Sample personal statement

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My hand began to tremble uncontrollably as I held my pipet over the fragile glass test tube. I looked to my left and saw that two students had already flown through the first 5 test tubes and they were moving on to their last experiment. I felt frozen with panic and fear. Suddenly, the simple directions given to me just 5 minutes ago were jumbled in my mind. My hands clammed up and I could feel the glass tube slipping between my fingers.

My first week in the UT Southwestern STARS Summer Research Program, a program that selects only 29 of the 450 Dallas area rising seniors that apply to participate in medical research projects, was filled with these moments. While other students flew through the basic training exercises because they had ample lab training in school, I felt like I was thrown into a crash course with very little guidance. Attending a public, inner-city high school, my pre-AP and AP science classes were overcrowded and underfunded. As a result, many of the mandatory AP labs were confined simply to readings in the text book or experienced in a virtual lab performed only by the teacher on a projector. In my high school, I was always top in my science classes, but now I was surrounded by 28 of the top high school students across the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolis, each of which were all more experienced in lab work than I was. The real application of the material from my textbook was entirely foreign to me. I was, however, determined to not let my lack of experience stop me from excelling as an intern. I knew that I was selected because of my strengths and I was confident that by working twice as hard I could eliminate my weakness in experience.

Because of my high scores in math, I was selected to work in the Bioinformatics Lab. The goal of my analysis was to pinpoint specific genetic pathways that show statistically significant differences between two biological states: a cell infected with influenza and a cell infected with influenza and treated with a compound. Using a computational program called Gene Systems Enrichment Analysis, I performed analysis on cells infected with the influenza virus versus cells infected with the influenza virus and treated with the compound “tama-flu.” My experience working in the bioinformatics lab lifted the veil from my eyes and it opened me to a whole new component of science I had never been exposed to. The Director of STARS, the Assistant Dean for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, came into my lab for my review towards the end of my internship and told me that I, along with only one other student, was invited back for a second summer of research. He said he has seen how diligently I worked on my research project and that although I had come from a school that lacked a lot of resources in the science department, once the resources became available to me, I had excelled in my experiments.

Through my STARS lab experience, I acquired an immense amount of knowledge and skill that I could not have found in my high school textbooks. The feeling of excitement and inspiration that came from my influenza research was addictive. I know that there are still great strides to be made in finding a cure for influenza, and once that is completed, there are still endless other cures waiting to be discovered. I am driven by this profound task. I am counting down the days until I can return to the lab and immerse myself in another project this summer with the STARS program. Further, I am eager to enter college where I will continue to acquire more knowledge and skills that will better equip me in my quest to find the next cure.

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