Katie Christensen

First off, what is your favorite part about working at ISB?

Christensen: There are so many answers to that question. I think my favorite part is the challenge of learning what doing research is really about because I had never been exposed to research. I had never been a part of a research team in college, or anything like that. So, learning about the process, what it’s like to do research, the qualifications to do research, and learning about the whole process behind completing a project. In our intern class, we had a lecture where we learned about grant proposals and what that’s like and that was fun. To then, actually doing the project. So, that has been fun to learn and I think that has definitely been challenging to figure out and in our project, how we actually do it. So I think the challenge of that has been my favorite part – learning how to actually do it has been fun.

I was also wondering, since you are at the start of your journey and almost graduating college and such, where do you see yourself in 10 years from now? 

Christensen: In ten years… I see myself having a steady job at a company that I hopefully have been with for a long time. I don’t know if it’s going to be in research or if I will go into industry. I think that’s something I’m still trying to figure out. I was really excited to get this internship and have the opportunity to be exposed to working on  research in a professional setting. I wanted to learn if I like it or if I don’t. I am learning from my time here at ISB that I do really enjoy it. So, I can see myself continuing to do research. But, I also think  it’s important to also try an industry job in the future. Maybe I want to go down that path. I’m not really sure. I can see myself having a steady job in computing. I would love to be in computational biology. So I hopefully will be doing that in 10 years. 


What was your dream job as a child and how does it compare to what you are studying now in school?

Christensen: My dream job was this. What I’m doing here at ISB. My dream job has always, always, always been to do  what I now  know is called: computational biology. I always knew that I wanted to study biology  and then I learned  I wanted to do computer science. Finally, I figured out that I wanted to do both.  Throughout middle school and high school, I always knew I wanted to go into computational biology. I feel lucky and blessed that I got this internship, because it’s exactly what I wanted to do. 


I was wondering, you know you are majoring in computer science and minoring in biology, both very difficult studies and fields to go into, what is your biggest tip to manage that well and also having good work-life balance?

Christensen: My biggest tip is to have a planner or some kind of organizational tool that works for you. Trying to balance CS , biology and math classes can really get overwhelming. But, what I like to do is, I am not a morning person, but, I wake up early and go to the library early and get homework done before class. Versus, if you sleep until 10 and go to class and do homework until midnight. That’s just really hard and you get tired. Your roommates are watching movies and you want to watch movies with them and relax. . My biggest tip is to stay on top of everything, start early in the day when you can. Organization is super important to make sure you are not falling behind. If you are, make sure you catch it. 


As someone who has recently gone through the college application process, what is your biggest tip or piece of advice? 

Christensen: Start early.Not necessarily on the actual applications,  because they don’t open until a certain day. But, I think it’s really important to make sure you have a list of schools that you know for sure you are going to apply to. Also include those schools that are “maybe, I don’t know if I have time to do those applications”. I would say start early and look for the dates  applications are opening and closing as well as the dates for early action applications. There’s an early start date application deadline and then there’s the normal application deadline – know when those dates are  for each school. Also, know what each application requires. Some might require letters of recommendation You want to make sure   you know who you are going to ask to get your letters. And you want to make sure that you ask them in time and that they have plenty of time to write them.  You don’t want to wait until the last minute and be denied. I asked a teacher before and they said “actually, so many other people have asked me, I just don’t have the time to write it.” You  need to make sure that you know your people, know when you are going to ask them and give them plenty of time. It’s important to know the start dates, due dates, what they require, but also the essays. Some schools require 4 different questions that are basically essays. Other schools might require one long essay. Know what each entails  so you are not super  overwhelmed when it comes time to physically do applications. It is a really hard process because you are still in school and classes are just starting.  People say senior year is  “ your easiest year”. No. It is really hard still. It is really  overwhelming when you have to do all your homework and your normal stuff, plus all these applications on top of it. So it’s really good to be on top of it and know what you are getting into.


How do you see computer science shaping the research field in the future? In terms of biology. 

Christensen: I think that computer science, and technology – all of that is shaping the research field dramatically. I think that, especially when you  read research papers even from 10 years ago, the methods and techniques that were used  are not used anymore because there’s  new technologies that have been created. I think computer science is shaping that in so many ways because you’re able to process big data sets in a way you couldn’t before. And I think that it’s only going to continue. Especially with machine learning and deep learning (image processing).  That’s pretty new, but it is already so developed and is only going to keep going. 


What is your go-to comfort meal?

Christensen: A cheeseburger and french fries. Actually, only if I am buying it then french fries. If I am making it, then I like to make rosemary roasted potatoes. They’re really good. 


If you could meet anyone you could – living or dead – who would it be and why?

Christensen: If I could meet anybody on the planet, I think my answer would be AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez]. I love watching her Instagram live stories of her talking and reading all about… what she’s doing in the world. She is a very very powerful speaker. That’s a great way to put it. I would love to meet her and have a conversation with her. 

My dream job was this. What I’m doing here at ISB. My dream job has always, always, always been to go to what now I know is called: computational biology. – Katie Christensen