Kelly Eick is a 4th-year Biology major studying multispecies interactions in microbial communities with Dr. Sam Brown.
How long have you been an undergraduate researcher at Georgia Tech?
I’ve been a part of undergraduate research at Tech since I started here. I’ve been actually working in the lab for since January of 2021, but I was participating in literature review and meetings in Fall of 2020.
How did you get involved with undergraduate research?
I was offered the Fast Track to Research Scholarship when I was accepted into Tech. This was actually a deciding factor in my college enrollment decision. I’ve known I wanted to do research since 2014, so being given the opportunity to get involved as a first-year was really exciting for me! Once I got to Tech, I told the faculty in charge of the scholarship what research areas I was interested in, and they paired me with a lab that had capacity in the same field.
What are you working on?
I’m currently working on my senior research requirement and Research Option project. Essentially, we spent this summer performing experiments in a synthetic community made up of commensals commonly found in the lung. We’ve been looking at how different strains of P. aeruginosa perform in this community. We’ve seen some interesting things, so I’m doing my senior project on determining which bacterial species in the community are driving the things we’ve seen. I’m really excited about being in control of these experiments from start to finish!
What is your favorite thing about research/researching?
My favorite part about being a part of research is honestly the community. When I first started, I felt vastly unprepared and useless, but in my time in the lab, I’ve learned that science is so collaborative, you are allowed to feel unprepared sometimes. One of the best parts of a day in the lab is talking to the graduate students and other scientists about what they’re doing. Sometimes it’s just a quick chat, and sometimes it’s a long conversation. Regardless, I always leave feeling smarter and encouraged. The indirect (and direct) mentorship I’ve received both in research and in areas beyond the lab is something I hope I can pay forward as I continue doing research.
What are your future plans and how has research influenced them?
I love this question because I love my work! I’m looking into PhD programs in microbiology as my next step, though a quick stint at the CDC or similar is definitely not off the table. I’ve known I wanted to get a PhD and do infectious disease research, but my experiences here at Tech have made me feel dramatically more confident in all stages of research from experimental design to doing the work to writing up my results. It seemed very far-fetched at first that I might be able to get a PhD and do this whole research thing as a career, but since participating in research here, I feel certain this is what I want to do. I feel so lucky to have had these opportunities in the Brown Lab to really develop into a scientist.