STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection

Madison Allen

Undergraduate Research


  1. My STEP Signature Project consisted of a summer conducting undergraduate research in the Pediatric and Rehabilitation Laboratory at Ohio State. I worked on a project to determine the optimal dosage of physical therapy for infants and children with cerebral palsy (CP). Along with physical therapists and other research assistants, I spent the summer collecting data through tests of gross motor function in study participants and entering it into a database called REDcap.


  1. While completing my STEP signature project, I was consistently surrounded by children with developmental disabilities and their families. This changed my understanding of myself and the world. I had never worked in close contact with children with CP before. Through weekly testing sessions I worked closely with these children and it allowed me to see how much parents sacrifice for their children. These parents are coming to our lab once a week along with attending PT sessions multiple times a week. Some of these families drive over 2 hours because their pediatrician told them about this study at Ohio State and they wanted to give their child the best care possible. In addition, this experience made me realize how resilient children can be. Lastly, my interaction with the Principal Investigator (PI) of the lab made me realize how every member of the lab team is valued for their contribution.



  1. There were a couple of key interactions and relationships during my STEP signature project that led to these changes in my world view. The first one being with a mother of one of our participants. She is a single mother of 3 children who also works full time as an ICU nurse. She had just driven 1.5 hours to our lab, after working a 10 hour shift. She had all 3 children with her and seemed completely burnt out. However, she was completely engaged in her son’s session while also entertaining her other kids. She provided us with detailed notes on her son’s progress at home during the last week and asked questions about what else she could be doing to help him improve his motor skills. Her dedication was inspiring. It reminded me that whenever I may be tired or coming into my lab after a long day, that it is important to leave all of that at the door and focus completely and enthusiastically about my work in the lab while I am there. It was a privilege to be working there this summer and should not be taken for granted.

Another interaction I had was with one of our participants (let’s call him Alex). When I first met Alex, he was 25 months old and had just arrived for his baseline assessment. He had very limited control of motor function and was very shy. He seemed comfortable with me and was encouraged to complete a task when I was guiding him through it. There is nothing more gratifying than watching Alex master a goal, such as being able to climb up the stairs by himself, after months of patience and hard work. I have watched Alex fall down hundreds of times, but he never fails to get back up and try again. He is an inspiration to myself and motivates me to never give up.

Lastly, my interactions with my PI throughout the summer led me to see how every member of the lab is responsible for contributing to the project. I met with her bi-weekly one on one and we also had monthly lab meetings with all of the members of the lab. She set clear expectations for what was expected of lab members and was thorough with checking in. She stressed the importance of working together because science is a “team sport”. I had always thought that the PI was the most important person in the lab and that everyone should do exactly as they say. My PI explained that she is not all-knowing and encouraged dialogue and collaboration between the lab team. She welcomed constructive criticism and listened to everyone’s ideas, from undergraduates such as myself, to PhD students and physical therapists. She said that she’s not in the lab and working in close proximity with the patients all week long, so she doesn’t always know everything that the people working in the lab 50 hours a week know. I really appreciated this team-focused style of leadership. It encouraged me to share my ideas and ask questions in an environment conducive to learning.


  1. This personal development has helped me tremendously in regards to my future plans. I aspire to be a physician assistant (PA). I am currently applying to PA school and I will take the lessons I learned while completing my STEP signature project on with me to PA school and the workforce after school. The lessons I have learned from the single mother about dedication to her son regardless of whatever else is going on in her life is something that will be important to me as a practicing PA. There will be days when I will be distracted by personal problems, however as a PA it is vital that I forget these issues while seeing patients in order to give them my full attention and the best healthcare possible. Next, my interaction with Alex taught me the importance of perseverance in the face of formidable circumstances. PA school is challenging and completely demanding. I will remember working with Alex when I feel like quitting due to the difficulty of my classes. I will remember the bigger picture and that I will work hard to get through the rigorous courses in PA school in order to be able to provide healthcare to children like Alex. Lastly, my relationship with my PI and lab mates is extremely important because it taught me the importance of working in a team to provide the best experience for our study participants. Working as a PA is all about working with a team. I will have to work under an attending physician for the entirety of my career, and I will also be working with nurses, medical assistants, doctors, students, and other PAs. I will take the lessons I learned about team-based leadership and every member of the lab being valued for their contribution to PA school and to my practice after school. I believe this will allow me to become the best healthcare provider that I can be.


STEP Undergraduate Research — Shakespeare and Autism, and the Cognitive Development Lab.

For my STEP signature project, I did undergraduate research this summer in two different labs at OSU. I worked in the Cognitive Development Lab with preschool children, where I ran studies with them at schools all around Columbus. These are mostly computer “games” that they play, and they earn stickers as they progress through the “game”. I also worked with the Nisonger Center on the Shakespeare and Autism project. The interest of this project is to see how the Hunter Heartbeat Method can help improve both social skills and communication skills for children with autism.  

This summer I realized how much I love research. I had an interest in it before, and enjoyed doing it, but didn’t like how there weren’t really immediate results. However, two specific interactions that I had made me realize that, even though the results are not immediate, what is being done still matters. There are still people that care about what you’re doing. Even though you aren’t on the front line in a hospital treating patients, you are still helping people — it just takes a little longer to see the results. There are people that are thankful for what you do, because it helps them and their loved ones live better, healthier, and happier lives. I believe that this summer doing research has changed my view on research, and has changed my view on my role in the lab. I didn’t feel like I was making a huge difference last year when I was in the labs, but I have realized after this summer that research takes the combined efforts of so many people, and that my small part really does matter. 

One day, at the end of one research session with the Shakespeare and Autism group, a child’s parents came up to me and thanked me for my dedication to the research. They were so happy that all of us had been dedicating our time to learning more about autism, and told us their child loved coming to interact with the other children every week! I felt like I was really doing something that was making a difference — I was starting to tear up! She said that it was hard for her child to participate in after-school activities, but that Shakespeare and Autism gave her child the chance to do something like that for the first time. I had always felt like I was just there to make sure everything went smoothly, and didn’t feel like I was doing too much. But to have those parents come up to me and thank me personally meant the world — I realized that it took all of us there doing our own roles to make it happen.

Another experience that I enjoyed was when a preschool teacher thanked me for the research I do in the Cognitive Development Lab. She said that it really helps them learn a lot about the kids, and how to best teach them to help them grow and learn as best as they can. I didn’t realize that any of the teachers really cared too much about what we were doing — they let us in, we work with the kids, and we leave. I know the researchers in the lab care about the results, but I had never had a teacher thank me. It really made me realize that these results just aren’t for the lab, but rather for the future of preschoolers. As we learn more and more about how the young mind develops and thinks, we can strive towards a better education for them. 

These two experiences, among many others, really helped me learn a lot about myself this summer. Even though research doesn’t give immediate results, the stuff we are doing really matters. The teacher and the parents that personally thanked me helped me understand that there are people in this world that we are helping. Even though it takes a little bit of time, it still matters. We are spending time to help learn more about the people that they care about. I feel like a lot of professionals that are directly interacting with people to help them, like doctors, nurses, etc., are thanked and recognized for what they do for helping people. I think that people forget about those doing research sometimes, and it can be a little discouraging. But after those two interactions, I remembered that even though we aren’t directly helping people, we are helping them in the long run. Both jobs are equally as important — they just each have their own time and place. 

This summer I gained new insight and a new view of research, and it has helped me realize that I would like to continue doing it. I had been previously unsure of whether research was for me — I hadn’t decided which type of program I would like to pursue: MD, PhD, or MD/PhD. I wasn’t sure which would be a good path for me. After this summer, I realized that I would really like to pursue the dual MD/PhD degree. Even though research doesn’t produce immediate results, it is still making a difference. Research helps people in a different way, and even though patients aren’t always aware of that, without research we would lack the advancement that we have in the medical field. 


The Shakespeare and Autism team!

STEP Reflection

Maria Zulliger

I was an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the ABLE Project at the Ohio State Eye and Ear Institute Psychosocial Cognitive Lab for my STEP Signature Project. The ABLE (The Adjustment, Behavior, Language and Executive Functioning) Project studies how language and executive function affect pyschosoical outcomes in children with and without hearing loss. As a research assistant, I helped with transcribing audio from video, coding, entering data, participant testing, and other office related tasks. I also presented some of our research at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and CogFest 2018.

My understanding of myself, my assumptions on research, and my view of the world changed while completing my project. Before I took on the role as a research assistant, I did not fully know what was involved in performing, documenting, and presenting research. This past year I was able to learn about all of the careful work that must be done to make sure the research process is approved and to avoid bias. I also learned all that must be done to check over our work to make sure that information is entered properly and that we record all of the necessary information. Lastly, I learned what is involved in preparing for a research presentation, such as writing an abstract and making a poster.

Many events and relationships led to my transformation. I gained much confidence in oral presentations by presenting in the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and Cogfest 2018. As I presented more, I become less nervous about speaking in front of judges and professors. I also gained more knowledge about our research through these presentations by seeing all of our significant data put together and by creating a poster. Many questions were asked after I presented that made me think critically about our work. This project taught me about the impact a mother’s language choice can have on her child’s neurocognitive development, something I had no knowledge of before taking part in this research.

Relationships with the members of our team for the ABLE Project also led to my transformation. My research mentor and lab coordinator taught me how to do the tasks I was responsible for in our research and helped me when I was creating the poster and practicing my presentation since it was my first time participating in research. Their feedback made me feel more confident in the lab and when presenting.

Lab meetings also led to my transformation. I enjoyed when our entire team was together and could discuss aspects of our project. I also enjoyed learning more about certain aspects of our project through presentations on those topics. These meetings helped to developed stronger interpersonal and critical thinking skills.

This development is valuable because I can apply all that I learned to my future endeavors in the dental field. I can use my critical thinking skills and detail-oriented methods in dental school. I can also use my interpersonal skills and strengthened confidence to help build relationships with patients and other professionals. In addition, I gained exposure working and building relationships with the ABLE Project team which helped me to practice patience, collaboration, and support for each other. Experience in a professional environment and learning the scientific process through research will ultimately help to be successful in the field.



  • My STEP project involved traveling to a scientific conference on prokaryotic biology. At this conference, I was provided with an opportunity to network with other scientist within the field and present my research involving novel antibiotics.


  • This conference allowed me to get my first glimpse of what my career will look like following completion of my undergraduate career. This conference was a positive experience that inspired much confidence in future career as a microbiologist. Prior to this conference, I begin to feel concern for my choice in major/career path. However, after this conference, I feel fully confident that I made the right choice in career and am ready to eagerly pursue my studies going into my last year of undergraduate.



  • At this conference, I was able to interact with some great microbiologist with varying degrees of experience and expertise. I met microbiologist from neighboring universities such as Ohio University, and I met microbiologist from universities that are much further such as The University of Oslo in Norway. It allowed me to develop an understanding of how much variety and career paths are available when you choose to pursue microbiology.


During the conference, I talked to several people who had been coming to this conference for a long time. One person I spoke to referred to this particular conference as a “tradition”. He told me how he began going to this conference when he was graduate student and now, as an assistant professor, he brings his own graduate students to this conference.


Another thing I witnessed during the conference was how some of the senior professors interacted with one another. They treated this conference not as only a way to engage in scientific discussion through talks and presentations, but a way to catch up with old friends. The happy hours after the day of lectures is where I first noticed this. Some of the professors had been coming to this conference each year for the past decade or more. Their work usually makes it difficult to catch up with their friends in the field.


However, this conference gave them an opportunity to catch up and have a few drinks with their friends. I thought this was a valuable take away from the conference because it is known how difficult and competitive research in academia could be. Seeing all these professors in the field interacting like old friends provided a compelling counter

Experiences at the Wind River Prokaryotic Biology Conference in Estes Park Colorado

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP project involved a travel and presentation at a national conference. I’ve been working in the microbial infection and immunity laboratory of Daniel Wozniak. I presented my research as a poster at the Winder River Conference on Prokaryotic Biology in Estes Park Colorado.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

I’ve decided for some time now that I intend to pursue a graduate degree in a biomedical science. I haven’t exactly understood the environment of my chosen career path however. The conference that I took part in was eye-opening in many regards. Given the secluded atmosphere of the conference, all of the professors, post-docs, graduate students, and undergrads became equals. There never felt like a separation between the different levels education or success. Because of this, I was able to spend a lot of quality time with pioneers in their field. I asked numerous questions and learned about a myriad of routes to achieve my future goals. The field of science is intimidating and very competitive as there’s only a limited amount of money and other resources. Understanding how the complicated scientific community works and the communication present is not something I could have gotten anywhere. The multitude of interactions and knowledge I received at the conference is imperative to 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

I had many moments where I had the opportunity to speak one on one with pioneers in the microbiology field. One of the first mornings of the conference I spent breakfast speaking with and getting to know a professor from Mexico. I didn’t know who the man was prior but it turned out to be a wonderful discussion. At the end of the conference I found out that he was actually the final key note speaker for the conference and gave a beautiful lecture where he compared the artwork and life of Frida Kahlo to the process of discovering new antibiotics. He didn’t carry himself with any pomposity and I think there’s a lot to learn from such a successful man that maintains a humble approach.

My poster session was about two and a half hours long. I was able to present to quite a few people in that time and had some quality discussion on the work that I had done thus far. There was one interaction that stood out with a professor from the University of Maryland however.  She and I discussed a surprising result I had for roughly 30 minutes. By the end of the interaction she asked me about my future plans and expressed interest in my graduate studies. She started to tell me about all of the qualifications of her lab and told me that she expects to see my graduate application when I apply. This was a pretty significant moment as it qualified the work I had done so far and definitely made me feel confident in myself.

One of the days at the conference gave us about 5 hours of free time to go do whatever we wanted. So, a couple post-docs, another undergraduate, and I decided to take a hike up a mountain that was nearby. The hike up was about three miles and at one point there was about a 45 degree incline. When we reached the top of the mountain we were a little over 11,000ft altitude and we could see for miles in all directions. We sat up at the top for about an hour and we just started talking about life from a very existential perspective. Those post-docs gave me a lot of insight on components of my future I hadn’t even contemplated.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

The career of scientific research is competitive. There’s a limited amount of money, resources, and job security. It’s imperative that I accumulate as much experience and information from my peers and possibly future employers so that I can survive and thrive. This conference could have possibly been the tipping point of perspective that changes the rest of my career.

STEP Reflection

My STEP Signature Project was doing undergraduate research in Dr. Laura Schmidt’s Sports Rehabilitation and Recovery lab. In the lab, I helped analyze data and helped some with data collection. My area was more focused on articular cartilage defects and I got to present a poster at the Denman Research Forum on the influence of defect location on sagitt al plane gait mechanics in individuals with knee articular cartilage defect.


Through my STEP Signature Project, I learned a lot about what I want to do with my career and my role that I can have in research. In respect to what I want to do with my career, I learned that I actually don’t want to be a full-time researcher. The experience was amazing, and I am still helping out in the lab today and plan to continue in the future, but it showed me that it might not be the only thing for me. I learned that I can help out with research on the side in the future, which would be neat, while working a different job full-time too.


My view of the world that changed through my STEP Project was how incredibly important research really is to the world. I got to learn the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes. I learned how to properly run a research study and the importance of always publishing your results, whether significant or not, so that people have the information out there to look at and then they can possibly take another angle at a particular research question.


Through my STEP Signature Project, I got the opportunity to work with multiple awesome graduate students, as well as Dr. Schmidt in the lab. They all helped me learn the process that goes along with research and were some of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. They showed me the importance of research and made it an enjoyable experience to come into the lab and get to work. These relationships made me enjoy research and helped me grow as a person and researcher in the lab. They helped teach me how important research is to everyone and how big of a role it plays in society, including the field of Physical Therapy, which is what I plan on going into.


Another major part of my STEP Signature Project that helped change me was the process of preparing for the Denman Research Forum. This whole process helped me become both a better researcher and presenter. In preparation for the forum, I had to remain organized and do a lot of literature review in an effort to explain what the research we did was showing and why it was important. It helped teach me the whole process that is involved within research and how it is not all just data collection and analysis. There is a lot that goes into any type of research and being a part of that process is really eye-opening in my opinion and from my personal experience.


Probably the biggest impact from my STEP Project that led to my transformation would have to be through the relationships that I made. I got to meet amazing people in all levels of learning, from Dr. Schmidt as a faculty member to graduate level students to fellow undergraduate students. These relationships helped me shape the way I look at research and made doing the research more fun. They all helped me continue to learn and grow through research.


The changes that I experienced are very valuable for many reasons. I went into this project already thinking that I didn’t see myself doing a lot of research in the future but wanted to experience it and learn from it and that is what I did. At the end of the day, I still want to be a full-time Physical Therapist, but I have much more interest in research now than I ever did before. I am thinking about having a research focus in Physical Therapy school, which is something I never would have seen before. It also will help me in my future career as a Physical Therapist by making me more interested in research and more likely to keep up on all of the new research findings that could impact how I do therapy and work with patients. The whole experience is very directly correlated with what I want to do with my career and led to me being more interested and wanting to at least somewhat stay involved with research and all of the new findings.

Research Experience in Cancer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

I had never saw myself working in a wet lab. When I started looking for labs to work in, I wasn’t sure what exactly I was looking for in doing research. I just knew that I wanted to be able to apply what I’ve learned in my class to apply it in a real-world setting. I also at that point was interested in doing research to improve treatments or find treatments for existing illnesses. I was pretty much interested in anything and everything so I stated reaching out to many professors and researchers in the Columbus area in hopes of entering a lab. The first researcher to get back to me was Dr. Chang who has a lab in the Nationwide Research Institute Center of Cancer and Blood Diseases. I accepted the position as an undergraduate research student. I’ve learned a lot since last year; about myself and about cancer. My project was based on testing a treatment with a drug by the name of Rocaglamide and Didismethylrocaglamide on Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor cells and Benign Meningioma cells.

I started out very clueless about what research entailed. I found quickly that it was what you make of it and it’s a process you must keep improving yourself and continually keep refining your techniques. It’s a process you must always challenge yourself to get better at even if you know a protocol to an experiment step-by step. You have to constantly review and learn from your protocols to get better. I also learned to be patient in that when my experiments would fail, I learned to retrace my steps and find what was wrong. My creativity was tested. In finding what was wrong, I had to think about how I could improve or wen I was lead to a dead end, I had to think about other options I could try. Working in Dr. Chang’s lab, I had to learn to ask questions carefully and be proactive of everything that could go wrong in my own experiments when observing the more senior members do experiments in lab.

At the end of the semester, I had to present at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum. It was honestly very scary. Presenting has never been my strongest area. It makes me nervous because I’m afraid I’ll get something wrong. Presenting at the Denman was overwhelming but definitely a worthwhile experience. I learned about ways I can feel more prepared in presenting. I enjoyed seeing how hard my friends have worked. I also enjoyed sharing about my research because it felt like a long school project that I worked very hard on.

As a student researcher, it was easy for me to get caught up in the menial tasks and the experiments that I did daily. Putting the poster together, I saw the larger picture of what I was doing. I saw that it was important to stay grounded to why I’m doing what I do. To eventually treat patients. I saw this in action as I went to more tumor boards at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I saw how research translated to the clinic with treatment of patients. How research helped characterize and plan treatments for patients. I am continuing to work in my research lab for the rest of my undergraduate career at Ohio State.

Along with introducing me to research, being in the lab has allowed me to narrow down my career goals. I am excited to continue my career in medicine. I want to continue to do research to improve patient outcomes.

STEP Reflection: Senior Thesis

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP Signature Project entailed working towards completion of my senior thesis. The thesis was focused on investigating behavioral preferences in children ages 9-10 and comparing these trends with household factors. This was an independent study that used both original experimental and survey data that were studied through regression analysis..

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

One major thing that I learned in this project was that a PhD in economics is not my next step. Although I love behavioral research and discovering why people make the decisions that they do, I would like to have more of an impact in my career that I don’t feel research alone will provide. For this reason, I would like to pursue social science research in a non-profit or civil service setting where my findings and results could be used to reconstruct benefit systems or organizations that directly assist marginalized citizens.

I also began to recognize more deeply how the conditions we grow in are direct factors of the path we take in life. This has made me more passionate about revitalizing our school systems such that children have individualized attention and adequate nutrition. For this reason, I would like to pursue involvement in local or state public policy or office within the next ten years.

3. 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

Conducting research with human subjects can be pedantic due to the regulations set by the Institutional Review Board. Research with children is particularly tricky because they are considered “at-risk”. To participate in the study, the children’s parents had several forms to fill out. While a majority of the parents in wealthier school districts had a good turnout for signed forms, the lesser resourced schools were far more scarce. This led me to think about what representation these children have to access resources. If their parents are either unable or unwilling to sign a form for a small study, could there be necessities or other programs these children do not have access to? This is something that I care deeply about and would like to ensure is rectified.

Furthermore, the results of my study also had an impact. While I found little evidence of differences between cohorts for risk or social preferences, I did find that motivations to increase payoff in games were statistically significant with mother’s education. In the study, I used mother’s education as a proxy for household income and general socioeconomic status, as it correlated significantly with other socioeconomic variables. So this finding generally suggests that affluent children in the fourth grade are generally more concerned with increasing payoff than their peers. These results really made me think about the prominence of financial wellness as a matter of urgency. Are children from wealthier families genetically predisposed to think about payoffs or did they learn this from their parents. I believe the true way to investigate this is by researching younger children.

The results of my study also played a major role because they made me discover that while I like research, there was little I contributed to actually solving the issues in question. It made me realize how young  I truly am and how many years I have left to make real change in this world. This paper will not be published in a major economic journal, but very few, if any, undergraduates do have that opportunity. The planning and motivations of this project allowed me to see my potential, while the results left me wanting to redirect those efforts in the future.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

As previously mentioned, this experience was one of the greatest factors in redefining  my career goals. While throughout my undergraduate career I wanted to pursue a PhD in Economics, I now want to shift my focus to law and civil service. I want to make a change and contribute to society in the six years that would otherwise be spent taking classes and doing narrow research. I am now taking steps to develop a platform and gain experience in other ways.

In August of 2018, I will begin a Master’s in Applied Mathematics at Ohio University. During that time, I will be preparing myself physically and academically for an application to become and Air Force officer. As a commissioned officer, I would like to begin as a behavioral or analytical scientist with a focus on promoting efficiency and benefits to other airmen. After serving for a few years, my next step would be applying to become a Judge Advocate General with a focus on international law. I feel that in this path I can serve the people that have allowed me to develop, while also honing my skills to better prepare for my time after the Air Force. However, I never would have realized this if not for the time I took to complete my thesis and the resources the STEP Program provided that allowed me to do so.

STEP Reflection

I worked under Dr. Guatelli-Steinberg and Dr. John Hunter in Newark and Columbus on dental anthropology research. Under their guidance, I gained the experience of what a career in research might include.
While completing my STEP project, I realized the career path I was on was incorrect. I enjoyed the process of researching so much more than the many hundred hours I spent shadowing dentists.
What led to my change of heart cannot all be linked to my STEP project; however, it was during the time I spent completing it when it occurred. In combination with my dental school application, shadowing, working, and volunteering I made this realization. In all honesty, the sheer overwhelming amount of time that I spent organizing activities into my daily life made it very difficult for me to find the time to actually reflect on why I was doing the things I was doing. I questioned why I enjoyed my time spent researching when the time I spent shadowing should have been supreme as it was my ultimate career goal.
This change is very relevant to me because it has shaped my life path whether it be in the sense of career, family, and otherwise. Choosing to spend all of my time relative to the dreams I have is an incredibly important ideology that can be easily forgotten. Though dreams require a great deal of hard work, I don’t ever plan to find myself lost in the grunt work wandering why I am where I am.

STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection Prompts


Name: Nicholas Craven

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research


  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP project involved conducting research in Dr. Wood’s protein lab. Different techniques that I frequently utilized were buffer creation, cell culturing, and protein expression.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

I think I learned the most about myself in a professional sense. I learned that I really love the flexibility working in a lab entails. Also I found that problem solving skills are by the most important because a lot of working on your own project is figuring out what you think is best with little guidance. And a good educated guess saves a lot of time then wild guesses. I also learned the difficulties that I’m going to face while doing research, and how I’m going to have to overcome those to be an effective researcher. For instance, preparation is incredibly important because otherwise it can be very easy to not stick to a schedule and that makes the project tend to drag out much longer than intended. Finally, I also learned the importance of organization. With so much going on at once, being incredibly organized is crucial so you can quickly get the information you need to continue to make effective progress.

  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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

I think I learned the most by tackling this project alone. While working more directly with a graduate researcher like I have in the past, you always have someone else to make the final decision on important problems. Without someone like that, I was forced to face the issues myself and use all of the resources available to me to come up with what I thought was a manageable solution.

Also, talking a lot with the other people in the lab was very helpful. Seeing different methods people employed in their research gave me a lot of good ideas for how I would approach my own work. I also got to learn about others projects and what parts of graduate school I should be looking forwards to and which parts I need to more heavily prepare for.

One of my biggest concerns in the coming future is finding which graduate school that would be the best fit for me. Because of this, having lots of people around who had already gone through that experience was very helpful. I learned about what to look for in schools that would be a good fit, as well as all the different fields that are available to do research in in my field.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

Academically, this transformation and learning has significantly helped me feel more prepared for the coming graduate school experience. I have always known that I wanted to move on to it, but until this project didn’t know fully what that would entail. Being around so many people to look up to and learn from was very impactful on my upcoming decisions and hopefully will lead to me making the best decision possible. Armed with this information I hope will significantly impact my future success in research.