On June 5, 20 students from the 2019 MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP) cohort and eight program alumni had the chance to meet Squire Booker PhD ’94. Booker was the keynote speaker at MIT’s Investiture of Doctoral Hoods and Degree Conferral Ceremony, which took place on June 6. He is also an MSRP alumnus from the very first cohort, and conducted his PhD work in the Department of Chemistry under the direction of JoAnne Stubbe.
He recounted how his MSRP experience changed his career path. “I discovered my passion for research that summer,” he said.
Today, Booker is the Evan Pugh Professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology, and the Eberly Family Distinguished Chair in Science at Pennsylvania State University. He is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
The lunch was organized by Catherine Drennan, an MIT professor of biology and chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
“When I found out that Professor Booker was selected to speak at the MIT hooding ceremony, I knew that I wanted to arrange for him to meet with current and recent MSRP students,” she says. “It means a lot to meet someone successful who was once in your shoes.”
Stephanie Guerra, an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao who will be working in the Laub lab this summer, says it was inspiring to meet someone whose career trajectory had been so impacted by the MSRP experience. “It resonated with me when he mentioned that we shouldn't question the opportunities we get,” she says. “We should be grateful for them and make the best of them.”
These sentiments were echoed by Sofía Hernández Torres from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, who will be working in the Calo lab. “He is an accomplished man with very entertaining charisma,” she says. “I was motivated to continue to fight for a successful science career, where you are able to choose where you go next instead of having to follow a path defined by others.”
MSRP is a research-intensive summer training program for non-MIT sophomore and junior science majors who have an interest in a research career. Since 2003, it has been divided into two branches: MSRP General and MSRP-Bio. The latter offers a 10-week practical training in one of over 90 research laboratories affiliated with the departments of Biology, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, or Biological Engineering, and features weekly academic seminars, meetings with faculty, and many extracurricular activities.