I feel forever indebted to my mentors and support system, and looking back, I feel it is my responsibility to pay that forward and encourage young students to never give up and keep learning because the potential to do so truly has no bounds.
“Do what you love, and love what you do.” This was my high school senior quote. I remember always wanting to be a scientist, but the journey from being curious about biology to actually performing neuroscience research was a gradual one. Sparked by my love for school and learning, I soon would chase the rush I felt when solving a complex problem. What I love most about learning, is the inevitability of it. The process of learning culminates when new knowledge is gained and new concepts are crystal clear. It’s quite beautiful when you think about how much in the world there is to understand, making the process of navigating life through learning seem almost infinite.
As an undergraduate, I was following a pre-med track. However, when given the opportunity to explore internships, I almost always gravitated towards research settings rather than clinical ones. After three full-time research internships, I decided medical school was not the path I wanted to follow. From that point, I was ready to jump into research wholeheartedly. Being raised by a single mother and moving often as a child, led me to find comfort and stability in my academics. Academia was the biggest constant in my life and I decided I would stay in school until I found what I loved- neuroscience.
My life’s journey was not always linear, but through many obstacles and with guidance from many wonderful mentors along the way, I am currently a second-year graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Neuroscience Ph.D. program. Even now, in graduate school, I am still diving headfirst into new and unfamiliar research topics. I joined the lab of Marla Feller, which studies the neural circuitry of the retina-- where local circuit computations begin to process the abundance of information that lies within the visual scene.
So far, graduate school has been an incredible learning experience for both my growth as a scientist and as a person. Being surrounded by so many people with similar scientific goals but vastly different backgrounds and experiences have enabled me to push the envelope further and test the limits of my own knowledge and abilities. I am not quite sure what the future has in store for me, but I hope I can contribute to this field in an impactful and memorable way. The advice I would give to my younger self and those interested in neuroscience is, be patient with yourself, be open-minded, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Asking questions is the foundation of scientific discovery and there is no question too rudimentary. The world is for you to find what you love and to empower others along the way. Once you find that, keep doing it until it's what you do. I feel forever indebted to my mentors and support system, and looking back, I feel it is my responsibility to pay that forward and encourage young students to never give up and keep learning because the potential to do so truly has no bounds.
Karina Bistrong is a second year graduate student in the Helen Wills Neuroscience program. She is conducting her research on the development of retinal circuit in Marla Feller's lab at UC Berkeley.