Graduating PRA Spotlight: Emma Beard ’24

Emma Beard ’24
Major: Molecular & Cell Biology; Minor: Physiology & Neurobiology
2023-24 OUR Peer Research Ambassador

My Journey:

Most of all, I believe that my undergraduate journey has taught me the value of patience, resilience, and exploration. Starting college in the middle of a pandemic was an incredibly difficult experience. I came to UConn with goals of what I wanted to achieve as an undergraduate and felt frustrated when reaching those goals felt impossible. I knew in high school that I wanted to be involved in undergraduate research, but with the pandemic keeping campus closed, that goal was put on hold. Once campus opened up again, I had a hard time finding a lab to join on-campus, and began to worry that, as I approached the halfway point of my undergraduate studies, it would be harder for me to find a lab willing to spend the time to train me.

Luckily, I was able to join the Health Research Program the summer after my sophomore year, which has had an incredible impact on my growth as a researcher. I would not have been able to have this opportunity without the experience of my first two years. If I had joined a lab at Storrs, I would never have gotten to learn about the fascinating research at UConn Health. Even if I had joined the HRP one year earlier, I might not have met my research mentor. By waiting until after my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to take courses in cell biology, a part of the MCB major I was initially disinterested in, and discover my enthusiasm for the subject. I have now been a member of the Department of Cell Biology at UConn Health for two years!

Although I was initially disheartened by the setbacks I experienced in my first two years at UConn, I am now grateful for the time I was given to further explore my interests before getting involved in research. There will always be obstacles to overcome, but now I have a better appreciation for the value of working my way through these challenges and growing through the process.

Next Steps:

I am very excited to continue my education in the Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Science at UConn Health this fall! My decision to join this program was heavily influenced by both my research experience and the Office of Undergraduate Research itself. I was first introduced to UConn Health through the Health Research Program in the summer of 2022. Since then, I have gotten the chance to learn more about what it means to be a researcher and also engage with the research community at UConn Health. My experience as part of the HRP not only solidified my interest in pursuing a Ph.D. and research as a career, but also my desire to spend my next chapter at UConn Health!

My Advice:

It might sound silly but read the UConn Daily Digest. All of the most meaningful opportunities I have had as a UConn undergraduate were things I first discovered in the Daily Digest. When I was having trouble finding a lab to join in Storrs, I saw a posting about the HRP, through which I was able to join the lab of my current research mentor. Throughout my involvement with undergraduate research, I turned to the PRA blogs for advice. When I saw a call for PRA applications in the Daily Digest, I knew I wanted to be able to provide the same guidance for other undergraduate researchers and applied for the position. I’ve gone to incredible presentations, performances, and events I never would have found without the Daily Digest. Next time, give the Daily Digest a look; I promise it’s not just inbox clutter!

Click here to learn more about Emma.