STEP Reflection

What?  This summer, I was honored to use my STEP funding to work at the College of Dentistry, Division of Biosciences under Dr. Brian Foster. Dr. Foster is a new professor here at OSU, who just started in July. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. I used the first part of my funding to visit him in May in order to start my project before he started here. I was trained on how to orient, take pictures, and analyze microCT scans of  mandibles and measure histomorphometry data for my project. With tooth development critical for proper function, my project aimed towards defining the spatiotemporal role of PHOSPHO1, a haloacid dehalogenase. The funding was left after my visit to NIH was used for summer experiences, such as rent and utilities to stay in Columbus.

So What?  I was not sure what to expect when I signed up for STEP, although nobody really did as it’s a new program. I enjoyed getting to know my cohort and advisor. She has continued to be a great mentor to me, and I appreciate the work that advisors devote to this program. I was surprised about some of the more personal topics that came up in our discussions, but once everybody’s faces were familiar, it was easy to connect on such a personal level. I can’t say that I was always excited for a meeting, but they were all worthwhile and allowed us to explore each topic in detail. It helped me to rule out some of the experiences, but also made the decision difficult. After seeing some of the great things that students around campus are doing, and hearing peers plan awesome proposals, I wanted to make sure I would be just as excited for my project. And I’m glad to report that I was!

The laboratory that Dr. Foster was in previously at the National Institutes of Health was one that I had also worked in, so it was a privilege to be there visiting for a week and exciting to see co-workers. Pertaining to my project specifically, it was rewarding in more ways than one. First of all, I was able to learn more techniques that will be valuable as I move forward. I am also able to build my resume and experience by participating in presentations and research forums with my findings.

Now What? As I move forward towards a career as a dental clinician researcher, this experience will be very valuable. It is a rare opportunity that I will now be able to put on applications and talk about at interviews. Additionally, it has opened up more doors for me with networking, presenting, and writing scientifically. Being able to work in the dental school has been a great experience  and allowed me to get to know the building, students, and staff. I look forward to presenting this research and improving my skills with each talk. Working on a research project will only help me in applying what I learn in the classroom. On a personal level, this project has solidified my intent to aim for a career in academia. I have taken more from STEP than just my project, as I eluded to earlier. The projects that I did not pursue also helped me learn about myself. I took time to learn more about STEP experiences that I was considering and look into what those options would mean for me. The decision making process was valuable in itself. I look forward to continuing to uncover how my STEP project will help me in the future!