Tatiana Mikhailova ’16, a chemistry major, was born in a small town in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, a town built on the oil industry around it. “If you wanted to have a career other than working in the oil fields,” she says, “it was not really a good place to be.” She cites the absence of higher education as one of the major causes of the limited opportunities. Even though studying abroad was not common among her peers, Tatiana believed it was the only way for her to find a fulfilling career.
She starting looking online for a college that had both small class sizes and the opportunity for personal interactions with the professors, and Berea fit the bill exactly. And, she admits, it did not hurt that the weather is “so much warmer than my hometown.”
Berea’s coursework flexibility and research opportunities also attracted Tatiana’s interest, though she did wonder how challenging the science program would be. “When I read that I would be earning a Bachelor of Arts, I didn’t think the science program would be as extensive as it is.” After a few semesters, all her doubts had been answered, she says. “We do a lot of experiments and independent work. We even propose new experiments and conduct them depending on the availability of equipment and chemicals. It is a challenging program, and you have to spend a lot of time in the labs.”
In summer 2015, Tatiana’s hard work paid off when she was invited to participate in a research program at Vanderbilt University where she worked on the relationship between diabetic kidneys and correspondingly affected protein structures. Even though Berea had prepared her for this research, her internship showed her that many things still need to be improved. “At Vanderbilt, they have multiple labs and the latest available technology in instruments and chemicals, while at Berea, we are always limited in our choice of equipment. To do research and publish important papers, you need modern technology because that is how you collect valuable data,” she says.
This year, she was invited to do research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School. “I worked on developing novel compounds to target cancer through inhibiting protein degradation system,” said Tatiana. “I worked with breast cancer cells as a disease model investigating whether newly synthesized compounds would stop breast cancer cell proliferation.”
After graduation, she says, “I plan to pursue biomedical research, but I am still deciding whether to pursue a medical degree or Ph.D. Both of them can let you do research but a medical degree will also help you see patients.”
Written by Beza Moges ’16