PHD Biology, Molecular Pathology

March 30, 2016

I am most passionately engaged in the study of biomedical research, especially its potential for saving lives. I am applying to your doctoral program because I plan to devote my professional life to the study of biology, with a constant gaze set on doing everything that we can as biologists to contribute to the creation of new therapeutic agents. I see biology as both the foundation of medicine and its vanguard.

I am very curious and love to learn. I am always the one in class asking all the questions and trying to figure out the professor’s next move. I adore technological progress and try very hard to keep up with the ever changing world of biotechnology. An undergraduate student in her last semester at XXXX University, I am earning my BS in Biotechnology with a minor in Chemistry. I am currently enrolled in laboratories in Immunology and Serology as well as Recombinant DNA.

I find great joy in life thinking of myself as a public servant, both inside and outside of the laboratory. I recently volunteered, for example, for the American Heart Association's Annual Heart Walk at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and I am President of our Student Health Advisory Committee at my university I work with some wonderful people who get fired up just as I do about helping our community in matters pertaining to public health.

My greatest professional achievement so far has been serving as an undergraduate researcher at the University of XXXX under the REU summer internship program. I worked along with a post-doc mentor on a project involving a species called Phytophtora infestans, spending 9 hour days for 9 weeks working to silence a gene—investigating the functionality of different promoters in the organism.

Nothing interests me as much as technological advances in biology that hold promise for further progress in the development of therapeutic agents that are successful at thwarting disease. One question, in particular, will preoccupy me forever: the perennial search for ways in which genes might be recombined to create proteins that either inhibit or increase activity in the human body. I am most engaged at this time with my study of the diagnostic potential of DNA, allowing us to better pinpoint or target our medication, surgery, or other therapeutic intervention.

I am particularly intrigued with the creative work being done on the frontiers between medicine and biology. For some time, I have been carefully following the research progress, for example, of Dr. XXXX at XXXX’s Cellular and Molecular Pathology Program. His research into microRNAs serves for me as a role model of the great possibilities that exist in our field.  I worked on microRNAs as an Intern at UXX and would be deeply honored to have the privilege of again launching myself into lab work in this area.

I am no longer so young and idealistic as to think that, by earning a PHD, I will have some kind of singularly important role in the struggle against cancer. Yet, I look forward to always being a little fish in a big pond of research, doing my part in the global struggle of science against disease. Dr. XXXX’s work is enormously exciting to me because of how he has helped us to understand the critical roles played by microRNAs in hematopoiesis and cancer. Only through the determination of pioneer researchers such as Dr. XXXX are we going to be able to determine how we can optimally leverage microRNAs in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases, generally speaking, and cancer in particular.

More than any other singular moment in my life, I trace my final decision to give my life to biology to that moment when I first laid eyes on the big PowerPoint screen displaying a plasmid containing a fluorescent green gene. The image of my high school biology professor trying to explain recombinant DNA technology is the first thing that I think of when someone asks me why I decided to study biotechnology. Inserting a piece of DNA into a cell that inherently never had those sequences was shocking to me; that moment, that flash, when I realized that every living thing around me could have its DNA modified.

By 16, I was excelling in my AP English classes. Yet, I have always set my passion for science in the context of broader intellectual horizons—with a special engagement in high school with both history and psychology. But it has been biology that I have awakened thinking about in the morning, for years now. Finally, as a senior year at California State University, Northridge, I am finally studying precisely what I am most interested in and I am more curious than ever--new ideas, new machines, new ways of looking at DNA, proteins, and enzymes…endless possibilities. I am always asking questions and seeking answers, wondering how techniques came about and anticipating the next step that would, could, or should follow. I am most at home in the laboratory. And I always stay one step ahead of myself, never loosing focus on the task at hand, constantly analyzing possible outcomes, impediments, hurdles, complications, never losing sight of the immediate research goal.

The thought of a single nucleic acid diminishing the transcription or translation of a gene, is the kind of thing that drives me forward. Learning about the antisense, oligonucelotide, Vitravene in my biotechnology class pushed my curiosity to new levels because I am convinced that antisense RNA technology holds enormous promise for our quest to cure many diseases. I am currently working in a biotechnology lab at California State University Northridge under the direction of Dr. XXXX; we are working to identify a novel organelle (dart) that has been found to be expressed in certain lines of Arabidopsis thaliana plants when grown in the dark. These organelles are tagged with GFP for purposes of identification. I then sequence the DNA of these organelles to better understand their structure and function.

All of the research projects that I have participated in so far have had the ultimate goal of either improving our health or that of our environment, ultimately one and the same. My research began with Dr. XXXX at XXXX; we struggled to find a correlation between sugar and its effects on yeast clumping, which resulted in my becoming a co-author of the article “Quantitative assay for evaluating anti-clumping reagents” in the FASEB Journal, Volume 26 (2012) Abstract ID 62. I am especially proud of this achievement because of its importance to cancer research: the way in which mutated cells clump together to create a tumor which often then becomes malignant. I enjoy pondering the fact that one cell cannot cause cancer; the way that it needs a complex environment made up of multiple cells for cancer to result. I also devoted countless hours to the study of the effects of carbohydrates on the embryonic development of sea urchins, looking for correlations between deformed embryos and the amount of sugar to which they were exposed—possible connections between sugar levels and genetic mutation.

My work with a graduate student, XXXX, has helped to prepare me for graduate study. She did her thesis on the effects of carbohydrates on archenteron elongation in sea urchin development in Dr. XXXX’s lab. I did much of the research for this thesis just as if it were my own, constantly pushing myself harder and harder to do better and better. And I did this because I know that this is what is required of graduate students and I intend to do my best to excel in your program. I stay focused and I am relentless.

I plan to spend years if not decades working on revolutionary biological technologies in either the private or public sphere. At some point, I hope to manage my own lab, in charge of my own research. I want to thank you for consideration of my application to your program.

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