STEP Undergrad Research Reflection

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

Thanks to STEP, I was able to find a worthwhile method to apply the skills I learned in my classes.  This summer, I remained on OSU’s main campus for the summer term and did research with Dr. Mokashi, who was my professor for Statics and Dynamics, and another graduate student, and our primary focus was structural analysis.  More specifically, we studied damage detection and cohesive zone laws using a beam model.  Under the supervision of the grad student, I received different parameters to plug into a MATLAB code designed to graph different relationships, such as Energy vs. Moment.  I had to analyze each parameter and understand what each one meant and how it affected the results when the beam modes experienced loading.  For example, I had to understand how crack length affected the moment produced by the minimum and maximum forces.  As time went on, I earned more responsibilities and even got to analyze the beam being unloaded and then reloaded.  I graphed the results and reported them to the grad student, who in turn showed them to Dr. Mokashi.

 

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

Though relatively straightforward, the experience was worthwhile.  I learned a god deal about new and interesting topics such as cohesive zones and J-Integrals.  I also got to further advance my skills in coding, which is a key attribute in the engineering world.  I already had a good relationship with Dr. Mokashi through having classes with him, but this experience allowed me to know him better on a personal level.  This could prove beneficial for the future in case I need references, letters of recommendation, and such. Furthermore, it drives home the point that good relationships with faculty members can have long-term benefits.  I also observed that I was adaptable to new work environments and able to work well independently, while also being able to reach out for help when it was needed.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

As previously stated, this research experience allowed me to hone my skills in coding, understand new engineering concepts, and build good relationships with faculty members.  Another positive effect this STEP experience will have is that it will open the doors for future job opportunities.  I did not land an internship last year and was not sure what to do from there.  Thankfully,  STEP helped show me a way to use what I learned and experience a taste of how it is actually used in the world.  This extra bit of knowledge will be beneficial, as it could be the deciding factor in whether or not I land an internship.  In addition to career opportunities, my STEP experience will assist me in my year as an RA.  I have a number of second-year residents, and one program I wanted to put on was something STEP-related.  I wanted to share my experience with others and let them see how great of an opportunity STEP is.  I am a firm believer in paying it forward, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

 

 

 

 

STEP Reflection

What?

            Thanks to STEP, I was able to find housing during the summer at OSU so I could perform research.  The main project I have been doing has been being a member of OhioMOD, an undergraduate biomolecular research team.  It is part of BIOMOD, a competition that is held every year near the beginning of November in Boston, sponsored by the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.  Our project began in March with brainstorming how we could use DNA Origami as a practical application.  We had to switch our ideas around a few times before settling in on a final goal, although we all knew near the beginning of the project that we wanted to use DNA Origami to help suppress cancer levels.

More specifically, we ended up using DNA Origami to upregulate a tumor suppressor protein (PTEN), which aids in programmed cell death to cancer cells. This project involves designing, fabricating, characterizing the DNA nanodevice, and characterizing cellular uptake and cytotoxicity using fluorescence imaging.  First, short, single strands of DNA called staples are mixed with a circular piece of single-stranded DNA, the scaffold, to create three-dimensional shapes via complementary base pairing.  These structures, once purified using gel electrophoresis methods, are incubated with cells to see how well they work with eliminating cancer.

 

So What?

Being an integral part of OhioMOD has opened a unique door for an undergraduate like me to explore the world of independent research with the aid of graduate/post-graduate faculty and state-of-the-art supplies.  I have grown not only in my knowledge of how to operate certain tools and perform lab techniques, but also in my ability to lead myself and others.  For instance, I often get to take initiative when discussing certain aspects of the project, such as creating ideas and establishing deadlines.  I feel more comfortable when interacting with faculty, which is important when considering what kinds of general communication skills I will need for potential employers and co-workers in the future.  Furthermore, I’m also aware of the importance of dedication to the lab and how to manage time when working on other parts of the project, such as fundraising, posters, the video, and writing.  In other words, I’ve learned that, while being able to actually do the research is an obviously essential aspect of the research world, being proficient in other disciplines can be crucial for success.  Lastly, I also believe that I have a much better understanding of how nanotechnology works and why it is important for modern application.

 

Now What?

            Some of the most important qualities that I’ve gained from this group are the ability to take action, to speak with confidence, to be more secure about my thoughts and ideas, to be ready to fail, and to be ready to succeed.  I think that I still need to work on overall communication skills, such as when preparing a presentation, but I definitely feel as though I have had a true “taste” of the research world that being in a normal class/lecture would not be able to offer.  OhioMOD has definitely improved my ability to work well with others and to handle criticism in a positive light.  For instance, there were, and still are, several instances when I would be doing something wrong and then a grad student would point out my mistake.   If I ever get the chance, which hopefully I will, to help lead a research project, I have OhioMOD to thank for my thought processes and approaches to the detailed technicalities at hand.

Plum Island Animal Disease Center Research

What?-Detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience

During the course of May-July 2014, I was fortunate enough to receive the opportunity to work at Plum Island Animal Disease Center as a summer intern. During my time there, I was given the task of developing and implementing a protocol to test the effects of differing soil types on the viability of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Serotype A24 over time. This project was actually a subset of the larger Cameroon project, which is currently still in progress via collaboration of the work of Dr. Rebecca Garabed of The Ohio State University, Dr. Simon Dickmu of LANAVET, and Dr. Luis L. Rodriguez of the ARS deparment at Plum Island. My project specifically involved the use of virus titrations, RNA extractions, and quantitative rRT-PCR to measure the amount of viral RNA, and infectious virus, present in the soils at 1.5 hours, 2.5 days, 5 days, 7 days, and 9 days at 25°C and 37°C. This study was completed with the intent of developing better protocols for farm decontamination if FMDV were to occur in New England and developing better models to predict FMDV spread in areas like those found in New England.​

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

When the plane first made its big descent, I could not help but look out toward the scenery that Connecticut had to offer. I had never visited the east coast of the United States before, much less planned to live there for a consecutive set of three months to work independently for a government facility. Consequently, I truly did not know what to expect of my time at Plum Island. Nevertheless, as we gradually approached the grounds, I was in a complete state of awe; it was breathtakingly beautiful. A very fine line separated the calm Atlantic Ocean and its land counterpart, where sand glistened directly in front of the largest of estates, upon which stood many richly elegant homes. Beyond the horizon, I could see hilly terrain covered by the canopies of abounding trees. As intimidated as I was to start this new job, my surroundings prepared me well for the big adventure.

After just one month of working in the biosecurity level 3 laboratories, otherwise known as containment at Plum Island Animal Disease Center, I was able to habitually perform experiments that I had not known even existed prior to starting my internship. I had a set schedule in which my co-workers and I would carpool to a ferry each morning. This ferry took us to and from the island, where we would work for eight hours a day. I was extremely fortunate to have such a magnificent view during this commute, and even more so to have had the opportunity to work with such inspirational and intelligent people in the laboratories.

It was through this experience that I came to really understand what it means to be independent. Although at work every one of knew how vital it was to the success of a project to work together, there was much to learn outside of the job too. As I lived in an apartment on my own during this time, I was able to teach myself how to cook, spent much time reading novels and scientific journals, and familiarized myself with the New England environment. In the process, I gained a better understanding of myself and those around me. I heard the life stories of many of my co-workers who I befriended and spent time with outside of work. In doing so, I realized just how much I have been given and how much I take for granted daily. The fortuitous opportunity that I received to work at Plum Island Animal Disease Center this summer not only thoroughly taught me much about the veterinary medical field, but expanded my paradigm about life completely.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

My experience as a summer intern at Plum Island has greatly altered the way in which I view my future career. Beforehand, I did not have the experience to correctly summarize my thoughts on research in the veterinary medical field. I believed it to be nothing more than working late nights in a laboratory alone to push for the data one desired. I came to learn that it was much more than this, and instead a collective collaboration across the world to push for a change that would better the lives of both animals and humans with time. I now know that if I were to be fortunate enough to work in such a research laboratory again, I would gladly take it. The people that I met and the amount of effort they input to achieve such a success have tremendously influenced my decision to become more involved with research over the course of both my time as an undergraduate student and my future career.

 

 

STEP Reflection

What I Did During My STEP Experience

I took part in the Chester Summer Scholar program at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Through this opportunity, I spent ten weeks in a laboratory research setting. I was assigned to a MetroHealth medical staff researcher who developed a project, taught me laboratory techniques, and supervised my progress. The purpose of my research was to elucidate the mechanisms that cause fetal membrane weakening and rupturing.  Biochemical tests were performed on the fetal membranes along with testing the rupture strength of each of them. Tissue lysates from the choriodecidua were tested for MMP-2 and MMP-9 by zymography. The presence of  GM-CSF and GM-CSFRα were tested  by means of western blotting. Results showed that the weaker FM fragments contained higher amounts of MMP-2, MMP-9, Integrin αX,  and GM-CSFRα. I found that the fetal membranes from human term breech fetal membranes were stronger than those from human term cephalic fetal membranes. A better understanding of the fetal membrane weakening process will hopefully lead to the prevention of preterm premature rupture of membranes, which is a major cause of infant morbidity and mortality. In addition to working on my research project, I also observed surgery and hospital rounds at MetroHealth. I observed surgeries in neurology, obstetrics, orthopedics, ENT, and cardiology. I took an active part in an autopsy  and visited Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. During the summer I also took many ballet classes from Ana Lobe Ballet Academy and salsa lessons from Latin Soul and Ballroom.

My Response to My Experience

I really enjoyed my time as a Chester Summer Scholar. It was the first time I took part in research and it was exciting to have the opportunity to learn and perform laboratory procedures like zymography and western blotting. I am amazed at the amount of surgeries I viewed this summer. Before I stepped foot into the operating room, I did not know how I would react to the procedures being performed. Instead of being scared and disgusted, I was fascinated and excited to learn from the surgeons. After this experience I realized that I want to go to medical school and specialize to become a surgeon or anesthesiologist. In addition to observing surgeries, I took part in an autopsy. This was my first time working with a cadaver. It was neat to see how all the organs fit together and apply what I learned from anatomy classes.

In addition to my science based internship, I also explored my artistic and athletic side this summer. Through training with Ana lobe and Marden Ramos, I improved my ballet technique and learned two classical variations. Latin ballroom classes were very different from what I expected. The technique seemed opposite of ballet technique because of the bent knees and relaxed upper body positions. Although it was different, it was still fun to learn something new.

How My Experience Will Affect My Goals Moving Forward

My experience as a Chester Summer Scholar made me certain that a career as a physician will be one that I enjoy. I also intend on working in the operating room as a surgeon or anesthesiologists because of this experience. This exposure to research should help me obtain a research position to continue undergraduate research this year at Ohio State.  I plan on continuing my research with my mentor at MetroHealth next summer. There were a lot of new medical terms and procedures that I was introduced to this summer that I may come across again in my courses. It will be neat to have already had first hand experiences on course subject material.

Although I am not pursuing a career in dance, my training has taught me about discipline, artistry, musicality, and athleticism. Ballet makes me more well rounded and may help me relate to other people.

STEP Reflection

WHAT:

My STEP experience involved the exploration of the medical field area, in particular the field of medical imaging. My experience formally involves my work with Gregg Chapman and Dr. Robert Lee. The work involves the development of PET (Positron Emission Tomography) imaging probes for both laparoscopic and robotic surgery techniques when working with 511 KeV gamma emissions. These types of probes have yet to be developed because of limitations with required size, sensitivity, weight, and overall general capabilities.

Current PET probes are less than 2% efficient at 511 KeV and tungsten shielding is required to surround the probe limiting its field of view. Also, the current probes can weigh over one pound and are 1.25” in diameter. The work of this laboratory is to create a probe that addresses these issues.

My work specifically involves addressing the issue of the sensitivity of the probe which correlates with the overall efficiency. The medical probe that our team is developing must differentiate between the cancerous tumor cells and background radiation at a ratio of less than 1.5-to-1. To accomplish this goal the design utilizes multiple CZT (Cadmium Zing Telluride) crystals. The crystals that our team utilizes must be oriented in a certain fashion in order to attain and maximize the optimal difference in signal strength between the background and tumor radiation sources. Below is a visual image of the MCNP analysis.

MCNP Visual Crystal Placement

In order to determine the proper orientation it was my responsibility to work with the Monte Carlo N-Particle Transport Code (MCNP). Monte Carlo analysis is a computerized mathematical modeling technique that allows for the quantitative results that aid in decision making. This particular analysis looks specifically at various nuclear process including various particle interactions.

I have run various MCNP simulations to aid in determining the proper orientation for the crystals. The types of simulations involved moving the crystals to different locations in order to determine the amount of radiation counts. In addition, I worked and collaborated with doctors and researchers from the James Cancer Hospital as well as members from the Electro Science Laboratory in order to share our work, receive feedback, and hear about other research projects.

This past summer I also worked at General Electric Healthcare in Cleveland, Ohio on Magnetic Resonance (MR) coils. My STEP experience is about my research in the PET imaging laboratory, but with my desired career choice being in the medical imaging field I felt it was important to also share my employment at GE this summer because it pertained. This summer I worked at GE on various coil designs, but due to confidentiality agreements I can’t disclose exactly what I worked on. Although, my personal learnings from the experience contribute to what I learned involving the PET imaging project as described below.

My experiences with the research lab started back in January and my internship started in May. I plan to present my research work at the Summer Undergraduate Research Forum as well as at the STEP Expo.

So What?

I learned a lot about myself from my work in the research lab as well as from my internship with GE Healthcare. Both contributed to my passion for the healthcare field. I constantly find that I have a soft spot in my heart for all issues related to healthcare. I constantly find myself interested in finding ways to help others who are put in positions where they have to battle diseases and illness. I think when my work involves these projects I find myself even more motivated to contribute and innovate.

Something I have learned about conducting research is that there will never be one person to solve some of these huge issues like the cure for cancer. It will take supports, promoters, scientists, doctors, patients, fundraisers, researchers, and inspiration. The cure to cancer and many other diseases will come when we find new ways to collaborate in new and faster ways. This pertains to me because it means there is no job large or small that can go unaccomplished. We can’t find ourselves ignoring smaller projects that contribute to the larger projects. Even though my work involves just the crystal orientation for a larger medical probe it is still an important aspect that must be accomplished.

I believe in both experiences I enhanced my skills of conducting myself in a professional environment. I learned how to speak and explain my work as well as ask the right questions. Regardless of the field I find myself in the future I believe these skills will be instrumental in helping me become an effective communicator.

I also previously thought research and engineering work was purely technical. I have found that both of these fields require a significant amount of presentation and relationship building. Someone wise during this experience told me that that the key to success in life is simply “relationship building”.

Below are some colleagues that are now close friends from my internship with GE Healthcare.

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Fellow Interns at GE Healthcare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now What?

I think from these experiences I was able to confirm my desire to do something in the medical field. This clarification of my passions allows me to help navigate my future career options. I believe after college I would like to study for my masters in engineering, business administration, or both. After talking to researchers and engineering professionals I believe that higher form of education is extremely important for the future. I hope to use these credentials to be a leader for the needed changes and improvements in the future.

I don’t know everything that I want to accomplish someday but as an electrical engineering major and entrepreneurship minor I hope to someday start my own purpose driven organization or company. I believe that my learnings from this experience will allow me to put this future goal as a more lucid dream.

I have two years left at the Ohio State University and after these experiences I am more motivated than ever to participate in the movements to change healthcare. I plan to continue my involvement with BuckeyeThon a fundraising effort to fight pediatric cancer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I also intend to run my third half marathon in the fall to support the kids at Nationwide. I want to look back on my time at Ohio State and feel that I played a part, regardless of its size, in supporting the causes that fill my heart.

Leadershape

 

STEP Reflection

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

 

This summer I participated in undergraduate research for my STEP experience. I spent 40+ hours a week in the Brandon Biesiadecki laboratory in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. I have never had the opportunity to work in a laboratory conducting research, so the STEP funds allowed me to stay on campus for the summer to gain this experience. I learned a lot during this experience. I was trained in many fields, and gained a wide variety of experiences. I now have experience with: Pipetting and weighing, Calcium binding titrations, pH and buffers, Statistical analysis of data, Protein purification and characterization, Cell lysis – Sonication, Chromotography with step gradient elution, SDS-PAGE gel preparation and electrophoresis (stain, destain, image gel), Dialysis, Protein analysis by mass spectrophometry (MAlDI, ESI), Western blotting and immunodetection, PCR, Site-directed mutagenesis, Engineering of a unique restriction site, Transformation of chemically competent cells, Preparation of agar plates and plating cells, Plasmid purification, Determination of DNA concentration and sequencing, Agarose gel preparation/electrophoresis, Restriction digestion/ analysis, Typhoon Scanning, etc. I spent a lot of the summer preparing proteins for a specific project that I will continue throughout the upcoming school-year. The goal of my project is to study the effect of tyrosine phosphorylation on calcium binding to Troponin and myofilament regulation in human, rat and mouse cardiac muscle. I am excited for this project to begin, I have already started collecting some interesting data!

I also kept a journal of my daily activities as well as graphed certain results from experiments pertaining to my specific project. I am still beginning to collect data so I will be to eventually analyze and possibly event present at various conferences.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted. 

My summer research experience was nothing what I expected. It was very, very time-consuming. I quickly realized I was not going to have a lot of free time, seeing as I was also taking summer courses. However, I enjoyed my experience because I found it very rewarding. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am capable of doing research, which sometimes tests patience levels since it does not always work out the way you intend. This also expanded my critical thinking skills-when things don’t go right, you need to figure out why they didn’t go the way you wanted, and you need to be able to figure out what to change to make sure it works the next time.

I also grew as an individual. My abilities to be self-sufficient and learn how to better balance my time grew drastically when I found myself in a time crunch, doing a lot of different things at once in the lab. Planning for the future was also a skill that I grew, planning what I needed to do each day for my experiments to run smoothly.

Lastly, I learned how to work with others and grow from their knowledge, and I am grateful for the extremely knowledgeable and helpful people in my laboratory. They were always quick to not only help me when I needed help on something, but explain to me the mechanics behind what I was doing and why it was important to help me develop my skills, learn more and see the bigger picture. Not to mention the great personable skills the individuals in my lab had, they were always quick to include me in conversation or weekend sporting activities. I made some great friends along the way.

I spent the first part of my experience reading materials to understand the type of work my lab did, as well as looked over the various publications that they had submitted. I felt that my experience showed me the second part of learning. The hands on, application side of learning. I really enjoyed this because everything I had learned about in previous courses, I felt like I truly understood and had a firm grasp on when I was actually able to do the experiments for myself. I really enjoyed my time spent with this experience, and that is why I have decided to continue doing research during the school year for course credit.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

 

My STEP experience allowed me to get started on undergraduate research, which is something I had my mind set on doing during my undergraduate years. It has influenced my academic goals by allowing me to see that I have a passion for research as well as a passion for the work that my lab does, so it is something that I am going to continue for the next few semesters and is also something that I can begin to shape into a possible senior honors thesis.

I was really tested this summer because of how demanding research can be at times; it has affected me personally by showing me that I am stronger and more capable than I thought possible, and has made me excited to take on the future and see what other things I am capable of learning and growing from.

Lastly, this STEP experience has shown me the life of a graduate student as well as the life of a post-doc. I have learned a lot from the wide variety of people in my laboratory, learning about the various careers with a major like my own and the different opportunities that lie ahead for me.

I am very appreciative of my STEP experience, without STEP I would not have been able to have one of the most essential learning summers of my undergraduate career. Thank you!

STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection post for Steven Elzein – Undergraduate Research

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

I participated in undergraduate research as part of my STEP experience. I spent 400+ hours (40+ hours/week for 10 weeks) in the Dr. Ginny Bumgardner laboratory, a transplant immunology lab in the Department of Surgery. I had been a student researcher in this lab for about a year before spending my summer there. Previously, I had worked on multiple lab projects in different capacities, but I had never completed an individual project. For my STEP experience, I undertook a personal project related to transplantation and transplant rejection. Specifically, my project examined the effects of two widely used immunosuppressive drugs (Rapamycin and Tacrolimus) on alloantibody-mediated rejection post-transplant. The title of my project was “Differential Effects of Rapamycin and Tacrolimus on CD8+ T cell-Mediated B Cell Clearance and Post-Transplant Alloantibody Production”. In general, the goal of my project was to uncover exactly what these immunosuppressive drugs were doing to key cellular interactions that regulate antibody-mediated rejection post-transplant.

I was involved in all aspects of the project, from brainstorming, critiquing, and writing up experiments, to actually performing the surgical work and bench work necessary to carry out the experiments, to graphing, analyzing, and reporting results. Planning for this project began in Spring 2014, during which I began writing up experimental trials, applying for funding, and ordering materials. After all of the experiments had been planned and prepared for, I began my STEP experience by performing a survival study during the month of May. This study involved transplanting a cohort of mice with allogeneic (genetically different) hepatocytes in order to incite an immune response, treating the recipients with immunosuppressive drugs, and subsequently monitoring their alloantibody levels and extent of graft survival through blood draws over a period of 30 days. Alloantibody levels were analyzed using the lab’s alloantibody quantification protocol, and graft survival was analyzed by monitoring levels of the ha1at reporter protein (a protein whose level indicates survival of the graft) via ELISA assays. As a result of my year of training in the lab prior to the start of this project, I performed all aspects of this experiment and the ones to follow, including transplant procedures, splenocyte isolations, immunosuppressive treatments, various assays, etc. This initial study included various conditions and served as an initial overview of the important aspects of my project, providing a clearer picture of which experiments to carry out next.

The experiments that followed focused in on the extent of B cell death in the post-transplant immune environment. I conducted two separate in vivo cytotoxicity studies, with each one focusing on one of the two immunosuppressive drugs in question throughout my studies. These studies involved transplanting mice, and then adoptively transferring fluorescently-labeled target cells into recipients and subsequently analyzing the degree of target-cell death one day after adoptive transfer. After the in vivo cytotoxicity studies, I took a little detour from my summer project and helped complete a small study for another project in the lab. This smaller study had the goal of providing more evidence for a manuscript that was recently accepted for publication in the American Journal of Transplantation. Lastly, I conducted an in vitro cytotoxicity study, which served to confirm the previous in vivo data I had obtained and offer more insight on how to best proceed with the next experiments. Unfortunately this study did not pan out, and so work is currently being done to tease out errors in the experiment. Over the course of the summer, I also transplanted mice to serve as organ donors for histological studies to be conducted in the future.

Throughout my entire STEP undergraduate research experience, I kept track of my daily activities and graphed and reported results from each experiment. I also reported my results during weekly laboratory meetings. My studies uncovered that Rapamycin (one of the immunosuppressive drugs in question in my studies) is a more potent inhibitor of alloantibody-producing B cells than Tacrolimus (the other immunosuppressive drug utilized in my studies), as displayed by the fact that Rapamycin completely ablates post-transplant alloantibody, while Tacrolimus does not. In addition, it was found that neither drug is directly cytotoxic to B cells, even at high doses.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted. 

My summer research experience was both busy and rewarding. I spent a lot of time learning, reading, and conducting experiments in the laboratory, and I accomplished a great deal as a result. First and foremost, I made it through my first full-time working experience. I had never worked full-time before, so this research experience also doubled as a work experience. While a full-time work schedule took some getting used to at first, it turned out to be beneficial and allowed me to maintain continual focus on my research.

I would categorize my entire research experience this summer as a learning experience. No matter how much I thought I knew or accomplished, there was always something new that I was learning each day. . First, I learned first-hand that research takes time. Before I started this summer experience, I was unaware of how much time was put into planning, executing, and perfecting each experiment. For example, for my studies in particular, not only did I have to spend a couple of days planning logistics and preparing materials for an experiment, but I needed to also wait one week after the transplant for the immune cells to become activated before I conducted any studies. Recipient mice also needed to be monitored and treated with immunosuppressive drugs daily. Furthermore, it takes time to isolate and prepare cells for an experiment, as well as analyze, graph, and interpret the results from that particular experiment. All in all, if everything goes smoothly, it can generally be expected that one experiment will last approximately two weeks. This was something that I did not expect coming into the summer research experience. However, now that I have obtained a sense of how much time each experiment takes, I have a newfound appreciation for all of the published manuscripts that I read, especially in the field of transplant immunology. When one thinks about how much time each experiment takes, coupled with the fact that manuscripts normally comprise many experiments, it is remarkable how much research is taking place in this field and others, and I am certainly glad to have learned this aspect of the research process this past summer.

Second, I learned that a researcher, over the course of any particular study, will more likely than not run into several roadblocks along the way to obtaining their results. No matter how much planning goes into an experiment, it doesn’t always turn out the way you had planned. Through my full-time research this summer, I experienced the process of running into roadblocks with research and having to use critical thinking skills in order to work my way around them. In addition, it is almost always necessary to determine what went wrong in a particular experiment before continuing. For example, I’ve had more cells than usual die during a staining step of an in vivo cytotoxicity assay. It was determined later on that the stain had been applied to the cells for too long, causing many of them die. In addition, the nature of my studies contains inherent room for roadblocks. My studies involve surgical procedures in which cells are transplanted into recipient mice. As with any surgical procedure, there is always the risk of complications resulting from the incision, anesthesia, or the procedure itself. With that being the case, it is not uncommon for a recipient mouse to pass away from time to time, thus hindering the study. Yet, even with all of the potential aspects that can go wrong with an experiment, this summer experience has helped me learn that setbacks should be expected in research, and that I should use the critical thinking skills I gained this summer and elsewhere to overcome any hindrances in my progress.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward. 

While my STEP experience gave me the opportunity to get started on an undergraduate research project, one summer was insufficient to complete my studies and there is still more work to be done. As such, my STEP experience has directly influenced my academic goals, especially for the upcoming year. I plan to continue doing research on this same project until it is complete, and the work will likely extend into the upcoming academic year. This research will likely culminate in several poster presentations this school year, including the Fall Undergraduate Student Research Poster Forum, the Denman, and the Great Lakes Transplant Immunology Forum to take place at Ohio State in the fall.

My STEP experience has also influenced my personal goals with regards to completing a project. Even though one summer of full-time research wasn’t enough to complete all of the experiments in my study, it started me on the path to completing my study in full. As a result of my STEP experience, I have adopted the personal goal of continuing to conduct experiments in an effort to complete the study in its entirety. The ultimate goal for my work on this project is for it to culminate into a published manuscript in a recognized transplant journal.

Before my STEP experience began, I was sure that I would like to pursue a career in medicine. However, I was unsure whether or not I would also like to pursue research as a component to my future career, perhaps as a part of an MD/PhD pathway. By allowing me to focus all of my energy on research, my STEP experience has given me insight into what it’s like to be a researcher. As a result, I am more confident in my ability to conduct research and have made it a life goal to include research as a component of my future career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using the hood