STEP Experience Reflection

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

During my STEP experience, I worked on an avian nutrition project under a faculty advisor in the Department of Animal Sciences. Our main goal of the project was to compare the metabolic response of both quail and pigeon to heat-shocked time periods during incubation. To begin my part of the research, I had to read through numerous peer-reviewed articles in order to find out what genes we were going to target in each species’ liver and muscle tissues. From there, once we had found a good number of genes that would paint a clear picture of the avian metabolism, I spent many hours in the laboratory collecting data. The first step in my data collection came from isolating RNA in the tissues of the quail and pigeon. Proper isolation of the RNA from each sample was critical in order to perform more tests on our selected genes. Therefore, the next lab technique I performed was reverse transcription of sample RNA to complementary DNA, or cDNA. In addition to performing these techniques, I also researched primers for all of our selected genes in each species and each tissue. The selection of working primers was essential in the next step: polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing. During this test, I used the specific primers on each of our samples to attach to the sample’s cDNA and amplify the gene related to the primer. If the primer used produced results, then it could be used for the last lab test I performed, real-time PCR. This type of PCR is like regular PCR except that a computer monitors the reaction and provides specific quantification for each gene tested. Thus, the results helped to give us an idea of what genes were being amplified and used more often in the metabolism of the developing avians.

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.

Personally, I feel that my STEP experience was very eye-opening. I had never participated in a research project before and learning about the complexity of all the lab techniques was initially very difficult for me. However, once I understood exactly what the lab tests were analyzing and how they worked, I began to feel less frustrated and more excited to gain results. I would say that by far, my favorite part of the STEP experience was being able to see the results and know I helped to progress the research of my faculty advisor. Initially, I was worried that having no experience in research would cause me to make a minimal contribution to the project. On the contrary though, I think it was my lack of experience that allowed me to keep an open mind about what I was doing and ask my faculty advisor more questions regarding each step. In addition, as an animal sciences student, the research itself was relevant to my major and something I am very interested in.

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

Moving forward, I would say everything I learned from my STEP experience will make me a better animal sciences student, future career professional, and person. As I worked on the project, many topics I learned in my animal sciences nutrition class became reinforced. For example, I learned about glucose and lipid metabolism in animals but it was not until I worked in the laboratory that I learned about each gene involved. Additionally, I saw how these genes varied not just in avians but in different avian species. Thus, I believe the research made me a better animal sciences student as it provided me with more knowledge in a hands-on manner instead of just in the classroom. My life goal is to become a veterinarian and as a future professional, I think that I have benefitted from this experience substantially. Research is a critical component of veterinary medicine and having a solid foundation already allows me to apply my knowledge on future research projects. Also, if I want to become a full-time researcher, I now know what I am getting in to as a career. Lastly, I believe that my STEP experience in research has made me a better person. In challenging myself and stepping outside my comfort zone, I found that even when I get frustrated, I can still come out successful and achieve my goals. To gain valuable research experience is not something that everyone can say they have done. Thanks to my STEP experience, I was given the opportunity to gain incredible knowledge and learn more about myself than I ever thought possible.