For my Campus STEM Seminar, I attended a BioPhysics seminar about the trade-offs in the evolution of antibiotic resistance hosted by Edral Toprak, a Doctorate researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
I attended the seminar alone since it was between two of my classes, but I did see some familiar faces from the STEM Scholars group, so I was not the only undergraduate student there. However, it did seem like a lot of the people at the seminar were older students who I assume were grad students or fourth year students, along with many professors. I did not necessarily feel out of place, but I definitely didn’t feel confident raising my hand to ask a question. The seminar was a lot like a lecture with mostly the speaker doing the talking, filtering through some questions as he went, so there was not much of an opportunity to talk to others (I’m not outgoing enough for that anyway!)
The topic of the seminar and information was definitely way over my head. While the basic structure everyone was familiar with in regards to research, like having various controls and variables, a set process in place, as well as very clear expected results and analysis of data, I think the seminar required a high level of knowledge in order to understand. The speaker simply mentioned names of the different antibiotics and the mutations they created in the experiment, focusing a lot more on the analysis of the results. While that makes sense for the older students and professors in the room who have a foundation for what this kind of research would be, if the speaker were to be in front of a crowd of younger undergrad students, he would definitely need to add more background information in order for the test results to make sense. Despite my confusion, I did learn some things! Antibiotic resistance is an ever-growing threat and has been partially responsible for a percentage of cancer deaths. Additionally, the more mutations in cells correlated higher antibiotic resistance since the fitness of the mutational organisms is decreased.
Since I had never attended any kind of STEM Seminar before, I was not sure what to expect. I’m kind of glad that it was more of a lecture-style seminar because I was a bit more comfortable and less anxious knowing I was not going to be forced to interact with anyone. While this kind of research definitely isn’t exactly what I would expect to find in Industrial Design, there are some correlations. While Physics may only focus on new scientific discoveries to bring about further understanding of current concepts, combining it with Biology in a medical setting it what relates it to Industrial Design. Researching antibiotic resistance will bring about new medical discoveries that will improve treatment methods for people who might have cancer or other medical conditions that require constant medication. This research will improve the lives of people, which is what Industrial Design focuses on since it is about user-centered design and designing things for the benefit of people and their needs.
I think becoming involved in undergraduate research is extremely valuable as it can bring on new opportunities, skills, experiences, and knowledge necessary for all types of jobs and disciplines. While being an active undergraduate student in an academic community will certainly bring merit and many networking possibilities, I don’t think it is the only way to find people and opportunities that align with one’s interest. All in all, I think this was a great glimpse into the world of BioPhysics and STEM Seminars that focus on research. It was not necessarily my cup of tea, but this experience has encouraged me to seek out seminars related to Industrial Design that might expose me to undergraduate research opportunities.