David Youssef-Undergraduate Research

For my research project, I tested the effect of a glaucoma drug, Latanoprost, on the collagen content of corneas in order to access the change in biomechanical properties of the cornea. This involved culturing corneas in one of two mediums, a control without the drug and a treatment medium with the drug. The corneas were cultured for 24 hours. After culture, the cornea samples were uniformly cut, homogenized, and put through a series of reactions to produce a mixture whose color reflected the concentration of collagen. After putting the samples through the spectrometer, the relative amounts of collagen were determined for the two treatment groups.

My data in this project matched my hypothesis that the treated corneas would have less collagen than the untreated corneas. However, this result is not statistically significant, so nothing can be concluded about the effect of the drug on corneal collagen content. With this conclusion, I learned a lot about how hard it is to conduct research. One may believe that they have considered all of the possibilities and factors in an experiment, but find that there was something they missed. Going into this project, I thought the ideas and concepts involved were interesting but not as much as other things I have learned about. As I would troubleshoot through the problems I encountered, I found it harder to stay motivated to do so because I wasn’t in love with what I was doing. I learned that it is really difficult to conduct a good research study if you are not completely invested because it needs a person’s all in order to succeed.

As I said in the previous response, I found out that I wasn’t as interested in ocular mechanics as I had thought. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad field to get into, it just means that I need to work in a field that I find more interesting in order to be happier and succeed. I have already made changes in order to do so. I have always known I was interested in neuroscience and how it can be augmented and treated using engineering but wasn’t aware that there was a laboratory on campus that did so until I was completing this project. After completing it, I told my principal investigator of the ocular mechanics lab that I was planning on moving on and she was very understanding. I contacted the professor of the neuroscience laboratory and he accepted me into his lab. In a broader sense, this project affected how I view my trajectory. I learned that I need to be having relevant experiences in order to be more successful and work in the field I hope to work in in the future. I also learned what motivates me and that I am most successful when I am working on these things.

STEP Undergraduate Research Experience – Multiple Myeloma and Natural Killer Cells


This past semester, I was able to use STEP funds to make progress on a research experience. I work in one of the cancer labs in the James Comprehensive Cancer Center. I specifically study Multiple Myeloma (MM), a type of blood cancer, as well as the Natural Killer (NK) Cell, a type of immune cell in our bodies. The main goal of the project was to study how an anti-myeloma drug affects the interaction between the MM and NK cells.

Lab reagents can cost easily hundreds to thousands of dollars. With the money that the STEP program provided, I was able to get enough research materials to see how the drugs affect NK cells. Since my research advisor, Dr. Don Benson, is an M.D. Ph.D., I was able to get patient blood samples from MM patients in his clinic. Using techniques I learned over the semester, I was able to pull out NK cells (and a few other immune cells) out of the blood. After extracting the NK cells, I maintained them in culture, and was able to give them the drug at various doses for various time points. These sorts of experiments allowed me to ask further questions such as “how much drug can I administer and still keep my cells alive?” or “what kinds of proteins are released by the cell when the drug is administered?”.

Many of these questions are still being answered. It’s impossible to learn everything in this field; however, my goal for the time being is to continue to seek answers and eventually publish my findings.


So What?

I felt as though my STEP research experience was much different than the typical research experience. I actually started during the Summer of 2014. After three months of working on an entirely different project, our lab came to the conclusion that the project was not viable. There was even a second failed attempt at a project before I started working on the current work. I felt as though I had wasted both time and money, however this was far from the truth. The time I had spent culturing cells, running experiments, and failing was not meaningless. Over the summer I began to understand how researchers go about finding answers to their questions. I was able to improve my skills designing experiments, as well as my basic lab techniques.

Around September, I had finally chosen my current project. I guess third time is the charm! After extending my STEP experience, I began to work on the project right away. It does not take long to figure out that in scientific research, 99% of your theories are bound to fail. Even though that may seem discouraging, it is the 1% that makes all the difference in the long run. Throughout the past year, I have also been able to get more involved in understanding Multiple Myeloma.

A few friends and I got together and created the first Multiple Myeloma awareness group on campus, and we are currently working with an MM awareness organization as well as Team Buckeye to put on events to spread the word on the disease. This would have never happened had it been for my research experience, so I am really glad that I was able to benefit from the experience both inside and outside the lab despite all the setbacks I faced.


Now What?

Working directly with patient samples, drugs, and cancers was really amazing, but it was actually the writing part of my experience that was the most beneficial of all. After I had preformed preliminary experiments with STEP funding, I was able to get a deeper understanding of the potential behind my project. I decided that during the start of the Spring Semester, I would apply for as many grants and scholarships as I could.

During the months of January and February, I wrote numerous drafts of all sorts of formats on project proposals to get more funding. The trickiest part is to explain all the science in layman’s terms such that someone with most basic understanding of science could grasp the significance of the project. I believe that this was the most significant part of the experience, because it allowed me to develop skills in communication that I definitely lacked before.

So far, including STEP, I have been able to get about $9,000 in funding and research scholarships, I fully intend to independently to try to pay for my own project independent of lab grants. I have also had the opportunity to present at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum, and I hope to present my research some more next Autumn after I gain more data. This project will go into my honors thesis, but ultimately, I hope I can get a research publication out of it.

I aspire to go into medicine, and while I am not exactly decided on whether I want to focus on academic or clinical side, the skills I have learned – persistence and effective communication – will be crucial in any area of medicine.

STEP Reflection

STEP Experience: Undergraduate Research


This summer I started my own project in the linguistic psychology lab. This lab studies spoken word recognition. I have been working there for a year and the professor in charge wanted me to start my own project this summer. I am bilingual and my second language is Tamil. I started a project to study how Tamil speakers perceive certain word combinations. A previous experiment showed that Tamil speakers perceive words that begin with /sr/ differently than English speakers. This is because words beginning with /sr/ are illegal in English, but they are legal in Tamil. I researched more illegal word beginnings for Tamil and English.

I created surveys for my family members to find out how common words that begin with /sr/ are. I found that there are some common words used in everyday language. I then asked them to record themselves saying the words. This was to find out if they actually begin with /sr/ or is there an epenthetic vowel in between. Using these results I will create the final experiment.

This spring, I started to conduct this experiment. I ran 8 people, ungraduates and graduate students who speak Tamil. They had to listen to Tamil words I recorded. They then had to spell out those words. They also read Tamil words and repeated them, these were recorded. I spent time kooking at the recordings and analyzing if they produced epenthetic vowels. They did, with great variability. I also looked at their typed responses to see if they added vowels or elimniated them. Like with the speech data, there was great variability. The data pertaining to the speech part of the data was presented it at the Denman. I plan on turning this project into my senior thesis in the fall.

So what?

I learned quite a few things about myself this summer. I learned that I could work many hours learning about a language that I have known since I started talking. I have learned much about the language that I did not know before. I thought that this project would be finished quickly with results. I have learned to be patient when it comes to working towards data. I look forward to moving forward with this project.

Now what?

I have learned a lot during this experience that will help me grow in the future. I have learned how to conduct research for an experiment. I know how to spend time getting good information that will help understand the questions I am trying to study. I learned how to ask for help from other scientists and researchers in the field. I have learned how to create an experiment in the field, one that will allow me to study this in the future. I have learned that this is the right path for me in the future.

Michelle Snow: Undergraduate Research Experience

STEP Experience ________Undergraduate Research________________


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


For my STEP experience, I was part of the undergraduate biomolecular research team, OhioMOD, here at Ohio State. We developed and executed a research plan in which we attempted to find out if sequestering a specific miRNA in leukemia cells would heal or kill them. Once the actual research itself was completed, the team presented our findings at the international BioMOD competition at Harvard. There we received a gold project award for our research.









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. 

While very challenging, I greatly enjoyed the time I spent on my project. Countless hours were spent reading research papers and and waiting for experiments to finish. At times it could be trying, but it was still a positive experience thanks to the other people I was surrounded by in the lab. I gained valuable knowledge and hands-on experience in the lab about my research topic and many of the other projects being performed. I never used to think that I would want to do research as a career, but my experience has proved otherwise. The research papers can be a bit of a turn off, but the hands-on aspects outweighed it. I was also able to gain more confidence in my abilities and public speaking skills. My research team had to present our findings at a conference in Boston, and speaking in front of strangers had been something that I was afraid to do. Thanks to the support from my team and constant practice I delivered my part of the presentation with ease and have since been able to give presentations much easier. Eventually I think I can overcome the fear completely.












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

From my experience, I have been able to further refine my academic and career goals. Before participating in STEP, I was pursuing a degree in chemical engineering with no specific plan of what I should do after graduation. There were plenty of things I could try to pursue with my degree, but it was too overwhelming without a chance to narrow down the options I might enjoy. Since I haven’t been able to secure an internship to help with that, STEP helped me look into research. I most likely would not have tried undergraduate research because of the unpaid aspect, and STEP helped me through that. Now I am currently pursuing a biomolecular focus within my major, and after graduation I would like to attend graduate school to obtain a masters in biochemical engineering. After all of that, I believe I would like to pursue a career in research and development for a biotechnology/pharmaceutical company which is very similar to the work I did this past summer. My overall goal can be summed up as I want to help people through the advancement of medicine. I can fortunately say that my STEP experience has had nothing but a positive effect on my future plans.























Undergraduate STEP Research

I committed about 15-20 hours a week to going into the research lab and worked closely with my direct supervisor Karen, who taught me aseptic techniques and the new method their lab had developed in focusing on natural killer cells from a pediatric tonsil. This consisted of using GentleMACsTM technology to blend up the tissue and collect the cell suspension. From there we add red blood cells to create a comfortable environment and add human NK cell enrichment cocktail that bond with cells outside of our focus group such as B and T cells. Then I used a ficoll overlay, which allowed the NK cells to remain suspended as a buffy layer, as the rest of the cell dropped to the bottom. With that buffy layer collected of NK cells, ammonium chloride was added to lysis any remaining RBCs. I was also taught (and still mastering) to use a machine called the flow cytometer. Flow cytometry analyzes one cell at a time using lasers to detect biomarkers that the natural killer cells are expressing which we are using to characterize different stages the NK cells go through as they mature.

So What?
As an aspiring pre-medicine student, I am always looking for opportunities to become passionate about. I’ve always hoped to take advantage of every opportunity available to me and grow with a multitude of unique experiences because this is what will set me apart from others and create a more diverse background for myself. This project of undergraduate research will contribute to my success in my desired profession because it has increased my scientific knowledge and expanded my understanding of how new knowledge is gained to advance our society. It offered me an inspiring and committed mentor, who trained me in gaining new skills in the laboratory such as flow cytometry, tonsil cell processing, using Ficoll, plating cells, and aseptic techniques. This was an opportunity to pursue my interest in immunology while honing my problem-solving skills. Being able to complete this project helped clarify my aspiration to go into the field of medicine and also sparked the interest of doing research as well. I was able to build a network while working in the lab because I got to work closely with my mentor as well as a diverse array of people who are as committed to science as I am. On top of all the benefits that I have acquired through this unique experience, I will have the opportunity to establish myself in the science community by being in the current process of being coauthors in upcoming publications. I feel that I have an advantage moving forward in my professional aspiration to become a medical doctor. The skills acquired, passion sparked, and professional relationships formed gave me confidence that I can translate into further my pursuit.

My favorite part about this experience was establishing relationships and getting to know the people around my lab. Due to our close collaboration with the Caligiuri Lab, our small four person lab felt more like a 20 person lab. Everyone was so welcoming in the beginning and continued to be throughout my experience. They have built an environment where it was not competitive and everyone was expected to help each other out when help was needed. Feeling so comfortable in such a foreign environment was definitely, in my opinion, a huge factor in my success in this project as well as my ability to enjoy it. Research is a substantial time and personal commitment in order to be successful. There would be some days I came into the lab after class and left close to midnight, but a part of me was always was happy to do it because of how appreciative everyone was and knowing those who might also be pulling a long day would be there too.

This experience impacted me personally by getting me out of my comfort zone and really changing my perspective on research. This project was personally challenging and intellectually developing because it was an experience I had never had before. I was going into an area I was unfamiliar with and a subject I may only have had a basic understanding of, but no extensive knowledge. This was a big leap because I had a lot of insecurities going into this as I surrounded myself with experts in the field. Being a part of the research and being mentored by my faculty advisor and direct supervisor, my confidence grew each time I went. The other big personal change was my opinion on research. I had a horrible experience the first time I sought out a lab to join. I found it boring, intimidating, and a waste of my time because it became apparent that I was only there to do the tasks they didn’t want to do. They didn’t teach me anything so I was just memorizing procedure rather than being engaged into this full heartedly. I am so happy I gave research another shot and this experience has completely turned my opinion around. I am excited and proud of the work being done here and I truly understand the passion others have for it now because this experience has lit that fire in me as well.

Now What?
After this experience during my STEP experience I plan to continue with the research I was able to begin with STEP supporting me. Moving forward I set a goal to get published and have my name be recognized in the medical field as being a part of a project. I also feel that I can use this new skill set to open up doors in my future that will allow me to have an advantage in medical school or even if I wanted to look into a profession in working in a laboratory.

Undergraduate Research Shaped My Academic Career!

Where I will be presenting my research this spring!

Where I will be presenting my research this spring!

After my research partner, Ruoou, and I presented to the Writing Across the Curriculum group for the first time!

After my research partner, Ruoou, and I presented to the Writing Across the Curriculum group for the first time!

Step Experience – Undergraduate Research


During my sophomore year at Ohio State, I was taking Psychology 2367.01, a writing course on social psychology. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and partway through the semester, my instructor approached me and asked if I would perhaps be interested in joining her on a research project. As I had always been curious about starting psychology research, I eagerly agreed.

I came to find out that the research project was on the very class I had been taking, Psychology 2367.01. The university asked the Psychology Department to assess the course and see if it was meeting its general education learning objectives. During spring of 2014, as I was participating in STEP, I got heavily involved with the project. The research team and I worked to analyze all the course materials and create a rubric that could be used to grade student papers. I then spent the rest of the semester grading and coding 300 student papers. Over the summer, I analyzed the data we had collected in order to determine whether students were actually meeting the learning objectives of the course, and what might be affecting their performance.

This process leaked into autumn 2014, which is when my STEP funding kicked in. Because this research position is not paid and I was dedicating a considerable amount of time to it, I was struggling balancing a part-time job as well my academics and extra-curriculars. By using my STEP stipend to make my research experience paid, I was able to invest the appropriate time and energy into my research project, which was an invaluable experience.

During the autumn of 2014 and spring of 2015, I composed a university report that described all of our findings from the study. Some of the most prominent effects include that instructors will see linear improvement on student papers throughout the semester, while blind-graders will not, and that both instructors and blind-graders see a significant improvement when students are asked to revise a paper after receiving instructor feedback. This information was used to create a presentation for the Writing Across the Curriculum Program here at Ohio State. My research partner, Ruoou, and I gave a talk to the WAC coordinators who help students in various 2367 writing courses. We showed them our findings in hopes of helping them improve their courses and teaching methods. In addition, we will be presenting to a larger group of psychology instructors on April 9th, and on May 1st, we will be giving a poster presentation at the Midwestern Psychological Association conference in Chicago.
So What?

Throughout my STEP journey, I had a lot of new, interesting experiences. A lot of tasks required me to take initiative and set my own deadlines, which had a great impact on my work ethic. I learned that I have a tendency to put things off until the last possible second, which results in lower quality work. I never realized how much of a problem this was until I had to ask my research advisor for an extension, and she seemed very disappointed in me. This encouraged me to alter my planning strategy, setting several early deadlines so I had more wiggle room to finish assignments.

I also experienced a lot of stress and frustration with this project. Sometimes the data got complicated and I had a hard time figuring out what statistical tests would get me what I wanted. I know I have always had trouble asking for help, but in this situation, I really did not have a choice. By the end of this experience, I was more comfortable asking for help from fellow research assistants or my advisor. When I made mistakes, I was able to laugh at myself and learn not to take criticism personally.

Now What?

My participation in the STEP program completely changed my academic career and life goals. Research is incredibly important in the field of psychology, and previously, I had no idea if I enjoyed it. STEP allowed me to explore research with ease and without stress. I ended up falling in love with it, and it has influenced my decisions for after I graduate. I decided to pursue graduate school, and was recently accepted in Ohio State’s doctoral program in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Psychology. This degree will allow me to work with children who have special needs and create assessment materials that can assist them in the diagnostic and treatment processes. Research will be key in grad school and in my future career, so this experience was invaluable.
Overall, I learned a lot about myself and what I like to do during this program. My experiences steered me to my future and have shaped my life for the better. Thank you, STEP!