Undergraduate research has been a major focus of my academic life since the beginning of my freshman year. Although I was inexperienced and lacking in some knowledge, my involvement in a microbiology lab has encouraged personal growth, introduced me to important mentors, and allowed exploration into future career paths. The project I continued this summer represents that growth; my developed critical inquiry and scientific methodology as well as my confidence performing independent assays and experiments. My project works to elucidate the role of of Listeria monocytogenes’ key virulence factor, listerolysin O (LLO). Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) is a food-borne, facultative intracellular pathogen that is the cause of the life- threatening disease listeriosis. Deciphering of the role of intracellular listeriolysin O is important to understanding the Lm life cycle and pathogenicity. High risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, would benefit from the development of drugs that target the life cycles of these pathogens, which is why it is pertinent to understanding the fundamental role of key virulence factors involved in pathogenesis.
Being a full time member of the research group this summer, I was able to design and carry out experiments with the help of my advisor, Dr. Stephanie Seveau, and graduate student mentor. I was able to discover that although I don’t intend to pursue graduate school, the lessons of scientific inquiry learned will be invaluable and a research component may be possible in my goal of attending medical school.
This goal of medical school was reaffirmed through the other activities I participated in throughout my STEP fellowship. One day a week I volunteered at the James Comprehensive Cancer Center through a program called Restful Nights. I interacted with hundreds of patients by providing books, magazines, and sleep kits to make their stay just a little easier. I was also able to shadow Emergency Department physicians at Fairfield Medical Center in my hometown during the weekends.
My experience in the lab motivated me to challenge myself by developing new experiments that can answer basic, yet fundamental questions in host-pathogen interactions. The lab has become a place of educational application that allows me to use what I learn in my biology and microbiology classes, to understand the work being done on a much higher level. By combining what I have learned conceptually and practically, I am building upon the scientific methodology learned throughout my educational career. These larger-scale projects gave me an opportunity to undertake more responsibility and independence within the lab.
I also had the opportunity to attend different professional development events alongside graduate and medical students. These included talks by visiting professors and seminars by other students. Witnessing this sharing of knowledge was especially significant because I realized the ability to discuss new discoveries and advancements is synonymous with a career in science.
As a third year at Ohio State, these ideas about how I envision my future are important. The STEP fellowship allowed me to pursue opportunities that I was able to take key lessons from. I have learned more about myself as an undergraduate researcher, and also as an aspiring physician.