My summer of exploration & realization

Written by Caitlyn Johnson, BA, Washington University in St. Louis and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

Before showing up to orientation day, I did not realize I would get to spend so much time with the other participants of the program. I had been preparing to immerse myself in the research and create a bond with my mentors, however, this program has been so much more than that.

As a Washington University student, I was comfortable being in St. Louis for the summer because of the familiarity, but I had no idea how much fun it would be to get to explore the city with a new group of people from all over the world. Ever since the first day, I have been able to create strong friendships with the other program participants. During the school year, I don’t feel as pressured to explore the city because I have a total of four years to do so. I feel like our group of participants has come to be a family, and I know that if I ever need one of them, they will be more than happy to give me career advice or just talk on the phone.

Celebrating a birthday with friends and cohort members

As far as the research aspect, I have been able to learn an abundance of information. I absolutely love the research projects I am working on this summer because they are so different.

One allows me to work in a wet lab and compare all the lab data to surveys of real people. Meanwhile, the other has given me perspective of what research outside of a wet lab setting looks like and how it can create change. As a pre-medical student, I have a lot of experience working with cells and doing chemical reactions in a lab, however, it is much more interesting to me when the work that I am doing relates to real lives and can make a tangible impact. Through the program seminars and my research projects, I have realized how vast the public health field is. It is exciting to know that there is a plethora of opportunities to get actively involved in the issues I am passionate about. I am excited to come to more concrete conclusions.