Standing Up

I entered the Undergraduate Research Office’s Fall Research Festival in the category of Images of Research + Arts. After not hearing back, I reached out again to find out that I had won, but because they didn’t receive more submissions they decided not to extend recognition or include this category. I understood the decision, but something didn’t sit right with me so after some soul searching, I sent an email explaining my perception as a student.

I have spent my 4 years at Ohio State trying to integrate my passion for science with artistic talent. I am driven by the belief that the visualization of scientific concepts and processes through art makes the field accessible to the public. Science should be made approachable and open access so to touch more minds and perspectives. That is why this category has always had a special place in my heart. Skipping this semester sends the message that the arts are not important and hard work, amid a pandemic nonetheless, does not pay off.

I dreamed of being involved in research to such an extent that I could enter this competition my senior year, and I achieved that goal. Instead of pursuing other categories I wanted to continue to be a proponent for the combination of the arts and research. Pushing this boundary in a time where the arts and creative endeavor still feels undervalued. If nothing else, I am proud of myself for standing up for what I believe in.

Thankful Reflections

There’s a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. While sitting at home with family around the fire, I had the chance to reflect upon the great memories I’ve made during my time as an undergrad. I’m so glad that I took every wild chance and adventure that came my way while I could. In writing my responses for the Honors & Scholars student spotlight [link] I felt so much pride in the variety of areas Columbus exposed me to. Filling out all these graduation surveys and reflections has helped me practice gratitude amid a senior year that’s looked anything but what I’d anticipated. COVID-19 has impacted my plans, but the Career Accelerator Fund helped more than I could’ve imagined in providing financial stability. Here too I was able to share my story so to help the next generation of students similarly pursue their goals.

STEP Project: Research Intern

This summer and fall I had the transformational opportunity to work virtually as a Research Intern with the Driving Simulation Lab where I led a large-scale joint literature review project for a team from Honda. This entailed gathering sources, summarizing information, organizing a team of students, and giving a final Power Point presentation related to autonomous driving.

This project enhanced the development of my leadership style and confidence as I was given a lot of flexibility, discretion, and responsibility within my team. Working remotely to accomplish this provided a new set of challenges that led to a deeper understanding of my own work style and ability to generate actionable solutions. These two qualities intersected in my learning of how to manage a large project through virtual means, a skill that will likely only continue to grow in necessity within the workplace. In adapting to an online world, I changed my wellness and working routines. I found that I need to create structure in my day, lean upon support networks, and take a conscientious approach to fitness.

This time transformed how I thought about myself, mental health, and social responsibility as well. In direct relation to my internship, I made sure to check in with teammates and see how I could better support them. It also appeared as a component of my STEP experience as I budgeted for my own apartment and living expenses during these challenging times. Work-life balance looked very different too. I am glad I addressed that issue so to know how to address these situations in the future. Thus, my internship touched all aspects of my life.

Giving the final project report to the team at Honda boosted my confidence. Receiving positive reviews and good constructive feedback was meaningful. In a lab that rarely gives students the lead on industry projects, I was able to prove to myself that I could succeed in such a capacity. I faced threats to the timeline by streamlining and delegating tasks, adding a directive dimension to my leadership style.

Although work needed to be conducted remotely, I was able to form meaningful bonds with my advisors. Dr. Kerwin and Mr. Wrabel were phenomenal role models for work ethic and personal character. They encouraged my taking an active leadership role in the lab and asking questions. This supported both my learning and my mental health as I was able to voice concerns I had about being a young adult in these tumultuous times. In turn, I also received their tips on conducting business online, such as practicing new software.

Part of our lab’s culture was to hold full team meetings at least once a week. It is here that some of my assumptions about the field were changed. For instance, I learned not to shy away from male-dominated spaces or fields. I also changed my assumptions about the automotive industry and what that research looks like. For instance, I came to see that research can encompass many forms, from literature reviews to in-person studies. In these meetings we could share what went good or bad, discuss ideas for improvement, ask for help, or read articles to talk about methodology. Often times tasks were directed at student improvement and learning as well. Thus, I came to see productivity as output and self-enhancement.

My time with the Driving Simulation Lab has made positive, significant impacts on my career outlook, view of myself, and professional relationships. I am confident that I will be noticing the benefits for years to come. First, I determined that I would like to continue working in the research industry. Second, I gained automotive industry specific knowledge. Third, through my internship I met some amazing people and made great connections. I was able to network with professionals from Honda and formed close ties with my supervisors that will provide life-long mentors and letters of recommendation.

The friendships I forged with my fellow interns have made a positive impact on my life as well. These people, through the supportive, egalitarian, and encouraging environment they created, helped me gain full confidence in my managerial capabilities. They highlighted my strengths, and we supported each other’s improvement upon our weaknesses. We adapted to the changes the pandemic brought to our work experience and I learned to be flexible in overcome project setbacks. These skills will be invaluable to my personal and professional life.

Time Spent Home

What do I do for fun? Walk my cat!

In all seriousness, I had a really nice, restorative weekend at home. When I went off to college I was determined to stay active in my brother’s life. This weekend I supported him in his faith -and musical- journey.

 

More than Music

“I will forever be grateful”

This week I’ve been reflecting on the role of music in my life. At the end of my high school experience I wrote, “Much of my character I owe to music, which began as a fun hobby and grew to encompass more than instruments, notes, and rhythms. The band program has provided me with countless opportunities that have shaped my life from lifelong friendships to extra performance and community service events. I will forever be grateful.”

This sentiment has held true as I still have the friendships forged in countless hours of rehearsal, sweating under the sun, sleeping on a bus, and am as grateful as ever for it. Music taught me grit and perseverance. In preparing music for competitions I learned to break down a goal into smaller subsections, be patient in playing the same line over and over, self-monitor as I practiced for an event three months into the future, and control over performance anxiety as I stepped onto stage in front of an audience and judges. Sometimes the emotional expression that comes with pouring your heart into a piece was reward itself.

However, music was certainly not all work and no play. I smile thinking of goofy games in the bleachers, throwing soap suds at a fundraising car wash, or running around Disney & Universal on a performance trip. In my time at OSU I joined the Collegiate Winds and Buckeye Flutes. Even though I did not choose to pursue music as a career, I hope to keep playing on the side, whether that be in a community band or at religious services.

A Moment Of Magic

It’s hard to believe this photo was taken nearly 3 years ago today. (Yes, princesses eat hotdogs too, but only after the event has ended.) It all began freshman year when a girl in my hallway said, “hey I’m going to a club meeting, wanna come with?” I asked what it was and she said A Moment of Magic, to which I replied, “I don’t know anything about magic, but sure.” I still laugh at this interaction. This student organization isn’t about card tricks; they create a magical atmosphere where children with medical conditions aren’t defined by them.

Bringing some added joy to the kids who believe their icons have just visited them, this group seeks to spark happiness. However, what goes on beyond the costumes, wigs, and makeup is hours of training so that both characters and supportive staff (like myself as a ‘magic maker’ and photographer) are prepared to answer tough questions, interact with families in a sensitive manor, and give event support. I was a part of getting the new OSU chapter of AMOM off the ground for my first two years of college. After this experience, I went on to participate in BuckeyeThon so to fundraise. As a psychology major, I believe in the power of psychosocial services. Positive emotions can facilitate the healing process on so many levels.

 

https://www.amomentofmagic.org/

OSU Bucket List

As a freshman, I made it my personal mission to explore campus. New to OSU, I was still making friends and quickly learned sometimes I’d just have to be comfortable making plans with myself. Thus, between classes to clear my mind I’d visit every cool spot, museum, hidden gem, garden, gallery, and art piece I could find. Having ventured into most academic building at least once, I discovered a lot of interesting views and study spaces I’d never heard about before.

It is now my senior year, and I had just a few more items to cross off my list. So, on a fall day that was just too beautiful to be inside, I met my goal!

Virtual Event Engagement

One benefit to the increased use of virtual mediums is that a wider range of events and hosts are available to meet with and learn from. I’ve been taking advantage of such opportunities by attending a wide range of sessions from those designed to learn more about a company or personal branding to a conference on neuroimaging by NINDS. You never know what special moments may arise when you take the time to enter new circles.

For example, at a casual chat with an alumni working at Syneos Health today, I was challenged to think of what the experience I give others is (my brand). Just then, a higher-up at my former job answered, “engaged!” He told of how I was present, listening, and participating at many Career Success events and always looking to self-improve. In the midst of a stressful week, this gave me the inspiration I needed to hear. Self-doubt can be our own worst enemy, and while being humble is important, this simple reminder that I am still trying lifted my perspective.

A – Academic Enrichment

Nature? Nurture? Both

Neurosexism as the New Sexism

This semester I am in two classes that are both currently discussing gender differences and sexual differentiation. In my Psychology of Gender course, I have been reading about the ways in which gender differences disappear when a study accounts for things such as priming. The message is that even unconscious attitudes lead to differential treatment which in turn shapes our reality. In my Hormones & Behavior neuroscience course, we have been talking about the organizational and activational effects of androgrens and estrogens. The takeaway has been that males and females are biologically fundamentally different in some way. For example, in one I learned about how differences in mental rotation task performance depends on testosterone and in the other that these differences disappear when you don’t frame it as a gendered task. By checking a box for geographic region instead of gender, a different identity was primed and men and women performed similarly.

Curious about these discrepancies, I attended office hours with both professors to gain their perspective on the matter. The lesson that was reinforced from this experience for me is to be critical of every finding as nobody is without bias. If you go looking for gender differences, you will find them. If you go looking for no gender differences, you won’t find them. Part of the issue is publication bias in which science is biased towards positive results and less interested in null findings. It’s less interesting to say, “Aha! We found nothing!” than, “Look, there’s this small but significant difference in the hippocampal volume that correlates to a difference!” However, that is certainly not to say that objective variations do exist. It is a fact to say men and women behave differently, but it is wrong to assume that it is entirely due to nature or nurture.

A rule of thumb when dealing with people is, if the answer seems simple, it’s probably not the whole story. A fascinating body of work has come to show that the way baby boys and girls are treated differs very early on, even before birth. So, when reading a finding, don’t forget to ask yourself, “okay, this exists, but why?”

My Mentor

When I signed up for the Match 100 program, which matches OSU alumni volunteers with student applicants (two years ago!) I had high hopes, but wouldn’t have expected my pairing to be so fruitful. I participated in this program for the duration of my junior year, and while my assigned mentor may not have appeared compatible on paper, she has been a blessing in my life.

My mentor earned her PhD in chemistry from Ohio State. I am a psychology student, also interested in research, but in a very different field. I wondered, how will this work? It turns out, the type of mentorship I needed was not industry insights but career navigation and confidence building. She was just the woman for the job. Together, we found joint interests and topics, and have since continued to meet up once a month.

While I thank her often, to express my gratitude at the official end of the program, I mailed her a letter and art piece (dog and plant themed of course). She was so touched she wrote back about how I changed her perspective of the program (her previous mentee wasn’t as engaged). I really do think I’ve made a lifelong friend. (Pics from our latest impromptu visit at the Chadwick Arboretum.)

Follow up: Over the summer I was contacted by the head of the Match 100 program to see if I would be willing to be a part of an informal video interview to share my experience and give tips for success to this year’s group of mentees! It was really nice to give back and I think when I become established in my career I will sign up to be a mentor myself.