I think it’s hard to appreciate what you are given when you wish upon what it could have been. This whole summer, I thought about how I could be visiting family in California, doing research at Johns Hopkins University, attending a research conference at the National Cancer Institute, and hanging out with my friends without worrying about contracting a life-threatening disease. I suppose, like many things in life, the experience that I imagined for myself is not reality. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the people and programs who have granted me the best summer experience that could have happened given the circumstances.
By mid-March, I had received rejection emails from almost all the summer programs I applied to. For the three months that I only received emails that began with “Thank you for your application, but…”, my usual upbeat attitude began to diminish as I settled with the fact that I would be spending my summer at home. As a participant in Ohio State’s Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP), I was given funding to complete research at any summer program I could get accepted to.
With my lack of luck at the time, I decided to use the funding for my current research with the James Cancer Hospital. I would also spend my time as a General Chemistry Lab TA. After an initial rejection from one of the programs, a virtual alternative was provided in which I was accepted. The program was hosted by NCI Systems Biology and Physical Oncology Summer Undergraduate Research Program where I would join 24 other undergraduates in research across the country and was able to transfer my STEP funding to this program.
I worked on reconstructing venous invasion in pancreatic cancer using a 3D imaging method called CODA in MATLAB at Johns Hopkins University. This was the first time I ever used MATLAB and I can confidently say that it was fun to learn, but not something I see myself studying in the future. I’ll have a separate post about my research here. With the help of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, I also participated in The Leadership Alliance’s Virtual Professional Development program which helped prepare and recruit students for graduate school.
While I worked at JHU, other fellows were doing research around the nation. Towards the middle of the 10-week internship, we had a virtual conference–some of the best 2 days of my summer. We got to learn more about the other students, hear from patient advocates, and share our research during an interactive poster session. Throughout the summer, we also met twice a week to learn the programming language, R, and incorporate genomic data to identify genes that impact metastatic breast cancer.
Bioinformatics was not new to me. In fact, my research at Ohio State uses bioinformatics to better understand sarcoma cancer. I work on the “bio” portion of bioinformatics and have been in the long process of developing palbociclib-resistant dedifferentiated liposarcoma (DDLPS). I’ll have more information here.
My summer was more than teaching and research, thankfully. I spent a weekend at my final National Association of College and University Residence Halls (NACURH) conference as Ohio State’s Residence Halls Advisory Council (RHAC) Director of Programming. Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) at Ohio State also began planning our schedule for the school year. As the Director of Marketing, I am working on creating social media posts–a great way to relax and focus on creative activities. I celebrated my brother’s high school graduation as he plans on attending Columbus College of Art & Design for animation, my family and friend’s high school graduations, and summer birthdays. Camp Kesem was also held virtually, but we got to meet some campers in person before Kesem at Home began.
Looking forward, I cannot wait to move back into the Residence Halls. There’s something comforting about having a living space that is 100% yours. All of my classes are in-person and I am hoping that we can safely stay that way. As for my research, the review paper I wrote last summer is in the process of being published and I will be presenting my findings at research conferences and as my senior thesis. My applications for graduate school (for Cancer Biology programs) will also be sent out next semester as I gain the courage to press “Submit” *cross our fingers*.
Updated 8/11/2021: Remember how I wished I could go on vacation? Well, I did. I traveled to Washington, D.C., and got to see a few museums and the National Zoo and, most importantly, relax. It was a solid 3 days where I didn’t think about work or school or my internship, and it was 110% necessary.