PREP Alums Reflect on their Experiences
The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ Post-Baccalaureate Research Program (PREP) is a one- or two-year research program for recent recipients of an undergraduate degree. PREP researchers gain hands-on basic science research experience in the lab of a GSBS faculty member, working on a hypothesis-driven project in a field of their choosing. PREP scholars also take graduate classes and attend workshops and seminars in their program.
“This will be the best decision you will ever make if your goal is to get a PhD or MD,” said Hymlaire Lamisere. Hymlaire worked in Henry Wortis’ lab as a PREP scholar from 2015 to 2016 and is now a fifth-year PhD student in the Immunology program. “My plan was to always get a PhD and have my own lab, but in undergrad I was not taught how to achieve these goals. After joining PREP, I finally I had a path to achieving my goals.”
Giang Nguyen, a recent graduate of the GSBS Immunology program who worked in Dr. Wortis’s lab as a PREP scholar from 2013 to 2014, also sees the program as an important steppingstone that helped her get into, and succeed in, a graduate program.
“Participating in PREP gave me first-hand experience of graduate school,” Nguyen said. “It helped me develop essential skills such as how to think critically and read papers; write committee reports and project proposals; make and present posters; and manage my time between class, seminars, and lab work.”
Yoelkys Morales – a current fourth year in the Tufts Medical Scientist Training Program who worked in Stephen Bunnell’s lab as a PREP scholar from 2016 to 2017 – also found PREP to be a valuable way to learn more about the graduate student experiment.
“I had already spent two years as a full-time technician,” Morales said, “but I wanted to gain more skills in other aspects of research, such as writing, presenting, and poster design. I also wanted to have the experience of having a scientific committee that I would engage with on a project.”
Working with his committee, as well as spending a year engaging in-depth with his project, was a highlight of the program for Morales. “My favorite aspect of PREP,” he said, “was having a committee of people that I was able to discuss my ideas with and being able to take charge of a project I could call my own.” Edward Robinson – whose time as a PREP scholar in Giuseppina Tesco’s lab began in August 2019 and ended in June 2020, and who is now an MD student at Morehouse School of Medicine – also valued the graduate-level research experience.
“Engaging in research full-time for a year gave me a depth of understanding about the topic I was researching,” Robinson said. “I failed and succeeded in some experiments; the process of adjusting and, at times, going back to the drawing board was truly fascinating. The program gave me a good introduction to what to expect as a first-year graduate student.”
Lamisere echoed Robinson when talking about how PREP helped him in his graduate studies. “Aside from doing hands-on research, I was able to take graduate level courses and participate in graduate seminars,” he said. “Even before I got into grad school, I was treated as a grad student, expected to act like one and work just as hard. After completing PREP, I was more prepared for graduate school than most.”
In addition to learning scientific techniques and participating in classes and seminars, PREP alumni singled out the quality of the mentoring relationships they developed with GSBS faculty as a major benefit of the program.
“All of our professors were enthusiastic and approached science in different ways,” said Nguyen. “The hands-on training and feedback – whether it was on how to read and interpret data, write a grant proposal, or present a poster, was extremely helpful for my subsequent graduate school experience. In addition, the fact that we were able to speak with professors about not only science but their experience throughout their scientific careers helped me overcome my reservations about speaking to scientists.”
Lamisere agreed, singling out his PREP mentor for praise. “Working with Henry Wortis – someone who has a passion for teaching and helping those under him – was a match made in heaven,” he said.
Morales also stressed the importance of mentoring to his success. “There are many different paths through graduate school and careers in biomedical research,” he said. “The most important thing is to find mentors who will advocate for you. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the wonderful mentors I’ve had in my career.”
The PREP program is currently accepting applications for scholars to start in September 2021.