STEP Undergraduate Research


For my Step experience I chose to get involved in undergraduate research with the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. Specifically, I worked with Dr. Roman Lanno and his graduate student Steven Nagel on a project that investigated the effect of mobile technology on student achievement in the biology classroom. Mobile technology has become an integral part of both the university and K-12 classroom. However, there is very little empirical research on whether this technology actually helps students achieve learning goals. For this project we focused on the Apple iPad and sought to quantitatively assess the effect of the iPads when used as digital laboratory notebooks. The experiment involved data collection from two EEOB classes. A control group used traditional pen and paper notebooks, while the treatment group used iPads to record information. The student products were then analyzed by counting the number of words, pictures, annotations, and sketches for a specific laboratory exercise. This led to a quantitative measurement of the amount of data collected by each student. The student’s summative assessment scores were also recorded and compared with the amount of raw data they collected with either the iPad or the traditional notebook. These summative assessment scores were in the form of quiz or exam questions which specifically related to the laboratory activity. This allowed us to see whether students collected more information with the iPads, and if they did, whether it lead to higher summative assessment scores. The ultimate goal of this project is to determine if the iPads are worth the cost of implementing them into the classroom. While students may enjoy using them, they may or may not actually be helping them achieve in the classroom.


So What? 

This experience has been vital in the improvement of of both my professional and academic skills. I have become more familiar with the world of research and all that the profession entails. From the outside looking in, research seems exciting and fast-paced, but in reality I’ve found it to be very methodical and time-consuming. Research takes a great deal of patience and perseverance, as much of the work can be mundane and repetitive. However, these steps are necessary in trying to answer scientific inquiries and to contribute to the scientific community. During the experience, I had the opportunity to work with new statistics programs as well as improve my coding skills. I also greatly improved my professional communication skills in the correspondence I had with the PI, co-PI, as well as graduate students. Their guidance and help was vital in leading me through the project. I especially enjoyed working with them and want to thank them for all the time they put in to make this project a success. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience undergraduate research through the STEP fellowship. This project has pushed me to become a better student, communicator, time-manager, and critical thinker. I am happy with the work I have done through this project and hope to continue with research in the future.


 Now What?

My ultimate professional goal is to become a physician. As a physician, I must fully understand the scientific process and the steps needed to successfully investigate scientific inquiries. I want to contribute not only through the treatment of patients, but also through medical research that advances the effectiveness of modern medicine. It is important to keep up with the latest advances in medicine in order to provide the most complete and modern care available. I feel that linking research and patient care is critical in becoming  a successful doctor. By understanding how to navigate the scientific literature as well as determine the most relevant findings, I feel I can provide the highest quality care to patients. Furthermore, working with patients takes a great deal of interpersonal communications skills, skills that I believe I have improved 10 fold through this experience. This STEP experience has allowed me to get my feet wet in the world of research, but it is hopefully just the beginning as I continue to strive to reach my ultimate goal.



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