We spoke with Johnson Agyapong ’20, a Brandeis alumnus who is starting a doctoral program this year at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, about how his experience in the lab as an undergraduate put him on a path to success.
How did you first get involved in research at Brandeis?
I got involved through the recommendation of Erika Smith, then director of MKTYP. She scheduled an appointment with Dr. Anique Olivier-Mason on my behalf which evolved into an opportunity to participate in an REU [research experiences for undergraduates sponsored by the National Science Foundation] at Hampton University and Albany State University. The connections I made created more opportunities to research at Brandeis as well as Syracuse University where I am currently pursuing a graduate degree
What were your tasks in the lab?
I worked in a very small lab in need of undergraduate researchers, so I was assigned a project immediately. I worked on synthesizing hydrogels and collecting data on my own experiments
How did involvement in research as an undergraduate help you reach your current position post-Brandeis?
As I mentioned earlier, my first research opportunity allowed me to network and create valuable relationships that ultimately led to my acceptance to Syracuse University as a Ph.D. student.What advice would you give to students just starting out who might want to participate in research?
I would say be open to explore research areas that are different from your major. For instance, I was a Biology major working in a Physics lab. My Physics training was limited; however, my understanding of Chemistry and Biology gave me a different angle than my peers. I also incorporated my background into my project which eventually became my thesis. Research has grown to be very interdisciplinary, so do not restrict yourself because you do not explicitly study the research area in question.