KELSEY KOCHAN

First-year PIBS student, Pharmacology

Hometown: Taylor, MI


Tell us about yourself!

As a first-generation college student, I grew up believing that college was something unattainable for me. I was raised in a town without resources, mentorship, or financial aid, searching for someone to fill that “role model” position in my life. As a motivated lover of all things STEM, I forced my way into college, where things quickly fell apart. I started my first year at Michigan State University, where I easily felt lost in such a large community. My mental health severely struggled, and as most people do, I ignored it until it was too late. I found myself hopeless, giving up, and I eventually dropped out. I spent the next 6 years aimlessly searching for something that interested me again, until I eventually stumbled upon UROP here at UM. I was hesitant, as a counselor in high school told me I would never get into a school like UM, but I applied anyway. Thanks to the mentorship I found along the way, I was able to major in Biology, finish my undergraduate education and apply to graduate programs across the country. Now, I am pursuing a PhD in Pharmacology at a top university, an advocate for mental health as part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and most importantly, I believe in my abilities and passion for science.”

What is your favorite thing about your current program?

“I really love the availability of women role models in the Pharmacology Department. There are a few in leadership positions that have really helped cultivate my love for science and pharmacology. They inspire me every day and they are all VERY aware of the challenges faced by women in STEM and are actively advocating for young scientists like me.”

What factors or interests led you to choose your current program or field?

“For most of my life, one of my brothers was an addict. I brought a personal understanding of how science can affect the general population to the lab when I began researching addiction. I soon became so passionate about drug research that I knew fairly quickly that I wanted to do this forever.”

What one book would you recommend to the community? Why?

“Neil Gaiman has always been one of my favorite writers. I picked up a copy of Neverwhere while in Literati and couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking to fall into a world outside of your own, that’s the book to read. Or Harry Potter. Everyone read Harry Potter! Now! Go!”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

“Yoga, binge Netflix shows, and walk Zelda, my puppy.”

How did other people help you get to where you are today?

“I would not be anywhere I am today without my brother Travis, or my previous mentor, Emily. Both of them pushed me to believe that not only could I have more in my life, but that I was capable. I was in need of a severe attitude adjustment when it came to how I saw myself, and both of them were instrumental in that progression.”

What’s the best advice someone gave you that you still use today?

“Someone once told me to remind myself every day that I am lucky to be here, and that I need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way because of that. I wake up in the morning thankful that I am alive and able.”

Tell us about a challenge you ran into in your educational training and how you overcame it.

“Everyone tells you that the transition from undergraduate education to graduate education is tough, but you don’t really understand that until it happens. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I discovered that imposter syndrome was something that would hit me HARD. In the first few weeks of starting my graduate program, I found myself involuntarily comparing myself to my classmates, telling myself that I didn’t belong here, and that I could never be successful. In my first week alone, I started having panic attacks thinking about how hard I had to work to be half as intelligent as my classmates. It took a lot to move past that, and while I am not all the way there yet, I am happier knowing that I am working on myself.”

 

What is your greatest source of inspiration to keep pushing toward completing your goals?

“I want to be one of those successful women that people look at and think, “If she can do it, so can I.” I want to inspire and motivate young underprivileged scientists one day. I want to set an example for my four young nieces. I remind myself of this whenever I want to give up. I am doing it for me, but also because I wish I had someone in STEM to inspire me growing up.”

What’s your secret for time-management and being productive?

“If I am too comfortable, I will not be able to focus. I need to get out of the house in order to study, and I need to change it up all the time. I can’t go to the same coffee shop whenever I need to study. I usually wander around campus until I find a spot that motivates me.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring scientist?

“Figure out how to manage your time early, because everything starts to pile up quick. Also, TAKE TIME FOR YOU. Your mental health matters so much and it is important to recognize when you need a moment. Take the time you need!!!”

Can students and trainees contact you directly?

“Yes- I have many resources available to students/faculty/staff on and off campus for mental health advocacy or challenges! Find me on LinkedIn.”

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Spotlights are created with the help of Nnamdi Edokobi, third-year PhD candidate, Pharmacology Department.