Paper Spray Ionization Mass Spectrometry

These past few semesters, I worked in Dr. Badu’s research lab. I worked with a graduate student, testing different analytes at low concentrations on 2 cm long paper triangles at low voltages (1-5 kV). A wax pattern was printed on the paper triangles that left a channel of wax-less paper down the middle to maximize the amount of analyte that would be sprayed into the mass spectrometer. We tested each analyte at various voltages, trying to determine the lowest voltage that could be used that would still produce a strong signal.

While completing my STEP project, I became more aware of the variety of applications of mass spectrometry. Previously, my only experience with mass spectrometry was analyzing mass spectrums, along with analyzing IR spectrums and HNMR spectrums to identify an unknown molecule in organic chemistry lab. While I had the idea that mass spectrometry could be applied in many ways, I was unprepared to see the multitudes of fields in which it’s used. Many of the applications were geared toward the biological and medical fields, such as proteomics and lipidomics. I was amazed to see that mass spectrometry could also be used in forensics.

During the beginning of my STEP project, I was allowed to attend a mass spectrometry conference to see what a conference was like, since I hadn’t worked on a project yet. This allowed me to read about and listen to others explain their research. Although I didn’t understand most of the posters, I did my best to understand what I could. This was because I was new to the field of mass spectrometry and I was still learning about the basics, so it seemed like unintelligible scientific jargon to me. This encouraged me to look up the terms I didn’t understand and learn more about it.

When I was able to, I attended weekly meetings where the graduate students presented their research thus far. This gave me the chance to learn about their research and how research should be presented during a group meeting. During their presentation and after they were finished, questions would be asked to further their research. There would also sometimes be a discussion about the research or other questions would be asked to clarify certain details. In the future, should I continue to do research, I will be more prepared when presenting my research as a result.

As of right now, I don’t know what I plan to do after graduation and I know I should decide soon since I’m now a 3rd year student. Seeing the variety of research that others are doing shows me that I have a lot of options to choose from, within the field of chemistry. Right now, I’m just focused on passing my classes, but there will come a point when I will have to decide. Prior to participating in undergraduate research, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, and I still don’t. Now, however, I have a point of reference to start from.

A Clinical Research Experience

My STEP Project was gain clinical research experience with healthcare professionals here at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. I was able to work in a neural anesthesiology research group that had multitude of different projects going on. I was allowed to interact with patients and had the responsibility of gathering patient information and data for certain projects. The specific project I worked on, was the idea of providing third degree patients with mepilex (a type of dressing for burn victims) before they had surgery and see if applying mapilex before the surgery increased the chances of the patient needing less skin graphs.

My understanding of the world specifically the world of research changed as the project went on. In the beginning of the project, I did not think a career in research would be something that I would consider as a job. As the project continued and I was able to connect with patients and doctors, I was able to see that the research that they do can ultimately change someone’s prognosis and change the way healthcare is provided. Understanding that certain types of research can be the forefront of changing the medical field or the way we go about our lives, really intrigued me. Now that my project is over, I believe that a career in research whether it be in chemistry, microbiology or clinical research is something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.


The interactions and relationships during my STEP project were a vital key to my transformation. First, the interaction and relationship with my STEP mentor Dr. Chris Callam was one of the most important interactions. Dr. Callam was able to provide me with key insights into what research was like for someone studying a science. He was also able to help me with certain skills that have made me a better student and person overall. One of the most important skills, I was able to work on while having Dr. Callam as my mentor was the importance of being able to indecently think for yourself and ask your own questions. This key skill helped me tremendously while I was working on the research project. I was able to finish a certain task and continue on to the next one without asking if what I had done was correct or if I had done something wrong. This was able to show that I was responsible with my work and allowed me to take on more responsibilities as time had gone on.

The next relationship that helped that change my view on research as a career was one of the doctors in the research group Dr. Uribe. I was able to meet Dr. Uribe before joining the research group while interviewing for the volunteer research position. Dr. Uribe allowed me to go on patient consults for the experiment that I was apart of and showed me what it was like to interview patients for a spot in the experiment and to help a patient understand what the experiment was about and how their contribution could help other patients with the same condition. Having this special connection with patients and being able to interact with them on a daily basis showed me that you can have a career as a clinical research and stair have that patient doctor interaction that most people want when pursing the field of medicine. I could not thank Dr. Uribe enough for such a great experience, this special relationship that I had and the opportunity that allowed me to see the interaction of patients and doctors truly changed my outlook on clinical research and what I could see myself doing after graduation.

The change that I had while doing my STEP project is significant before having done the research project, I had never thought of a career in research. I did not think that research was my calling nor did I have the slightest clue that research could involve interacting with patients on a daily basis. This has greatly changed my thoughts on what I want be and what I see myself doing with my life. I am now more interested in conducting research and have plans in place this summer to conduct organic chemistry research with one of my professors. I can not thank Ohio State, Dr. Callam and Dr. Uribe for helping me through this process and showing me what research and a career in science could do.


A True Field Experience

A Research Project Reflection by Megan Dollenmeyer

As a part of my STEP Signature Project I traveled to the Mamiraua Reserve in the Brazilian Amazon to participate in field research led by Dr. Pedro da Gloria on rural dental health. Most of my trip consisted of assisted Dr. Fernando Nogeira collect saliva samples to analyze pH levels in lactating, pregnant, and non-lactating or pregnant women. I also analyzed the data we collected on the Bolsa Família program, food insecurity, dietary data and anthropometric measurements. I am currently working to analyze the data we collected, in addition to data collected on a second trip to the same site, which I hope to utilize for my senior research thesis.

This trip turned out to be one of the most challenging and life changing experiences I have had to date. Not only did I meet some of the most incredible people, who truly changed my entire perspective on life, but I also faced some of the toughest challenges that I know made me a better person. My research adviser and I arrived in Manaus a day late, as our plane was delayed in Charlotte, NC, which made us mix our flight from Miami to Manaus. This delay also caused a hiccup in my baggage delivery, which was held in Miami. I went into the field without any of my stuff, except for the outfit I was wearing, a few items I bought in Tefé, and my backpack. After living in two outfits for three weeks, until my luggage arrived in the field, I truly learned the meaning of humility and generosity. People in the communities in which we studied heard my story and offered me their own clothes, even though they didn’t have enough to give any away. I also never realized how much I took for granted all the “normal” aspects of my American life, like sleeping in a bed or drinking liquid milk. In fact, my time in the Brazilian Amazon completely upturned my sentiments toward these “normal” parts of life. Now, I would much rather sleep in a hammock than a bed and I would rather have powdered milk with my coffee than regular milk.

My missing luggage wasn’t the only part of the trip that went wayward. I also accidentally walked in “tall” grass full of bugs and promptly became covered in bites, got sick from working with saliva samples, and had to leave the field a couple days early to register my visa in Manaus. Through all of this, I learned the value of “tudo bem” or that “all is good”. I learned to live with the circumstances, even if they were uncomfortable, and to make the best out of the worst situations. For a formerly anxious and high-strung person like me, this was a huge transformation.

Overall, I learned more about field research than I ever thought was possible. I learned about the integrity of data collection, and how gender can influence the research. For example, my Brazilian research adviser, Pedro, faced problems when asking women questions about pregnancy and lactation. On the other hand, my Ohio State research adviser, Dr. P, was able to effectively relate to these women as a women, to record accurate data. Prior to this, I hadn’t really thought about how gender influences data collection. In a field such as anthropology, which has been traditionally male-dominated, it is extremely important to recognize the different biases in work, and how personal attributes of the researchers can influence the data collected as well as the data presented.


There are more relationships and interactions that led to my transformation than I can even describe. Firstly, my relationships with two women who worked for the Institue, Dores and Caila, who helped me navigate the Amazon and showed me the true meaning of what it means to be a woman. They were considered the “mothers” of the group, and they truly were there with me along the way while I grew as a person. They showed me more compassion than I ever could have imagined, including making me a paste for my extensive amount of bug bites and showing me how to “treat” a fish. More importantly, they comforted me when I had problems registering my visa and helped me navigate the bureaucracy of Brazil.

The other friendship that significantly changed my perception of the world, and even what I want to do with my life, was my friendship with a young girl in one of the communities. This girl and her siblings would wait on the banks of their community for our boat to come every day. From the time I arrived, to the time I left, my “fan club” would follow me around, teaching me new little words in Portuguese and asking me different things about the US. At times, being the only English speaker in the group was difficult, so chatting with this groups of kids, and spending time with them each day, made me happier and feel more at home in a strange place. After hearing all of their different stories, they helped me come to the realization that everything will be okay in the end, as long as you have friends by your side.

Paired with the other friendships I made while in the Amazon, especially those of Rafaela and Camila (two undergraduate researchers from a university in the northeast), I learned more about fieldwork and myself, and living in extremely close quarters, than I could have ever imagined. Although the events, like losing my luggage and having problems with my visa, affected my view of the world, the people that I met had much more of a profound impact than any of these little things. If I could go back and do it again, I would without hesitation, even if it meant going through all the obstacles along the way.


This transformation was extremely valuable for my life, as it has without a doubt influenced my future career path. After my experiences with my “fan club”, I have decided to apply for Teach for America following my graduation. My time with the kids in the communities helped me realize the value of education and see the multidimensional challenges that these kids face just trying to go to school. Hopefully following my time with Teach for America, I would like to go to law school or graduate school in order to continue working in the area of food security and social welfare policy. Academically, my time in the Brazilian Amazon has inspired me to continue learning Portuguese. This past semester I managed to take two graduate level Portuguese classes, a feat I never would have been able to accomplish if I hadn’t learned in the Amazon. Additionally, my personal academic goals include completing my honors thesis by the end of my senior year and graduating with Honors Research Distinction. My personal goals include returning to the Amazon as soon as I possibly can, whether to do more research or just for a personal visit. Additionally, I would

Learning to “live with the uncomfortable” and that all will be good in the end has helped me navigate the past two semesters as I encountered some of the hardest challenges of my life. After losing two close family members, traveling back and forth to Cincinnati during the week to care for one of these family members and trying to keep up with my work in 19 credit hours with 3 graduate level classes, I don’t think I would have succeeded without the lessons I learned in Brazil. Going forward, these experiences will continue to impact my life daily, as they have completely changed my world perspective.


Development and Creation of a 3D-printable Robotic Hand

My STEP project was to design and create my own 3D-printable robotic hand. This involved lots of designing and planning to construct a 3D-printable design using SolidWorks software. It also involved plenty of time familiarizing myself with Simplify3D,  a 3D printing software and Arduino, the programming language I used for the robotic hand. To create the robotic hand, I only used PLA plastic, fishing line, and servo motors. At the the time of this post, I have completed a working finger, which I plan on adjusting before I create a full robotic hand this summer. I also hope to use motion capture software to have the robotic hand mimic my movements.

By completing my STEP experience, I gained valuable experience into running my own project and working on a long term goal in an engineering project. My project was an unusual research project, as it was an exploration to find the best design for a cheap and easy to make robotic hand that is still not fully finished. Even so, I have learned so much from this extraordinary experience. The main lesson that I learned was how to better deal with the issues of managing my own project. These include setting due dates, planning the best design with multiple conflicting parts, and considering every option. Completing this project assured me that I can do something like this in a professional setting. Especially with more motivation and more resources, I would be able and very happy to run projects such as this one in a future career.

All of the issues that I came across broke into two main categories: caused by myself or by the nature of engineering projects. With a long term project, it was hard to motivate myself to work on it instead of the more pressing issues in my life like schoolwork. In addition to this, I had trouble putting together all my thoughts to make a final design. In classes, we are often guided to a final design, but in my project I had to come up with all of the ideas and how they worked together myself. This was difficult, as I often found myself with two great ideas that did not work together and so I had to create a new design. For example, I wanted to have the wrist mounted on a servo, but this caused issues with running wires through the wrist. I solved this problem by designing the wrist so that it was actually closer to the elbow, preventing the turning of the wrist from decreasing the motor’s strength or getting in the way of the wires’ paths.

My project, while difficult at times, was actually quite enjoyable. The planning phase was definitely fun, although time consuming. It gave me a reason to do research into multiple different 3D printers, other designs for biomimetic hands, and similar projects. I rarely do this kind of research, but it was actually a lot of fun. Furthermore as I started putting together a design, it got more and more exciting as the pieces started coming together into the final project. The sense of achievement that I got from working on this project will make it way more likely for me to do other projects like this one in the future.

Actually completing the design and having a physical, working model of a finger also had a big impact on me. Not only had I spent a lot of my time on this project, but it had actually worked. This project was a huge goal for me, and I was really hoping that my design would work, as I had not tested any parts before I assembled all of it. I’ve completed large projects before, but this one was completely independent. It helped reassure me that I can do large, dedicated projects like this and I am motivated to do more in my free time.

Furthermore, the completed and working design that I presented last month reassured me of my choice in major. I am a Biomedical Engineering major, which is a highly specific field of engineering and one with fewer large companies searching for new workers. While I have a lot of prospective future careers, my main ones are prosthetics and biomimetic robotics. Having completed the design for a robotic hand, I am confident that I would be a desirable potential worker for companies working in those fields because I have a very unique and applicable experience. While helping me towards a career, my project also showed me that I enjoy this type of work, which reassures me that I chose the right major.

My STEP experience had a significant impact on me. Not only was it an incredibly enjoyable project, but it was very fulfilling. I gained invaluable experience in the field I want to work in after college. This experience will help me in the pursuit of a career. It also showed me what I can do. A lot of the time I have ideas for what projects I can take on, but then they usually don’t happen for one reason or another. This project showed me that I can do a lot with some dedication. I am very thankful for the chance to have had this experience as it has definitely changed me fore the better.

A Minor (Major) Change: How Undergraduate Research Changed Myself, My Goals, and Even My Major

Name: Amy Richele Sharn

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research: Human Nutrition Health Behavior Interventions

My STEP Signature Project was the opportunity to participate on a research project within Dr. Carolyn Gunther’s lab on human nutrition health behavior interventions during summer 2015. My role was a camp location site leader at Camp NERF (Nutrition Education Recreation Fitness) at a Columbus City Elementary school. I helped to coordinate the many activities and people at the site and recorded and collected data that would enable the research team to evaluate the outcome. The research goal was to see if behavior interventions introduced in a summer camp format could improve the weight status of children. I also had the opportunity to volunteer in another community intervention, Simple Suppers, where I taught children food preparation skills and also collected data on the effect of structured healthy meal times on the weight status of parents and children.


As a college student, you are surrounded by people who want to learn, grow and improve. The university community is full of people who are accepting of new ideas and approaches to solve problems.  You are surrounded by open minds. It is easy to assume that the community that surrounds the university shares your open mindedness.

I quickly learned that outside the university community that the willingness to listen cannot be assumed. I saw firsthand through small day to day interactions with people you may be able to bring change in a person’s view of their situation. In each interaction you learn something about yourself and how to improve. Participating in health behavior research challenged me to interact with people who have different backgrounds and viewpoints than mine. During the course of working on this research, I gained an appreciation for how difficult it is for people to adopt new lifestyle habits. This showed me how important that this research is and increased my passion to be part of the team that finds effective solutions.


The weekly interactions with families and children during the summer months allowed me to develop relationships with the people within our intervention programs. I saw the barriers (both economic and social) that made adoption of healthier lifestyles difficult. I also developed relationships with the researchers themselves. I learned that the scientists were not individuals focused on their research for their own gain, but were committed, giving their time, and driven to find ways to help the next generation of our children in the fight against obesity as their reward.

In the midst of my STEP project, I lost a family member due to her lifestyle choices. I wonder if and how someone in my field of study may have been able to intervene and help her. I am committed to advancing the knowledge in my field so that we can reach people like her.

As a result of these experiences, I have decided that I am going to continue in the field of nutrition, completing the requirements for an RD and then pursuing a masters and a doctorate. I will model my path after the successful career paths of the graduate students and researchers that I have worked with. They have achieved a successful and healthy work life balance that I know I can achieve as well.


At seventeen I had my life planned out: undergrad, medical school, residency, marriage, family; all in that order. As I’ve worked on research and grown throughout my college experience, I see now that medical school is not the only way to be an active part of the community to changes people’s lives.

I discovered that my passion is not in the science of the interaction between molecules I studied as a chemistry major, but rather the science of the interaction of people and their lifestyle choices. My passion is how can I impact the wellness in our community and help people live healthier lives.

I want to leave those around me with a lasting impact in whatever career path I follow. I will surround myself with people whom give back to the world what life has taught them and who encourage those around them to do the same; I have joined them.

Genetic Analysis of Thermococcus Kodakarensis – STEP Research Project

Nathan Neilson

STEP Reflection/Reporting Back

1.  For my STEP project, I chose to perform research over the past summer (the summer of 2015).  This entailed working in a research lab full time, and having my own independent project in that lab.  My project involved studying three specific genes that code for DNA packaging in the archaea Thermococcus Kodakarensis (T. Kod.).

2.  By being able to do this STEP project, I was able to learn about the research world, but also about the real world as well.  Prior to the summer of 2015, I had already researched a bit in the lab that I spent my summer in, but never more than a few hours a week.  I never had that opportunity.  Thanks to my STEP funds, I spent a much longer time in the lab and actually got an immersive feeling into the lifestyle of having a career in research.  As a premed student, research is an important part of my field and thus it was important to learn about this aspect of my field.  I learned a ton about research methods, as well as academic material as well that has helped me in other science courses this year that I have taken.

In addition to learning about the career and field of research, I learned a lot about the real world.  The majority of my STEP funds went to allowing me to afford an apartment here in Columbus so that I could actually stay here.  I had never lived alone, let alone in an apartment.  Therefore, this was an important experience for me because these are crucial experiences for any adult to have.  I learned to balance working with keeping track of my apartment bills and keeping my apartment clean.  Although I didn’t expect to have this transformation, this debatably was the most important transformation that I underwent due to my STEP experience.

3.  Since there were multiple transformations caused by my STEP project, there were many key aspects of my experience that resulted in the actual transformation that I underwent.  One of the main aspects of my experience that was influential for me was the vast array of laboratory techniques that I was exposed to in my lab.  I had learned about a few of these techniques in my previous science courses, but there were so many more I ended up performing that I had never heard of!  In addition, hearing about a technique is a much different experience that actually using the technique in a real world setting.  For me, actually doing these techniques had much more or a value and impact that just learning them.  For example, I had learned about gel electrophoresis in my general biology course freshman year, but didn’t ACTUALLY learn what it meant.  After having run dozens of gels in order to analyze fragments of DNA I had isolated, I can tell anybody just about any detail of the process of gel electrophoresis.  This is the sort of value I gained from my experience that resulted in my STEP transformation.

Another key aspect of my STEP project that left a lasting impact on me was the amount of time management and sleep management skills I gained from my lab.  Many times in my lab, I would have three of four procedures going at once.  For example, I could be running a gel for gel electrophoresis while transforming T. Kod. cells for later use, all while mixing a solution for pouring agar plates which I would need later.  This sort of thing initially left my mind in disarray, and I would forget things and mess up procedures.  My lab manager would get so frustrated with this, so I learned to quickly adjust.  By the end of my time in lab, I was an expert in multitasking.  In addition, I had to manage my sleep due to the crazy hours entailed by research.  There were many nights I needed to wake up at 3 am and head to the lab to take a reading for my cells, only to head back home right after.  This sort of chaotic schedule forced me to learn how to cram in sleep and rest into my day.  I definitely carry this experience with me still, especially during the semester and during finals week!!

One final key to my transformation was my living situation for the summer.  I had to juggle all my work at research with keeping my bills paid, my apartment clean, and making sure I was keeping my finances in check.  I remember the first month I was living in my apartment over the summer, I completely forgot to pay my bills and suffered a lot of late fees because of it.  I quickly learned how to manage my bills.  Since I lived alone, I was 100% in charge of how clean my apartment stayed.  I actually loved this aspect of my experience, because I am somewhat of a clean freak and have had messy roommates in the past.  I finally could keep my apartment clean to my standard!  Also, if I was busy at the research lab and didn’t have as much time at home, I learned I could slack off on my house cleaning until I had a bit more time.  This sort of time and priority management was extremely useful for me to learn, especially since I moved off campus during this school year.  I already had learned the ups and downs of having an apartment, while my roommates were just learning these types of life lessons.

4.  As evidenced above, I learned so much in the few short months that my STEP project allowed me to spend here over the summer.  Most obviously, I gained academic and career  benefits from this experience.  I discussed how my research taught me a lot about lab techniques, which I utilized in my later classes about science subjects.  These lab techniques helped me learn how to have a steady hand and to manage my time much better.  In addition, as a premed student, I valued the knowledge from my lab because it is something I am passionate about and is relevant to my field.  Many people involved in undergraduate research here at OSU cannot say they were actually passionate about the projects they were involved in, but I can!  One thing I realized from my time in a research lab, though, is that this sort of career definitely is not something I would want to do for the rest of my life.  I enjoyed it a lot, but my research taught me that I prefer other aspects of science and medicine, which helped solidify my path as a premed student.  Lastly, I learned valuable life lessons during my time spent in an apartment over the summer.  I learned how to pay bills, how to multitask a job with a life at home, and how to keep an entire house clean.  These are arguably the most important lessons I learned, because I will carry these things with me forever and regardless of the career I choose.  I want to thank STEP for the opportunities the program provided me with.  I learned so much and had one of the most beneficial and fun summers of my life!  I am so glad I persevered through the program and actually got to do my experience, unlike many others.