Research vs. Coursework

Before I delve into my topic today, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Jaclyn Smith and I am a junior in Biochemistry and Polymer & Color Chemistry at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Needless to say, my first time in Boston was last week when I got here to start my internship with the Hooker Research Group. It is my first big-city experience, so I constantly feel a little bewildered as to where I am. Hopefully in a couple weeks I’ll know my way around Boston pretty well. I am still deciding my future plans after I finish my undergraduate degree, but am thinking about graduate school or medical school. I have it on good authority that Jacob is an excellent resource to help figure these things out. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

For my project in the lab, I am working on synthesizing a potential PET imaging agent with Genevieve, who is a Post Doc here in the Hooker Research Group. This is my first true research experience, as most of my previous experience was gained in class based laboratories. Most of these are one-or-two credit hour courses with protocols already written out and ready to follow. However, those procedures are for learning and confirming principles. One of my professors eloquently called them, “not real experiments, but exercises,” meaning that there was a correct answer to be discovered while mastering a technique. For example, an exercise may be performed for the experience of using a pipet or seeing how a standard curve is made and used. It is quite useful to learn the basics and to illustrate concepts in a controlled, laboratory setting.

Research, on the other hand, is a quest to discover something in uncharted territory. Using literature as a guide, scientists develop an idea of what they want to achieve and use trial-and-error, intuition, and some luck to make it happen. There are no ‘protocols,’ but past experience is used to develop a plan of what the next steps may be. I jumped in on a project and am just learning the ropes, but Genevieve is guiding me through the process. With her help, I performed a reaction with an 85% yield and set up another reaction more independently today. It felt really good when I took my first NMR ever and confirmed I had the product. Genevieve has an obvious intuition for the chemistry of a reaction and can eloquently explain it but she usually has me explain it to her, ensuring my understanding of the experiment.

While I have enjoyed my lab-based classes in the past, I am finding the creativity involved in research quite appealing. The summer is just beginning, and I feel as though I have learned a ton about research already. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next few weeks as I get more experience and have more chances to try reactions on my own.



Hooker Lab meets Social Media!

We are hoping to provide more dynamic information about our research, our members, our accomplishment, and our educational mission by using social media.  We have a blog up and running now and we hope to use Twitter and Facebook to get the word out about what we do.  Please drop us an email to leave feedback or to contribute.  


One Summer Intern's First Week Experience!

I've never done a blog post before so I'll start with introducing myself. My name is William Taylor and I am a senior Biology major with a minor in Chemistry at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. I am excited to be here in Boston working with the Hooker Research Group. When I first arrived to the lab I was rushed with feelings of nervousness and anxiousness that comes with any new experience. However, once I began meeting everyone in the lab all of those feelings quickly vanished. Coming from the "Hospitality State" I expected everyone in Boston to be mean and rude, which is a common stereotype of people up north where I come from. However, this was not the case. Everyone in the lab was extremely friendly and welcomed me with open arms. This made me feel welcome and I knew that my experience here would be a positive one. The first day was a little rough because there was a lot of new information thrown at me all at once, which was mentally overwhelming at times, but I learned a lot and was excited to start on my project. I work with Emily and she's an awesome person and an even more awesome teacher that really makes me think outside of the box about everything we do in the lab. She's teaching me how to think like a true independent scientist and I love it.

Since I have only been here for one week I have not gotten to see much of Boston, but I am excited to get out and explore all that it has to offer. I am living in Jamaica Plain for the summer and I love the area and the culture there. Overall, I'm excited to be here, and I will be sure to keep everyone updated on my progress and experiences here this summer. 

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