Bryn Tolchinsky, an executive board member of the Center for Undergraduate Research Board of Students (CURBS), graduated in 2019 majoring in Microbiology and Cell Science. At UF she was able to work with the UF IFAS Fort Lauderdale Extension Center, UF Emerging Pathogens Institute. She is currently completing her Masters of Science in Microbiology degree while working as a Scientist in Assay Development and Analytics at ThermoFisher Scientific Viral Vector site in Alachua, FL.
Why did you get started in undergraduate research? I became involved in undergraduate research because I wanted to perform hands-on lab work that applied the concepts and knowledge I was learning in my microbiology classes. As a good portion of my classes were lab-based, I wanted to get involved in research to be able to grow as a scientist and understand the successes and failures of research, which ultimately prepared me for success in classroom lab work. Additionally, I wanted to become a part of a diverse, collaborative team working together to understand the complex mechanisms of the bacterial pathogen we studied and communicate our findings to my peers, professors, friends and family at conferences, research days, and presentations.
How has your research experience shaped your career? CUR and research, as a whole, allowed me to learn that research can be a full time job. For the longest time, I thought my only path forward was getting a PhD, doing work in an academic lab, and becoming a professor; however, with CUR resources and having conversations with my research colleagues, I learned about the world of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that rely on scientists conducting research to bring innovative scientific products to the market for improving patients’ well being. CUR also provided me with the resources to communicate my findings of my undergraduate research work at the various CUR symposia I attended during undergrad. Through my time in CURBS, I connected with a community of bright young minds and future leaders who work hard to provide numerous opportunities and resources to UF students hoping to get involved or who are already involved in undergraduate research. My two years in the CURBS Workshops committee, one as an ambassador and another as a director, was my favorite college experience as I was able to create, plan, facilitate, and host over 30 workshops ranging from how to find a research project to translating research skills to the workplace to applying to graduate school. Through workshops and through CURBS events, I recognized that I enjoy and am skilled at presenting research to individuals of diverse backgrounds and this still has translated to me receiving interviews at Johnson and Johnson, Janssen, and Hormel Foods, an internship at Elanco Animal Health, and a full time job at ThermoFisher Scientific.
What advice would you give someone interested in undergraduate research? My advice is to be curious and ask questions. If you are in a class and something sparks your interest, talk to your professor about it during office hours, ask him or her questions regarding this interest, and do some of your own research on this interest to see what research is occurring at UF in that area. Definitely attend CUR events such as workshops or the research expo and speak with a CUR peer advisor about this research interest as he/she can lead you in the right direction. Once you begin looking for undergraduate research positions, emphasize your interest in this research subject to the professor/principal investigator by reading literature relevant to this area and asking thoughtful questions. Researchers want to bring on passionate students with an eager-to-learn mentality!