Thanks to STEP, I was able to find housing during the summer at OSU so I could perform research. The main project I have been doing has been being a member of OhioMOD, an undergraduate biomolecular research team. It is part of BIOMOD, a competition that is held every year near the beginning of November in Boston, sponsored by the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. Our project began in March with brainstorming how we could use DNA Origami as a practical application. We had to switch our ideas around a few times before settling in on a final goal, although we all knew near the beginning of the project that we wanted to use DNA Origami to help suppress cancer levels.
More specifically, we ended up using DNA Origami to upregulate a tumor suppressor protein (PTEN), which aids in programmed cell death to cancer cells. This project involves designing, fabricating, characterizing the DNA nanodevice, and characterizing cellular uptake and cytotoxicity using fluorescence imaging. First, short, single strands of DNA called staples are mixed with a circular piece of single-stranded DNA, the scaffold, to create three-dimensional shapes via complementary base pairing. These structures, once purified using gel electrophoresis methods, are incubated with cells to see how well they work with eliminating cancer.
Being an integral part of OhioMOD has opened a unique door for an undergraduate like me to explore the world of independent research with the aid of graduate/post-graduate faculty and state-of-the-art supplies. I have grown not only in my knowledge of how to operate certain tools and perform lab techniques, but also in my ability to lead myself and others. For instance, I often get to take initiative when discussing certain aspects of the project, such as creating ideas and establishing deadlines. I feel more comfortable when interacting with faculty, which is important when considering what kinds of general communication skills I will need for potential employers and co-workers in the future. Furthermore, I’m also aware of the importance of dedication to the lab and how to manage time when working on other parts of the project, such as fundraising, posters, the video, and writing. In other words, I’ve learned that, while being able to actually do the research is an obviously essential aspect of the research world, being proficient in other disciplines can be crucial for success. Lastly, I also believe that I have a much better understanding of how nanotechnology works and why it is important for modern application.
Some of the most important qualities that I’ve gained from this group are the ability to take action, to speak with confidence, to be more secure about my thoughts and ideas, to be ready to fail, and to be ready to succeed. I think that I still need to work on overall communication skills, such as when preparing a presentation, but I definitely feel as though I have had a true “taste” of the research world that being in a normal class/lecture would not be able to offer. OhioMOD has definitely improved my ability to work well with others and to handle criticism in a positive light. For instance, there were, and still are, several instances when I would be doing something wrong and then a grad student would point out my mistake. If I ever get the chance, which hopefully I will, to help lead a research project, I have OhioMOD to thank for my thought processes and approaches to the detailed technicalities at hand.