Posted on: June 8, 2022
In fall 2019, Emma Sandago was a first-year student at the University of South Carolina majoring in biological sciences. She knew she liked science and biology but did not want to go pre-med and was unsure of what career paths to pursue.
As a student in University 101, Emma and her classmates were given two options for their midterm assignment – conduct an informational interview with an industry professional or participate in the out-to-lunch program with a faculty member. Emma took a shot and reached out to Dr. Ana Pocivavsek, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Neuroscience at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, to see if she could arrange an interview. Emma hoped the interview would help her explore a potential career field, but had no idea that the assignment would kick start a passion for research and the beginning of a career trajectory.
It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I had no idea what everything did, but I was like, 'Oh! This is science! This is how developments in humanity are made'.
- Emma Sandago
During the interview, Emma asked Dr. Pocivavsek a variety of questions like “what did you major in?” and “how did you get to where you are now”? At the end of the interview, Dr. Pocivavsek took Emma on a tour of her lab, which studies sleep and behavior. Emma’s initial experience in the lab was a lightbulb moment. Emma says, “it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I had no idea what everything did, but I was like, ‘Oh! This is science! This is how developments in humanity are made’.”
At the end of their interview, Dr. Pocivavsek asked Emma if she wanted to come back the next week to experience a lab meeting. Emma went to the lab meeting and then never stopped coming back. During the rest of her undergraduate years, Emma has continued to serve as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Pocivavsek’s lab. This work has also opened up other opportunities to get involved. “I thought, if I loved this lab so much, I probably could love something else, as well. And because I had experience in this lab, I was able to get two separate summer research jobs.”
Four years after that University 101 assignment, Emma is a rising senior at USC and is planning to apply to Ph.D. programs in neuroscience. Her goal is to continue to pursue her love of science through research.