An amazing summer spent at the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

Written by Lingzi Luo MSW, MPH, Clinic Research Coordinator at Washington University School of Medicine and alumnae of the Summer Research Program- Public & Global Health Track

Growing up in a big city with more than 10 million people and getting my undergraduate degree in one of the top 10 universities in China, I did not have the awareness that I come from a developing country. I was so accustomed to urbanization and technology.

Coming to Washington University in St. Louis for my masters degrees, I was overwhelmed by the opportunities here, especially for students who are interested in pursuing research. There are so many mentors to work with, so many projects to work on, so much to learn, and so much to help a person grow. Being paid to participate in a full-time summer research program might seem very common to many students here, but to me it really did look like a dream come true.

2018 in Iceland

Before I participated in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program in 2015, I had worked in various departments on campus as a part-time Research Assistant.

Immersing myself in a full-time research experience with great mentors and support from the program allowed me to be more focused and concentrated, and has confirmed my career path as a researcher. My mentors, Dr. Arbi Ben Abdallah and Dr. Anshuman Sharma not only supported and guided my research, but also gave me a lot of valuable suggestions and advice for my career and personal development. They truly appreciated my skills, and made me feel valuable as a great addition to the team. I graduated from my masters’ program right after the conclusion of the Summer Research Program, and my mentors recommended me to the department. I landed a job offer in the end. The skills and knowledge I gained during that summer still benefit me today.

Jacaranda Van Rheenen, the manager of the Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health has also been a strong supporter. Her smile, welcoming demeanor and willingness to listen and talk has left a permanent mark in my life, and has made my participation in the program even more memorable.

In addition to being connected to great mentors and supported by the program, getting to know program alumni and participants was inspiring. Although we worked in different fields and sometimes I found it challenging to comprehend other participants’ research, the program pushed my comfort zone further and has really broadened my horizons. Today, almost four years after my participation (time flies folks, time flies!), I can still vividly remember some of the final presentations delivered by my peers. I remember there being cracked eggs and talk about driving after smoking marijuana – research sometimes is much more interesting than it appears to be!

I have since moved on to another position working on Implementation Research, a field that I am deeply passionate about and plan to continue to pursue a PhD in a few years. One anecdote: During our alumni reunion in 2018, I realized that my current work supervisor was also a mentor in 2015, so back then I listened to her research without knowing that a few years down the road I would be working with her on similar projects and on the same patient population. It is a small world after all.