Undergraduate Research at Speech Development Lab


Through STEP I was able to get involved in Dr. NIttrouer’s Speech Development Lab located at the OSU Eye and Ear Institute. Dr. Nittrouer studies the effects of hearing loss on child language development. I began training to be a tester last winter, which required learning specific language tests that assessed speech intelligibility, reading abilities, expressive language skills, and auditory comprehension of language. Testing then began in the summer, and I was responsible for running these tests in the booth with each child. This summer, the lab brought in forty-eight normal hearing children and fifty children with hearing loss. I used my STEP money to pay my rent during the summer so that I was able to stay in Columbus and work in the lab.

So What?

When I first decided to use my STEP money for research, I was just planning to use it as a resume builder for graduate school. I expected to be a lowly research assistant, and I wasn’t anticipating much hands-on involvement in the project. Once I got there and found out that I would be in the booth with the children, I was ecstatic. I was able to participate directly in data collection, and I learned how to interact with children with hearing loss. I had never met anyone with a cochlear implant before, and clients with hearing loss are a large population in my field. I had never considered working with this population, but now I am considering making this my focus. I had always assumed that deaf children were socially isolated because of their communication difficulties. However as I began playing with the children in the playroom, I discovered that they’re just like any typical fun-loving fourth grader. Also their speech was much better than I had previously given them credit for. The modern technology is absolutely amazing, and I found that I had completely underestimated the impact that a cochlear implant can have on a profoundly deaf child. I would love to work with children with hearing loss in the future.

Now What?

When I began the project, I thought that it would only be a temporary position for the summer. However, this opportunity lead to a year-round position. I am still working at the lab as a “scorer,” and my responsibilities include watching the videos collected over the summer and organizing the data. This has increased my involvement and interest in the project. As I’m learning more about the research process, I have started to consider furthering my education and getting a PhD in addition to my clinical license.  To further explore this option, I have decided to do an honors thesis next year. This personal growth can be directly attributed to my experience in the Speech Development Lab, which was made possible by the STEP money.


STEP Undergraduate Research Experience Relfection

What? I spent this summer working on a research project in a natural products lab in The Ohio State College of Pharmacy.  I spent the summer working on the synthesis of several pyrrole alkaloids found in Goji Berries. Some Goji berry extracts have shown potential cancer chemopreventive activity when tested in vitro.  While these compounds have varying activity profiles, it is unclear what causes one compound to be more or less active than others.  Several pyrrole alkaloids isolated from Goji berries have never been stereochemically described

The primary goal of my STEP Undergraduate Research Project was to synthesize several pyrrole alkaloids in order to stereochemically interrogate each compound. In addition, the second aim was to develop a method for synthesizing analogues of these pyrrole alkaloids in order to study the relationship between structure and quinone reductase induction activity when tested in vitro.

In order to synthesize the desired pyrrole alkaloid, I used 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural as the starting material.  The starting material was first protected with tetrahydropyran (THP).  The aldehyde was reduced to a primary alcohol and protected with tert-butyldiphenylsilane (TBDPS). The di-protected furan was oxidized to a 2,3-unsaturated 1,4-diketone compound with MCPBA, and then converted to a saturated 1,4-diketone compound via a zinc reduction.  Two methods for Paal-Knorr pyrrole synthesis were used, separately, to couple methyl-protected d-alanine with. The first method involved the use of catalytic amounts of iodine, and the second involved reflux conditions with acetic acid. NMR data collected suggested that both attempts were unsuccessful.

I now believe that the synthesis of the desired pyrrole compound is being prevented by steric issues.  The TBDPS protecting group was chosen because of its UV activity; however, it is a bulky protecting group and is likely preventing the diketone compound from cyclizing to a pyrrole.  Triethylsilane (TES) is another silyl ether protecting group that, though more labile than TBDPS, is much less bulky.  The use of TES instead of TBDPS may eliminate the steric issues that are theoretically preventing the formation of the pyrrole.

 The long term impact of this work is to potentially lead to the development of new drugs or dietary supplements that prevent or treat various types of cancer. Upon successful synthesis of the desired pyrrole alkaloid following typical removal of protecting groups and one oxidation step, the biological activity and optical rotation of the compound will be compared with the previously isolated compound.  Additionally, the same method will be used for the synthesis of other pyrrole alkaloids isolated from Goji berry extracts, and analogues of these compounds, in order to study their configuration and structure-activity relationships.

So What? I learned a great deal from my STEP experience.  Each day I came into lab in the morning and worked until dinner. At the beginning of the summer it was very overwhelming to come into my lab and have 8 hours of work to complete.  It was a big adjustment to being working independently on a project because I had previously been working on a different project with one of the graduate students in my lab.

During the summer, there were several weeks where some of the graduate students were away at conferences.  This made it harder to ask questions about things that may have gone wrong with my project or about what to do next.  Because of this, I became more independent at solving problems.  I familiarized myself with the resources necessary to answer many of my questions by myself.

Now What? The experience I had with my STEP Undergraduate Research project has and will continue to affect many aspects of my life.  Academically,  I have a much better understanding of the chemistry.  This summer I learned many things that I would not have had the opportunity to learn in a classroom.  I also put to practice many of the concepts I had learned in classes. In general, this experience gave meaning to many of the things I had learned and will learn in my chemistry classes.

This experience affected some of my personal goals as well. One goal that I had set for myself was to present my research at a poster forum.  Because of the work I completed during the summer, I was able to present my research at the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum and I plan on presenting at the Denman Forum as well.  Another goal I have set for myself is to publish my work in a journal.  As I continue to do further research on my project, I will hopefully be able to publish my findings in one (or several) journals.

Ocular Biomechanics Research


The biomechanical properties of the posterior sclera are thought to be important in glaucoma susceptibility. Assessment of the posterior sclera biomechanics is currently unavailable In vivo but methods are being developed to characterize the biomechanical properties of the anterior portion of the eye. The objective of this study was to characterize the regional dynamic viscoelastic properties of porcine sclera to examine possible correlation between anterior and posterior sclera. Scleral strips were excised from the temporal region of the anterior and posterior portions of 16 porcine eyes. The scleral strips were tested in a humidity chamber at approximately 35° C. A cyclic strain was applied to the strips and the cyclic stress output was recorded. A ramp test was then conducted. The complex modulus of the anterior and posterior scleral were 2.2±1.7 and 0.5±0.5 MPa, the secant modulus at 1% were 1.63±1.46 and 0.48±0.36 MPa, and the dynamic viscosity were 0.06±0.04 and 0.01±0.03, respectively. However, a correlation between the anterior and posterior sclera has not been established. The anterior porcine sclera appeared to be stiffer than the posterior sclera, which was consistent with previous findings. The relationship between sclera collagen content and biomechanical properties will be investigated in future studies.

So What? 

Throughout this experience, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and was challenged to develop skills to be a good researcher. I lost my fear to ask questions, developed careful, rigorous, and algorithmic thinking from conducting experiments, and regained my wonder for how complicated the world is. In addition, I learned that though research is incredibly important to conduct the knowledge of the human race, it is not something that I would prefer to make a career out of conducting research.

Now What? 

This opportunity has given me an experience that has shaped how I view the academic world. Conducting research has opened my mind to the complexity of the world and how to go about solving problems that there is truly no answer in a textbook or in the literature.

Academically, I am now more motivated to learn relevant material and soak up as much knowledge as I can so I am better able to design experiments that are effective and insightful with respect to the data gathered. Personally, I still have the same goals of being a physician; however, I am now equipped with a better understanding of how clinical questions and the advancement of patient care is advanced through the frontlines of research. I still have the same life goal of becoming a physician to help people live healthy lives; however, now I have more passion and desire as a result of understanding how the clinical knowledge is advanced through research.






STEP Summer Research


In March, I met with my research mentor, Dr. Bloomston, who is a surgical oncologist at the Wexner Medical Center.  We decided that my project would focus on a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.  Specifically, I would look at the development of this disease in patients who underwent a surgery known as the Whipple procedure (formally known as pancreaticoduodenectomy). First, I did a lot of reading to familiarize myself with NAFLD and the surgery.  I reviewed as many papers as I could find that were similar to what my project focused on.  Then I compiled a spreadsheet of all the data I wanted to collect and received a list of patients whose charts I would review.  I accessed the patients’ charts while working in the office for fellows the surgical oncology fellowship.  At first I collected mostly demographic data and would make a note if a patient met any of the exclusion criteria (such as Hepatitis B/C, or alcoholism).  While some charts very clearly showed the data I was looking for, other charts were not as simple.  Many times I had to comb through several physician’s notes to find what I was looking for.  Also, part of my study included taking values from CT scans that patients had before and after their surgery.  Finally, I collected lab values from before and after surgery.  While I only had fully completed data on 27 patients in time for the STEP Expo, I’m continuing to work on this project and hope to have data on at least 100 patients completed by the winter.

So What?

This is my second chart review-based project I have worked on – the first I completed when I was senior in high school (also done with Dr. Bloomston as my mentor).   I think with a few more years of college level science (biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, etc.) under my belt, my understanding of and appreciation of surgical and medical oncology has grown tremendously.  Not only have I learned more about the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, I’ve also gained valuable insight into the career as a physician.  To some, combing through a patient’s medical record could seem boring or tedious.  Perhaps thinking, “I’ve never met this person… what does this matter to me?” But I was so fascinated with each chart I read.  To me, each chart told a story.  Not necessarily the patient’s personal story (aside from a brief mention of their spouse or career) but a medical story – the progression and battle against their disease, which more often than not, was pancreatic cancer.  After diagnosis and an initial clinical visit, surgeons would make their assessment and plan the surgery.  In the weeks following the operation, the charts showed the patients recovering, in some cases a very long and difficult process, sometimes with complications.  Some ended on a good note, some charts ended very abruptly, noting a phone call with a spouse delivering the news of the patients passing.  Each patient had a different story of his or her disease, each inspiring to read.  But in addition, I had a clear view into the mind of the doctor.  What their impressions were upon examination, and after an operation.  I learned what doctors pay attention to, what they think during an exam, and what their thought are afterwards.  It was so intriguing to have a small window into the mind of someone who has years of medical knowledge.  It gives me something to strive towards and strengthens my determination to pursue a career in medicine.

Now What?

One thing that really interested me as a result of this project was variety of chemotherapy drugs that were used after surgery to help kill the rest of the cancer if it was particularly aggressive or metastasizing.  I found myself looking up different drugs on the internet, looking and their structures and molecular mechanisms of action.  I’m sure that my interest stems somewhat from what I’ve learned classes like organic or biochemistry.  In fact, I decided to pursue research like this further – I’m now working in a cancer research lab at the biomedical research tower, looking at cell signaling between tumor cells and the surrounding environment.  I haven’t made any definitive decisions about what I plan to do after I graduate, but I think I’d be very happy doing translation research, work that starts in the laboratory and is eventually applied to patient health.  I would love nothing more than being able to treat patients based on basic science research that I could also do.  There are physician-scientist training programs that offer this, but I’ve got plenty of time to decide.  For now, I plan on continuing my work and learning as much as I can.

STEP Research Experience: Tobacco Policy

What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

For my STEP experience, I participated in a research internship with the Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERT) in OSU’s College of Public Health. During the 12-week internship, I contributed to CERT’s overall research, conducted my own research project and participated in various other activities.

CERT is conducting various tobacco research projects to determine how to best protect the public from the harms of tobacco. One aspect of the research is determine how tobacco products are advertised. I contributed to CERT’s research by examining tobacco marketing and advertisement in retail stores in Columbus and six Ohio Appalachian counties.

I also conducted my own independent research project this summer. With the help of my mentor, I conducted a literature review on e-cigarettes. I came up with a research prompt to look at the presence, content and visibility of e-cigarette warning labels on social media sites and retail websites. I collected the data by coding for 26 warnings on 41 different websites. I then analyzed the data and came up with the implications of the findings. I wrote a paper, and presented my research in both a poster and a powerpoint.

Along with these two main experiences, there were various other activities I participated in during the summer. The other interns and I read two books this summer, Flight Behavior, and Cigarette a Century and watched the documentary, Unnatural Causes. This documentary teaches about health disparities. Each week we would have a discussion about the books and movies and had computer lab where we learned how to use STATA. In addition, we had a tobacco regulatory science seminar, attended SURI events, and met with many Public Health professors and learned about various aspects of the Public Health field.

So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

This STEP experience, has been a quintessential experience in my personal growth. This internship enabled me to explore my interest, in both health disparities and policy. I greatly enjoyed learning about health disparities and learning how public health initiatives, including tobacco policy, could lessen these disparities. In this way, my interest in social justice issues was reconfirmed.

Additionally, my interest in policy was greatly expanded due to this internship. I worked closely with my mentor who works on tobacco policy as well as learned generally about public health policy. Through these opportunities, I gained a sense of the large impact policy has on American lives. I saw how public health issues have been addressed through policy in the past and how it could be used to save and better countless lives. I was also able to learn more about the process in which policy is created and implemented. The potential of policy to make a tangible and good difference in American lives really inspires me.

Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

My STEP experience will have a large influence on my future. Due to this experience, I know I enjoy research. Consequently, I will be continue to work with my mentor from the summer to pursue a research thesis at Ohio State. Moreover, I have gained a new perspective on my long term future. I am now considering law school as it would give me a good basis to work with policy.

Hospital Design Research: Summer 2014



For my STEP experience, I participated in undergraduate research. STEP covered my cost of living for the summer, as I am an out-of-state student.  I began working with my PI, Dr. Emily Patterson, PhD, in October 2013 on a hospital room design project. My aspect of the project involved analyzing transcripts of interviews and focus groups to identify issues with infection control in hospitals. During spring semester, I submitted a preliminary draft to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s Annual Meeting to take place October 27th-31st, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Most of my summer was spent organizing the data I collected into a five page paper and poster to present at the conference if accepted. I worked with the hospital room design project team to combine my ideas and research into a coherent presentation. As a practice run for the HFES Meeting, I presented my poster at the Summer Undergraduate Research Forum in September (pictured above). In addition to the Human Factors paper, I also attended weekly project meetings in which the hospital room design project team began developing their 3-D simulation in order to generate a new layout for future hospital rooms.  The goal was to gather feedback from every stakeholder group who enters the room. A stakeholder group is a group of people who perform a similar task in the room, such as doctors, nurses, and patients. We began constructing a 3-D simulation of an actual hospital room for stakeholder groups to mold to their ideal room. Simulations began running in early August. Finally, I also met weekly with Dr. Patterson in order to establish a solid research plan for the school year. I am now working on an analysis of patient safety and information technology in relation to room design.

So What?

I thoroughly enjoyed my summer research experience. I got to work in close contact with the diverse group of individuals who make up the hospital room design project team and truly gain knowledge from them. I felt that my opinion was valued by the group and that I actually made a contribution, something that I did not expect to come out of my summer research. I worked very hard with the team on the Human Factors paper, and felt extremely accomplished when I was accepted and able to present. The presentation in Chicago was an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only did I get to experience two days in a new city, but I got to make connections in a field that I may be working in one day.

Now What?

Ultimately, my STEP undergraduate research experience has affected my academic, personal, and life goals moving forward. I will be continuing my research throughout the school year, and hopefully complete an honors thesis on my current patient safety and information technology project. I also hope to accept an internship working for a hospital system in the summer in a field related to my research, whether it be patient safety or quality of care. My overarching career goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner, and I think my human factors and patient safety research can definitely be applied. Whether I pursue an additional Masters degree in Human Factors, or just participate in more hospital improvement research, I know that I will be applying what I learned this summer in my future endeavors.

STEP Summer Research


I spent the summer in a sports biomechanics lab at Ohio State. I used my step funds to help defray the cost of my living expenses, as I am an out of state student.

Specifically, my research project involved studying the ideal way to steal a base in baseball. Many different studies have analyzed the sprint start, however, to our knowledge, research on the baseball start is sparse. With the help of my research advisors, I developed an IRB proposal amendment for my base-stealing project. I also read many articles and developed a refined hypothesis of the fastest way.

I also spent time conducting functional performance testing of many Ohio State athletes. This testing gauges an athlete’s performance ability and injury risk. For example, one of the tests we conduct is a single legged hop for distance. High-performing athletes typically jump the farthest (performance measure). Athletes at risk for injury typically demonstrate an asymmetry in the distance accomplished by each leg (injury risk measure). We also run “tertiary” testing of the athletes, which involved using force plates and infrared light reflective markers.

During the summer, I also spent time conducting modified versions of the aforementioned functional performance tests to the Columbus homeless population at the Stowe Mission food pantry. We provided clinical recommendations based on their performance. We also provided contact information for local physical therapists able to take Medicaid/Medicare patients.


My STEP experience was very rewarding. Thanks to STEP, I was able to participate in a cutting-edge research lab. Every day, there was a lot of work to complete. I was in a very large lab, and there were many research projects occurring. We had studies ranging form shock absorbance concussion studies to fMRI signals of the brain in ACL reconstructed individuals. Through being in this environment, I realized that it is very important to find something you are passionate about. Passion should drive my work, if I want to be successful.

My fellow lab mates were very inspirational, and inspired me to help serve those in need. Observing the contrast between Ohio State athletes and the Stowe Mission population was very humbling and eye-opening. I learned how to clinically interact with various populations, and I now realize the importance of this skill in a medical career. I learned that you couldn’t talk to every research subject in the same manner; I couldn’t just read off a script. I needed to determine if the subject was processing the information I was vocalizing, and I needed to adjust my manner of delivery accordingly.


My STEP experience enhanced my undergraduate experience. I learned how to deal with subjects, read scientific papers efficiently, and write scientifically. My STEP experience solidified my academic, personal, and life goals. My summer was incredibly exciting, and retrospectively, I now know why:

1.) I interacted with many different people – including OSU athletes, fellow undergraduate students, doctoral students, the homeless population, and my faculty advisor.

2.) I was immersed in an environment where my work effort directly correlated with my success

3.) I learned a lot about a specific field of research

4.) I used teamwork to help accomplish my goals, and I contributed my work to help accomplish others’ goalsI perceive these 4 traits to be inherent in a physician’s lifestyle. I am excited to continue pursuing my goal of becoming a physician.IMG_0696IMG_0695