#WhyIScience Q&A: How a summer at Broad helped foster a love of research for a young scientist

Chanell Mangum discusses the impact the Broad Summer Research Program had on her career path and what she’s learned about leadership, representation, and the power of curiosity. 

Portrait of Chanell Mangum
Credit: Allison Colorado, Broad Communications
Chanell Mangum is a research associate in the Broad's Optical Profiling Platform.

Chanell Mangum’s love of science sprouted in her family’s garden. As a child growing up in Durham, North Carolina, she learned when to plant seeds, what type of soil to use, and how best to fertilize the tomatoes, zucchinis, and many other vegetables she and her family cultivated in their large backyard garden. 

In fifth grade, Mangum joined a Girl Scout troop and the troop leaders, who had PhDs in science or engineering, further nurtured her interests by introducing her and her fellow troop members to many STEM activities — science camps for girls, LEGO robotics competitions, DNA extractions from strawberries. Although Mangum attended the local arts high school, she was accepted into the North Carolina School of Science and Math, where she took science classes online in addition to her dance, orchestra, and other academic courses at the arts school. 

Mangum studied bioengineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with the goal of getting a job in industry. But after a couple of summers working in research labs, including one summer in the lab of Broad institute director Todd Golub through the Broad Summer Research Program (BSRP) in 2021, she decided that she wanted to focus on research.

Last year, she joined the Optical Profiling Platform at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard as a research associate through the Broad’s Biomedical Post-baccalaureate Scholars Program.  She plans to apply to graduate schools this fall to pursue a PhD.

As BSRP is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, we spoke with Mangum about her career journey so far and what impact BSRP has had on it.


What do you do at Broad and what have you learned the most from this experience so far?

Currently I am in the Optical Profiling Platform where our main focus is to understand how cells communicate with each other and make up a tissue. To answer this question, I am doing multiplexed immunofluorescence, which allows us to image proteins in the tissue samples spatially. I help design experiments with many of our collaborators and generate data spanning many different tissue types from human brain to mouse gut. 

One thing that I have learned from this experience is that scientific communication is important. In this past year, I have been in many collaborations and have been able to mentor students. I have been able to explain my research to senior scientists and also to middle school students since I started working at the Broad.

Chanell Mangum works in the lab

Chanell Mangum does multiplexed immunofluorescence experiments to image proteins in tissue samples spatially.

Your time with BSRP in 2021 helped solidify your decision to pursue research as a career. What was it about your time with Broad that summer that really turned you on to research?

As part of the program, we got to speak with senior scientists every Friday. They talked about why they got interested in science, what their path was, what research they were working on. And I also talked with my cohort about their goals and aspirations. Through all that, I realized I was interested in research enough to keep pursuing it.

I also found I loved really digging into a problem and asking a lot of questions. The curiosity part really sold it for me.  After the program ended, I knew for a fact that I wanted to go to grad school. 


What was the biggest thing you learned from BSRP?

I learned how to be an independent thinker and to understand how to identify an unanswered question and investigate possible answers in my research. I also learned how to troubleshoot to figure out a solution myself before asking for help. 

Our mentors really helped with my professional development, but also with my personal development too. Bruce Birren (an institute scientist at Broad and the founder of the Broad’s diversity initiative that hosts BSRP) shared a quote with us that really changed how I thought about leadership. He basically said you don’t have to have a title to provoke change and be a leader. You can lead by just influencing one person. That really helped me understand that I can have influence at any stage of my scientific career.

I saw that recently with some of the things I do outside of research. For example, I just finished doing three sessions with Broad Scientists in the Classroom.


That’s a program where Broad scientists volunteer to teach a unit in genetics and evolution in every eighth-grade classroom in Cambridge. What was that experience like for you?

That’s been really interesting. The girls were asking me about science but also about personal stuff. When I was discussing this with my coworkers and friends later, I realized that I was a science role model for these girls. I’m now in a position where younger people can start looking up to me the way I have looked up to other people when I was younger. 


What inspires you in science?

The questions that aren't answered yet — the questions that we have not even thought about.  The curiosity about what could potentially be out there to discover and trying to find answers to those questions are definitely what inspired me to start and continue on my journey in science.