STEP Reflection

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

For my STEP Signature Project I worked as a research assistant (RA) on fMRI-related projects. As an RA I pre-screened potential fMRI subjects for my lab, created a database of contact information for fMRI participants, assisted researchers with running MRI studies, attended lab meetings and CCBBI users’ workshops, read background and foundational papers in the field of cognitive neuroscience, and analyzed fMRI data. My project culminated with a poster at the CCBS Fall Retreat.

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

Since my freshman year of college much of my interest in cognitive neuroscience has been driven the power of the fMRI machine. This piece of technology gives researchers the ability to (indirectly) see thoughts within someone’s mind. At the beginning of the summer, I was curious as to how powerful this tool could be for researchers.

However, by the end of my time in the lab I realized that fMRI is but a tool in the ever growing toolbox of cognitive neuroscience. The methodology behind fMRI still needs to be developed and defended—as with all cutting edge science. In conjunction with other techniques such as EEG and behavioral studies, fMRI can be used to ask provocative questions about the human brain. While my passion for research and being on the cutting edge of science remains undiluted, the scope of my interests has shifted. Rather than studying cognitive neuroscience in graduate school I plan to study computer vision.

  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?

Much of my time in lab was dedicated to processing fMRI data. In order to fulfill these tasks I needed to build a wide base of foundational knowledge such as fMRI methodology and technology, how to process fMRI data, and programming in Matlab. Additionally I took on a few side projects like learning to code in Python and understanding artificial neural networks.

My time in lab was not spent alone. I worked with a lab manager, a post-doctorate student, and multiple graduate students. The relationships I built with these people helped shape my expectations for graduate school; getting a PhD takes dedication and hard work. Seeing these people work alongside me all summer was inspiring and helped reaffirm my post-undergraduate plans.

However, I found myself drawn more strongly to the programming aspect of my work. The data I worked with was fascinating but my side projects with artificial neural networks felt more engaging. This discovery led me to the field of computer vision. Many theories in this field combine the computational elements of artificial neural networks and data from cognitive neuroscience.

  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.

Since discovering computer vision, my academic trajectory has shifted. Before this transformational summer I planned to enter graduate school and to fall into some project that I found interesting. Now, I see the need to take a gap year. I hope to work as a lab manager in a computer vision lab here at The Ohio State University or elsewhere so I can continue to build my programming skills and comprehension of cutting edge computer vision models. After spending time as a lab manager I plan to apply to graduate school and to work towards my doctorate degree.


STEP Reflection – Undergraduate Research, Gregory Nagy

  1.       My STEP Signature Project consisted of research on the plant Elaeocarpus japonicus, in which I extracted and separated chemicals found in the plant to see if any of the chemicals could work to fight cancer cells. This work was performed from May to July 2016 in the A. Douglas Kinghorn lab in Parks Hall as a part of the College of Pharmacy Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program. My day-to-day work included rotary evaporation, thin layer chromatography, column chromatography, liquid-liquid extraction, and collaboration with other lab groups to test our chemical fractions in bioassays.
  2.        My STEP Project was very valuable for my outlook on my professional career going forward. Without STEP, I may still have chosen to apply and participate in this research program, but STEP made it easier for me to participate. Going into the program, I had a strong feeling that I wanted to do research professionally. After the program, I know that I want to do research professionally, but I do not want to do the type of research that I conducted over the summer. I found that the work I was doing was important, but I thought that it was archaic in terms of the time that it would take to find new discoveries in the lab. I realized that what I really wanted to do was to use computer software to help expedite the drug discovery process. In my mind, the use of computer software, and the pairing of the computer modeling with real, ‘wet’ laboratory experiments, is the main thing that the pharmaceutical industry should be working on to churn out more drugs for society. I assumed that working with chemicals derived from natural products (fungi, animals, plants, bacteria) would be safer and easier to turn into official drug products. I had been taught in a spring 2016 Pharmacy class that natural products have some flexibility for being effective in the human body that synthetic products do not, known in the pharmacy world as ‘natural products can violate Lipinski’s Rule of 5’. I discovered over the summer that my inclination to favor natural products as the way of the future in medicine was overstated, and that I could accomplish more in my career working with computer software and synthetic pharmaceuticals than with natural products.

Through the STEP Project, I also understood that my goals for graduate school could not be accomplished at Ohio State, so I was able to broaden my horizons and plan to go out of state for graduate school, possibly to Seattle or San Francisco. This outlook has made me excited because I feel ready to take on such a large jump from my current experience as an undergraduate student. I also fostered a new sense of self-confidence and perseverance through the STEP Project. I learned the importance of not taking no for an answer, maintaining an enthusiasm and positive attitude about your work, and fighting for your cause/vision as I interacted with other people to collaborate on the research project. I was also able to interact with people from all over the world, because in the research lab there were students and faculty from Madagascar, India, and other foreign countries, so that allowed me to get exposure to different parts of the world, and appreciate the freedoms and opportunities that are present in the United States, which is partially why the international students and faculty are here in the United States.

  1.        In terms of shifting research perspectives, there were multiple events that led to my shift away from natural product research and toward computer-aided drug design (CADD). First, I realized that the work that I was doing in the lab wasn’t really going after our target disease: cancer. Yes, we were testing the fractions and samples from our plant against cancer cells, but we really weren’t aggressively trying to cure cancer. We would take the fraction and say, “Hmm, I wonder if this kills cancer?” It was a guessing game, a game of luck. We were at the mercy of the plant. If the plant decided to make some chemicals that humans discovered could kill cancer cells, then that was great. The problem was that the plant was still in control. The plant was the entity making the chemicals; humans could only get lucky in discovering the right chemicals in the plant to suppress cancerous tumors. In CADD, the humans are in charge of making the chemicals, so as a CADD researcher, I can go straight after the cancer cell and say, “I know that this drug I made can fight strongly against cancer.” In natural products research, the researcher goes up to the cancer cell and says, “A plant gave this to me. I’m not sure if it will kill you, but let’s give it a try.” I favor going straight after the solution to the problem, instead of relying on other entities to work hard, so I enjoy being in charge of the drug design process on the computer instead of relying on Mother Nature to grant humanity a medical cure.

My interactions with one graduate student in particular, Annécie, were especially of value to me. Annécie helped me realize that the chemistry will happen in the body according to the inherent laws of chemistry, regardless of the source of the chemical. That is to say, chemicals from natural sources are not inherently good, and chemicals from synthetic sources are not inherently bad; the effect is based on the actual chemical makeup and reactions happening in the body. This allowed me to free my mind of the restrictive focus on natural products, and think about applying to graduate school to study the method that I think makes the most sense: designing drugs with computer programs. Annécie is from Madagascar, and we talked about the privileges awarded to United States citizens, including with regard to owning a United States passport. These discussions helped me better appreciate the ability to travel, and the American mindset that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. She also pushed me to look beyond Ohio State for graduate school. My dad did both his undergraduate and graduate studies at Ohio State, so it took me a while to realize that that is not reality for most students. I started to broaden my horizons. Finally, Annécie pushed me to look at research labs doing this sort of computational work, and also to enroll in a computational chemistry class for AU16 semester, to see whether or not I would like the material. I enrolled in the class, which I would most likely not have done if it were not for her, and in the first six weeks, I have already learned valuable perspectives that will help me in my applications for graduate school. Another graduate student, Nikki, encouraged me to talk with Dr. Chenglong Li of the College of Pharmacy about his work in CADD. I was able to talk with Dr. Li and receive some important perspectives on searching for a graduate school.

In terms of fighting for my vision and not taking no for an answer, I tried to stay positive about my work. Since I was working on the plant, and the success of my experiments was in the hands of the plant and whatever chemicals it decided to produce, I tried to think positively, and keep a positive mindset as I conducted the research. I would joke with the graduate students in the lab that I would talk sweetly to my plant so that it would reveal useful chemicals to me. I actually ended up getting a result by the end of the ten weeks from one of my fractions, with respect to its ability to dismantle the electric potential on either side of a mitochondrial membrane, that is very impressive, especially for a fraction so early in the isolation process. I’m not saying that my positive thinking made this result happen; I am just saying that it helps to have a positive attitude and keep fighting even in the face of knowing that you might not get a great result. I also made sure to fight for my vision by advocating for my fractions to be tested against cancer cells. There were issues with the fume hood that delayed the testing against the cells, and I had to advocate for my project and push to have my cells tested, or, at least I thought that I was standing up for myself. At times, the reality was that I didn’t understand the timeline of the tests, but other times I think that I did have to stand up for my project to make sure that the fractions were tested against cancer cells. This persistence will help me be a maverick when I (hopefully) own my own biotechnology company in the future.

  1.              My shift from focusing on natural products to looking at CADD for a professional career is very significant. First, because I will be working on computers, theoretically I will not have to own as much equipment to start my own company, which will make it easier for me to actually start my own company. This is very important to me because I do not like the idea of someone else controlling what I do at work. I want to have the freedom to go after the professional goals that I really want to pursue. Second, I think that CADD is the way of the future. I want to be on the cutting edge of innovation for the biotechnological world. In my opinion, the cutting edge is the most exciting place to be, and I get really enthused about going after brand new cures and treatments. I think that I have found a niche which, when maximized, can be the next boom in the healthcare world. Using computers not just to discover drugs, but to model human cells, tissues, organ systems, etc., can COMPLETELY change our healthcare system. The ideal vision is a healthcare system where a patient sends in a cheek swab to a company, the company runs the cheek swab through the computer, creates a virtual patient in the computer, identifies every problem that is wrong with the patient, and has either a gene therapy or a pharmaceutical to fix that problem. In my opinion, the only way that society gets to that utopian healthcare vision is by using computers and computer software as the keystone of the movement. I am so glad that I fixed on CADD and protein/cell modeling at this stage in my life, because it will truly play a major role in the next revolution of health care. Third, I think that working in the biotech industry, specifically the CADD and biochemical modeling niche, will allow me to live the lifestyle that I want, in terms of work schedule, standard of living, and philanthropic impact on my community and beyond.

Interacting with a diverse group of people allowed me to further explore the idea of privilege and understand my ethnic, racial, gender-specific, and socioeconomic place in society. As a future entrepreneur, I need to be relentless and scrappy as I fight for the good of my company, and the good of society. Navigating collaboration in the College of Pharmacy as my project progressed was a small stepping stone to being able to dominate the biotech scene in the future, and make a lasting, positive impact for society’s health.


Figure 1.My Test Tubes after LH-20 Column Chromatography Separation


Figure 2.Thin Layer Chromatography Result after Running Silica Column Chromatography


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.

STEP Reflection

Torki Barayan

Undergraduate Research

Initially, my project was supposed to be an observational study at the epilepsy clinic at the Martha Morehouse clinic. Due to limited patients that could be included, this project has been placed under hiatus. Instead, I have been spending time working with Dr. McAuley and self-paying for trips to the clinic, data entering, and using the money on studying tools for the PCAT.

Despite the fact that my project never took off, I could honestly say that the experience as a whole has been transformational. I am currently studying pharmaceutical sciences, and as my graduation date draws near, it’s hard not to get scared of the future. Yes, I still have 4 years of pharmacy school left, but there are so many fields within the pharmaceutical world that it is still too early for me to know what I want. Working in the clinic as a student research assistant has helped me develop some views on the clinical research side of pharmacy. Moreover, I have developed a strong rapport with the professor I worked with, and learned more from him about patient interactions than I could in a classroom setting.

Working with Dr. McAuley has been a huge honor for me. Sitting as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Pharmacy, he is a very busy man with very important things on his plate. Despite all this, Dr. McAuley has always tried his best to fit me into his schedule and we have been working together since 2014. Dr. McAuley has vouched for me on a few occasions as well, and there isn’t a faculty member on this campus that I respect more than him.

Through working with Dr. McAuley, one of the experiences we had was hosting a medication reconciliation event at the YMCA. I only shadowed because this event was mainly for pharmacy students who were better suited at giving advice on drug-drug interactions, but it was still very eye opening. I had the pleasure of speaking to a gentleman who was waiting his turn in the line and he seemed so grateful to me that I would take time out of my weekend just to observe what was going on; I didn’t really have anything to gain per se. Seeing the appreciation in the eyes of the local community revitalized my hunger to become the best clinical pharmacist I can be. Though it was only a short encounter, I’ll never forget that gentleman.
The Gentleman

Throughout this experience I have learned that I may be better suited for a more patient-oriented career than a research-oriented career; bedside over bench if you will. Even though I have yet to start pharmacy school I believe I have already made up my mind on what my end goal will be; clinical pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, and eventually pediatric pharmacy. I want to see that glimmer in every patient’s eyes and I don’t think I can gain that from working in a laboratory.

This was a very valuable experience that I am so grateful for. My STEP professor, Dr. Whittington, introduced me by chance to Dr. McAuley while we were figuring out a project for me. It was such a stroke of luck that I happened to be in her group and that she happened to know him. Thanks to the STEP program,  I think I found my destiny in the pharmaceutical field and I could not be more thankful.

Step Reflection

STEP Reflection Prompts


Name: Michelle Ewert

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.

Over the course of the past Summer, I participated in several different research experiences. I began work on my undergraduate research project in Psychology, studying whether effortful control moderates the effect of attachment style on generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Concurrently, I participated in data collection and organization from the dialectical behavior therapy clinic for the MAPS Lab.


  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.

One of my largest takeaways from this process was preparation for graduate school and the realization that I could make it in a 9-5 research job. I committed myself to at least 30 hours (typically 40) a week between both the Cognition and Emotion Lab and the Mood and Personality Sciences Lab. Working long periods at a desk, either running analyses or entering data allowed me to realize that I have the stamina and commitment for graduate school. I ended this summer feeling energized and excited for the possibility of continuing these projects and research, rather than being exhausted from it. I became assured that despite dreading the idea of a desk job, as a child, now it’s been solidified as my dream to have my own research lab and professorial position in clinical psychology.


  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.

The research that I participated in this summer confirmed that not only am I in the right place, but that clinical psychology research is what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I worked in two labs over the summer; the Cognition and Emotion Lab and the Mood and Personality Sciences Lab. I have never been in such a positive and uplifting work environment in my life. Whether it came to answering questions about using SPSS, getting advice for graduate school, or just discussing the latest events, all of the graduate students in both labs treated me with such incredible kindness and support. Both of my advisors were always there whenever I needed any help or direction for the next step.

I was tasked with a myriad of different projects over the summer to fill my weekly commitments in both labs. In the MAPS lab, I entered data every week from the DBT clinic, labeled folders, emailed therapists to keep track of data, created materials for the clinic, and did other odd jobs around the lab. I learned a lot about using different programs, such as SPSS, Excel, and Qualtrics. In the Cognition and Emotion lab, I worked on my own thesis and worked on a meta-analysis for one of the graduate students in my lab. I have a better understanding and handle on using SPSS, data analysis skills in general, and the step-by-step process of creating a meta-analysis. I also did a lot of writing in the creation of my proposal, procedure, and IRB protocol, which helped me practice my professional writing skills. The development and solidification of these skills, as well as realizing I loved being in a lab environment, helped me to be sure that this is the path that I’m set on following.

I have this great memory of cleaning the lab with my advisor one day. It doesn’t sound like the most professional task for a summer research job, however, it surprisingly left a huge impact on me. Getting on my hands and knees to clean baseboards, sweep, purge old files, and dust, with a professor who I greatly respect, really established the fact that I was seen as an equal in my lab. Even as a lowly undergraduate, I was working alongside all of these people and I was valued for the work that I was doing, even if it wasn’t the serious research the graduate students were working on. It’s the strangest thing, but this moment was the exact moment that I knew I wanted to stay at OSU for graduate school. I have been a research assistant for three years now, and the anxiety and depression research done in our lab has always captured my attention and interest. However, there are other places in the United States where I could research these things in ethical and interesting ways, but it is the sense of community that I’ve found here that completely changed my plans for the future.


  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.

Figuring out where I will apply for graduate school has been one of my greatest challenges in the past year. Finally determining my number one choice has been the biggest change I’ve incurred from this research experience. I did a lot of interesting, intensive work that taught me some incredibly valuable skills, but the knowledge that I could find a home at OSU as a graduate student is my most valuable takeaway. It has shaped all of my future and current plans, since. This summer experience aided in improving my CV and resume, gave me real-life experience, and revealed to me the next course of action. It has been absolutely crucial to shaping my future goals and current plans. I am currently looking for a job in Ohio that is related to clinical psychology. I will probably apply to a few research jobs and a few patient-care jobs. After a gap year, I’m planning to apply to several PhD clinical psychology programs, my number one being OSU.

Undergraduate Research

For my STEP project, I assisted a graduate student with her project in a cardiovascular research lab at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Using a mouse model, we looked at the contribution of bone marrow derived cells to the heart valve population. I went to weekly meetings, performed experiments, analyzed my findings, and presented my results at a poster competition.

My STEP project has led me change my view on research. I used to think it was something that I never wanted to do because it was uninteresting and hard, but I now know that while it is difficult, it’s also rewarding. I had been in the lab for about a year and a half prior to my STEP project, but I was essentially just an extra set of hands that came in for a couple hours each week. This past summer I had a more active role in lab with my own side project of examining how hematopoietic derived cells contribute to the heart valve population. After spending hours reading journal articles to research my project, performing my experiments, and analyzing my results, I was able to see just how much time and effort goes into this kind of work. It was challenging and time consuming, and my project is only a fraction of what graduate students, post-docs, and principle investigators work on, so it was truly humbling.

Many aspects of my STEP project led to this transformation, including the research itself, relationships formed with coworkers, and presenting my research at competitions. Through the research, I was able to see what kind of hard work goes into the life saving discoveries made by researchers. They spend hours in the lab each day, often spending more than 40 hours every week at work. During this time not only do they read numerous scientific articles to get ideas for projects and experiments, but they also perform the experiments, analyze the results, and write papers discussing their findings.

Through the relationships formed with my coworkers, I found lasting friendships. Whenever I was struggling with something, they were there to offer a helping hand or words of advice. They’ve played a huge role in helping me with my project with anything from showing me how to set up an experiment to analyzing the results. That’s not all, however, as they’ve also been immensely helpful during my application process to med school from reviewing my resume to writing letters of recommendation. They truly made this experience incredible.

Through the competitions I participated in, I was able to explore other areas of research not present in my lab. We focus on heart development and disease, but I was able to learn about the latest progress and innovations in different aspects from cancer to hearing problems. I also gained confidence in myself as I learned to speak in front of people during my poster presentations. I used to become very nervous before talking in front of anyone, but I’ve gotten much better thank to my STEP project.

As an aspiring doctor, my new, changed view on research is absolutely valuable to my life. I knew research was important, but I didn’t realize just how much of a significant role it plays in medicine. Going to meetings, town halls, and seminars where people are presenting their work and performing clinical trials for all different types of illnesses and ailments was incredible. I have a newfound respect for all the researchers that have made it their life’s mission to find new ways to treat and cure patients, and I look forward to working with them during my future career as a physician.

STEP Reflection- Brielle Hudson

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: Brielle Hudson


Type of Project: Research Experience


  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 Signature Project allowed me to create an independent research study to expand upon the research that I had previously been involved in. My project allowed me to investigate the relationship between childhood negative stressful life events and the development of psychosis. Through this research project, I was able to develop and practice my empirical and analytic skills.

  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.

This project had a tremendous impact on my focus within the field of psychology. Prior to completing this project, my main focus in research was  mood disorders. Furthermore, because I was so intrigued with mood disorders, I tended to focus solely on biological factors and completely ignored environmental factors. Exploring stress and trauma’s influence on the development of psychosis shifted my focus to be inclusive and mindful of environmental interactions and influences. Further, this experiment solidified my passion for research and has encouraged me to pursue research in my graduate schooling.

  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.        Another key aspect of this experience was the data analysis skills that I acquired. Prior to this experience, I barely knew how to navigate SPSS. To analyze and sort my data I was required to not only build my own database, but to also learn and create syntax. Both of these tasks seemed monumental at the start of my project but now seem second nature. Further, my mentor encouraged me to decide on the types of analysis that was most appropriate to analyze my data. Having hands on experience collecting, sorting and analyzing data gave me a broader perspective on the holistic process that is research.
  2.       Finally, another significant aspect of this experience was my comfort with developing hypothesis and being patient with my results. I had to revise my initial research question multiple times. My mentor was extremely encouraging and patient with me, which challenged me to be more patient with myself. My results were largely inconclusive and insignificant, yet I learned so much throughout this experience and feel better equipped to modify my hypothesis and methodologies to reevaluate my topic of interest.
  3. One key aspect of my STEP experience was working so closely with faculty members. My mentor and the lab that hosted me played a vital role in the execution of my project. My mentor encouraged and challenged me to uncover as much existing literature about the topic as I could. While at times mundane, these literary analysis familiarized me with the existing literature that pertains to mood disorder and childhood stressful life events. This process also taught me to look for gaps in the literature and transform them into research questions. Further, these literary analysis familiarized me with the existing measures and methodologies used to evaluate these topics.


  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.

All of the transformations that I have undergone throughout this experience have been significant to me because it has allowed me to become more confident in my future goals. Before this experience, I was interested in research but did not have enough research experience to decide if I wanted to pursue a career in research. While I acknowledge that I still have more research experiences to gain, I am now solidified in my passion and love of the research process. Further, working with my mentor encouraged me to ask questions to faculty in order to get a better understanding of how their journeys ultimately led them to their careers. This transformation is significant because it allowed me a preview into the work that I hope to do as a career and reignited my determination to achieve my goals.

My STEP Project: Meigan Way

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: Meigan Way


Type of Project: Undergraduate Research Thesis


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

My STEP project included living in an off campus apartment for the last month of summer so that I could get a head start on my undergraduate research thesis. This was the first time living on my own in an apartment. I am doing my thesis with the Department of Food Science and Technology and focusing it on assessing the consumer acceptance of safflower oil and fatty acid composition in wheat pretzels with soy and their likelihood to be commercialized. This research thesis takes a full school year to complete, so this summer I started measuring data that we had collected for the project and plan to continue these measurements throughout the year until the final thesis is completed.


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

This is my first time conducting my own research project. I have helped out in two labs here at Ohio State: the lab of Dr. Thayer in the Psychology Department and the lab of Dr. Vodovotz in the Food Science and Technology Department. Before starting my own thesis, I had been helping out with other projects but mainly worked on assembling packets or testing subjects for the studies. After starting work on my thesis, I realized how much detail and data organization research truly entails and the time commitment that comes along with it. I am a Nutrition Sciences major, so I have taken many lab classes, but conducting your own research is a different experience because you don’t know what the results will show. Lab activities in my courses all had specific outcomes that had been previously recorded. I am excited to complete this research project and share my findings at the Denman forum.


Along with the research component of my STEP project, I lived independently from the university and my family in an apartment for the first time. Living independently showed me how much responsibility comes along with renting or owning your own home. Keeping up with payments on utilities, rent, groceries, and miscellaneous things needed is tough, especially as a college student. I underestimated the cost of living until I lived in an apartment, and it has made me grateful for the life my parents have given me. It has taught me not to take the little things for granted such as a clean home and cooked meals which I now have to do myself.


  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?

The first key aspect that lead to change in completing my STEP project is the relationships I have with my research supervisors, Jenn and Dr. Vodovotz. I appreciate all the help and guidance they have given me since the day they started allowing me to work in their lab. I have met with Dr. Vodovotz and spoken with Jenn numerous times about my struggle with my major choice and future pathway. They both believe I am a bright student and should stick with the major I currently am in now. They have shown me what labs look like outside of the typical chemistry or biology labs that we take for the science majors. After making my connections with them, I have realized that although I am confused about my current studies and what I want to pursue outside of my undergraduate career, what we learn in courses we are required to take for our majors is sometimes different and new to what we will learn on our own studies and work outside of undergrad.


The second key aspect is my work with the caliper that I’ve been using to measure all of the data we have collected for my study. I had never used or seen a caliper before. It is essentially a fancy ruler that measures data lines to several significant figures out. I have had to measure thousands of lines with this expensive instrument. It is a tedious and repetitive task; however, it has taught me the detail and organization that comes along with doing your own research project. In my science courses, I have had experience reading articles about different studies performed by different professors, students, and scientists. I always wondered how much work they had to do to create all the data tables and results section of their findings papers, and I now realize that it is not a task that can be completed without detail or time.


The last key aspect is the experience I have had while living on my own in the apartment. I have seen myself become more of an independent person with cleaning up after myself, budgeting for all the expenses I have, and understanding the value of everything in my life. Additionally, I am currently living in a two-person apartment for my senior year, so living in one for the month before helped me adjust quicker to the new environment when classes picked up immediately after moving in.


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

These changes that I have experienced during the time of my STEP project are significant to my growth as a student and how I think about the value of life. The research aspect has allowed me to see the inside of a lab not related to a course here at Ohio State. It is a completely different feel, and I like the independence that comes with doing my own research and not following a lab manual to do so. If I do chose to follow a graduate program related to the sciences, I will be performing more research, so this is a foot in the door for that experience. I have learned more about the importance of time management and detail when it comes to this project.


Living on my own has taught me more about responsibility as well. I have always been a responsible person, but I did not realize how much responsibility comes with living on your own. It will only help me when I graduate and possibly move to a different city, further than twenty minutes away from my hometown. This project has only begun, so I expect the transformations that I have already experienced to only grow and truly help me figure out what I would like to do with my undergraduate studies and how I want to use them to make myself a better person and contribute to the future.


STEP Reflection

Name: Eric Spurlino

Type of Project: Research Experience

Brief Description:

For my STEP Signature Project, I planned and began executing an experiment in economics in order to learn more about the effects of minimum wage increases on worker productivity. Over the course of the summer, I learned how to program such an experiment, and then began running sessions using student participants in a laboratory setting. While sessions are still ongoing, I have some preliminary results and my research skills have improved significantly.

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

A transformation that occurred while completing my STEP experience was a transformation of my view of myself. Previously, I had known that research in economics interested me, I had little idea whether I would enjoy or even be capable of completing my own original research. While my research experience was not without its difficulties and obstacles, I learned that I am very capable of creating research, and that it is something I want to pursue as a career. In the beginning of my experience, I was apprehensive and not very confident about my research endeavours. I switched ideas and plans frequently and was unsure of my capacity as a researcher. Throughout my project, I began to conquer more and more of the obstacles that I faced in working on my project. Another transformation that took place was in my assumptions about research in general. When I first ran an analysis on my preliminary data, I was devastated that there was no significant “treatment effect” between treatments. My assumption previously was that research was all about finding positive results, and this experience gave me a more mature sense of what the goals of research are.

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?


The “laboratory” my experiments were conducted in

One event that led to this transformation in my view of myself was when I ran the first session of my experiment, the pilot session. In this session, I was faced with proctoring an experiment in front of real-life subjects. Prior to that session, my experiment was still an idea. Although I had coded the experiment for weeks, what I had done to that point wasn’t really research–all I had so far were my hypotheses and lines of code. By actually running my experiment on subjects, I began to identify myself as a researcher. At first this transformation was a bit rocky. Proctoring the pilot session, my voice was at times shaky and it was somewhat apparent I had little idea what I was doing. Quickly, however, I gained confidence in my role as a researcher. This came to fruition in multiple ways–I was more confident proctoring my experiment, I was more confident analysing my data, and I was more confident reaching out to others for advice on my research.

A number of relationships also led to this transformation. For example, conversations over the course of the summer with my advisors Professor Healy and Professor Coffman led to the second realization mentioned above that research is more than just finding positive results. While I was panicked that there was no statistically significant difference between my treatment groups, they quickly resolved these concerns by showing me that negative results can be just as interesting as positive ones. In fact, it seems like in my project, negative results are more interesting than positive results. Through discussions with my two advisors, I was able to see more of what the research world is like and through this I was able to gain confidence in my view of myself as a researcher.

Another activity that occurred during my STEP Signature Project was running analysis on my data. Being one of the last steps one does in the research process, this was an exciting step to reach. While my data was still incomplete, as running sessions took longer than expected due to scheduling issues, using statistical methods to derive answers from my data took my research abilities to a new level. Up until this point, I had become more confident in my role as a data gatherer and research planner, but this step cemented my view of myself as a researcher. By completing all of these steps, I was able to successfully plan, execute, and analyse a full-scale research project. While my initial hypotheses were ultimately rejected through this analysis, I had found answers to questions that people hadn’t found yet, and that was the ultimate reward of this project.

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

This transformation in my view of myself as an appreciator of research into a creator of research is extremely significant for my future. Now that I am able to view myself as a creator of economic research, I am confident in my future plans for my life and career. This experience has led me to decide on attending graduate school in economics, so I can continue this transformation and conduct research in economics for the rest of my life. Furthermore, I now know I specifically want to study experimental methods in economics, an important distinction as I begin to apply for specific graduate programs. Without this STEP experience, I would still be unsure of what I want my future to look like. By allowing me to practice my own research as an undergraduate now, my STEP experience has transformed me personally to be prepared for a future in academia.

Undergraduate UAV Control and Stability Research

I spent this summer as an undergraduate researcher under my flight dynamics and controls professor. The project involved developing a linear control scheme to provide flight stability for a UAV quadrotor using an uncertainty and disturbance estimator. I began the project with literature collection and review, and after I narrowed the many papers down to just a few, my professor and I created a problem formulation. Under his guidance, I was then able to develop the characteristic equations to describe the flight dynamics. I will continue the research project through the school year.


This research project benefitted me in a way that my education otherwise would not have. I am generally an open-minded person, and I have many areas of interest. My original plan for the summer was to obtain an internship, but this did not work out, and I had to find another productive way to spend the summer. I contacted my professor and developed a plan to start research, and found that I liked it much more than I expected. The project allowed me to explore an area of my aerospace engineering education in depth, and what I discovered about myself and the career world was that if you approach a task with an open mind, you can find value and meaning in it. Furthermore, something can be very enjoyable even if it isn’t exactly what you hoped for.


The research project began with a long literature collection process. This entailed finding relevant research papers, published by journals from groups such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. This was a somewhat painstaking process, but I learned a lot about the experimental technologies in the field of control systems and flight. When going through these papers more thoroughly, I learned a lot about different control methodologies and what the primary goals are among controls researchers.


The following step was to thoroughly read and understand the most relevant research papers I chose to focus on and learn some material outside of the standard curriculum. This involved learning certain methods from my professor and some supplementary materials he gave me as well as discovering things on my own online, such as from the MathWorks Documentation site and forum. This also included reading MATLAB codes written by other people (sometimes in a similar context to what I was working on), which gave me a lot of insight into more complex coding strategies.


The bulk of the project was computational, and this was the primary transformative aspect of the experience for me. Although I approached the project with eagerness and some excitement, the computational aspects were very fun for me. I wrote code to linearize the flight equations and develop stability matrices, and then used those to find more stability characteristics. For example, one potential goal is to minimize the amount of computational strain involved in calculating the individual rotor speeds of a quadrotor necessary for stable flight. Another is to maintain stable flight using as few different sensors as possible to save weight and cost. I coded to find the stability characteristics under these different conditions in several ways, including using my professor’s Qualitative Stability method.


This allowed me to learn my professor’s own research material directly from him, which was a great experience. However, the main thing that I took away from this project was that I learned that I can find meaning in a larger variety of tasks than I thought. In this project, it came down more to the practical, day-to-day tasks than the general application. UAV controls are interesting to me, but what made the project enjoyable was that I could unleash my creativity by coding and doing computational analysis as well as find new computational methods and coding techniques.


Since I actually did my STEP experience the semester after my Junior year, this experience was particularly beneficial. I will be graduating in May, and last summer was my most recent opportunity to get an experience like this. Additionally, what I discovered about the things I enjoy and can succeed in will make a large impact in the jobs that I seek. I know my own preferences and skills much better, and I feel that I am now more qualified to decide what job is best for me after college.