STEP Reflection

Nick Donohue

Undergraduate Research

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project:

This summer I had the opportunity to be employed by a faction of a research lab on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The research lab consisted of several different experiments pertaining to the biomechanics and biodynamics of humans in flight and their reactions to different types of harnesses and seat materials. I am not able to go into great detail about the research due to privacy issues, but I will give a general overview.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Having a real research experience opened my eyes to the possibilities of the world. I always wanted to be an engineer because my dad was an engineer before me, and his dad before him, but now that I was able to receive a real experience in the world of engineering my beliefs in my career path have been reaffirmed. I now believe that a job in engineering can be both exciting and liberating. The joy you feel when you design your own project and work on it until it is completed cannot be matched.

I believe that I became a better person through this experience. The research allowed me to grow and realize what kind of career I wanted, and the experiences with the people allowed me to develop relationships that might be helpful in the future. This realization allowed me to better understand myself and the dynamics that my relationships had and how they affect my future.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

I had several important experiences in my research that allowed me to change and grow as a person. The opportunity had everything from doing grunt work by backing up hard drives to designing my own experiment and carrying it through to completion. The first of these taught me taught me humility, while the second one taught me how rewarding these experiences can be.

The first experience that I had at my research position was one of the most boring and frustrating things I have done. For a week straight I was to go around the office and to update everyone’s computers and laptops and backup their hard drives. This was not an exciting task, but it was an important one. It taught me the value of the work that nobody wants to do, and also taught my employers that I could be trusted to handle whatever they gave me. It was not inspiring work, but it was valuable work and I believe that both are very important.

The second experience I discussed was a lot more in depth and a lot more rewarding. I was allowed to design a piece for one of the parts we needed, and was allowed to machine this piece and test it for its ability. This was the kind of work I had hoped that I would be doing, and it was extremely exciting and rewarding to do so. This helped me grow as a person and realize that this was truly the career path that I wanted to pursue, and these types of experiences I believe are what drives people to finish school and be an important part of the work force.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This research experience taught me the value of hard work and determination. I believe that through perseverance, a great many things can be achieved. Through my personal involvements this summer I gained knowledge, experience in the work force, familiarity with research, and valuable relationships that can be helpful in the future.

This experience made me realize the networking that these opportunities can give you and the familiarity with the topics that may help you in the future. They allow you to become more acquainted with some of the materials and the kind of people that you will be working with. The relationships that you can foster during these types of experiences will both make your experience more enjoyable, and help you in your future endeavors.

Finding Balance- 2015 STEP Fellowship Reflection


Author
: Tracy Okine

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research – Undergraduate Research Assistant

College : Arts and Sciences

Department(s):  Psychology, Neuroscience

Background: 

This summer, I had the opportunity to gain research skills and knowledge by working as an Undergraduate Student Researcher in the lab of Dr. Laurence Coutellier. Starting in May and concluding during the first weeks of August, I worked on understanding the mechanisms by which stress impacts Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) cognitive dependent abilities by using various behavioral and molecular tests. This project allowed me to realize my interest in research and inspired me to continue working in the lab even after its conclusion.

Activities:

In order to successfully complete my project, I dedicated at least 12 hours per week to working in the lab. A typical day for me included analyzing the behavioral component of the project in order to gather data, and completing PCR runs in order to gather molecular data.  In addition to working on my independent project, I also took this time to learn valuable skills from other members of the lab. I sometimes shadowed Ryan, the lab’s research assistant, to observe other tests and projects the lab is also focused on.

Reflection and Growth:

Participating in Undergraduate Research this past summer through the STEP Fellowship Program provide me with the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. Prior to this summer, my research experience in a Neuroscience lab was very limited. Though I have been interested in science and the medical field for as long as I can remember, my prior experiences were through hospital and nursing home volunteer programs and  summer internships with research components that were more in class and less lab work. However, by working in Dr. Coutellier’s lab, I was given the opportunity to choose my own project and work side by side with Dr. Coutellier in analyzing the results and determining the direction of the project. In terms of professional development, this project allowed me to learn/ develop  valuable scientific skills such as  1)Critical Thinking 2) PCR 3) Running and Analyzing Statistics 4) Observing and Analyzing behavior of subjects  and many more other techniques related to Neuroscience research.

On a personal level, living on campus over the summer to conduct research certainly challenged my time management and leadership skills. I had to learn how to properly manage my time in order to do well in my summer classes (I was enrolled in three!), successfully conduct my research, participate in fun leisure activities, and explore the great city of Columbus. One lesson I learned early on in this experience was the importance of BALANCE! I realized that stressing too much about my classes or weekend plans limited my creative ability in the lab and vice versa. Thus, I made sure that when I was in the lab, my entire attention was devoted to that, and when I was outside of the lab, my entire attention was devoted to enjoying whatever I was doing. Granted, I do believe that making connections between one’s academic interests and every day life is important, I took time to note things around me that helped me further understand my research topic. Learning this early on really allowed me to make the most of my summer.

Catalysts for Growth:

Learning balance was key, however, was not an easy lesson to learn. As an individual, I tend to be really skewed in what I focus my attention on sometimes. As I grow up, I realize that although this tendency can be beneficial sometimes, it often hinders my ability to be innovative . Many events, interactions, relationships,and activities I was involved in this summer helped me come to this realization. These include my participation in the SURI program, my volunteer-abroad experience in May, and my family and friends.

SURI: As a summer undergraduate researcher, I was really grateful for the opportunities to partake in leisure and social activities that SURI provided. For one, I really enjoyed playing soccer on a team with some of the other students that were here this summer. Participating in soccer allowed me to form new friendships with students I would normally not interact with due to the differences in our academic interests. Although I did meet some Neuroscience majors, I got to befriend students of other majors! Having this diversity of friends really exposed me to a variety of opinions that changed my perspective on how to approach my research.


Global Brigades
: Prior to officially beginning my project in June, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with the Ohio State Global Medical Brigades! This chapter is dedicated to medical and global health trips so I thought it was the perfect fit because I want to work for Doctors without Borders one day. For the first few days, our team served the people of El Naranjo and its neighbouring communities through a medical clinic we set up in a school. I had the opportunity to talk to patients (through a translator,of course), take their vitals, shadow a doctor, and help gather medications to be distributed to the people. Oh, and I also got to play duck, duck, goose with some beautiful children. For the next few days, we worked on public health projects. There were three houses that needed help with construction so I worked on house 2 with some friends, and by the end of our trip, we were able to complete the flooring, bathroom, toilet and septic tank for the house! Weaved through these experiences were  birthday celebrations, salsa nights, non-stop card games, intense conversations about bowel movements, and friendship formations. My experience in Nicaragua inspired me to pursue independence, cultivate confidence, and reflect on who I am, and who I want to be, and why I want to be that. Seeing the positive impact we 20 something college students were able to have on the beautiful community instilled in me the confidence I needed to get back to the lab and continue my project.

Family and Friends: While reflecting on my summer, I am very thankful for the advice and companionship I received from my family and friends. I was fortunate enough to live with one of my really good friends, and fellow scientific researcher, Jenna, and this friendship really allowed me to relax and literally rock-out when needed. On my birthday, Jenna and I decided to head down to Cincinnati for the annual Bunbury Concert Series. We had the opportunity to see the Black Keys, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, and Bleachers live! This was definitely one of the highlights of my summer because not only did I get to sing out loud to Shut Up and Dance with Walk the Moon on my 20th birthday, but I had the opportunity to be inspired by all these great artists who shared their stories about pursuing their musical careers despite hardships and personal difficulties. In watching Walk the Moon and the Black Keys perform, I witnessed how much these musicians were passionate not only about sharing their music, but also about using it to have a positive i
mpact on society. Walk the Moon’s Work this Body and Different Colors became my anthems for the summer, and part of my soundtrack as I worked in the lab.

Additionally, my family played a key role in helping me to relax when needed. Their overwhelming support and care packages were the inspiration I needed to keep going!

Why this matters:

Learning the importance of balance matters to my academic, personal, and professional future plans because it matters to my health and wellness. This summer, my project was focused on understanding stress’ impact on the brain. In doing so, I took a step back and tried to apply what I was researching in the lab to my own life. I think that as students it is very easy for us to fail to make that connection. Somewhere in between syllabus week and the struggle that is finals, it is easy for us to be focused on memorizing mechanisms, equations, and theories in order to get the grade, instead of trying to make the connection between our academics and other aspects of who we are as individuals. Balance encourages us to realize the importance of keeping our selves healthy in order to contribute the healthiness and happiness of the world as a whole!

As a physician in the future, I can pass on this lesson to the patients and people I interact with. One current trend in the medical field is diseases related to lifestyles that are unhealthily skewed be it in terms of diet or stress levels.Therefore, I intend on using my personal experience to  encourage my patients to practice balance in their own lives.

To take the time out to smell the roses when needed and be equally as passionate as pursuing their professional endeavors.  

 

 

STEP Experience Reflection

Adam Haines

Undergraduate Research Experience

  1. My STEP summer project was spent working in Dr. DeVries’s lab doing conducting neuroscience research under the guidance of Monica Gaudier-Diaz, one of the graduate students currently in Dr. DeVries Lab. My experience began with me working on observing the differential effects in microglia following an ischemic event using immunoflourescent staining for hippocampus microglia. The research I was involved with looking to elucidate the mechanism behind microglia activation in differential immune responses following stroke, and how this immune response can be exacerbated when male mice were exposed to pre-ischemic stress.

 

  1. This experience afforded me the opportunity to learn more laboratory skills as well as gain a better appreciation for the scientific process. I also was able to contribute to a broad range of different projects in the lab, allowing me to better understand a variety of topics being researched in Dr. DeVries’s lab. My favorite part of the research was being able to be present for the entirety of a study, instead of contributing to small parts throughout the school year. I have left this experience with a more consummate understanding in the field of neuroscience, and further validation that I want to pursue medicine or medical science in the future.

 

  1. When I first started my STEP project over the summer, I jumped right into working on staining brain slices from the study that I had been working on with my graduate advisor during the school year. I quickly discovered that the procedure for performing the staining was not nearly as simple as it was made to look. I had to redo multiple sets of each slide in order to get the staining correct. I worked on the staining for roughly a month before I had the opportunity to help work on another project during the summer. Towards the end of the summer I then returned to the staining I had performed and captured magnified images of the slides on a microscope. The struggles I had to overcome to get the perfect image really helped me to appreciate how much of the scientific process is truly trial and error. In the end I realized that there were in fact so many issues with how the images were turning out that I decided to redo all of the staining one more time to ensure that the comparisons I was making between brain slices were actually accurate.

 

I also mentioned previously how being present for the entirety of a study had an impact on my appreciation of the scientific process. Following the few weeks I spent working on the staining I had the opportunity to work with a student from The University of Chicago who was participating in a summer research program at Ohio State. I worked with here to carry out a study investigating the effect social isolation and prior anxiety had on depressive like behavior following cardiac arrest. Being present for the entirety of this study was influential in helping to understand the whole process of compiling data. I was able to carry out all aspects of the study, as well as compile and statistically analyze the data we collected. Being able to understand how biomedical research was conducted helped me to appreciate how the field of medicine has made the advancements that are available to use today

 

Finally, before presenting my poster at the STEP forum, I had the opportunity to present on my research specifically at the Fall Undergraduate Research Poster Forum. At this forum I was asked a lot of specific questions regarding the research I was involved with, and was asked to provide my own opinions regarding the implications of the research. This experience forced me to apply my knowledge of the research to discuss how better understanding the neuroimmune response following cardiac arrest, as well as factors that may exacerbate this immune response, is vital in a clinical setting. I really enjoyed to opportunity to express my opinions in a medical context and I think this part of my experience really helped me to realize part of the reason I want to pursue medicine. I want to be a physician partly to be an educator. I not only want to better the lives of others, but I want patients to trust me and for me to be able to educate others on how to better their own lives.

 

  1. I believe I have already discussed a bit on on why this experience has been valuable for my life. In large, I think spending time working in a biomedical research setting has helped me realize my desire to pursue medicine, but it has also helped to me realize I do not want to pursue a career in research itself. I would not find much interest in performing research like the research I was involved with for my entire life. What I most enjoyed about the experience was employing the knowledge I had obtained from the study and sharing it with others. Realizing this made it evident to me that I much prefer applying the knowledge that is obtained from biomedical research. To further validate this I am now seeking out more experiences I clinical settings to so I observe the other side of medicine and ensure that a career in medicine is really the right thing for me.

STEP 2015 Undergraduate Research – Using Bioengineering Methods to Understand Cardiovascular Disease

My STEP research experience took place in the Ohio State Medical Center in May 2015 when I began volunteering as a research assistant.   I joined Dr. Rita Alevriadou’s bioengineering laboratory, a part of the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, to investigate onsets of cardiovascular disease. I still research in the lab and plan to continue during upcoming semesters.

Throughout this experience, I learned considerably about what life as a researcher entails. This involves not only technical lab skills like aseptic technique and cell culture, but other endeavors like writing proposals for grants and funding in order to be able to continue researching. Seeing and implementing scientific method on a daily basis has taught me to think critically about every decisions I make in daily life, ensuring there is a driving purpose behind them.

Additionally, this past summer happened to be my first opportunity living off-campus in an environment away from home. Being in a school setting without classes and with only a fraction of the typical amount of students was quite an adjustment. Not seeing my usual friends on campus caused me to form friendships and develop new perspectives on college, and life as whole. I now truly value the relationships I share with others, especially my family, and strive to maintain them.

In the lab, the principal investigator, Dr. Rita Alevriadou, and PhD candidate graduate student, Chris Scheitlin, were excellent teachers and role models. They integrated me into their lab and provided an optimal atmosphere for growth. As a potential biomedical engineering graduate student, the opportunity to be mentored by an individual excelling in such a role was invaluable. Aside from the bioengineering content and lab skills I learned, it was inspiring to see individuals who work towards a goal so passionately. Their excitement and drive was contagious, and I strive to pursue a career that invigorates me in the same way.

Staying at Ohio State for the summer brought upon unforeseen challenges. As many of my friends relocated while I remained at school, I felt isolated at times. I quickly made new friends via my outgoing roommate, but this shock revealed the importance of relationships in my life, especially with my family. Accomplishments can provide temporary happiness but cannot compare to the contentment of a close friend. Personal happiness was a factor that I never considered when looking into new commitments, jobs, or internships. Now I realize its vital importance to living an enjoyable life.

Experiencing life off-campus was very different from that of on-campus, especially when being in a campus setting with no classwork. I was gladly forced to adapt to a life that didn’t involve constant stress and impending deadlines. Whenever I left the lab or work, there was no assignment I would need to work on at home; the work stayed at work. Believe it or not, with more free time on hand, I actually had some fun. This opportunity finally enabled me to explore Columbus. This change of pace provided a glimpse of what life may hold beyond my college years.

From a holistic point of view, my research experience has taught me so far that research is no simple task. It is a long process that includes trial and error. In fact, most of the time it results in a failure. Hence, the challenge is to figure out why something did not work and to tweak it accordingly until scientific conclusions can be drawn. To conquer such a challenge, elite problem solving and critical thinking skills are required. With that said, I plan to continue researching to grow and hone my abilities as both a researcher and an intellectual.

My STEP experience has helped me learn more about myself and better focus my career goals. Currently, I now have my sights set on dental school following my undergraduate career. I love to design, work with my hands, and help people; dentists perform these tasks daily. Thus, I have switched my pre-medicine course track to a pre-dental track. I plan to continue to shadow dentists and other doctors to confirm my conviction to become a dentist. I am very grateful for the opportunity STEP has provided me. Otherwise, I would not be set for my future like I am now.

By: Alexander Cetnar – Biomedical Engineering | Class of 2017

This is me with the PI, Dr. Rita Alevriadou, and PhD candidate graduate student, Chris Scheitlin, of my lab at a conference together.

From right to left, this is me with the PI, Dr. Rita Alevriadou, and PhD candidate graduate student, Chris Scheitlin, of my lab at a conference together.

Summer 2015 STEP Undergraduate Research Project- HPV E2 and Head and Neck Cancer

Nick Musgrave

Undergraduate Research at The James

My project is a comprehensive investigation of the E2 protein in HPV head and neck carcinomas and their susceptibility to radiation. I am still involved with this project and have actually taken the lead on it.

I have seen a change in myself due to this experience. Before the research project, I was satisfied with mediocrity. I was happy with the student I was and, quite frankly, became somewhat lazy with my schoolwork. I would go to class every day and then go home, do my work, and go to bed. This project has invigorated a passion in me that I haven’t felt in a while. I enjoy the fact that I am a small part of something so much bigger than myself. Due to this project, I expect more from myself. I am more inquisitive now that I have been part of the research process. I think this will pay off in great dividends for my future profession as a doctor.

I have also seen an increase in my own compassion. I have seen first hand the sequence of cancer and the ferocity of this disease, and I feel that I can better empathize with these patients because I have dabbled in what they are experiencing.  I think that this will be pivotal in the future as many of the people I hope to treat one day will be cancer patients. Even if someone with whom I am interacting is not diseased by cancer, per se, I feel that my experience with this disease has lead me to be a more compassionate person. It has changed my world view in that I am more grateful for every day that I have because I have experienced first hand those with the disease.

This STEP project also helped me to become more understanding of other cultures and more aware of the world around me. For instance, I work in a lab at The James and am the only American researcher. Before, I would have been intimidated by this fact, but now I revel in the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. It really drives home the idea that humanity is one large conglomerate and not separate people. We team up with researchers from all over the globe to help eradicate a devastating disease, and it calls us to wonder why we cannot team up as easily in other global situations. The world would be a more harmonious place if people from different countries worked as synchronously together as the multiple nationalities in my lab do.

In interacting with the patients with head and neck cancer, I became more compassionate. One aspect that people like to criticize doctors for is their “bedside manor.” Many are called inattentive, or even condescending to their patients. In watching the doctor who removed tumors for my research, I was exposed to true compassion. He handled terminal patients with the utmost care and I could tell that the patients trusted him. I can only hope to have the same traits as a doctor, but I have already seen this change in myself with my everyday interactions with friends and family.

One other key experience that shaped my own change were the times I stayed at the lab until the late hours of the night to finish my experiments. I was so enthralled by my research and so passionate about what I was doing that the hours ticked away and before I knew it, it was midnight and everyone else had left. It was in these times that I would not accept mediocrity. If mediocrity was an option, I would have left at 5pm like everyone else; however, I wanted to continue working. I will hopefully take this experience into a surgical residency someday, working 80 hour weeks and giving every patient world class care at all hours of the day.

As I have been hinting through this whole post, I hope to use the experiences I was fortunate enough to have with the STEP program to better my profession as a surgeon in the future. All too often, surgeons have the reputation of being nonexistent to the patients, conceited, and, for lack of a better term, possessing a massive God complex. I hope to use the experiences and skills I have learned in this project to be the exception to this stereotype. I want to be a neurosurgeon, so not only was the clinical aspect of this research beneficial, but the understanding I gained of the brain and its diseases will hopefully help my clinical outcomes in the future. Most importantly, I learned how to be accepting of others and compassionate to those that need my help. I hope to use this experience for the rest of my life, and I am very grateful to the STEP Program for providing this wonderful opportunity.

 

Interfacial Strength between Dental Composite Layers

During my STEP Signature Project, I conducted research in the College of Dentistry. My research observed the interfacial strength between two layers of different dental composites. To accomplish this, I molded and cured samples, aged them, and conducted shear tests on them. I then analyzed the data collected.

From completing my STEP Signature Project I learned two things: research requires patience, and I want to pursue a career in dentistry. I started my STEP Signature Project in the summer, so I had to start from scratch. There was no graduate student I was assisting; I was in sole control of producing results. This taught me a great deal of patience. Furthermore, this Signature Project gave me my first exposure to the College of Dentistry which really solidified my career path.

When I first met with my research advisor, all he told me was that he wanted to look at the strength between layers in a filling. He gave a little background information, but the rest was on me. I was first tasked with doing a literature search. The first few days, I haphazardly found a few articles, but I wasn’t really sure if this is what I needed or what it meant. He showed me how to back search articles and he explained certain concepts beyond my scope. Over the summer, he guided me but I had to ask for it and be responsible for my own knowledge. Interactions like these continued over the summer, and after each interaction, he would give me advice on how to continue in the project. Frequently, the advice didn’t work and it would take a lot of adaptation to make it work. This process required patience. For example, before I even began testing my filling composite samples, I had to mold and cure them to fit the testing rig of the machine. I had to design the mold and the procedure. This process took a lot of trial and error and time. My interaction with my research advisor instilled patience in me and after a few weeks I was able to solidify the preparation stages of the experiments.

Furthermore, because I was in the lab I worked with the Lab manager frequently. Before starting my STEP signature project I was unfamiliar with all the tools and resources in the lab. Throughout my project I became accustomed with the thermocycler, the Instron load frame, and a drill press. Each required instruction by the lab manager. The lab manager was a pretty loquacious person and tasks that should take only a few hours took the whole day. While I was often frustrated when interacting with the lab manager, I learned a great deal about operating machinery, as well as, patience. By the end of the summer, I had built a relationship with the Lab Manager that I didn’t anticipate. I found myself enjoying listening to him ramble and interact with his eccentric personality.

Finally, this STEP Signature Project solidified my interest in pursuing dentistry. In addition to my interactions with staff and faculty, I also had the opportunity to use the same instruments dentists use. Through trial and error, I found what techniques worked and what techniques didn’t. Being able to use the tools showed me that I could see myself doing this in my future. It’s important to be working with my hands and I know I could be doing that as a dentist. I hope to grow the interests I solidified through my STEP Signature project throughout the rest of my undergraduate career.

Realizing what I want to do as a career is extremely valuable to my life. The patience I also realized will be invaluable. Whether I continue to do research, or become a dentist, both require patience. Many times students begin their career and realize that that’s not what they want to do. These kinds of instances can be avoided with exposure to the field beforehand. I am fortunate to have that kind of experience through my STEP Signature Project.

IMG_5119 IMG_5120

 

STEP 2015 Undergraduate Research Reflection

 

Type of Project: Research endeavors (To pay rent for a summer to have a research position in Columbus)

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

This summer I was employed by Nationwide Children Hospital Research Institute in Dr. Mark Peeples’ laboratory as a research assistant where I worked alongside scientists and performed my own experiments. The lab researched the roles of glycoproteins G and F on the viral membrane in order to further understand the mechanism for infection of this complicated RNA virus. My research focused on the F protein and the significance of its role in attaching the viral membrane to the cell membrane to form the characteristic cell “syncytia.”

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

 

Pursuing my medical interests in a lab setting taught me the importance of lab research in the clinical field. I was able to appreciate the work that the researchers invest in order to translate their findings into cures and treatments. A search for a vaccine for HRSV has been in the works for over 60 years, which made working with this project more interesting and meaningful because it forces researchers to brainstorm brand new approaches to this problem. It will still be a long road to finding a vaccine for RSV, but having a small role in that was very rewarding.

 

 

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

 

Working with graduate, PhD and post-doctorate students gave me a larger insight into academia field careers. I valued my work and challenges that came with researching this complex and new field of which I previously had no knowledge. I saw the passion these people had for such a specific virus was amazing and how they pursued that everyday and their desire to collaborate with other labs to share ideas. It was an eye-opening experience into the research field you don’t see from the outside publications or scientific journal articles.

I was able to experience another side of science and medicine in a professional lab. I was able to see the extensive process of beginning an experiment and writing proposals for grants. It made me appreciate the planning and massive amount of effort it takes to pursue these scientific endeavors.

My plan is not to fulfill my career in virology research, however, but to continue onto medical school after I finish my undergraduate education. My research experience showed me that I have more desire to be interacting with humans to fulfill my ambition to study medicine instead of the laboratory route. The part of research requiring your analytical and problem solving skills was very enjoyable, I just have a desire to translate that into another area of medicine and this experience has given me that appreciation for the laboratory research side necessary to further develop effective medicine.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  

 

Working first hand in a research lab helped me appreciate medical research so much more. It is also very cool to see where the fundraising money can go when you sign up for 5K’s and dance marathons to support cancer research and related illnesses. I will continue to support these goals and they will now mean so much more to me because I have seen how much the people in these labs care and put into their work.

As an aspiring physician, everything I learn in the medical field about new treatments and drugs will be appreciated so much more now that I have seen how difficult and time consuming it is to produce successful outcomes. I don’t necessarily wish to pursue a research-centered profession, but I know they go hand in hand with clinical professions. Without one you cannot have the other. I am extremely grateful for the scientists that pour their lives into looking for a cure for those they haven’t even met yet.

STEP 2015 Reflection

 

Type of Project: Research endeavors (To pay rent for a summer to have a research position in Columbus)

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

This summer I was employed by Nationwide Children Hospital Research Institute in Dr. Mark Peeples’ laboratory as a research assistant where I worked alongside scientists and performed my own experiments. The lab researched the roles of glycoproteins G and F on the viral membrane in order to further understand the mechanism for infection of this complicated RNA virus. My research focused on the F protein and the significance of its role in attaching the viral membrane to the cell membrane to form the characteristic cell “syncytia.”

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

 

Pursuing my medical interests in a lab setting taught me the importance of lab research in the clinical field. I was able to appreciate the work that the researchers invest in order to translate their findings into cures and treatments. A search for a vaccine for HRSV has been in the works for over 60 years, which made working with this project more interesting and meaningful because it forces researchers to brainstorm brand new approaches to this problem. It will still be a long road to finding a vaccine for RSV, but having a small role in that was very rewarding.

 

 

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

 

Working with graduate, PhD and post-doctorate students gave me a larger insight into academia field careers. I valued my work and challenges that came with researching this complex and new field of which I previously had no knowledge. I saw the passion these people had for such a specific virus was amazing and how they pursued that everyday and their desire to collaborate with other labs to share ideas. It was an eye-opening experience into the research field you don’t see from the outside publications or scientific journal articles.

I was able to experience another side of science and medicine in a professional lab. I was able to see the extensive process of beginning an experiment and writing proposals for grants. It made me appreciate the planning and massive amount of effort it takes to pursue these scientific endeavors.

My plan is not to fulfill my career in virology research, however, but to continue onto medical school after I finish my undergraduate education. My research experience showed me that I have more desire to be interacting with humans to fulfill my ambition to study medicine instead of the laboratory route. The part of research requiring your analytical and problem solving skills was very enjoyable, I just have a desire to translate that into another area of medicine and this experience has given me that appreciation for the laboratory research side necessary to further develop effective medicine.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  

 

Working first hand in a research lab helped me appreciate medical research so much more. It is also very cool to see where the fundraising money can go when you sign up for 5K’s and dance marathons to support cancer research and related illnesses. I will continue to support these goals and they will now mean so much more to me because I have seen how much the people in these labs care and put into their work.

As an aspiring physician, everything I learn in the medical field about new treatments and drugs will be appreciated so much more now that I have seen how difficult and time consuming it is to produce successful outcomes. I don’t necessarily wish to pursue a research-centered profession, but I know they go hand in hand with clinical professions. Without one you cannot have the other. I am extremely grateful for the scientists that pour their lives into looking for a cure for those they haven’t even met yet.

STEP Experience- Undergraduate Research in Organic Chemistry

Over the summer, I participated in a chemistry research project focusing on the synthesis of new compounds that are highly selective for re-alkylation of aged AChE, which can be the product of certain chemical warfare agents. The research took place during summer 2015 at OSU in the Hadad Research Group in CBEC. I focused on organic synthesis of promising compounds.

After having spent the summer in the research lab, I gained an appreciation for scientific research as a whole. Until I spent time in the lab, I did not truly value the hard work that went in to many of the medicines and therapeutics that I used to take for granted. Working in the lab and talking with graduate students gave me a realistic sense of what the research process is like. Furthermore, the research helped give me a better understanding about the life of a graduate student.

The laboratory work, group presentations, and interactions with graduate students and professors changed my outlook on research. Working in the lab and taking NMR samples required an initial learning curve, and the amount of equipment, chemicals, and instruments that were present was, at first, overwhelming. My work started slowly as I became accustomed to the lab and the people working in it. At the group meetings, I listened as graduate students presented their work and progress.

I understood many of the ideas and concepts being presented, which I had learned in my organic chemistry classes, but much of the computational chemistry went over my head. It was interesting to hear the computational chemists discuss the various modeling systems and how they worked. This collaboration encouraged me to work hard and do my best to contribute to the combined efforts of the chemists and biochemists in the group.

Although the lab work got repetitive at times, I maintained the outlook that I was working to ultimately help other people. This mindset coupled with goals set by my research advisor helped keep me productive in the lab. I also got to talk with other undergraduate students about their experiences in research and what they were doing. The other undergraduate students in my lab were helpful and fun to be around. They offered advice on future career paths as well as techniques to be a better chemist.

This research experience has influenced me to think more about applying to graduate school or working in a research lab in the future. The research also helped me to forge valuable friendships and connections with other undergraduate and graduate students as well as professors. Over the course of the project, my network of peers and mentors grew as did my desire to learn more organic chemistry and how it could help others.

STEP Reflection

My original STEP proposal was for undergraduate research with a side of leadership training, but I actually ended up focusing more on the leadership side of the summer, and less on the research side. This past summer I participated in h2o’s Leadership Training program in Columbus, OH. The training took place mostly in the evenings, so during the day I took a class and was a student research assistant at the Ohio Emergency Management Agency’s Radiological Instrumentation Measurement and Calibration Lab. I worked with the OEMA’s one-year and two-year civil defense programs. I helped to calibrate the various dosimeters and other civil defense equipment for the kits that are sent to each county in Ohio. For Leadership Training (LT), I participated in a few outreach projects in the community at the beginning of the summer, and then throughout the rest of the program I learned more about how to be a leader in my community and in my faith.

During my STEP project, I was forced out of my comfort zone a lot. Throughout the summer in LT we would take part in contact evangelism on and around campus. While doing this we would ask others about their spiritual beliefs and then ask them if they would like to hear what we believe. Then we would often have really great conversations while building relationships with people we had just met. I was definitely really uncomfortable at first bringing up the topic of religion with strangers, but by the end of the summer I actually really enjoyed getting to know  strangers and discussing religion with them. During the first couple of weeks in LT we participated in a community outreach program called For Columbus, where local churches got together to volunteer in the Columbus community picking up trash, raking leaves, cleaning houses, and etc. This was a really amazing and transformational experience for me. I too often take what I have for granted and I forget how blessed I truly am. At the beginning of For Columbus it was definitely hard to stay positive about picking up trash or doing yard work all day for little to no recognition, but I had to remember why I was doing it. I wasn’t picking up trash to be recognized for it. I was doing it all to show God’s love to the community. Through my faith, I am called to be a leader in the community. I am called to love my neighbors and the love on those who are in need. For Columbus was definitely a humbling experience as we helped and loved those in need. The fact that I was able to use my STEP money to be able to participate in the program and give back to the community was such a blessing.

My experience at the OEMA this summer was a great stepping stone for internships in the nuclear field for over the summer. At the end of the school year, I was considering whether or not the nuclear industry, energy or not, was something that I wanted to go in to. The position with the OEMA did a great job of showing me how diverse the nuclear industry is. I was able to work on the safety implementation side of the industry in the same building as the research reactor on campus. I remember the one day, while I was calibrating some pocket dosimeters, I was listening to a podcast about fusion reactors and about how they hope to have a functioning, self-sustaining fusion power reactor by 2020. I thought I was so cool for listening to a podcast about fusion reactors while I was working next to a fission reactor in the other room. It was this moment that I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the nuclear industry. The fusion reactor project that I mentioned previously is called the ITER project, and it is located in Southern France. It is now my dream to be able to work on the ITER project some day in my career. Having the research position has definitely helped me move forward in the industry, and it helped me get an internship for this summer. I will be working at BWX Technologies this summer in Virginia, which is an amazing opportunity and I am super excited for.

This experience was significant to my life because it helped me with my professional development and it helped me to transform into a better leader in my community and in my faith. LT definitely helped me with my position as a resident advisor this year. I am not uncomfortable to have diverse or controversial conversations with residents that I encounter. I have also learned a lot about what other people believe and I have learned how to be respectful of their beliefs. The position with the OEMA has been wonderful because it continued into the school year, too. The OEMA position helped me to get an internship for the summer in the nuclear industry this summer.

 

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