No Need To Choose! Become a Research Scientist and a Doctor by Sanika Walimbe

I am not going to lie, on the first day I was terrified to start the Internship. I remember while getting ready thinking:

What should I wear?

Were they going to like me?

Was my mentor going to be nice?

When the other Interns and I anxiously walked into the lab meeting, I was in shock. Wow! There are so many smart people here was my first thought… which is still true.

As we walked around the beautiful UC Davis Medical Center, I was in awe. I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to be able to have an Internship at my dream school.

After the tour and a presentation on Safety, I met my amazing mentor, Julie Beegle and it turned out that my mentor was the complete opposite of the big scary mentor image I had conjured up in my head before the Internship.

SanikaWalimbe_mediaprepOn the second day, I was not prepared to do any serious lab work, and I was surprised when I had to do a bacterial transformation with the plasmids we needed for my project. When Julie first explained the project and the disease I was trying to treat (which was to study how effective it would be to transduce cells with a gene coding for Beta-Galactosidase to treat GM1 Gangliosidosis). I had a plethora of questions, I didn’t understand anything at first. But luckily, Julie was patient enough to explain everything to me multiple times. During the bacterial transformation, my hands were shaking. I had never touched a real pipette in my life, only the cheap plastic ones. I cautiously performed all the steps, with much help from my mentor, and at the end of the day, I felt like a real scientist. The whole experience was different from any chemistry experiment I did at school, and I loved it.  I knew that this was my first real step into the amazingly complex world of science.

Spinning Vector-my favorite thing to do on Fridays!

Throughout the weeks, I gradually started to get a feel of how to pipette, proper sterile technique and how to use and understand “researcher jargon”. Professor Bauer’s lectures were beginning to seem like not such an alien topic.

My favorite part was listening to the guest lectures from Dr. Kuppermann, Dr. Belafsky and Dr. Wheelock. They were inspiring figures because they made me realize that it was possible to do both; be a scientist and be a doctor. Before, I was under the impression that you could either be a doctor or a researcher, no in between. After hearing the diverse career options, this internship has inspired me to be like the doctors that we listened to, do research and also be a doctor.

Overall, this Internship was a life changing experience that has shaped me into the person I am now, and the person I will be in the future. It has helped me define my career, connected me with 9 other incredibly smart Interns from across the region and my lovely HIV Team and most importantly, it has opened me up into the world of science. I will forever be grateful for being able to experience this one in a lifetime opportunity. I am extremely sad this internship is coming to a close, but I can’t wait to visit and continue to study science for the rest of my life.


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