Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Editor’s note: One of our mentors describes how a formative mentorship experience helped her achieve success in her life and career.
Working with my mentor in summer 2000 was a life-changing event for me. I was a sophomore when I heard about an excellent opportunity at UCLA to volunteer as a summer student in a lab working on the impact of secondary infections on HIV pathogenesis. I was very excited about the science and the hands-on laboratory experience. But little did I know that summer would leave deeper marks in my career. I worked in Dr. Ozlem Equils’ lab. In addition to sharing her knowledge on the basic science and conducting clinics on the topic, she also shared her story of how she became a very successful scientist–clinician in one of the top universities in the world. She emphasized the importance of dedication, hard work and going after what you really want in your life and career. As expected, the three months that I spent in her lab was an amazing experience. Not only had I learned a lot, but also my hunger for being a scientist increased. The next summer, I joined a summer undergraduate internship program at Caltech. In 2002, I was accepted to graduate school at Harvard with prestigious scholarships. Then I got my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I stayed as a postdoctoral fellow and got my current position as an assistant professor.
And my mentor was with me at every step. Her determination, love of science and work ethic always guided me in the lab and in my life. Now, when I receive emails asking for summer internship opportunities from undergraduate students, I remember the difference that summer with Ozlem made in my life. I am very thankful to her for sharing her enthusiasm and dedication for science and being one of the most influential role models as a female scientist–clinician in my career.