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.

For my STEP Project, I worked over the summer on a research project that focuses on retinal regeneration. My lab specifically focuses on a specific type of glial cell, the Muller Glia that has the potential to de-differentiate and proliferate. Such characteristics allow it to display stem cell qualities and I investigated a possible mechanism that is involved in the process. My specific project focused on the role of MMPs on Muller Glia and I conducted several experiments in the avian model for my investigation.

2. 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.

One of the biggest lessons my project this summer taught me is that science isn’t straight forward. There is still so much we have to learn and understand and although it is fascinating it also comes with its frustrations. I started my project with one assumption but upon quantification of the data, the results were the complete opposite of my proposed reasoning and hypothesis. There were significant differences between control and treated in my data, but because it was not what I was expecting I had to reevaluate the role that MMPs play. This of course is also exciting for me because it means my investigation is merely at the beginning. Overall, doing research has allowed me to develop a profound respect for those in the profession who dedicate their lives to their work. It takes patience, vast knowledge, and an open and flexible mind. As I continue to work in my lab, my hope is that I continue to cultivate such qualities and carry them with me as I move forward with my future.

3. 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.

Working with my colleagues in my lab definitely had the biggest impact on me. The atmosphere was conducive to learning. Everyone was warm and friendly. Forming relationships and bonds has been a valuable part of my time in lab and has made going to lab one of my favorite parts of the day. What I loved about my project was that I was given the freedom to work independently at my own pace. I conducted everything myself, but what made me so successful was being able to have a source of support and knowledge. I always felt comfortable asking any questions that I had and learned a lot from listening to different viewpoints and analysis on the data.

Another part of the research project that contributed to my learning and transformation was my participation in the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum. Although I had worked in the lab for more than a year, this was the first time that I was required to personally compile all of my data from my experiments into figures in a way that displayed the significance of my findings. Creating the poster enabled me to continue improving my scientific writing. For me scientific writing is relatively new and I have found that the only way to improve is to in fact write more. The Fall Undergraduate Research Poster Forum was the first time that I presented my own personal work to others. I greatly enjoyed the experience. It was a perfect environment for me to present at my first forum. Having people, especially freshmen come and talk and ask questions about my work was very rewarding. Not only did it help solidify what I already knew, but I learned how to explain my scientific work more simply so that everyone could understand. The reviewers especially asked great questions that I have taken into consideration as I go forward with my project.

My project this summer also continued to expose me to the scientific discoveries of other labs and researchers. Every week my lab held journal clubs. In these sessions an interesting paper was chosen and we reviewed it. Each of us, undergraduates and graduate students alike were assigned a figure that we had to study and present. Most of my time in lab was spent focusing on my own work, however at our journal clubs I learned how to look and evaluate others’ work. The process has taught me how to analyze evidence and then evaluate whether the data provided supports the presented claims and findings. Doing so has not only opened my eyes to others’ approaches and ideas but also to look at my work with a more critical eye. Everyone will look at my work in a different way, it is important that I cover every angle so that everyone comes to the same conclusions.

4. 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.

My goals for the future are to go to medical school. Working in the lab has taught me that I want research to be a part of my life. Medicine advances due to scientific discoveries. Research is therefore key to us moving forward in our understanding of the human body. Before working in my lab, I never saw research as a part of my future. Now, I cannot imagine not being involved in it. I specifically have developed an interest in the retina and in vision. Going forward, I hope to continue my involvement in the field.

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