During Bennett Belle Princess Bush’s Summer at UVA, Failure Became an Option
Princess Bush, a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Scholar, spent her summer participating in the VA/NC Alliance Summer Research Program at the University of Virginia. The program “was more than just an internship,” according to Bush, a third-year biology major, psychology minor.
The VA/NC Alliance Summer Research Program provides research experience to students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields by conducting lab work independently, under the guidance of faculty and/or graduate student mentors on a research project. In addition to research, writing workshops, graduate school preparation, presentations on STEM topics and panel discussions are offered to help students grow professionally and individually.
Bush chose the program as her first summer internship because it “offered a holistic approach to what scientists do.” Working in the microbiology department under the mentorship of Dr. Alison Criss, Bush researched different drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea. The lab is where Bush says she learned “what science and research truly is.”
“I always thought of science as an observational craft, ‘these are the facts, now apply them.’ Although there are a lot of facts, there are a lot of things we don’t know, like how one fact interacts with another fact,” she said. Utilizing the scientific method outside of the classroom as she studied strains to find those new facts empowered her, and “it was really great to be at the edge of something and make new research that future students may read about and practice in their lab classes.”
When not in the lab Bush met with university officials, networked at social gatherings, spoke at events and attended a leadership conference. These extracurriculars aided her in examining her future as a pediatrician, “hearing from and interacting with my peers, mentors and instructors helped me work towards deciding what I want to do with my life and career. It helped me digest and dissect what that really means. I am now looking into research, which I found I really love, because of this experience.”
Of everything she learned while participating in the program, her biggest lesson was overcoming her fear of failure. “I didn’t like failure, but now I know it’s okay to fail. Things in the lab and extracurriculars did not always go the way I wanted, however things always worked out, just not the way I planned. In those moments where I failed, it pushed me to success because it confronted and changed my perspective of myself. Failing challenged me, leading me to find what I now know about networking, science, research and myself. The program helped me learn how to get back up after failure, or what we perceive as failure.”
Bush’s advice to other STEM students is to “dream broad and work hard towards those dreams and those goals, be relentless in your pursuits, be open to changes and different possibilities. Know that discomfort leads to success… that failure leads to success.”