Alexander Doan, B.S. 2018

Medical Student, Stanford University School of Medicine

2018 Major: Biology

How has being a Biology graduate from Duke helped shape you personally and/or professionally?

"As an aspiring physician-scientist, my training and experience with the Duke Biology Department have been genuinely transformative. At Duke, I had professors who cared not only about crafting an incredible educational and research experience for me but more importantly, who cared about my growth as a person. When I think about my Duke experience, it is impossible to do so without first reflecting on my experiences in the Baugh Lab, where my PI, Dr. L. Ryan Baugh, as well as the rest of the lab, believed in me as an undergraduate with no research experience to grow into a budding scientist. I was inspired by the passion of my fellow labmates, who enthusiastically diagrammed their projects on our lab's whiteboard and helped foster my interest in developmental biology. Their hard work inspired me to become a disciplined and motivated scientist, and the intellectual environment of the lab helped me become more inquisitive about biology. Beyond the lab, my coursework and interactions with other professors like Dr. Lutzoni, Dr. Sherwood, and Dr. McClay, taught me to appreciate the complexity and beauty inherent to biology while questioning paradigms and looking for the next exciting frontiers in science. I still remember Dr. Lutzoni's passionate lectures about symbioses and Dr. McClay's inspiring accounts of great scientists and their discoveries. Most importantly, I remember Dr. Sherwood encouraging me when I felt unsure about my future plans and Dr. McClay urging me to advocate for causes I cared about regardless of resistance from the outside because of his belief that you accomplish more following your dreams - even if you don't achieve 100% of your goals - than you do quitting. Duke, and especially the Biology Department, is not just a good place to be from. It is a good place to be. That is remarkable in academia, and I am so grateful to the professors, peers, and all the other mentors who helped me believe in myself and become the person I am today. Also, I love C. elegans."

What advice would you give students in Duke's Biology programs? 

"Fail early and often. Science is about perseverance and thinking outside the box, and exploring the frontiers of knowledge mean that you will often get lost. That is okay - you have excellent mentors to reel you back in and a supportive environment from which to explore. After all, if it was easy, someone else would have already done it. Trust that through your hard work and the amazing guidance you get, you will help discover truths about science and nature that help humanity move forward, and that both the process and the destination of discovery are incredible rewards."

Alexander Doan