The Microbe Academy for Professional Development Paves the Way to a Career in MicrobiologyCorelle Rokicki is a microbiology master’s student at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. She received her B.S. in microbiology from the same university. She tells us about her interest in science and how to get the most out of ASM Microbe.
What drew you to the science field and what are your research interests now?
I’ve always loved science – especially since my mother is a teacher and one of her colleagues, a science teacher, would take me on adventures all the time. During the Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF) program, I studied fluorescence imaging-based discovery of membrane-associated proteins in Mycobacterium smegmatis. Currently, I'm researching an uncharacterized membrane domain of proteins in Mycobacterium smegmatis. This coming fall, I'll be a first-year Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where I'll be studying molecular & cellular pathology.
Can you tell us more about URF? What was the experience like and how did it impact your career trajectory?
Well as a microbiology major at UMass Amherst, we are encouraged to join a lab as soon as possible to gain research experience. My new mentor mentioned that ASM had an amazing fellowship opportunity and encouraged me to apply. I definitely think the URF experience impacted my career, as I’m still in microbiology and will be getting a Ph.D. Having the opportunity to continue working in my lab throughout the summer allowed me to really go in-depth with my project. I wouldn’t have been able to make nearly as much progress if I had taken the summer off.
Also, as part of URF, I got the chance to go to ASM Microbe and attend the Microbe Academy for Professional Development (MAPD).
What was your experience during MAPD? What are the top 3 takeaways from URF/ MAPD and the Microbe experience?
Going to ASM Microbe and participating in MAPD was such a great experience for me. My biggest take away from MAPD was that I can have a family and still excel in this field. Science is such a demanding field and I feel like we’re always taught to put our careers first, family second. Talking to the panelists helped me understand that you can balance the two and excel at both.
The Microbe meeting itself was also great as it allowed me the opportunity to talk to many people in different areas of microbiology – not just people that work with Mycobacteria. Another big take away from this meeting, although not completely connected, but still important, is the connection I made with the other fellows. I still talk to some of the students I met and follow what they’re doing in life. Attending this conference allowed me to make more friends in a field I love – I wouldn’t have been able to do so without the URF program.
Would you encourage others to attend MAPD?
I would absolutely encourage others to attend MAPD. It’s small scale and allows you to discuss informally with professionals in the field. Rarely do you get such an opportunity, especially with individuals that have made it so far in their career.
What advice would you give to students attending MAPD? What advice would you give a new URF student?
Some advice I’d give students attending MAPD would be to ask questions. This is one of the few moments you’ll get to informally ask a professional what it’s really like to pursue such a career. Take advantage of it – no question is irrelevant and other students in the audience may have the same question.
The advice I’d give new URF students would be to really engage in your project. ASM is providing you support to follow what you love, so do just that! These 10 weeks will be a huge experience that will give you the opportunity to find out if you really love research, or if research just isn’t for you.
Since 2016, the Microbe Academy for Professional Development (MAPD) prepares undergraduate and graduate students for successful science careers. Students and professors from various backgrounds come together for a two-day workshop dedicated to networking, professional development, presentation practice and academic involvement. MAPD is open to all students and post-baccalaureates.