Scientific Journey Part #2 Baby Steps in Science

First off, if you missed part one of the story and want to get caught up, click here.

All caught up??? Good!!

Here, I will detail my first steps toward science.


So I have made my decision to do science. Now what??? Maybe I can stay at Duke for an extra year and go for the chemistry major…have you seen the tuition??? Strike one.

The next thing I did was apply to every research job under the sun. I was in Research Triangle Park with >50 different companies to work for, not to mention Duke University, UNC, and NC State were there as well. Surely I will get one bite…crickets, nothing but crickets. After applying to north of 200 jobs in one month I got one short call and that was it. Seems no one wanted to take a music major seriously, honestly it is hard to blame them. Strike two.

Even though I am calling this strike two, I was truly fortunate to have a supportive mother and at that point girlfriend (now wife of course). They are the reason I put family first now. They were there for me before science and I can never (will never) forget that.

Even with their support, at this point, I am pretty lost and when you are lost, you try to retrace your steps. Since the word was pharmacology, I decided I would email the local authorities on pharmacology in the area. I emailed the chair of pharmacology at Duke and UNC to find out if there was some magic formula to getting into science. Dr. Gary Johnson, the Chair of Pharmacology at UNC told me some great advice, “take your resume to the HR departments; put a face to a name or piece of paper.” This advice was given very close to 10 years ago (in early June of 2004).

Following his advice I went to every department I could find, which is pretty difficult at a place you have never been. A couple weeks later, I got a call. It was from Dr. Jeff Frelinger, who was the Chair of the Microbiology and Immunology Department at the time. My first in person interview!!!

So I get all dressed up in my suit and I go bright-eyed and bushy tailed to the interview. I remember sitting outside of Jeff’s office (funny how once I walked in, the time was a blur), but I said to the lab manager at the time, who is now quite the dog agility expert, “I guess I am a bit overdressed for the lab.” Crazy as it sounds, that statement might have got me the job. I was not nearly the most qualified for the job, but in addition to Jeff somehow thinking that I had the best ability to learn the job at hand (it wasn’t the kind of thing anyone would have done as an undergraduate), I got the lab managers vote because she thought I had personality.

Again to recap, not the greatest at microbiology in undergrad, and I am now working for the Chair of Microbiology and Immunology. At this point, I no longer doubt what I was told (see part one). I know that this science thing was meant to be. That confidence would be, and is still needed in my scientific life.

Today is actually 10 years (TO THE DAY) that I got the call to say I was being offered employment. He took a chance and I am eternally grateful. We all had help to get to where we are. We had someone to believe in us when they had no reason to do so. I feel it prudent to stop here and just be thankful. I will save my experience in the Frelinger lab (which was a great one) for the next post.

If you are enjoying this story or any of the other postings, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss one. Stay tuned because the music strikes back.



5 responses to “Scientific Journey Part #2 Baby Steps in Science

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