Microbes to Monumental: Summer Unleashed

Celine Adomakoh, COL ’26, Philadelphia, PA

As a student who has been fortunate enough to engage in research for an extended period, I can honestly say that this summer has given me the best research experience to date. Going into this summer,  I had the pleasure of working as an undergraduate researcher in the Beiting lab in the Department of Pathobiology led by Dr. Dan Beiting. The research conducted in the Beiting lab focuses on unraveling the biological basis of diseases caused by microbes. Our work thrives on collaboration, fostering close relationships with both veterinary and human clinical professionals at PennVet. Central to our research philosophy is the concept of One-Health: recognizing the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the environment within the microbial realm. In collaboration with a mentor from CHOP, my focus lies in utilizing metagenomics to profile the microbiome of respiratory tract samples from children under 59 months, stemming from South Africa, The Gambia, and Mali—a segment of the Pneumonia Etiology Research in Child Health (PERCH) study.

Initially drawn to the Beiting lab due to its alignment with my academic pursuits—namely, bioinformatics, genomics, and computational biology—I found myself traversing uncharted territories where computation seamlessly converges with the intricacies of biology. Throughout this transformative journey, my Principal Investigator (PI) and the lab community have been unwavering sources of guidance during this pivotal transition. Embarking on a focused research project required me to dive into a thorough investigative phase even before I began the hands-on practical work. This journey involved immersing myself in the field, comprehending the magnitude of my undertaking and its global implications. Countless publications about the PERCH study and the intricate world of the microbiome became my companions. What truly sets this experience apart, however, is the authentic camaraderie and mentorship fostered by every lab member. They have created a nurturing, remarkably cohesive community, uniting us in shared aspirations, invaluable guidance, and newfound connections.

Stepping into the laboratory as an undergraduate often mirrors the sense of a child in a vast grocery store, where curiosity is high but caution tempers every touch. Etched vividly is the pivotal interview with my PI, an encounter that not only shifted my perspective but also ignited an enduring inspiration. With unwavering zeal, he unveiled the lab’s essence as a fusion of disciplines, an ecosystem where I could transcend my own knowledge and fluidly explore diverse fields. What resonated profoundly was his genuine intent—not only to offer a role, but to choreograph an immersive experience that intricately weaved my intellectual growth into the fabric of scientific exploration.

In the realm of healthcare, the journey is often guided by beacons of compassion—individuals who extend solace and succor to those in need. This is the embodiment of the guiding light I aspire to be. Just as my PI beckoned me to explore, learn, and contribute despite my initial apprehension, I am determined to be that steady presence for patients—a wellspring of reassurance, enabling them to perceive their own journey through a prism of hope and healing.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services