For my STEP project, I assisted a graduate student with her project in a cardiovascular research lab at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Using a mouse model, we looked at the contribution of bone marrow derived cells to the heart valve population. I went to weekly meetings, performed experiments, analyzed my findings, and presented my results at a poster competition.
My STEP project has led me change my view on research. I used to think it was something that I never wanted to do because it was uninteresting and hard, but I now know that while it is difficult, it’s also rewarding. I had been in the lab for about a year and a half prior to my STEP project, but I was essentially just an extra set of hands that came in for a couple hours each week. This past summer I had a more active role in lab with my own side project of examining how hematopoietic derived cells contribute to the heart valve population. After spending hours reading journal articles to research my project, performing my experiments, and analyzing my results, I was able to see just how much time and effort goes into this kind of work. It was challenging and time consuming, and my project is only a fraction of what graduate students, post-docs, and principle investigators work on, so it was truly humbling.
Many aspects of my STEP project led to this transformation, including the research itself, relationships formed with coworkers, and presenting my research at competitions. Through the research, I was able to see what kind of hard work goes into the life saving discoveries made by researchers. They spend hours in the lab each day, often spending more than 40 hours every week at work. During this time not only do they read numerous scientific articles to get ideas for projects and experiments, but they also perform the experiments, analyze the results, and write papers discussing their findings.
Through the relationships formed with my coworkers, I found lasting friendships. Whenever I was struggling with something, they were there to offer a helping hand or words of advice. They’ve played a huge role in helping me with my project with anything from showing me how to set up an experiment to analyzing the results. That’s not all, however, as they’ve also been immensely helpful during my application process to med school from reviewing my resume to writing letters of recommendation. They truly made this experience incredible.
Through the competitions I participated in, I was able to explore other areas of research not present in my lab. We focus on heart development and disease, but I was able to learn about the latest progress and innovations in different aspects from cancer to hearing problems. I also gained confidence in myself as I learned to speak in front of people during my poster presentations. I used to become very nervous before talking in front of anyone, but I’ve gotten much better thank to my STEP project.
As an aspiring doctor, my new, changed view on research is absolutely valuable to my life. I knew research was important, but I didn’t realize just how much of a significant role it plays in medicine. Going to meetings, town halls, and seminars where people are presenting their work and performing clinical trials for all different types of illnesses and ailments was incredible. I have a newfound respect for all the researchers that have made it their life’s mission to find new ways to treat and cure patients, and I look forward to working with them during my future career as a physician.