“This past summer I joined the U as an associate professor of chemistry. I’m also excited to be a part of the Henry Eyring Center for Cell and Genome Science. My lab uses chemistry to understand how bacteria, and also immune cells, perceive and change behavior in response to their surroundings.

My first experience in a research lab came from meeting my undergraduate advisor, professor Barbara Imperiali, as a freshman. She saw I had work-study financial aid. I told her boldly, ‘Actually, I’d love to do work-study in a research lab.’ That same week I got an email from one of her postdocs saying ‘I’m looking for a student to work with me on a project. Why don’t you come meet with me?’

I worked in her lab every semester and summer for three years, so I feel like I got my 10,000 hours in early on. I learned a lot of things in the lab before taking the classes. It really motivated me academically. I wanted to learn and understand more about what I was doing in the lab.

My parents, to this day, will ask me ‘How is Professor Imperali doing?’ They wanted to meet her at graduation. Two years after I started my own lab, I had déjà vu when meeting the parents of my first undergraduate at her graduation. They told me that they’d set my lab webpage as their computer’s homepage.

As a professor, I think back sometimes to how impactful my experiences were as a freshman, getting that chance just because I asked. The first person you ask isn’t necessarily the first person to say yes, who will give you that shot. But we all started out as that nervous freshman, eager to try new things.”

—Ming Hammond, associate professor, Department of Chemistry

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at