Undergraduate Research Experience

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

The STEP experience that I chose to pursue this summer was undergraduate research.  I spent this past summer in Columbus working with Dr. Onate’s research team in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.  I had formally joined the research team during the end of winter, but wasn’t working on my own project until this past summer.  Initially, I had thought that I was going to be working on a project that had already been established within the lab – brain plastic changes after undergoing a neuromuscular ACL tear.  However, after testing the men’s football team in May, I was given an entirely novel project.

One of the functional tests that we administer to the athletes assesses core stability and upper extremity power through a medicine ball task.  The players were tasked with obtaining as many med ball wall hits that they could in a 30-second interval while an iPod program – the LevelBelt – recorded their movement in the coronal and sagittal planes.  These micro-tilts were stored within the program and ideally would show a link between the subject’s core stability and their performance in the test; however, the data had never been looked at nor were there any variables established that linked the two.

My goal for this project was to quantify the pelvic control that a player has over their body but also to bridge this gap that exists in the literature between the core and finer extremity control.  I spent this past summer analyzing this data and determining variables from the data that can help answer these questions.  Having no prior data to base my analysis on, I chose to look at a kinematic definition of stability; less perturbation of the pelvic girdle would result in greater upper extremity power.  Using a variety of programs, I found that my data agreed with my hypothesis to the tune of an R= 0.55.

Uncovering something on your own is always exciting, but uncovering something that can have implications in the future training of athletes is indescribable.  This link between a stronger core and improved functional performance has been agreed upon by scientists and athletic trainers, but the ways to functionally train the core has been disputed.  If this kinematic link can be confirmed, athletes of all sports can benefit from the added stability it can bring.

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.

Spending a summer doing research wasn’t something that was new to me.  I had spent the previous summer in Columbus conducting research as well.  However, this summer really affirmed the fact that the path that I am on is the right one for me.  The previous summer I had worked in a small chemistry lab in order to gain exposure to the lab environment, but I didn’t stop to consider how it would aid my career path.

After another year in school, I think I fully realized exactly what I wanted to do later in life and put my full effort into realizing that.  The first step was getting involved in research that allowed me to do so.  I think I am set on going to medical school and specializing in orthopedics/sports medicine and spending a summer in a lab that reinforces this was extremely beneficial.

Even though that I was solely responsible for one project during the summer, I was still able to gain exposure to the other aspects of the lab through team projects and testing.  I fully enjoy the topics that we discuss and ways in which we going about getting answers.  Finally, this research lab has given me exposure to working with human patients.  This aspect has been invaluable as it has really prepared me for what I will be experiencing during my path to become a doctor.

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 stated earlier, the STEP experience this past summer has reconfirmed my interests and career goals.  I’m hoping that my summer project can act as a stepping stone for larger projects my next two years as an undergraduate and perhaps even beyond that.  I’m hoping to complete a research thesis with this lab during my senior year, and my project has helped me get on the path to becoming the doctor that I want to be.  I’m happy that The Ohio State University has provided this opportunity for students to realize their goals, and I hope that future classes find it as helpful as I have.