Kiera Fisher is a junior majoring in biomedical and laboratory diagnostics and is a College of Natural Science Dean’s Research Scholar and an MSU Beckman Scholar.
My whole life, I had wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals, I had grown up with them, and I was already dreaming of the day that I would apply to Michigan State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. But then, the summer before I began my freshman year at MSU, I shadowed a veterinary surgery and realized – oh no. This isn’t quite what I want to do for the rest of my life, actually. I started my freshman year at MSU lost, not even knowing what major I should pick now that I felt like my whole life had been turned upside down.
Thankfully, I had a job going into my freshman year – working as a professorial assistant in Dr. Chengfeng Yang’s cancer biology research laboratory in MSU’s Department of Physiology. I didn’t think I wanted to do research at that time — truthfully, I just wanted to learn more about cancer therapeutics and it was a fantastic scholarship opportunity. Little did I know, research would slowly become not only my passion, but also my life for the remainder of my undergraduate studies. I fell in love with the atmosphere of the research lab, learning new things every day and feeling like I was helping make a difference on a bigger scale than just MSU.
Sadly, I would have to leave Dr. Yang’s lab eventually – but it was to move forward with my own research career, transferring to Dr. Julia Busik’s diabetic complications research laboratory, also in MSU’s Department of Physiology. I was a Beckman Scholar now, chosen to continue performing research through a national scholarship. I was thrilled, not only because of the incredible opportunity that it was, but because I had finally made my decision. Nearly three years after discovering I didn’t want to pursue veterinary medicine, I had finally realized that I wanted to pursue an M.D./Ph.D.
I wanted to do this for many reasons, mostly because I knew I still wanted to pursue a career in a medical field, but I also wanted to be able to continue with my research in a clinical setting. I want to get my degree in cancer biology and oncology, with the end goal of being able to help an even wider variety of both people and patients—a Ph.D. to help all patients, and an M.D. to help just one cancer patient at a time.
Through all of this, I have learned many important lessons – always balance the centrifuge, always wear clean gloves and never forget to write down everything in your lab notebook. But I’ve also learned some even more important things, too. Sometimes your research won’t always go as planned. Sometimes you’ll spend four months doing the same experiment every week because you can’t quite get the data you need. And that’s okay. As long as you keep asking questions and continue to keep a smile on your face, nobody is expecting you to do everything perfectly the first time. And nobody is expecting you to know exactly what you want to do right off the bat either, in that same vein.
Overall, my biggest takeaway has been this one thing: it’s okay to not know what you want to do, and it’s even more okay to change your mind. Choosing your path in life is the most important thing you will do, so it’s important to take all the time you need.
Photo by Harley Seeley