Motivation is contagious. Two of the founders of SIM have recently graduated and have left the rest of the SIM Board with a serious case of motivation. For the second month in a row, we’re giving you a double feature; we’re on a roll! These two recent graduates poured their heart and souls into their work, and we want to pass down their Vanderbilt legacies so that we at the SIM Board aren’t hogging their shared wisdom and inspiration. We hereby proudly present their stories with the hope that you, too, can be infected with their motivation!
Meet the first student researcher of our May double-feature: Ariel Helms.
After a remarkable summer in Dr. Jim Patton’s summer research program, I was inspired to make that type of research experience possible for my peers. I spent the summer in Dr. Al Powers’ lab in the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, where I had the privilege of working alongside leading scientists at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center to explore how mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator contribute to Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes. With the Vanderbilt University Medical Center separated from the undergraduate campus by only a sidewalk, I thought more students should have the same opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research. With this pursuit in mind, I worked with Dr. Michelle Grundy and Dr. Michelle Sulikowski and partnered with two accomplished undergraduates, Stephen Russell and Kavya Sharman to conceptualize what would become the Scientific Immersion & Mentorship Program—or, as we fondly refer to it, SIM.
Many late-night emails and lively meetings later, we hosted our first event with three more events in the works. Our primary goal was to help students secure positions in Vanderbilt labs, which would help both students and faculty. Through our signature event, the SIM Research Fair, we have directly matched over 60 students to research lab positions. Our program has grown to include career development lectures, guidance on finding research opportunities off campus, and mentoring from faculty and graduate students. Since those early days of ideas, SIM has grown to serve over 600 members and the SIM Board—which initially was just Stephen, Kavya, and I—has grown to include 8 passionate leaders.
SIM will always be one of my favorite memories. Stephen, Kavya, and I—and of course our science sages, Dr. Grundy and Dr. Sulikowski—had so much fun building this program. If this experience taught me anything it is this: if you do the things you love, you will make yourself an outstanding candidate for a career you will love doing. Now, I’m Chicago bound where I will join Northwestern’s Medical Scientist Training program (MSTP) to become a physician-scientist. Rest assured, I will be on the lookout for opportunities to implement the principles of SIM in novel ways to solve even more problems. SIM is an experience I will carry with me forever.