18 IN LSAMP Scholar studying at IUPUI pursuing a career in biomedical research was accepted to attend the 2018 Diversity Visitation Event for Research and Graduate Education (DiVERGE) program held on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in January. She shares insight from her experience and advice for future students interested in applying for professional development opportunities.

Celia’s shares how attending DiVERGE helps her prepare for her future career in Biomedical Engineering

Attending the DiVERGE seminar helped me prepare for a career in biomedical research by connecting me with students and professionals that are interested or that already have careers in the field. I was able to learn more about the admissions process for graduate school from committee members themselves and current graduate students. I also had the exciting opportunity to attend grad student poster sessions, researchers’ seminars, and even tour the labs at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). In addition, I learned about the importance of having research experience as an undergraduate student and to preview TSRI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program. Furthermore, I learned about the type of involvement and steps that I should be taking now to prepare for a successful career in biomedical research.

Celia’s advice for students preparing for graduate school

When applying to graduate school, applications will typically include a research statement, statement of purpose, letter of recommendations, and GPA/test scores. In the research statement, it is important to be able to articulate the significance of your research and “what you did”. While in the personal statement it is your opportunity to explain “what you want to do” and how you would be a good fit for the institution/graduate program. Ultimately, members of the admission committee are looking for applicants that are passionate about research, have a strong ability to well articulate their research experience and career goals, and show that they have the potential and grit needed to succeed in graduate school and beyond.

Celia’s advice on how students can prepare competitive applications

Always read the requirements and materials closely to ensure that you meet all requirements and that you have time to gather your material including letters of recommendation. I recommend students interested in applying to take a moment to reflect on why research is important to them or why they are considering graduate school. I find that when you are genuinely interested and excited about applying to a specific program or opportunity like the DiVERGE program, it further motivates you to do research about the program and helps you in submitting an application that truly stands out

Tips to gather letters of recommendation that will spotlight your application

When requesting letter of recommendation, ask your professor, employer, coach or if you have research experience preferably your research mentor/primary investigator to write you a GREAT letter.

Provide your recommender with your resume and sharing anything specific you may want them to include can help them through the writing process.

How will her experience at DiVERGE be applied in her future STEM career

One of the most important outcomes that I learned from the DiVERGE program is to find what motivates and drives me as an aspiring scientist and engineer. In science, new discoveries are continuously being made; however, this often comes with many moments of failure. Therefore, it is important to be able to have something that keeps you driven and to not give up even in face of adversity. I believe that staying committed to my values and focused on my research goals will be important in the development of my future STEM career.

Can you share any activities from DiVERGE that impacted your professional development?

Before arriving to TRSI, we were asked to come prepared to deliver and share our elevator pitch. Initially, I was very intimidated given that I knew the other participants also came from top universities and were heavily involved in incredible research projects. I wrote down my elevator pitch several times, watched online tutorials for advice, and recited my 60 second opportunity to stand out speech to myself on the plane multiple times. When the time finally came, we essentially, had a “speed dating” style set-up to allow us to practice and share our elevator pitch with one another. To my surprise, participating in this activity was not as scary as I initially thought. By the end of it, I felt more confident about talking about my research and goals. Most importantly, I also had the opportunity to learn from the other participants and share the excitement about similar research/career interests. I put my new confidence and skills to use later in the program by having interesting and intellectual conversations with primary investigators about their research and my own, as well.

Celia’s call to action

I would like to challenge more students to take advantage of programs like the DiVERGE visitation program at Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). As a low-income, minority, and woman in STEM I find it difficult to afford to travel to visit graduate programs on my own or to even make attending graduate school a reality. However, through DiVERGE I was able to visit their institution, learn about graduate school, summer internship/research opportunities, network, learn career development skills, and hopefully motivate more students to invest time to pursue their goals, as well.

Want to learn more about IN LSAMP at IUPUI?


Dr. Tamiko Porter

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