Hi! My name is Pranav, and this summer I went to SSTP at the University of Iowa, and had a truly unforgettable experience there! I knew that research lies in my future as a career, and for this reason, I wanted to do research in a lab over the summer to gain experience. I had heard about SSTP from my friends who went there the previous year, and got really intrigued by the work that they did, such as exploiting the role of mitochondrial fission in Alzheimer’s disease. I was really excited by this, and wanted to attend the program as well.
However, I was somewhat dejected when I heard that the age requirement was rising 11th and 12th graders, and I was going to be in 10th grade. But my disappointment did not last for long, as the amazing people at SSTP allowed me to go through the competitive application process to see if I would make the cut. I did, and was over the moon when I got in. For me, it was a straightforward decision. SSTP, unlike several other programs, extends over 5-6 weeks, which allows for a much better quality of research. This was a big step for me, as I had never been that far away from home by myself for nearly as long!
The people at SSTP and my fellow high schoolers greatly facilitated this transition, and made it incredibly easy for me, as they were extremely welcoming. The quality of the dorms, housing, dining, and the overall experience in total was unprecedented. After our lab on weekdays, we usually had a fun activity planned out, but we still had plenty of free time with our RAs to explore the surrounding area and visit shops or restaurants with friends, go to the gym, hang around inside the dorms, or spend time on our lab work. On weekends, we had plenty of free time, but also fun outings that were planned to a variety of places. It was amazing to be around people with the same interests as me, and I am still regularly communicating with them, collaborating and discussing our research ideas as well as just keeping in touch.
The highlight for me, hands down, was the laboratory experience. The research was cutting-edge, groundbreaking, and incredibly fun, and I absolutely loved my lab, going to lab early and staying late every day. The members of my lab and my mentor were extremely nice and helpful, and worked really closely with me. It was astonishing to contribute to such amazing work. We built bonds that I hope will last for a lifetime, as I continue to be involved in the projects that my lab is working on. I really want to thank them for making SSTP such a great experience. We were really close, as we played soccer together in the evenings, or watched the World Cup together, and it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was able to obtain this laboratory experience, write an abstract and present a poster, and a paper which we are planning to publish!
I cannot express how much I would recommend SSTP to anyone who is considering it. It will be a tremendous experience, and this is proven by the fact that numerous people return to it a second time! It was a phenomenal experience as I got amazing experiences with my lab, continue to work with them now, and built truly awesome friendships throughout my time at SSTP. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for everyone who made my experience as amazing as it was!
Pranav Lalgudi, SSTP 2014