For Gurleen Samra, undergraduate research has not only increased her critical thinking skills and knowledge about her topic; she has discovered an increased curiosity and passion for learning as well. Her experience has also led to an increased confidence that allows her to move forward even through the failures that are an inevitable part of the research process. Gurleen feels that, through research, she has greatly improved her ability to pursue her academic and career goals. UROP is pleased to recognize Gurleen for her passionate pursuit of research as an undergraduate at UC Irvine.

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

I have been doing research with Dr. Jogeshwar Mukherjee for the Preclinical Imaging lab under the Radiological Sciences facility for two years. The specific area that my research revolves around is the use of imaging agents. Some components of imaging include biomarker research, production of radiopharmaceuticals, in vitro testing, and in vivo imaging with control and diseased subjects.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

After my second year of undergrad at UCI, I was able to study abroad and complete classes that would give me free some free time during my third year. After returning from studying abroad, I applied for research opportunities online and the preclinical imaging lab was one that I saw great interest in. It was not until I interviewed with Dr. Mukherjee that I was sure that this lab was one that had my complete interest. The passion Dr. Mukherjee had for each project, rubbed off on me and I began to start researching some of the articles we discussed that same night. After completing my first year researching, I signed up for the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) as recommended by Dr. Mukherjee.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Research has played a great role in my education. Prior to gaining research experience, I did not have the curiosity and critical thinking skills that I have attained now. The things I learn in research have helped me understand my classes better as I have learned the technique in which I learn the best—open discussion. Research has also taught me that each step of failure will slowly lead you closer to successful results. Lastly, the relationship I developed with the faculty in my research lab has given me connections that I can rely on for academic advice and understanding. These individuals have helped me step outside of my comfort zone and convey my ideas without hesitation.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

One of my favorite experiences would be the lab rat procedure. I still remember being nervous that day even though I had gone through training and all the protocols. Dr. Mukherjee knew I was scared but he believed in me and it was his faith in me that led me to conducting the entire procedure with ease and efficiency. After the procedure was completed, I could not believe that I actually had done the entire procedure.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

I am aspiring to become a Physician’s Assistant after I complete my undergraduate degree. In order to prepare for my goals, research has helped me think critically as that is one quality that I will definitely need in my future profession. Additionally, this opportunity has helped better my understanding and appreciation for research. After reading articles, performing various experiments and helping contribute to articles that may help build a foundation for future findings, I understood that students do not give research the appreciation it deserves. The medical field has been developed due to the conduction of research and the experience I gained from research will give me a different appreciation for science as a future Physician’s Assistant.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

The greatest advice that I would give to students interested in undergraduate research would be to never doubt themselves. Research may seem overwhelming at first because it is a new experience and the students may not be knowledgeable to everything that certain projects encompass. After some time, you will be amazed as to how great your curiosity becomes and how your experience can help you understand answers to your questions. You will be amazed as to how much you have grown where you had difficulty reading a scientific paper the first day and now you are part of everything that goes into writing paper. You also learn to look at scientific papers with a different perspective because they have much more meaning. In everyday life questions, you catch yourself going to scientific papers for understanding because they will have a different meaning.

Past Researchers of the Month

Jul. '19 Gurleen Samra
Jun. '19 Yiwei Gong
May. '19 William Gerald Smith
Apr. '19 Emeizmi Mandagi
Mar. '19 Whitney Zhang
Feb. '19 William Agnew
Jan. '19 Sarah Mahoney