These past few semesters, I worked in Dr. Badu’s research lab. I worked with a graduate student, testing different analytes at low concentrations on 2 cm long paper triangles at low voltages (1-5 kV). A wax pattern was printed on the paper triangles that left a channel of wax-less paper down the middle to maximize the amount of analyte that would be sprayed into the mass spectrometer. We tested each analyte at various voltages, trying to determine the lowest voltage that could be used that would still produce a strong signal.
While completing my STEP project, I became more aware of the variety of applications of mass spectrometry. Previously, my only experience with mass spectrometry was analyzing mass spectrums, along with analyzing IR spectrums and HNMR spectrums to identify an unknown molecule in organic chemistry lab. While I had the idea that mass spectrometry could be applied in many ways, I was unprepared to see the multitudes of fields in which it’s used. Many of the applications were geared toward the biological and medical fields, such as proteomics and lipidomics. I was amazed to see that mass spectrometry could also be used in forensics.
During the beginning of my STEP project, I was allowed to attend a mass spectrometry conference to see what a conference was like, since I hadn’t worked on a project yet. This allowed me to read about and listen to others explain their research. Although I didn’t understand most of the posters, I did my best to understand what I could. This was because I was new to the field of mass spectrometry and I was still learning about the basics, so it seemed like unintelligible scientific jargon to me. This encouraged me to look up the terms I didn’t understand and learn more about it.
When I was able to, I attended weekly meetings where the graduate students presented their research thus far. This gave me the chance to learn about their research and how research should be presented during a group meeting. During their presentation and after they were finished, questions would be asked to further their research. There would also sometimes be a discussion about the research or other questions would be asked to clarify certain details. In the future, should I continue to do research, I will be more prepared when presenting my research as a result.
As of right now, I don’t know what I plan to do after graduation and I know I should decide soon since I’m now a 3rd year student. Seeing the variety of research that others are doing shows me that I have a lot of options to choose from, within the field of chemistry. Right now, I’m just focused on passing my classes, but there will come a point when I will have to decide. Prior to participating in undergraduate research, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, and I still don’t. Now, however, I have a point of reference to start from.