Genetic Analysis of Thermococcus Kodakarensis – STEP Research Project

Nathan Neilson

STEP Reflection/Reporting Back

1.  For my STEP project, I chose to perform research over the past summer (the summer of 2015).  This entailed working in a research lab full time, and having my own independent project in that lab.  My project involved studying three specific genes that code for DNA packaging in the archaea Thermococcus Kodakarensis (T. Kod.).

2.  By being able to do this STEP project, I was able to learn about the research world, but also about the real world as well.  Prior to the summer of 2015, I had already researched a bit in the lab that I spent my summer in, but never more than a few hours a week.  I never had that opportunity.  Thanks to my STEP funds, I spent a much longer time in the lab and actually got an immersive feeling into the lifestyle of having a career in research.  As a premed student, research is an important part of my field and thus it was important to learn about this aspect of my field.  I learned a ton about research methods, as well as academic material as well that has helped me in other science courses this year that I have taken.

In addition to learning about the career and field of research, I learned a lot about the real world.  The majority of my STEP funds went to allowing me to afford an apartment here in Columbus so that I could actually stay here.  I had never lived alone, let alone in an apartment.  Therefore, this was an important experience for me because these are crucial experiences for any adult to have.  I learned to balance working with keeping track of my apartment bills and keeping my apartment clean.  Although I didn’t expect to have this transformation, this debatably was the most important transformation that I underwent due to my STEP experience.

3.  Since there were multiple transformations caused by my STEP project, there were many key aspects of my experience that resulted in the actual transformation that I underwent.  One of the main aspects of my experience that was influential for me was the vast array of laboratory techniques that I was exposed to in my lab.  I had learned about a few of these techniques in my previous science courses, but there were so many more I ended up performing that I had never heard of!  In addition, hearing about a technique is a much different experience that actually using the technique in a real world setting.  For me, actually doing these techniques had much more or a value and impact that just learning them.  For example, I had learned about gel electrophoresis in my general biology course freshman year, but didn’t ACTUALLY learn what it meant.  After having run dozens of gels in order to analyze fragments of DNA I had isolated, I can tell anybody just about any detail of the process of gel electrophoresis.  This is the sort of value I gained from my experience that resulted in my STEP transformation.

Another key aspect of my STEP project that left a lasting impact on me was the amount of time management and sleep management skills I gained from my lab.  Many times in my lab, I would have three of four procedures going at once.  For example, I could be running a gel for gel electrophoresis while transforming T. Kod. cells for later use, all while mixing a solution for pouring agar plates which I would need later.  This sort of thing initially left my mind in disarray, and I would forget things and mess up procedures.  My lab manager would get so frustrated with this, so I learned to quickly adjust.  By the end of my time in lab, I was an expert in multitasking.  In addition, I had to manage my sleep due to the crazy hours entailed by research.  There were many nights I needed to wake up at 3 am and head to the lab to take a reading for my cells, only to head back home right after.  This sort of chaotic schedule forced me to learn how to cram in sleep and rest into my day.  I definitely carry this experience with me still, especially during the semester and during finals week!!

One final key to my transformation was my living situation for the summer.  I had to juggle all my work at research with keeping my bills paid, my apartment clean, and making sure I was keeping my finances in check.  I remember the first month I was living in my apartment over the summer, I completely forgot to pay my bills and suffered a lot of late fees because of it.  I quickly learned how to manage my bills.  Since I lived alone, I was 100% in charge of how clean my apartment stayed.  I actually loved this aspect of my experience, because I am somewhat of a clean freak and have had messy roommates in the past.  I finally could keep my apartment clean to my standard!  Also, if I was busy at the research lab and didn’t have as much time at home, I learned I could slack off on my house cleaning until I had a bit more time.  This sort of time and priority management was extremely useful for me to learn, especially since I moved off campus during this school year.  I already had learned the ups and downs of having an apartment, while my roommates were just learning these types of life lessons.

4.  As evidenced above, I learned so much in the few short months that my STEP project allowed me to spend here over the summer.  Most obviously, I gained academic and career  benefits from this experience.  I discussed how my research taught me a lot about lab techniques, which I utilized in my later classes about science subjects.  These lab techniques helped me learn how to have a steady hand and to manage my time much better.  In addition, as a premed student, I valued the knowledge from my lab because it is something I am passionate about and is relevant to my field.  Many people involved in undergraduate research here at OSU cannot say they were actually passionate about the projects they were involved in, but I can!  One thing I realized from my time in a research lab, though, is that this sort of career definitely is not something I would want to do for the rest of my life.  I enjoyed it a lot, but my research taught me that I prefer other aspects of science and medicine, which helped solidify my path as a premed student.  Lastly, I learned valuable life lessons during my time spent in an apartment over the summer.  I learned how to pay bills, how to multitask a job with a life at home, and how to keep an entire house clean.  These are arguably the most important lessons I learned, because I will carry these things with me forever and regardless of the career I choose.  I want to thank STEP for the opportunities the program provided me with.  I learned so much and had one of the most beneficial and fun summers of my life!  I am so glad I persevered through the program and actually got to do my experience, unlike many others.

One thought on “Genetic Analysis of Thermococcus Kodakarensis – STEP Research Project

  1. It sounds like this experience certainly supported your development in becoming an independent adult in addition to practicing more advanced techniques as a researcher. It’s outstanding to hear how beneficial this experience was!

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