“I have learned much more than I would have ever imagined”

What it’s Really Like in MPFI’s PRE Program

March 27, 2019

Heather Holman is a member of the 2018-2019 Post-Baccalaureate Research Experience (PRE) program at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. Before coming to MPFI, Heather graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a double major in Biomedical Sciences and Sport & Exercise Science. She will be attending the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) where she will pursue both an MD and PhD with a focus in neuroscience.

Why was the Post-Baccalaureate Research Experience (PRE) program right for you?

I chose to apply to the PRE program since I was looking for a post-baccalaureate program with a focus on basic neuroscience research and career development. Max Planck was a perfect fit since I not only got the opportunity to be exposed to cutting-edge research, but I also learned coding and professional skills through the PRE meetings.

How has taking a year between undergrad and grad school helped your career focus?

Having the opportunity to pursue research full-time solidified my decision to pursue an MD/PhD and conduct research throughout my career. The experiences I have gained through the PRE program have further developed my critical thinking skills and broadened my research knowledge which will certainly be beneficial during graduate school.

What experiences did you have in the PRE program that stand out to you?

My year at Max Planck has far exceeded my expectations. I have learned much more than I would have ever imagined. The equipment and resources available at Max Planck are phenomenal, giving students the opportunity to utilize technology they probably would never be able to access anywhere else. The PRE meetings are led by researchers at the institute which gives students the ability to learn first-hand about what it is like to pursue a career in science and obtain useful advice about career development. Additionally, we were able to attend the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting which exposed us to the latest neuroscience research and provided an awesome networking experience. We were also given the opportunity to take a course in Matlab coding which was not only useful for our projects in the lab, but will also be helpful throughout our careers.

What advice would you give to someone who is getting ready to complete their undergraduate degree but isn’t sure exactly what they want to do next?

I would recommend taking a gap year to truly figure out what you are passionate about and want to pursue as a career. The PRE program is a fantastic opportunity if you are considering research as a career. It definitely solidified my decision to pursue an MD/PhD as well as boosted my application since it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience where I was fortunate to learn about high-profile research being conducted throughout the Max Planck Institute.