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May 20, 2019

Ryan Griffin: How a diagnosis helped shape my Spartan experience

May 22, 2019

Ryan Griffin graduated in May with a degree in physiology. He was a College of Natural Science Dean's Research Scholar.

A large part of the reason I chose to attend Michigan State University was due to the vast number of opportunities and the nearly 40,000 diverse undergraduate students that call East Lansing home.

I will never forget the feeling of attending “Sparticipation” before classes started the fall of my freshman year. Seeing the hundreds of organizations and opportunities to get involved in just about anything imaginable was astonishing. The only issue I saw was that I only had four years to find what really interested me.

From prior experiences, I had a plan coming to Michigan State that I wanted to eventually end up practicing medicine as a career. However, the path to get there remained unknown and full of possibilities.

A large turning point in my undergraduate experience came my freshman year when my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. It took me some time to accept this diagnosis and even longer to realize that it was a crucial part in paving my path both at MSU and to my future career.

I spent countless nights being angry at the existence of cancer, until one day I decided that it was time for me to do something about it. It was at this time that I joined the laboratory of Dr. Rupali Das. Her laboratory was studying invariant natural killer T cells with the goal of using them as an immunotherapy to improve the cure rate for people with cancer. Research was something I never thought I would enjoy due to the belief that it meant spending long hours in a laboratory alone. Wow, was I wrong!

I have since recognized my years spent in a research laboratory as one of my top experiences at MSU, as well as one of the most important for reaching my goals of a career in medicine. I was ignorant to the amount of human interaction that goes into research and the opportunities for collaboration among many scientists.

I have been able to develop very strong bonds with individuals who come from all over the world including other undergraduates, Ph.D. students and my principle investigator. Furthermore, the opportunity to attend conferences to share the new knowledge discovered with the field has been especially rewarding and exciting.

Everything begins to make sense when I look back at my four years here at Michigan State and the original reason that I chose this university. I am so thankful for the vast amount of opportunities I have been given, including the extensive research opportunities that allow undergraduates to get involved and make a difference in studies that truly matter.

Being in Dr. Das’s laboratory has allowed me to recognize the importance of research in advancing the medical field, learn more than I have learned in any classroom and piqued my interest in the field of oncology. Most importantly, research has allowed me to take a negative life event and turn it into an extraordinary experience that has given me purpose and prepared me for my future career.