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CAHNRS Department of Horticulture Genomics Lab

Undergraduate – Christopher Vincent

Christopher Vincent


Your name and what is/was your background (what is your major, why science, etc)?
My name is Chris Vincent and I just graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Biology. My history with biology is what best could be described as a love hate relationship. That, however, is not biology’s fault, mostly it’s because chemistry had to tag along with biology. Anyway my love for biology started when I was very little. Growing up I always, and still do, love dinosaurs and until my freshman year of high school I was dead set on being a paleontologist. I realized that was not a career that I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. Then I met 10th grade biology and fell in love all over again. My high school got an endowment from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and they so graciously let a bunch of 15-16 year old borrow their micropipettes and play with them. I thought it was the coolest thing on earth. I knew then and there I could do that forever, it was just a cherry on top that I really enjoyed learning the material in our genetics section of the class. That’s why I went into science and I never looked back.

Why did you decide to join a research lab? How did the experience compare to what you had expected?
The reason I joined the research lab was slightly two fold and entirely selfish on my part. I joined because I wanted to get experience that looked good on a resume for one, and for two I wanted to get to know a professor better to get a good letter of reference from. What I did not expect was to be so enthralled with the work I would be doing, that I would find such good working relationships with the others in the lab, and that I would learn SO much on a daily basis that I did not learn (probably could not) from any of my classes.

What was cool, exciting, or most interesting about your time in the lab?
What was probably the coolest and most interesting about my time in the lab was learning the process of what actually goes on in a working research lab. Sure I had lots of lab experience doing stuff in the context of a class, but working in a class lab is unfulfilling, tedious, and dare I say even boring! Working in this lab I got to see that my work was going towards a productive goal and that gave me so much more inspiration to get things done. Even if sometimes the results I was getting were not positive results, I still knew that progress was being made and I wasn’t doing something just to know how to do it.

If there is something in particular you learned or discovered that you’d like to share with others, please take a moment to tell us about it.
Oh gosh there is so much stuff that I learned that I could rattle on for page after page so I am just going to mention a few things without detail. For one use of all the different equipment that normal students don’t even know exists. For example thermo cyclers. For most students that are a mythical machine that PCR is magically accomplished in. Another example is pretty much any kid or protocol I ever used in the lab. Most of the stuff we learn about in say genetics is really cool, but to be able to actually DO what we learn can be done is amazing.

If you would recommend conducting research in a science lab to others, what would you tell them to get them interested in the idea?
I would say “hey, you even wonder how this or that works? Cool, you like playing with a bunch of cool toys and get paid, or get credits for it? Awesome, you want to be part of something that will make life better for mankind in the future? Great then you should work in a research lab because we do that every day!”

We’d love to know what you’re up to, so please give us a brief description of where you are working or going to school now.
Well, I just finished my last class up, now I have moved home back to Seattle. I am currently searching for employment as a lab tech at various research facilities in the Seattle area. I am also studying to retake my GRE and apply for graduate school at a few research universities in the northwest.

Did the lab experience help you with your classes or your perspective about science? Did working in the lab help you with developing other skills like time management or communication?
Working in the lab has helped me in more ways than I can ever explain. It helped in the classroom because it gave me a leg up on other students. A lot of the material that was being introduced in the classroom I had already been exposed to a couple times in the lab. It helped me a lot confirm that research was the type of biology that I wanted to have a career. I had always felt that research is what I wanted to do, but I could not be absolutely sure because I had never done research in a research lab before. Now I do know with 100% conviction that it is what I want to do. As far as other skills it was a great lab to work in with I feel a very good working environment. It wasn’t too laid back where nothing was ever accomplished, it also wasn’t such a hierarchy that the grad students told us to do something and we did it like mindless robots. It was a healthy mix of structure and relaxation so that as an undergrad I was not afraid to ask WHY am I doing this, or how does what I’m doing work? It was great on teaching effective communication is a work environment were interacting with people is an absolute necessity.

Was there anything in particular you would have liked us to do different to enhance your learning or interest from the time spent in the lab?
Yes I would like you to build a time machine and send me back into time to my freshman year. Then I want to be told what I said earlier, plus the incentive of a resume building and connection making. Then I could get another 3 years of learning and experience.

Do you feel better prepared for the workplace or future academic endeavors as a result of your time in the lab?
Absolutely I feel way more prepared for both graduate school and the workplace after being in the lab. It was probably the best academic/career decision that I ever made in my life and that title will probably be held for a long time.

Any other comments?
I want to know the progress of the projects that I was working on. Please give me status reports once in a while!