Interview with Student Researcher Josh Farr

Interviewer: Benjamin Kerner

Interviewed: Josh Farr


B: For the record, what is your name, major, and department?

J: Joshua Farr, Chemistry major, and chemistry department

B: And what is the name of your research lab?

J: I work in the Laughlin group under Dr. Scott Laughlin.

B: So how did you get into research and what inspired you to do so?

J: It was my sophomore year and I had heard a lot about research here. Stony Brook obviously has great research facilities. I was on the chemistry department website, looking for labs and I had a friend who told me that his lab had a lot of openings.  He suggested that I consider looking into it, so I went on the Laughlin Lab website and looked into the research and it was actually really interesting. I contacted Dr. Laughlin, who it turned out was actually my professor at the time, and I started in the lab a few weeks later.

B: So how long have you been in the lab now?

J: Two years in April. I started out initially just going to group meetings and reading papers, and then officially started going into the lab in late May or maybe early June.  

B: Cool, so tell me about any posters or publications you’ve been involved in.

J: No publications yet, but I’ve done a couple poster sessions. I presented at the URECA poster session last spring, Chemistry research day last fall, and the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery Symposium – also last fall. I’m going to do URECA again this year, which is in April, and I’m also sending in an abstract for the SUNY wide research conference, which is also happening this spring.

B: You’ve got a lot going on!

J: Yeah big semester…

B: Okay, so what does your lab study?

J: We work at the interface of biology, neuroscience, and organic chemistry. As a chemistry major, I work with more of the chemistry side of things, but the disciplines tend to blur into each other. I work on making molecules that are of biological significance, not so much making molecules that are produced in the body, but making molecules that can be used to study the body. So my lab specifically is working to try to make molecules that can be used to study neural circuits. I’ve been working on a couple classes of fluorescently-tagged molecules that can label neurons and help study these neural circuits by taking advantage of their routes of entry and chemical properties.

B: And of course, what’s your favorite part of doing research?

J: Hmm my favorite part of doing research… I think it’s gratifying when something works. It’s a long process, and everything looks great on paper but only a few things work out, things are rarely so cut and dry. So it’s nice when something finally works out after you’ve spent weeks or even months of trying to get it to.  

B: Now what is your favorite part of doing research in your specific department or lab?

J: That’s a good question. I came into Stony Brook as a chemistry major and planned to get a PhD in chemistry… So I guess what drew me to chemistry initially was that it’s very accessible. Like physics, for instance, has a lot of math and tends to be very abstract, especially nowadays. Biology is sort of the polar opposite, it’s very relevant but there’s also not that same logical problem solving aspect to the same extent as in physics. Chemistry tends to be a nice middle ground where there’s some logic and some innate properties that you just have to deal with and they combine nicely, at least for me.  

B: Cool. I never thought about it that way actually.

J: Yeah, it’s kind of how I’ve always thought about it. I don’t know if it’s really true but that’s what I tell myself.

B: Hey whatever works, whatever works. Will research fit into your eventual career goal?

J: I’m a senior, so after I graduate I’ll be getting a PhD in chemistry. The largest part of it is doing research and ultimately defending a thesis. I hope to either become a professor or go into industry as a researcher, so research will be my primary focus in the future too.

B: Sounds like it… so last question actually. Do you have any advice to other undergraduates looking to go into research or looking to get more out of their current research experience?

J: Well, definitely do research. Stony Brook has a lot of faculty and they basically all do research so if you’re even slightly interested in it, at least look into it. Look into it early. You don’t want to start research your senior year and not really get anything out of it. But if you start as a sophomore or even a freshman you can get a lot out of it. And I guess for people looking for more from their research. Talk to your PI, try to understand the science better. A lot of people go into lab and go through the motions, but don’t fully understand what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. You can get a lot more out of research when you understand the underlying science.


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