Throughout my entire educational journey, it has always been my nature to consistently work hard. Coming into a PhD program immediately after my undergraduate studies, I thought I had everything figured out, ranging from potential lab mentors for rotations to specific study strategies for first year curriculum classes. However, no amount of preliminary preparation could have braced me for the mental and emotional challenges that are associated with obtaining a PhD, specifically Imposter Syndrome while being an underrepresented individual in the field. Going through the process of finding a dissertation mentor and adjusting to a new academic setting contributed to the several factors that triggered a deep sense of loneliness and confusion on whether I belong in research. The most difficult aspect of this transition was learning what to look for in a mentor and what type of support would I need to finish the program successfully. After going through three rotations, I found myself still without a mentor and a lab environment that I felt that I could thrive in. The overwhelming feelings of defeat and rejection clouded my mind, and I was not quite sure where I went wrong. I asked myself constantly, “Did I not make more conscious decisions on mentors based off their personalities? Was I not available enough to juggle classes, lab, and being a mom? All these factors were important in my mind but none of these things seemed to put me in the right direction.
From that point forward, I decided to take a leap of faith and acknowledge why I wanted to become a scientist in the first place. I came into this field to change the world through scientific discovery, break racial and socioeconomic barriers, and educate minority communities on disease prevention. Looking at the big picture of how my goals are set to impact humanity is what allowed me to change my mindset. As soon as I realigned my values, everything came to me at once. With positivity, patience, and persistence, I was blessed to acquire a mentor who gives me the opportunity to truly express myself without questioning my intellectual ability. This lab is a place where I can be seen for who I am and not what I look like. No matter what I say I am heard, acknowledged, and appreciated for who I am as I am and not what I am expected to be or what I have to offer. I am appreciative of the knowledge, wisdom, and affirmations that are spoken into every experiment I conduct. Learning is an adventure that is worth taking. There will never be a day I regret the lab I chose. Picking your lab is about finding the mentor who is edifying to your soul. When you find your lab, you will know it, and the feeling is indescribable. Working with a team of cutting-edge researchers never gets old. As a scientist and a black mother in STEM we must never forget to nurture ourselves while also liberating the world through one discovery at a time.