Emily Pitsch, Hughes Lab (Biochemistry)
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from, what degree(s) do you have? What are your interests?
I am from a small city in Texas and went to the University of San Diego where I studied biochemistry. I am interested in the cellular mechanisms of various diseases.
Why did you choose the U for graduate school?
I chose the U because of the collaborative community and opportunity to do such a wide variety of research. Also, the mountains drew me to the area for rock climbing, and when I was interviewing I got the sense that most graduate students and PIs valued a healthy work-life balance (and have validated that assumption).
Tell me about your lab. What do you study?
I am in the Hughes lab in the Biochemistry Department. The lab studies amino acid regulation and cellular dysfunction associated with aging and disease. My project just started, but the goal is to model inborn errors of metabolism that cause a build-up of specific amino acids to investigate how that amino acid leads to toxicity.
Why did you choose to join your lab?
Being interested in the research was obviously an aspect I was looking for, but I mainly wanted to find a lab environment in which I could see myself spending 5+ years. I really enjoy having reasonable creative freedom to take my project in a direction that I think may be interesting, and my PI supports that independence but is also available for advice.
What do you like the most about living in Salt Lake City?
I enjoy the access to outdoor activities and the proximity of the university to the lovely foothills. There are so many outdoorsy things to do here! I really enjoy the rock climbing, hiking, and skiing.
What do you like the least?
The inversion in the winter.
What do you like most about being a graduate student?
During my undergraduate studies I really wanted to devote my time to research but was busy doing work for classes. As a graduate student, most of the time is focused on research and I really like to learn in this environment instead of class work.
What types of things do you do outside of class and lab?
I really like to be outside doing things like rock climbing, hiking with my dog, and skiing. I also enjoy painting, drawing, and playing violin.
What does a typical weekday look like for you?
I do not stick to a particularly consistent schedule, but I always walk my dog before going into lab. Usually I do various things in lab day-to-day, which I am thankful for or this graduate study would be treacherously monotonous. After lab, I usually practice violin or go to the dog park and several days a week I climb at The Front.
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
On the weekends I spend a bit of time outside. In the winter I ski and in the warmer months I try to climb outside, usually in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Most weekends I go into lab for an hour or so, but still find time to recharge for the following week.
What advice would you give to someone applying and interviewing for graduate school?
Identifying what your priorities in a school is essential to finding a best fit. There is great research at so many schools, but it is also important that you can see yourself living happily at the school for many years. While I was interviewing, I realized what I thought was my first choice would have been a miserable decision for myself. One thing that really helped me in finding a good fit was not narrowing my research interests too much. I chose this program because of the large number of choices for labs and mostly because I knew I could be happy living in a city that has great access to the outdoors.