Career Goal: Cancer Research

This is an essay written on relatively short notice for my chemistry scholarship application. I do not yet know to whom they will award the scholarship, but congrats to whoever gets it. 😉


When I was thirteen years old, my cousin died from leukemia. Soon after, I discovered I had an interest in chemistry. It provides a way to find answers for many of my questions as to why the natural world functions the way it does. I also wanted to enter the medical field so I could help others, but I did not want to become a doctor because I was unfortunately squeamish. Having seen my cousin’s fight against leukemia and wanting to enter the medical field, I decided to pursue drug development. If I could discover exactly why and how leukemia kills people, perhaps I could also find a cure for it.

Leukemia can be cured by using chemistry to formulate drugs, but the branches of chemistry that fascinate me most are orbital theory and atomic line spectra. I also enjoy algebra based physics and am considering a minor in physics. The areas of physics that interest me most are vectors, centripetal motion, and optics. Orbital theory, atomic line spectra or photochemistry, and physics interest me because they provide a layer of explanation beyond the apparent one. For example, atoms make up matter, but the movement of subatomic particles controls the way atoms interact. By pursuing these types of explanations, I hope to apply my passions for chemistry and physics to my desire to cure disease.

Several shared areas in chemistry and physics are promising areas for cancer research. Photochemistry and optics form one of the many intersections between chemistry and physics. Photochemistry is the study of the effects of light on atoms and molecules while optics studies the behavior of light. I would like to explore the uses of photochemical reactions and radiation in targeting and combating tumors. Molecular modeling also ties the disciplines of chemistry and physics together because an understanding of the underlying physics of orbital theory is necessary in order to do any modeling. I have not done any computer modeling, but I believe that I would enjoy it. Molecular modeling is often used in drug design. I see it as another likely avenue for my efforts to design drugs to cure leukemia as well as other disorders. I aspire to research cancer with the aid of photochemistry and molecular modeling.

Pursuant to this goal, I hope to assist a professor in cancer research this fall or next summer. After I earn my bachelor of science in chemistry, I will earn a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry. Eventually, through a position at the CDC or a drug development firm, I hope to find a drug to eradicate leukemia. Ultimately, I hope to help numerous people with cancer, to gain insight into other diseases, and to answer the many questions about the natural world which I have yet to even ask.Not only would a career in chemistry be extremely interesting and allow me to better understand the way the world works, but a career in chemistry would allow me to try to end diseases like cancer for people like my cousin.

2 thoughts on “Career Goal: Cancer Research

  1. m also interested in cancer research so plz tell me what path should i follow as at present m doing bsc biotechnology plz rply as soon as possible

    • Avika, I am not an expert on this. Since I wrote this, my focus has shifted from organic chemistry to physical chemistry and drug delivery. As far as I can tell, the path to follow depends on the kind of cancer research you want to do. If you want to do drug discovery then biopharmaceutics (a subset of biotech), biochemistry, or organic chemistry may be up your alley, but there are other areas of research as well (drug delivery, research into the causes of cancer, etc.). In general, take as much math as you can, learn to write well, and make sure you like researching by doing undergraduate research ASAP (REU programs, or research with a faculty member at your school) I’d talk to your adviser/guidance councilor before making any major decisions. .

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