The Elements of Success: Advice from a Research Scientist

Alexandria Cogdill is a pioneering scientist who currently conducts research at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research consists of exploring the medical potential of adoptive cell therapy. Ms. Cogdill studies the anatomy and application of CAR cells, which are proteins that allow T-cells to recognize a specific protein (antigen) on tumor cells. Alongside her team, she extracts T-cells from cancer patients, scientifically enhances their components, and then reinserts these cells back into the patient to hunt down tumors. This approach has proven to be effective at targeting Leukemia as well as brain, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer. Ms. Cogdill is optimistic about her research and hopes that one day healthy donors will be able to donate their T-cells to cancer patients.

Previously, Ms. Cogdill conducted research at the National Cancer Institute (NIH) on a project dedicated to making immunotherapy more efficient and cost effective. Subsequently, she worked in a Harvard lab that identified solutions to prevent cancers from returning after remission. Her successes are impressive on their own, but what struck me the most was the passion she displayed while talking about her career. So without further ado, here are some tips and tidbits about how to find your niche and be successful at it.

Tip 1: Remain curious my friends!

  • As Ms. Cogdill stated, it is extremely important to be “passionately curious.” There are always things you can learn more about. Find them, learn about them, and then find something else to learn about. Life is about growing. Remaining stagnant in life is not beneficial in any capacity, so get out there and experience new things! And when you find something that interests you, learn everything and anything you possibly can about it.

Tip 2: Pay attention to who is in the room…

  • Surround yourself with people smarter and wiser than you. Someone once said, “If you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Acknowledge the fact that you can learn different things from different people. Be open to new experiences, new people, and new ways of thinking. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge different insights that can help you along your way.

Tip 3: When you get knocked down, get right back up!

  • Nobody’s perfect! In the interview, Ms. Cogdill stressed the importance of failing in order to succeed. Everybody gloats and gleams about their successes, but no one ever wants to talk about or acknowledge the struggles they encountered to get there. Be humble and realize that success is just the tip of the iceberg. Understand there is more ice under the water and that overcoming failure makes you stronger. When faced with an obstacle, believe in yourself, push harder, and let those failures be a part of your success story.

Tip 4: Surround yourself with positive role models.

  • It all comes back to the cliché “guilty by association.” The people you surround yourself with reflect upon you. Ms. Cogdill emphasizes the importance of finding people in your life who push you to achieve greatness. She also explained the importance of having good role models in your life, whether they are a parent, a professor, or a historical figure. Find those who inspire you and emulate their most admirable skills.

Contributor: Ally Massimi

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Comments (2)

  1. kcooley1999     February 17, 2016 at 10:17pm

    I think that it is very important for young women to realize their true potential whether it be starting college or going back to school later in life. Most don’t realize how much potential they really do have, leading me to say that the tips given here, are meant to be motivational as well as inspirational to all women.

  2. d1234     February 21, 2016 at 8:41pm

    This article was very interesting. I like how I can actually believe in these tips because of the credible source. I will try to implement these tips into my life so that I can become successful. My favorite tip is Tip #4 because my parents had always told me to choose my friends wisely because you really are “guilty by association.”

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