From May-August of 2014 I spent my time as an undergraduate research assistant in the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies in Dr. David Dean’s lab. The laboratory’s mission focuses on the creation of tissue engineered bone grafts through 3D printing. My work aims to test new methods of pre-vascularizing these bone grafts using a fibrin hydrogel seeded with stem cells, thereby inducing angiogenesis of new vasculature and anastomosis with host vasculature and ideally creating a more functional bone graft. What I really love about the Dean lab is the level of involvement that undergraduates have in their projects. In my projected, I have an active role from start to finish. I search the literature and determine methods, discuss with collaborators across the globe, plan my experiments, execute my experiments, analyze the data, and even work to publish the results.
Research has taught me resilience and patience above all. The ability to independently work to create novel solutions to difficult problems has been invaluable to my personal growth. Class is really good at teaching you to find “the right answer”, but research teaches you to be an independent thinker, to go out in the world and use every skill at your disposal to hammer out a solution to life’s unsolved problems. In a world overflowing with college grads and never enough spots to put them, I think this is the quality that distinguishes you from the masses. After graduation everyone can hold up a degree and a GPA, but I can say that I contributed something to this world through my work.
I hope to continue my education in veterinary school following the completion of my undergrad. Beyond the animal experience my research has allowed me, I believe my research makes me a unique candidate for future veterinary work. One of the biggest challenges I faced in previous veterinary internships was the inability of families to pay for their animal’s medical care. A human receives medical care regardless of whether or not they can pay, but many animals are euthanized simply for lack of funds. I believe that my experiences in research and engineering help me to not just shrug it off, but to continually ask, “what can I do to find a solution?”. My research has encouraged me to consider completing a senior thesis and even to pursue a PhD program in graduate school.
Throughout my research project I was able to perform surgeries on mice with the future possibility of working on larger animal models. These surgeries have allowed numerous hours of both animal and veterinary experience required for the common vet school application. Additionally, in my research I spend the vast majority of my time in meetings, discussing strategy and new ideas and making sure to go through all the proper approval channels. If there were such a thing as logging “communication hours”, I could set a new record. If I chose not to enter the veterinary world, I now have significant experience in experimental design, execution, the fundamental principles of tissue engineering, and plenty of essay writing for funding. In order to complete my time in research for which I used my STEP funding, I also left behind my family and friends and gave up my summer break to work 2000 miles away in a lab. Surely this displays a certain resiliency in character. All in all, a research laboratory is not where I hope to end up. However, I believe I have taken many valuable skills away from this experience.
Megan Posukonis- Biomedical Engineering 2016