STEP Undergraduate Research – Ocean Reef Soundscape


This summer I was a Marine Physical Lab intern at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in La Jolla, CA. This program lasted for 10 weeks and culminated in an end-of-the-summer research presentation where I presented my research project to other members of my lab and other program participants. Within the Marine Physical Lab I was a part of the Marine Bioacoustics Lab under the direction of the principle investigator, Dr. Ana Širović, and one of her doctoral candidates, Katherine Cameron. My research project was to listen to and log calls collected via hydrophone off the southwest coast of the Little Cayman Island in order to learn the soundscape and localize fish calls, identify what type of call is made by what kind of fish, in order to lay the groundwork for further research in this area. The primary target of the project I worked on was to assess if there are acoustical triggers for Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus, larvae to help them identify the locations of their primary habitat, coral reefs, versus the open ocean. This internship also provided lectures by factuality members in the Marine Physical Lab as well as tours of facilities, the Scripps’ Machine Shop, and an audio and 3D imagining research center on UCSD’s main campus. Also due to my position as an intern, I was allowed to attend several symposiums and tours of research vessels that occurred on Scripps campus and in San Diego while I was there. I was also given the opportunity to go out on the ocean and collect whale poop for a different doctoral student’s research. I also got to explore San Diego and do a lot of other fun things such as learn how to surf (surfboard provided by the lab), snorkel around La Jolla Cove with harbor seals, and play my bass at an art gallery opening.

So What?

This experience helped me discover and explore a possible career path. I am pursuing a dual degree in Earth System Sciences and Music Education and have been searching for a good way to combine my interests. Marine acoustics is a good combination of the two disciplines as it allows me to combine my interest in oceanography with a study of the music of the ocean. This internship also allowed me to perform undistracted research and see if I enjoyed just doing research. This opportunity helped me understand that playing the bass is also important to me, and that I should make sure I continue to play, no matter what my profession ends up being. All of the symposiums, talks, and tours I was able to go on helped expand my knowledge of the field of marine acoustics, especially marine mammal acoustics, internal waves, the Keeling Curve, and many other topics and gave me a good idea of what a career in the profession would be like.

Now What?

As I am trying to decide whether I want to become a research scientist or a teacher, this gave me a good look into what it would be like to be a research scientist. It also gave me an in-depth look at what it would be like to live and work by the ocean. This research experience helped drive me to join another lab, Dr. Derek Sawyer’s Basin Research lab group, in addition to Dr. Anne Carey’s research group, in order to continue research in the field of marine acoustics.


STEP Experience Summer 2015

STEP Experience: Undergraduate Research 


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

I began working with my principal investigator (PI) Dr. Ian Krajbich, spring semester of 2014. His lab focuses on neuroeconomics, which is the discipline of decision making. When I first began working in the lab, I helped graduate students in his lab with their projects. I was often their first pilot subject for experiments, I found images that they needed for their experiments, created excel documents, and helped them with other little projects. At the end of fall semester of 2014, my PI, another undergraduate student in the lab, and myself began running experiments for a project my PI and a colleague of his were interested in pursuing. They were interested in reducing the frequency of groupthink. We finished collecting data (running experiments) at the end of spring semester 2015, conducted some analyses on the data, and presented our findings at the Denman Forum in March 2015. After the Denman, we conducted one more experiment and continue to perform analyses on all of the data we have collected. This project will be fully completed by early August this year.

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.

From my STEP experience of being involved with undergraduate research, I learned that I am capable of achieving my goals. I learned that I can take a full load of classes, get good grades, and work in a group towards a serious research goal. While enrolling for spring semester 2015 classes, I thought that I was not going to be able to keep up with taking 17 credits and be heavily involved with research. However, I set a goal of receiving a 4.0 gpa that semester and presenting a poster at the Denman Forum. I achieved both of those goals and learned that I am capable of achieving whatever goals I set for myself. I never pushed myself that hard in high school or even earlier in college; without this undergraduate experience, I truly believe that I would never have known how capable I am of achieving my dreams.


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

My initial goal of helping Dr. Krajbich with his research project was to understand what area of psychology I would want to study in graduate school, completing the research project helped me realize that the field of clinical psychology is where my interests lie. When I began my research project, I was very interested in neuroeconomics, which is within the field of cognitive psychology. However, after finishing the project, I learned that cognitive psychology is not the field of future study for me. The field of cognitive psychology does not connect with everyday human problems the way I thought it would. While working on this research project, learning so much about the research process works and about the broad field of cognitive psychology, I was also taking classes for my clinical psychology minor. The combination of those classes and doing cognitive psychology type of research encouraged me to further investigate the field of clinical psychology.

At this point of my senior year, I believe that pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology fits my interests best. I want to become a clinical psychologist so that I can personally help people live better lives by helping patients learn how to cope or how to fix their personal problems. I still need to refine and understand what my research interests are within the field of clinical psychology before I apply to PhD programs in clinical psychology. To facilitate that process, I am taking a year off from school after spring graduation to volunteer at a variety of clinical psychology related places. I also hope to become a nanny to understand if studying children would be something I want to do. I learned from this STEP experience that having some undergraduate research experience is very helpful in the application process for graduate school. Not only did I gain research experience, but I learned more about the research process and about where my interests for graduate studies lie. I also learned more about the field of decision science and how to present myself in a professional academic setting such as poster presentations like at the Denman Forum. Participating in STEP has overall helped me refine my post-graduation goals.


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!