Working at a lab bench

Student Perspective: Daniel Sprockett

Daniel Sprockett

Microbiology & Immunology
Lab: Dr. David Relman

Why did you choose the Biosciences PhD programs at Stanford University?

One reason I chose the Biosciences PhD programs at Stanford was that, in addition to the incredible breadth of available programming, the culture here also really encourages cross-disciplinary research. For example, I am currently collaborating on projects not just outside of my department, but outside the School of Medicine. Fostering this cross-pollination of ideas is critical for addressing complex problems on a global scale.

Describe your research.

My research focuses on the human microbiome —the six or so pounds of microbes that live inside us— and how it contributes to various states of health and disease. Specifically, I'm trying to better understand how the human microbiome is acquired at birth and the ecological forces that shape it over the first few years of life. Evidence suggest that this period of exposure is critical for normal immune development, and may impact the risk of autoimmune disorders and other diseases later in life.

What do you like about living in the Bay Area?

I love living in the Bay Area because I'm surrounded by people that are both very optimistic about the future, and talented and empowered enough to help shape it. I also love that within an hour's drive I can go from the suburbs of Palo Alto to the mountains, the beach, the redwoods, or the city. Plus, the weather is fantastic!

Do you have any advice to share with prospective students?

Choosing a graduate program is a big decision. One of the most important factors for me was the opportunity for high-quality mentorship. This encompasses formal scientific mentorship (i.e. potential Primary Investigators), as well as various other informal mentors that can help develop you as a person, a critical thinker, and a citizen. Also, everyone will highlight the great things about the program when you're interviewing, but I've found it helpful to ask specifically what current students and faculty dont't like about the university. This can be very informative while trying to distinguish between two or more great options.

What advice would you give an incoming student about choosing her or his thesis lab?

Take the time to have purposeful, in-depth conversations with grad students and postdocs about their projects. While it is nice to generate data and move a project forward during your rotation, your real job during that time is to learn how the lab operates and identify research questions that you can see yourself answering over the next several years.

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