It was the first academic day of my time here at Emory. I had just received an immense extra credit challenge from my biology professor: design a better detection method for the Ebola virus. Being passionate about humanitarian causes, especially those that involve medical innovation, I was anxious to try my hand at developing a new diagnostic. However there was one snag in my plans, I only had a basic knowledge of the Ebola virus. To remedy this, I spent the entire afternoon and evening of my first day of college engrossed in Google Scholar. I delved through every article I could find, spanning all topics related to Ebola. This included treatment, quarantine strategies, pathogenesis, biological structure, and current responses to the outbreak. I was searching for anything and everything that could help me devise a test that would actually be useful for the particular outbreak occurring in West Africa. I focused on particular strains, searched for material written by scientific professionals on the ground, and searched for papers published by expert immunologists and virologists.
Later that night, using my newfound knowledge, I drew together a sketch with my friend Rostam of a possible better diagnostic test for the virus. After about an hour of sketching on a white board in a Raoul Hall study lounge, we both sat back, looked at our creation, and looked back at each other. We realized that we might actually have something to work with. From there the rest is history. We took our design to the next level, consulting medical and scientific professionals and eventually partnering with an immunologist. We started our own private fundraising campaign, raising over 15,000 dollars to use to develop our test. We garnered national attention for our work in progress and have had countless interviews with news organizations and professional academics in medicine. Through this project I have learned what it takes to start a business and how to talk to powerful individuals without them shutting me down. I’ve learned how to market and fundraise, how to pitch ideas to potential funders, and how to not get eaten alive in the business world. I discovered how careful one has to be with what they are saying, how to effectively communicate a complicated scientific process to people without giving away secrets about how the project works, and what it takes to deal with the media. I have dealt with haters and those who talk down on my work at every turn. I have done more networking in the past two months than most people do in their entire lives. I have drank more coffee than I though humanly possible. I have sacrificed my free time, my nights and weekends. I have seen and done things that almost no one my age gets the privilege to. I learned how to balance this project and my school work. I learned how to be humble and what my limits are. I know now what true drive is. I have made a lifelong best friend and connections that will last me forever. The list goes on….
All of this self improvement and opportunity to do something great has come from my Ebola research. Without it, I would still be a normal college student, living a normal life. Ebola research has opened the gates of self-improvement for me. I am 100% a better person, in all aspects, from my experiences stemming from research. While I am currently still working on my project at the time of my writing of this post, I can safely say that just working on it, regardless whether it is successful or not, has been the best experience of my life. Never have I experienced something so comprehensively life changing as this, and I don’t think I ever will. My experience just goes to show what doors research can open. I highly encourage everyone to participate in a form of it, scientific or not. It could change your life forever.