STEP reflection

Alex Patterson

Undergraduate research in Solid-state NMR spectroscopy


1. My STEP project involved participating in the final phase of a research project in chemistry.  More specifically we analyzed deuterated transition metal chlorides using solid-state NMR spectroscopy.

2. This STEP experience has taught me a lot about myself and who I am as a person!  The STEP project allowed me to explore science, which I have discovered as one of my interests.  The funding allowed me to observe and participate in a fast-paced research environment without having to be concerned with finances.

What I observed while participating in undergraduate research was astounding.  The dedication that other, more established members, showed towards research was amazing. It is this kind of dedication that I would like to have when I move on from being an undergraduate in college, regardless of where I end up, either in a job or in research.

3.  Regular interaction with a faculty member was one of the highlights of my STEP experience.  In contrast to a normal undergraduate class at OSU- a class which will likely include very little or no interaction with the professor, STEP allowed me to explore and interact one-on-one with a professor for an entire semester.  A weekly meeting with my research advisor permitted me to get to know him on both a scholarly level as well as a personal level. This type of interaction acted as a gateway into what it would mean to have a career in research. The information I gained through these regular interactions promoted my view that research could be a potential long-term opportunity and potential career after college.

Additionally, daily interaction with a graduate student also gave me insight to the research process.  In contrast to the professor who was more of a guide and mentor to the overall process of research, the graduate student I worked alongside lead me through the finer details of what it meant to be a researcher.  He exemplified the dedication that was noted in question 2.  In months leading up to his thesis defense, he would oftentimes put in 50+ hours in lab per week, oftentimes supplementing this with additional work put in at home.  This period of extreme dedication as well as the strong dedication shown by giving 5 years of his life to his research at Ohio State exemplifies the magnitude of dedication that I wish to have, regardless of my future career path.  Seeing this dedication in person over the period of the STEP program allowed me to envision myself as a dedicated researcher in the future.

The research aspect itself was also very eye-opening.  The main part of the project that I was involved in (recrystallizing compounds) was work that involved incorporating my previous experiences in both the general chemistry and the organic chemistry labs into novel applications.  It was not just following a traditional cookbook chemical procedure that is taught in college-level chemistry courses.  Instead an iterative process must be used: performing the experiment, analyzing problems with the procedure, making the appropriate changes, and repeating the process.   This gave me a taste of how true research is conducted and how new methodologies can be adapted from old methods in order to solve different problems.  Of all the influence that the STEP project had on me, the fact that novel problems can be solved by strategically iterating upon previous methodologies influenced me the most.  Since I really enjoy the thinking process involved with solving these types of problems, I think I could find a satisfying career after college in research.


I have always been an indecisive person.  Coming into college I did not know what I wanted to do.  Although still not entirely sure, I now know for sure that being a researcher is a career path that I could pursue.  From my time in the research lab I learned that I liked the way of thinking that I came to characterize with research.  Research also stands out as a potential carrier path due to my passions that lie in chemistry.  There are many different avenues of research that intersect with chemistry.  With numerous   avenues of research to choose from, it would likely  be possible to find something that I truly enjoy doing.  In short, being able to fully explore the role of a researcher curbed some of my indecisiveness and committed myself on a path of academic excellence in order to widen widen my possibilities once outside of college.