Molly Josifov’s STEP Undergraduate Research Experience

Name: Molly Josifov

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research (glial cell lines)


My undergraduate research project was focused on establishing glial-cell specific cell lines using Drosophila as a model organism. These cell lines could be used as a model for glioblastoma in humans.


Before participating in undergraduate research, I hadn’t really known about the scientific community out there. It is amazing to hear and read about all of these amazing people who devote their lives to expanding the knowledge of the human race. Not only that, but there are people who are dedicated to this scientific world in order to help others in the medical sense. Discovering the world of research was eye-opening.


My mentor in research, Dr. Amanda Simcox, has inspired me because of her passion for research. She is constantly trying to soak up more knowledge every day. Being a member of the scientific/research community, she has been the key for me in being introduced to the community. I look forward to the rest of my time researching under her wing.

I also had the pleasure of presenting at the Molecular Genetics open house in September. While there, I was able to see what other undergraduate researchers in molecular genetics were doing. Not only that, but I was able to teach fellow students who were eager to get involved with undergraduate research themselves. This event gave me the experience that I need to be an active member of the scientific community.

The research itself has also led me to my transformation in terms of discovering the scientific community for myself. When one reads a scientific journal article, one doesn’t really know the hard work that went into the completion of the research project. It helped me learn that research isn’t easy, and that I’d have to be patient and diligent if I wanted to get results.


My growth through research is very significant in my life and future goals. I will always be a part of the research community, even if only by reading what others have done. In the future, I would like to be an oncologist. The lab that I have had the honor of researching in has taught me a lot about cancer genetics, and I plan on continuing my study of cancer research in correlation with my future goal.






STEP Reflection-Cody Klinker

Name: Cody Klinker

Type of project: undergraduate research


  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP project fell under the heading of undergraduate research. My research was in the area of radiation oncology through the James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University. The project is titled “Optimum Selection Radiation Therapy Modality for Brain Tumors/Functional Diseases: Gamma Knife or External Beam Radiation Therapy?” and my responsibilities included taking MRIs, CTs, and other imaging and simulating gamma knife radiation via a computer program. I am still working on the project and my principle investigator and I have plans for publishing.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Through this experience, I has discovered that I am capable of more than I previously thought. By participating in this research, there was a lot of responsibility put on me as this project has been solely my project with just sporadic meetings with my principle investigator. This meant that I am responsible for the success or failure of this project. I put several hours of work into the project every week, along with the classes I was taking during the May and summer terms. This also allowed me to work on my time management skills as yet another element was added to my daily schedule. Overall, my self-discipline was bettered and I became a well-rounded individual by participating in the STEP program.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

There were certain elements of my research experience that led to the transformation discussed in the second response. One of these elements was the accuracy required by the job itself. For each case, I had to manually contour a closed body set so the radiation plan can be simulated. This contour had to very closely match the skull contour lines for a more accurate result. The plan for radiation must also be covering almost all of the tumor and very little of the healthy tissue surrounding it. This attention to detail is required for all parts of my research. It also translates well into life as attention to detail can be very beneficial for many aspects of life.

Another element of the project that enabled a transformation within me was the prospect of publishing a research paper. This goal was given to me when I agreed to work my with principle investigator on this project. The timeline given to me was to be published by the time that I graduate from Ohio State in the spring of 2017. This aspiration to have a published paper has made me a more driven person with direction and determination to reach my goal, good attributes to carry with you in life.

One last element of the project that enabled a transformation within me was the exposure to a medical setting. As a pre-med student, I am very interested in the field of medicine. Being able to go into the radiation oncology department in the James Cancer Hospital, one of the leading cancer hospitals in the world, is a great honor. I get accustomed with the layout of the hospital. I get to interact with medical personnel at certain points and I get to deal with real patients and their imaging. This not only looks good on resumes and applications, but it is changing my perspective on the world of medicine and I am looking forward to the future. This further gives me the determination to work harder to reach a goal I have been trying to reach for a long time.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This change is valuable for my life because as life progresses more duties and responsibilities will be presented, which I will have to respond to. For example, having a full-time job, having a family, and other elements of life keep people busy. By learning to manage time, I will be able to be successful in many elements of my life. Also, persistence and drive were learned during my time in the STEP program. I made conscious decisions to go and work on my research, and that time I put in will pay off in the end. As in life, you get out what you put in. Finally, the act of doing research got me in a spirit of inquiry and discovery. This spirit is very positive for the rest of my life. If I question things and explore as I go through life, I will pick up more skills and knowledge that will be further better me as a person. I am very fortunate and grateful to have gone through the STEP program at The Ohio State University.

gamma knife James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection Prompts

As you may recall from your STEP signature project proposal, your STEP signature project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you.  Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences completing your STEP signature project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.

Name: Alissa Cullen

Type of Project:  Undergraduate summer research

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

For my STEP project, I focused mainly on summer undergraduate research here at Ohio State along with doing a focus on photography in my free time.  The funding from STEP allowed me to cover living expenses for the summer and the cost of a Nikon DSLR.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I have- for a very long time- known I wanted to pursue a career in genetics.  It is one of the main reasons why I joined a lab so early on in my undergraduate career; I started officially in my lab for credit the second semester of my freshman year.  However, my time in lab was always cut into small pieces because of classes, activities or other previous commitments I may have had.  This summer, I was able to work in my lab full time- approximately 8 hours a day, 5 days a week- and get a much better look at what a life as a full time researcher means.  This was extremely important for me to experience so that I can know for sure that this is what I want to pursue for the rest of my life.  Not everyone can come and work in a lab for 8 hours every day.  But I love what I do and I discovered I love it even more when I have so much more free time on my hands to work on my own research project.

I also have always been interested in photography.  But my project this summer for that- a focus on the difference the actual camera taking the photo makes rather than the subject of the photo itself- allowed me to dive deeper into the more creative side of myself.  This allowed me to truly realize that photography is something I want to keep with me for the rest of my life.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

Each research lab here at Ohio State has a Primary Investigator (PI).  My PI is Dr. Keith Slotkin in the Molecular Genetics department.  He has helped me grow and learn as a researcher my entire time here at OSU, but especially during this summer and the time leading up to it.  I have met with him on multiple occasions, and still will, to discuss where my project is at, make sure I understand what the data I’m creating means and where it fits into our research as a whole, and to keep a strong sense of communication between him and myself.  I also have email correspondence with him whenever I either produce new data or need help troubleshooting a problem in the lab.  His quick and always helpful responses have shown me that it’s always good to continue asking questions no matter what stage you’re at and his great teaching skills have accelerated my learning.

My research lab also has a number of graduate students.  One of which, Andrea, I have a long lasting relationship with as she has been my mentor and trained me since my freshman year.  She, however, was completing her thesis and graduated this summer.  Thus, she had not been in the lab as much and I have moved on to being much more independent in my lab work.  However, hearing her talk about her thesis and watching first-hand the amount of work that goes into it has been a great learning experience for me.  I at some point will also have to write a thesis and defend it so it is a good experience to be able to see the kind of work necessary for it.  And it is also good to know that I am completely prepared for that kind of work and ultimately look forward to it.

One of the biggest things that caused this deeper understanding of myself and what I want to do for the rest of my life though is the fact that I was assigned my own research project for the summer.  This has allowed me to become extremely more independent than I was before.  I, for the first time, actually have a clear research path and project ahead of me and am producing my own data to contribute to the lab.  Beforehand, I was helping Andrea with any work she needed to do.  But now, I have my own project and am taking great steps towards being the independent researcher I strive to be in years to come.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

This transformation of not only my independence as a researcher, but also the realization that this is truly what I want to do with my life is valuable for pretty obvious reasons.  I’m investing a lot of time, effort, and money into my undergraduate, graduate, and post-doc career and so I want to make sure that this is actually what I want to do for the rest of my life.  This STEP funding has allowed me to truly experience the life I have ahead of me, and I have loved every moment of it.  This experience was valuable beyond words for me and I would not have wanted to spend my summer doing anything other than researching; it’s what I want to pursue for the rest of my life.