Molly Leitner '19

I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to help others in some way. I began college on the pre-med track in hopes of becoming a doctor, but as I started taking more neuroscience classes, I realized that pre-med was not my true passion. I was constantly changing concentrations and took a multitude of classes trying to figure out what subject intrigued me the most. I took my first neuroscience course sophomore year and from then on, I knew that neuroscience was an area that I was deeply interested in. It was not until my junior year spring that I had a clearer picture of what I wanted my career path to be. I took systems neuroscience and through that class was set on entering the neuroscience research field.
My summer going into my senior year, I was an undergraduate research assistant at McGovern Medical school in Houston, Texas, where I worked in a lab that researched Huntington’s Disease. Huntington’s Disease is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder that affects a small population but has devastating symptoms and pathology. It was not the way I had imagined going into college that I would help others, but nonetheless it was a way that I could better someone’s life while also pursuing my passion of neuroscience.
Finding the specific career path that suits you is difficult, but it is a lot easier when you have an amazing mentor. It is important to find a mentor during college that challenges you intellectually and fosters your growth as a student. Building a relationship with a professor allows you to gain insight into the path they took to enter the field of research and academia. You can ask questions about the decisions he or she made to be successful in research, as well as the concept and techniques he or she has learned throughout his or her career. I was lucky to have a thesis advisor who challenged me to become a better scientist and grow intellectually and properly prepared me to go into the world of research after college.
When applying to research assistant positions senior year, I realized how vast the field of neuroscience research really is. I was constantly combing through different positions, finding ones that interested me the most. I didn’t want to rush into applying to positions that I wasn’t truly interested in and that I did not think I would enjoy. There was always this sense of pressure and urgency to find a job so that you could have a sense of security, but the thing that mattered most to me was finding a job that would allow me to continue my passion for research and that I found intriguing. One piece of advice I would give seniors when applying to a job is that you want it to be something that you are genuinely interested in and a position where you enjoy going to work every day. It may not be the job you have forever but being happy and enjoying what you do on a daily basis matters. Take the time to sift through all the job descriptions to find the ones that truly intrigue you. Additionally, when you go on interviews, ask as many questions as possible. You want to have a good idea of the jobs you will be tasked with and what exactly is expected of you. Try to gauge whether the current research assistant/associates enjoy working there and if the lab will provide a positive learning environment.
I currently work as a research associate at a biotech company in New York City called Kallyope and absolutely love it. During the interview process, I had a concrete idea of what tasks I would be performing and talked to current research associates who affirmed that Kallyope was a great place to work. When I met with the researchers at Kallyope and toured the lab, I could see myself working there and thought it would be a good fit for me. Kallyope is a biotech company that harnesses the gut-brain axis through cutting-edge science technology to improve human health. Kallyope takes a systems biology approach and uses highly integrated cutting-edge technology to create a map of the gut-brain axis. By identifying these circuits, we can then work to target the circuits with gut-restricted molecules to modulate the brain. It is exciting research that allows me to enjoy getting up and going to work every day.
Going into research is not easy. It takes a lot of patience and willingness to fail. Experiments do not always go as planned and the results are not always what you want. But the continual perseverance, hard work, problem solving and dedication that is needed to succeed in the field of research makes the end result worth it. When research becomes redundant and demanding, always remember the end goal, who you are helping, and the difference you are making. What makes research exciting is the prospect of discovery and the chance to make a difference in the world no matter how big or small. Failure allows you to grow intellectually as a researcher and scientist and builds character and resilience.
It is important to be able to work independently and follow directions carefully when pursuing a research position. The independence emphasized in lab courses at Hamilton allowed me to feel comfortable in a laboratory setting and equipped me with vital skills needed to succeed in research. Additionally, Hamilton prepares students to be intellectually curious and facilitates the desire to grow intellectually. To take away as much as possible from a research position, you much be willing to put in the work. Do not be afraid to ask questions about concepts and techniques you don’t understand. When you are starting a new project or study, read papers so you understand the key underlying concepts and contribute as an active lab member. Science is an ever-growing field; researchers and scientists want you to contribute ideas that create discussion and stimulate new approaches and ways of thinking.
Hamilton emphasizes the importance of having a strong work ethic. Through our Hamilton experience, we learn to work hard to achieve our goals and succeed, which is vital in research.

When interviewing for research assistant/associate positions, employers could see that I was willing to work hard through my previous experiences. Moreover, employers were impressed by the amount of experience I had in a laboratory setting coming from undergraduate. Hamilton does an amazing job teaching a multitude of laboratory and technical skills that make Hamilton graduates attractive job applicants.
Take advantage of the variety of courses Hamilton has to offer and take the time to try different subjects because eventually you will find an area of study that is right for you. Make sure to create relationships with professors, who will provide guidance and insight into the world of research and academia. Science research is a groundbreaking field full of the prospect of discovery and the opportunity to better the lives of others. Hamilton prepares you very well for the science research field!

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