Collaborating on Research

March 04, 2019

Ashley Kang ’19 came to Grinnell intending to major in biology, but classes she took in her second year unlocked an interest in chemistry as well. “I figured biological chemistry would give me the best of both worlds,” she says. 

While noting that the major “may seem daunting” at first, Kang has found it to be a rewarding experience. Thanks to the inquiry-led nature of the curriculum, “you will develop meaningful relationships with your professors and other students along the way,” she says. “Most of all, I enjoy the collaborative aspect of research projects. I find myself learning so much from my classmates.”

Exploring the Innovation and Creativity of the Liberal Arts

She also emphasizes that while biological chemistry is laboratory-intensive, majors at Grinnell needn’t limit themselves to their science classes. Kang herself has taken advantage of the school’s individually advised liberal arts curriculum by studying abroad in France and double-majoring in French. “With careful planning, you can do a lot of different things at Grinnell in four years, so take advantage of the time and resources that you have here.”

Kang took advantage of the early research experience offered by Grinnell to apply for biochemistry Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) the summer after her second year. After she was accepted to an internship at the University of Oklahoma, she felt confident conducting her research.    

“Because this was biochemistry research, all of the science classes that I took before that summer helped me a lot in terms of background knowledge,” she says. In particular, “there were some procedures that I was familiar with because I had done them or learned about them in my biological chemistry lab.”

Empowered to Make Free and Informed Choices 

While Kang enjoyed the collaborative and challenging aspects of laboratory research, she was also drawn to the creative problem-solving opportunities in the medical field. After job-shadowing physicians her third year, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. “I was pulled in completely after observing the trust and compassion between the patient and physician,” she says. 

Last summer, Kang interned at a nonprofit called World Relief Moline, an Illinois organization that helps immigrants and refugees start their lives in the United States. Now, she feels prepared for a career that matters after she graduates this spring. “This experience continues to drive my goal of serving our society’s most vulnerable communities as a future physician.”
 

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