STEP Reflection

This past summer, I participated in undergraduate research and worked in Dr. Baldwin Way’s social neurochemistry lab. At the time, my lab’s focus was on acetaminophen (Tylenol) and its side effects. As a research assistant, I was mainly tasked with organizing and analyzing datasets based on the research conducted on Tylenol by my supervisor, Dominik Mishkowski. Dominik found that acetaminophen is able to decrease people’s empathy and increase aggression.

When I first decided to participate in research, I thought nothing of the tremendous dedication put into the entire experience. My involvement in the research lab allowed me develop a new found respect for researchers. The amount of time spent outside of the lab forming ideas, writing grant proposals, and planning the study  was astounding. I had always assumed that their primary focus was on conducting the study and that the end results would come easily. The collected data must also be analyzed long after the experiment was conducted. Being able to observe experienced researchers carry out their work helped me understand the amount of dedication required for research. Though I only analyzed data, I gained more confidence and pride in being a part of the research community. This was a great learning experience and it expanded my knowledge in social neurochemistry.

In my analysis, I focused on examining whether marijuana had any effects or interactions with Tylenol using statistical software. We found that there was a possible link between the two and I found myself very thrilled with the possibility of discovering a new research finding. Although we found no significant effects of the interaction, putting in the work and playing around with Dominik’s data was a rewarding experience in itself. I must admit that although I was glad to clean up and organize Dominik’s data before the analysis, I found it very uninteresting. This made me realize that there are dull periods that researchers must ride out before they get to the “fun stuff” that they enjoy.

This undergraduate research experience exposed me to a possible career path and helped me develop the skills required of a researcher. Being in a workplace environment, I was able to understand the nature of communication and team collaboration by meeting and working with other people. The lab meetings that I went to exposed me to the interactions that took place. I found that Dr. Way managed multiple projects at once and everyone was being held accountable for the work they were doing. I was very impressed with how Dr. Way accomplished his work even though he was being pulled in several directions.

I have gained a vast array of knowledge and am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to explore the research field. Interacting and meeting with other people during my experience was very beneficial. I was able to experience a taste of being a researcher and view things from a researcher’s perspective. Everyone at the lab was extremely helpful in answering my questions and gave me great feedback. This was an invaluable experience and I feel more prepared about the future through this opportunity.

Although I enjoyed my time as a research assistant, this STEP experience helped me eliminate research as a career choice. I discovered that I lack the enthusiasm required for research.  The amount of stress focused outside of the current experiment was not appealing to me. Nonetheless, I decided to continue working as a research assistant to conduct more studies and continue my search for a hidden passion towards research. I set out to explore other career options as well, should I decide that research still isn’t fit for my future. I am still unsure of my goals after graduation and hope to someday find my calling. However, this experience helped me affirm my passion for neuroscience and psychology. I  find the study of human behavior as it relates to the brain to be incredibly fascinating.  This led me to delve into the concept of pursuing a graduate degree in order to become a clinical neuropsychologist.