For this STEM Exploration and Engagement assignment, students were to interview upperclassmen in their major, a graduate student or teacher’s assistant, and a professor of a subject in which they are interested. The goal of performing these interviews, for the most part, was to acquire knowledge about how the interviewees found their personal success. Making meaningful connections was also an important part of this assignment because students can now utilize the experiences of their interviewees in the future. For example, students could ask the upperclassmen and graduate students for advice on affective study habits, or get connected with a professor’s research opportunities. I interviewed a second year Biology major, an Ohio State Veterinary student, and my General Chemistry professor. They were helpful in gaining what I needed for this assignment, but they also gave me a good idea of what I need to do to become successful in the field of science.
The interview of an upperclassman in my major of Biology was a simple setup because I attended a Scholars event where there was a panel of upperclassmen answering the questions of students. I did not conduct the interview during the session, but I decided to set up a meeting with Megan Broughton because of her major, and she seemed to be an approachable person who was willing to help out. She is also one of my STEM EE mentors, so this allowed me to ask her questions while completing the scavenger hunt assignment. I chose to interview a Veterinary student, Bradley Dalton, because the field of Veterinary Medicine is heavily science oriented. I also knew him prior to the interview project, which made it easy to get in contact with him and ask more in depth questions about his experience in graduate school. Although my chemistry professor, Dr. Zellmer, is not involved in the type of research I am interested in, it was good to make a connection with a professor in the science field. For his interview, I attended his office hours to ask him questions that had to do with his research experiences. He was very open to this and gave me plenty of great feedback.
From my interview with Megan, a second-year scholar, I learned that she and I have many commonalities and similar goals. We are both from southern Ohio and plan to major in Biology in the hopes of attending medical school. She explained that she has many positive role models in her life who are doctors and are heavily involved in the medical field. Her passion for people and love of science also helped her make this decision, but her most influential class was, surprisingly, Spanish. So much so, that she plans to complete a minor in the Spanish language. Although she is a busy pre-med student, she still enjoys cooking, listening to music, and boating. She feels it is important to have a life and get involved outside of your studies because this is an appealing quality when applying to professional school. Megan said attending involvement fairs and picking up eye-catching posters help her get involved, but she reaches out via e-mail to the professors and organizations she is interested in doing research with. Towards the end of the interview, I asked her how she deals with the difficult people in her life, and she gave me a simple but inspiring answer: “I embrace difficult people. I think every difficult person has a story and I am interested in their story.” This caught my attention because everyone is different, and although someone may not live life the way you do, it does not mean you cannot learn something from their experiences. Megan was a perfect fit for my upperclassman interview and was extremely helpful with her open responses.
The next interview I conducted was with a Veterinary student, Bradley Dalton. He completed his undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech University and is currently a fourth-year vet-student here at Ohio State. I first asked him how he prepared for professional school and he said that the key is to stay focused on the big picture of what you want your career to be. Along with researching professional schools he wanted to attend, he also found the requirements specific to each one. He did this because the requirements to be accepted vary amongst different schools. For example, some vet schools had a preference for which level of Biochemistry course was completed, and some schools required Microbiology alone while others preferred it with a lab. I continued by asking what he as done to excel in the classroom and he answered, “I would study, study, study some more and study again.” He explained that although this aspect of college may seem obvious, he wanted to do whatever he could to get the grades he needed for a competitive application. He said that office hours are a crucial aspect of building relationships with professors as well because this can be difficult at times. He suggested being active in classes because it will make you stand out and getting involved in research can help you build meaningful professional relationships. Finally, Bradley gave me recommendations for getting involved in undergraduate research by simply talking to graduate students or professors to see what projects they may have in progress or planned. He reassured me that there is never a shortage of diverse research opportunities, but you have to seek them out. Bradley was a tremendous help and gave me unique advice that I plan to use. He offered me his assistance with any future endeavors, which was greatly appreciated.
Before interviewing my Chemistry professor, Dr. Zellmer, I found a scholarly article that he co-authored with 2 other researchers called, “Prediction of nonlinear optical effects for phenyl-substituted nickel dithiolenes.” In order to read this article, I had to create an Interlibrary Service account and request the PDF version. Although the language used in this document was clearly above my level of understanding, I read it before conducting the interview. I knew I wanted to interview my Chemistry professor to build a better relationship with him, so I used the Scopus database to find what research projects he has taken part in. A single article came up as result of searching Dr. Zellmer’s name, which is why I have only one citation. I would have liked to find a professor who had more to do with research in the medical field, specifically involving reproduction and fertility. However, searching those terms along with an Ohio State affiliation prompted zero results. It was still a good experience to find a scholarly article written about a project done by my professor and have a semi-educated discussion.
At the beginning of my interview with Dr. Zellmer, I found out that his father was in the Air Force, so they moved many times throughout his childhood. But, they lived the longest in South Carolina and then Dayton, Ohio. He completed his undergraduate degree at Wright State University starting out majoring in Biology, but he switched to Chemistry because he found himself to be more interested in the subject. He spent one year of graduate school at Buffalo, but then he applied to Ohio State’s program and got accepted. When I asked him about the research he used to do, he explained to me that he considers himself a theoretician, which means that he was involved with coming up with and testing different theories within specific subjects. He went on to say that the majority of his work had to do with computational chemistry and using it to predict the way in which molecules will interact. He then assured me that this corresponds with the article I read before the interview. When I asked him how to excel in his classroom, he referred me to a “How to Study” talk he gave at the beginning of the semester. At this session he explained that getting behind is the worse thing students can do, and that we should be spending two to three hours daily studying for his class. He suggests skimming the book before lecture and immediately reading for content after the class. I ended the interview by asking if there was any current news relevant to what he teaches, and he told me that climate change is a chemical problem because the gases being released into the air are destroying the ozone. He said this is a problem because the ozone is what protects us from ultraviolet radiation, which has harmful effects on human flesh. Before the interview, I was nervous to approach Dr. Zellmer because he can be seen as an extremely tough and strict professor. However, now that I have gotten to know him, he will be easier to approach next time.
Overall, the interview project was a little scary because it forced me out of my comfort zone, but I know it will prove to be beneficial to my academic success. I did not previously have much experience in approaching people in a professional manner, so this assignment gave me an idea of what that is like. I gained a plethora of advice from the upperclassman and professional students, and I am glad to have built a better relationship with my Chemistry professor. The purpose of this project was for us to grow as students, and I feel more comfortable with my position as a first-year. I am now aware of what needs to be done to move forward in achieving my goals because I have gained knowledge from students that are where I want to be in the coming years.
Trohalaki, S., Zellmer, R. J., & Pachter, R. (1997). Prediction of nonlinear optical effects for phenyl-substituted nickel dithiolenes. Paper presented at the Materials Research Society Symposium – Proceedings, 479 325-329. Retrieved from www.scopus.com