AbuBakr Sangare ’23

Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Boston, MA

This summer, I interned in the D’Souza Laboratory at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology through the Molecules, Cells, and Organisms (MCO) Ph.D. program. While in the lab, I worked on two main projects, one focused on HBV and another on HIV-1. My main focus was on HIV-1 in which I worked on adapting, optimizing, and streamlining an assay to observe RNA dimerization in vivo. This work was done to supplement the hypothesis the lab has on the mechanism of ribosomal frameshifting in HIV type 1. My day-to-day work included biking into Cambridge from Brookline where I’d enter the Northwest Building and come into the lab. I worked primarily with human embryonic kidney (HEK293T) cells in the cell culture room of the D’Souza laboratory.

In front of the Biological Laboratories at Harvard University.

Prior to this summer, I had flirted with the idea of attending graduate school but had no real basis for the decision. I was interested in science and enjoyed the lab work I have done at Williams thus far but haven’t had the opportunity to fully indulge into what would be a snapshot of graduate school life at an R1 research institution. When I began my Williams journey, I was aggressively set on going to medical school and felt that was the path for me to pursue—so much so that I had an MCAT prep series book before freshman year! However, once I began working in Professor Amy Gehring’s laboratory, I had found a completely new passion for research and scientific inquiry—far beyond the passion and curiosity I had with regards to medicine. This experience solidified my interest in graduate school. Both working in the lab and meeting and interacting with the current graduate students at Harvard, professors, and deans has truly affirmed all those passions I had initially into pursuing a Ph.D. My biggest takeaway from this experience has been a fundamental shift towards my relationship with my science and how it can be a tool cultivated to ask questions—questions seeking to understand fundamental aspects of our world from the vantage of my academic interests. I’ve learned that the types of questions I am most interested in asking are centered around biochemical interactions of biological macromolecules and their implications on organisms at the cellular level. I am currently most interested in pursuing these questions within the field of regenerative biology.

My experience and now focused career trajectory would not have happened without the support and guidance from the ’68 Center for Career Exploration. Thank you.