I graduated in the IBH class of 2013. Chris contacted me about the IBH Student Highlight section and I think this is a great networking opportunity within the student body.
I'm starting my third year at Harvard's Systems Biology Department studying synthetic biology in Pam Silver's lab and work mainly on artificial photosynthesis and electrobiology. Photosynthesis has a lot of limitations and I combine the unique advantages of inorganic chemistry and microbiology to achieve difficult solar-to-chemical transformations in a device we call the 'bionic leaf'. In short, I design bio-compatible water-splitting catalysts that break water into H2 and O2 from sunlight and interface these with bacteria capable of using H2 and CO2 as its sole source of energy and carbon respectively. These bacteria are also engineered to produce biofuels and plastics. Interestingly, this technology has a 10% solar-to-biomass conversion efficiency, exceeding the majority of natural photosynthetic systems (1% for terrestrial plants, 5-7% for microalgae) and is the most efficient bioeletrochemical fuel producer reported by over 90-fold. The bionic leaf will also air on BBC Horizon November 28th for the show's anniversary so be sure to check out my awkward demonstration of how the technology works.
I'm currently looking into consulting jobs for boutique firms that specialize in environmental or energy issues. While it means dressing up for work, I've actually found the problem solving aspect to be a very fun and creative process given the problem is worth solving.
IBH's incentives to do research are strong and rightfully so. I did research in the Schuler and Berenbaum labs for 3 years and that gave me the experience necessary to join a big lab in grad school that has many freedoms and resources but little oversight/mentoring. Maybe this is mostly because I joined a systems biology department but the quantitative background I (barely) achieved was very valuable and got me through a few very rigorous interviews. If I could have done anything differently I would have tried to use Python (which I have a strong bias to using, feel free to disagree) in undergrad because good bioinformatics, if done properly, can put bench work into 'easy mode'.
If anyone has any questions feel free to ask, I know a glossed over a lot of details.
IBH students travel the world, publish research papers, and do all sorts of amazing things