Speech given at the Fall 2013

Welcoming S.U.C.C.E.S.S. in STEM Event


Start early and stay invested. Professors dedicate a lot of their time, money, and energy into training you, and will work with you to build the foundation you need to excel in science. Foundations take a long time to build.

The time, energy, and encouragement of your PI will change your life. The least you can do is stick around long enough to give them useable data.

You won't know if you like research until you try it! And I don't mean take your first bite of sushi and decide, no it is chewy and never try seafood again... I mean throw yourself in to the 12 hour days of research for 6 months and go gosh! I could do that for the rest of my life!!!

You will make mistakes. Accept that and move past it. You will accidentally pipet too hard, and spill about $200 dollars of lipid onto the bench. And your PI will accept that and tell you simply to repeat the experiment, and to be more careful.

With research, what you put into it is what you will get back. The more time and effort you invest, the more success you will have. Work with your PI to always add a drop of heart (and a lot of sweat and some tears) into doing your best. Invest! Research is a lifestyle. Love, breath, eat, read, and talk about your research. Let it become a part of who you are. It won't define your entire existence, but great scientists allow it to be a large part of who they are. Be proud of that and never let haters get you down.

Realize you have to adapt. You won't always be in the same lab at the same school with the same PI at the same colleagues. You need to adapt. Without adaptation, species do not survive, and neither do researchers.

Accept that you have puzzle pieces with no box. You may not see the pretty picture of a unicorn, but you can always start by putting the edge pieces together and give it your best!

Understand that every piece is important. You will not see where that one piece with a weird green speck goes, but it is part of the puzzle and it is important. Realize that the small tedious tasks that keep a lab running (getting ddH20, filling tip boxes, and washing glassware) are important too. And if you do those tasks with a smile because you know they need to be done, you will be noticed and appreciated by those that really matter... aka your boss.

In the words of Dr. W. J. Nelson from Stanford, take your ego and sit on it. Don't be arrogant, be confident. From now on, if you are the smartest person in the room, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Strive to seek out those that know more than you and allow them to teach you. It may feel uncomfortable at first to feel "lower" and out of your element. But these conversations and experiences will enrich your life more than you will realize at the time.

For life and in research, be absolutely in the moment, remember the moment and write it down with critical objectivity, and then marvel at the fantastic-ness of each piece falling together years later into an idea that may revolutionize a field or lead to that first publication with your name on it!

From me and ALL established scientists I have talked to, serendipity plays a large role in life. But those times when opportunity knocks, or a door or window opens, throw yourself at it with as much gusto as you can manage! Enough of your passion will get through that you will go many, many places. And the very best part is that, at the end of the day, at the end of many failed experiments or nationally recognized successes, you decide how well you did and how far you will go. I choose to think like a proton and stay positive and realize that today, I have given my absolute best! And that has and continues to motivate me to get me where I want to go and accomplish as much as I can once I get there.

Thank you!

Chelsea McCallister