Undergraduate Research STEP Reflection

1. My STEP Signature Project was undergraduate research completed during the summer of 2015. I spent my summer working in a neuroscience/biochemistry lab under Rene Anand at OSU that I had previously worked in, but with the STEP funding I was able to take extra time to learn and dive into the subject material, instead of spending all my time working a part time job to pay for living expenses. My lab is working on stem cell research as it applies to Autism and Parkinson’s Disease.

2. My assumptions about the world of academic research changed dramatically while I was spending my summer focused on my research. I was able to witness first hand all the work that is put into grant writing and idea generating by the principle investigators in their labs at OSU. Meeting grant deadlines is a full time job in and of itself. Since academic research is a career goal I have set for myself, this first hand witnessing of behind the scenes work is crucial to keep in mind when considering a possible career path.

With this new found knowledge in mind, I learned that although research is my desired career path, there are other options than just academic research. I learned the intricacies of academic research and explored many career options that can arise from obtaining a doctorate in the field of neuroscience. This has changed something in me because I have never considered any other career path. It has encouraged me to keep my eyes open for any sort of opportunity because experience will help me find my passion.

3. What lead me to ultimately explore other career paths and keep my eyes open for all opportunities within the field of research was the sheer time and stress that my PI and the lab manager go through every single day. Every waking moment of their lives seems to be spent on thinking of new ideas or stressing about grant money or the current experiment. From receiving emails at midnight and then again at 3am, I realized that the job really never stops. Although this is something I want to eventually do, there are other jobs out there that I need to consider and experience other opportunities before I settle on the field of academic research.

Thanks to my principle investigator, I was thrown first hand into the idea generating and grant writing that he goes through every day. We were assigned topics to research and to know inside and out, and then we were challenged to use that in depth knowledge to come up with an original idea for solving neurodegenerative diseases. This proved to be one of the greatest challenges I have yet faced in school. I had been assigned a task that scientists spend every waking moment of their life trying to solve. With every idea I came up with, a quick search of the literature showed that most everything had been attempted already, and had failed. I realized I needed to think outside of the box and take a risk if it was to pay off in the end, something I was uncomfortable with and terrified me. Eventually I came up with an idea, but the time and stress I put into that project was above and beyond what I ever would have expected.

Initially this questioning of my career goal really stressed me out because, for once in my life, I didn’t know if I was on the right path. I felt lost and confused, as well as majorly concerned I had life all wrong. I soon realized that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m not supposed to have every step of the way planned out and set in stone. There are plenty of options in the field of neuroscience research, especially since the field is up and coming. I really aspire to do academic research and I know I will do it someday; I just want to explore other options before I settle. I desire to find my passion within the broad field of neuroscience.

4. With this newfound freedom from my single-minded ways, I set out to explore other possible options with a PhD in neuroscience. I realized this summer that I really love genetics and am also considering pursuing a career combining neuroscience with genetics. All in all, this summer spent researching taught me more about myself and life than I could have ever imagined. Life isn’t supposed to be planned out moment by moment, and I don’t have to have a set idea of where I’m going. I know I’m passionate about neuroscience and genetics and I can’t wait to see where that passion takes me in life.

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