Essi Tchalla, a trainee in the doctoral program in microbiology and immunology, is confident she is on the right path.
A native of Togo in West Africa, she came to the United States in 2013 to pursue higher education. One of her cousins was a biomedical sciences major at the University at Buffalo and recommended Tchalla look into the program.
She decided it was a good fit for her and after graduating with a bachelor of science degree, she took advantage of an opportunity to conduct research to gain experience for graduate school.
As a research technician in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Tchalla gained valuable experience, especially in conducting numerous different assays.
“I am very interested in bacterial pathogenesis and immunology,” she says. “I learned how to give oral presentations to a group of scientists, and more importantly, how to interpret scientific data and present it effectively.”
Tchalla says she knew she wanted to pursue a doctoral degree after her undergraduate college experience and had a pair of top choices — microbiology and immunology or cancer genetics.
“Getting a job as a research technician in a microbiology and immunology lab made me fall in love with the field even more, making the choice very easy for me,” she says.
Faculty members in the department are very supportive and encouraging, Tchalla says, singling out her mentor, Elsa Bou Ghanem, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.
“Working with Elsa has been one of the best experiences of my life and I am so grateful to have her as my mentor,” she says. “She is one of the most supportive and understanding people I know and those are two of the best qualities I look for in a mentor. She believes in her trainees and treats us all equally.”
Tchalla is unequivocal in her feelings about the direction her life has taken.
“The doctoral program in microbiology and immunology is amazing,” she says. “You can always count on faculty and staff in the department to guide you to the right path.”
“There is such diversity in the research areas that you will find what research and which mentor suits you,” Tchalla adds.
“The training you receive as a graduate student in microbiology and immunology is vigorous and sets you up to be a great scientist.”