Campus Recreation Leadership Research STEP Reflection

My STEP project was a mixture of research and conferences. I collected research on leadership based questions from 30 of my 45 coworkers. I also attended the ORSA, Region III Student Lead On, and NIRSA Annual conferences to further my understanding of leadership and leadership development.

There were many changes about my understandings of myself and the world through this project. The first of which is that I learned that people have many different ideas of what values are important to them. Even in a department where we share the same five values for work, the spectrum of personal values that people have is quite diverse. I also learned about some of the top indicators of leadership in college students. Through this learning process, I was able to incorporate more of these activities into my life. From additional community service to sociocultural conversations, I was able to develop further as a leader. I also gained understanding of my abilities in public speaking. This is because my project went from not only attending the NIRSA Annual conference, to presenting my research at the conference.

One interaction that led to these changes is my interviews with my coworkers. Not only was I able to get to know each of my coworkers individually, but this also led me to further understand them as people. I was able to get to know what makes them tick, and what is important to them. Through this series of questions, which was also a sociocultural conversation, I learned about many different types of people with many different backgrounds. I was able to see many different perspectives on different issues.  This greatly broadened my thoughts about diversity and the values of others. Interviewing my coworkers has been incredibly beneficial for my understandings of others.

Another relationship that has been important to my development has been my time with Dr. Don. Dr. Don is the Director of Recreational Sports here at OSU. Through my STEP project, I have had the pleasure of meeting him and getting to know him. Interacting with him has taught me a lot about campus recreation, leadership, and myself in general. Reading the book that he wrote on leadership in campus recreation was also influential for me. That taught me much about indicators for collegiate leadership and how to improve leadership in myself. Through this experience I have also gained an incredible mentor that is continuing to change my life to this day. Through his passion for student development and interest in leadership, he has taught me a lot and changed my perspective on how to employ leadership in the workplace.

The final event that affected the transformations above were the three conferences, with particular regard for the NIRSA Annual conference. These conferences taught me a lot about a variety of issues in campus recreation. But the most important part about attending these conferences, was all the relationships I formed. I got to know people from all over the United States. Through continued conversations with these people I have been much more productive in the workplace as I have used their help on a variety of projects. I have also gained valuable friendships with them. These relationships have also allowed me to find future places of employment.

This change has been valuable for me because it has led to me shifting my career plans. I went from an aspiring school psychologist when entering this program to wanting to be a director in collegiate recreation just like Dr. Don. It has also been valuable because through this research and networking I have been able to meet many people in the field. Some of those people have even expressed interest in hiring me once I am done with my undergraduate education. Two schools in particular, those being Kent State and Georgia Southern, have really encouraged me to apply to be a Graduate Assistant in their programs come next year. I am very excited for these opportunities and all the leadership insights and friendships I have made along the way.

Undergraduate Research in Pharmacology & Toxicology

I carried out my STEP Signature Project in the lab of Dr. Imad Damaj at Virginia Commonwealth University. As an undergraduate research intern, I was able to perform my own experiments regarding the role of a gene expressed in individuals with HIV contributing to anxiety and ethanol consumption. I used a mouse-model to investigate the relationship.

By being assigned my own research project, I was given many expectations in order to be successful. This was the first time I had done a major research experiment outside of my coursework, so it was extremely important to me to fulfill my expectations and have my work matter in the overall work of our lab. This was a chance for me to become more independent and take on a lot of responsibilities. Although my PI would occasionally check-in with me, I was mostly carrying out everything on my own and presenting my findings at weekly lab meetings. Sometimes I would find contradicting results and not everything would go as I predicted, but this was an opportunity for me to learn and change my methodology. This entire process taught me the importance of perseverance and hard work. I can relate my work during my STEP project to reflect my work in life in general in the sense that it takes motivation and hard work to achieve your ultimate goal.

As I mentioned previously, this was my first major research project. So, I knew the basics of conducting research, but the type of research I was doing was beyond what I was exposed to. It would have been very easy for me to shy away from the whole experience or take on fewer tasks. But, I committed to doing full-time research, working as much as 40 hours a week. As a “novice” researcher, it was key that I interacted with my PI and the other people in my lab to get exposure to the skills that my project required. A grad student in the lab was working on a similar project to mine that dealt with ethanol exposure in mice, so the first couple of weeks of my internship, I was able to shadow her and learn the skills that I would need for my experiment.

After I began my experiment, my PI requested I present my findings and any updates at our weekly lab meetings. Speaking in front of crowds is not easy for me, so I was extremely nervous for my first presentation. I quickly learned that there was no need for me to be nervous because everyone in the lab was very supportive of me and excited to hear what I had to say. However, I was not prepared for the amount of in-depth questions they asked me after my presentation. This made me realize how important it is to pay attention to details in methodology and be as thorough as possible when analyzing data and presenting graphs. As my research continued week after week, I learned to recognize certain aspects of my study I may have not recognized before and my work and myself became much more detail-oriented – a characteristic that would transform me into a better scientist.

Aside from interacting with fellow lab members in meetings, I was able to interact with them while working in the lab and outside of the lab as well. I realized that although I was carrying out my own experiment, everyone in the lab worked toward one major goal of contributing to pharmacological and toxicological research. We all knew of each other’s projects and whenever there was down time in my project, I would help someone else out. Or if I needed extra help, someone could help me. It truly showed me the importance of teamwork and supporting one another. Outside of the lab, we would all gather for dinner or go to an amusement park to have fun, etc. Not only were these people my colleagues, but also my friends. I definitely would not have been as successful in my work as I was without their help.

As my future goal is to be a physician, my research experience definitely helped me better understand the role of science in the healthcare field. It allowed me to network and form connections with other people who are also interested in medicine. My PI is actually on the admissions committee of VCU’s College of Medicine, so he was able to give me very helpful advice in the admissions process. This experience under the mentorship of other scientists and professionals helped me further develop skills in problem solving, independent thinking and communication. Additionally, throughout my research, I was taught to relate my work back to previously written scientific papers and experiments regarding my specific study. I learned how to read scientific articles and write a scientific paper myself. This skill transformed me into a better scientist and will be important to me, as my ultimate goal is to become a physician. As a result of my STEP fellowship, I am now one step closer to achieving my goal of obtaining a profession in medicine and exploring the field of research.

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Signature Project Reflection SU16

Name: Victoria Soewarna


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.

My STEP signature project focused on an interferon transmembrane protein known as IFITM3, which is known to impact the viral effects of influenza and a multitude of other viruses. The study focused on the transmembrane protein and its impact on antiviral activity. Main activities included PCR, western blotting, infection and flow cytometry.


  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.

Research has always had a strong presence in my life. I was attracted to its influence on the scientific community as well as the opportunities to continuously learn and grow. From this experience I have gained a much higher respect for those in the field. Working in research can be extremely frustrating, but it is also equally rewarding. I gained a new sense of patience and problem solving. I approach problems with a holistic view ensuring that I do not miss any detail. I am more curious and am able to see that there are an abundance of unanswered questions in the world. I see the influence and impact I have through simple experiments and studies. Conducting this work is such a rewarding experience because you see the contributions you have made and how others can benefit. Most importantly, I have realized that not everything comes easily and persistence is key to success.


  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.

I have been apart of this research group for the past 2 years, but during the school year it becomes difficult to complete experiments due to time constraints. Being in the lab full time this summer offered a new perspective of the research field. I was able to immerse myself in my studies and truly apply my knowledge to the field. I focused solely on research and what improvements I could make. I gained a better understanding of this project and tried to further develop any ideas. I was independently working on something I helped create which was an amazing and rewarding experience.

The experiments conducted were a large part of my experience, each were completely different but were all crucial to the success of the overall experiment. This perspective was eye opening; understanding that a multitude of experiments or events can lead to something much bigger was fascinating. I realized the importance of each step and that how necessary it is to reflect on them. I realize now that by gaining a better understanding of the little steps, comprehending the bigger picture is much easier.

Working on each experiment was one aspect, the other were my lab members. They each contributed something different to our dynamic. Everyday in the lab was not a chore, but an enjoyable experience. They were supportive, caring and extremely helpful. They showed me tips and tricks to help my experiments, shared life advice, and always had a joke to tell. Being around my lab members was truly a transformative experience because they showed my how to see optimism in a bad situation and grow from every failure.

The independence, experiments, and people I was able to participate in and encounter were crucial to my transformative and positive experience. From this summer I have become not only a better researcher and student, but also a better person.


  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.

Life is a collection of influential experiences and events. This signature project is an addition to that collection. The significance of this experience was its impact on my personal and professional growth. I was given the opportunity to develop my personality and character through the trials and tribulations I encountered. I was also able to enhance my professional relationships and experiences. The seminars and workshops offered were extremely helpful in networking and advancement. I was able to expand my knowledge on proposal writing, poster presentation, and speaking. Through this signature project I have been able to gain crucial experience in laboratory work. I have been able to make connections and attend seminars from professors and scientists from a variety of areas. This experience and these connections has given me more confidence in myself as well as my future goal as I move forward onto medical school.

Reflecting on Undergraduate Research

In the last year, I have been making plans to put my STEP Signature Project into motion. My STEP project is a pilot study attempting to use fluctuations in salivary cortisol levels and changes in survey responses to understand the post-traumatic growth of  students enrolled in the Student Advocacy Center’s Sexual Civility and Empowerment Program. It is an on-going study for which we have just begun recruiting participants. The idea for this research project was born of a passion for social justice and fascination with the neurobiology of trauma. It got its start when my current PI, Dr. Tamar Gur, decided to take a chance on a novice with an idea for her STEP project. Joining a lab for the first time last summer, all of my wet lab skills came from an “Intro to Biotechnology” class I had taken senior year of high school; I had effectively no background in research. Thus, I spent the last year learning wet lab skills, behavioral techniques, animal handling, and formulating the research project. While completing my STEP project, which turned into a two year process, I realized the importance of taking initiative in my work, how to better communicate ideas and how to plan ahead. Additionally, learning lab protocols for certain experiments through repetition taught me a certain discipline. I’ve reflected on this experience and have answered the STEP reflection prompts throughout the following response.

I realized the importance of taking initiative in my work, not being afraid to ask questions, and inquiring about collaborations. I learned how to better communicate my ideas; working with a team of collaborators on the project forced me to vocalize and write my plans/ideas/comments/questions in a clear and concise manner, as opposed to the typically haphazard way I might arrange it if I were working alone. Along the same vein, I learned that research takes time and requires patience and flexibility. Working with a team, I realized that other people may have different priorities, and so I had to take those into account when asking them for something (i.e. if I need feedback on something, ensuring that I give them plenty of time and following up if need be). At a large institution like OSU, while there are a tremendous number of resources, learning to navigate through its web can be certainly time-consuming and frustrating sometimes.  

Technically speaking, working in lab this summer allowed me to spend time improving wet lab skills, such as RNA extractions/clean-ups, cDNA synthesis, real-time PCR, and learning ELISA. Additionally, I learned about the general tasks done to keep a research lab functioning, like autoclaving glassware/tools, keeping a neat lab bench, planning breeding experiments, and inventorying samples. Being immersed in this environment also exposed me to some data analysis and increased my understanding of the paper-writing process. I saw how my PI approached her writing and graph preparation and also had the opportunity to help edit some visualizations of data.   

Additionally, learning protocols for certain experiments through repetition taught me a certain discipline; I had to follow directions as closely as possible while thinking critically about each step–whether it could be improved upon or where some troubleshooting may be done. This, in turn, made me responsible for the resulting data and gave me ownership of it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this further motivated me to precisely complete the experiments. As cliche as it sounds, these changes have certainly sharpened my critical thinking skills and increased my confidence in myself and in my work, which have then impacted my future plans.

I have been collaborating with the SCE program for just over a year on this project and, in that time, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know their staff and seen the zeal with which they pursue their work, which is inspiring to me. I have been humbled by their interest in my ideas and their trust in my abilities; they would like to expand research efforts and I will begin working for them part-time this fall, transitioning into a full-time position after graduation. I’m thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to mold this research position and see this research project to completion and, perhaps, even expansion. In light of this job, I’ve also decided to forgo graduating early and spend spring semester writing a research thesis; I hope to have more data to present from the study by then.

After graduation, while working for the Sexual Civility and Empowerment Program I am hoping to pursue a master’s in public health at OSU part-time; I will be applying this fall. In the last year, I have been surprised at how much I enjoy the research process. This whole experience has been so empowering and humbling; I have been able to construct a research project around a simple question and will hopefully be able to see some data come to fruition, as well. Thinking about my career, although I am still not certain of what I would like to do, the self-efficacy and research skills I developed during in the process of completing the STEP program will serve me in being more bold in my future endeavors.


On the first day of service we volunteered at a daycare that cared for children whose mother’s had just been released from prison. While taking care of adorable little babies was extremely heartwarming, it was amazing to see how the daycare was helping the mothers get back on their feet by not only helping take care of their children, but helping them attain their GEDs, find jobs, and even providing housing for them and their families until they get back on their feet. On the second day of service we went to a school for children with disabilities where they also distributed food to the homeless on the side. We helped prepare and distribute food bags for the homeless, as well as cleaning up some parts of the school. On the third day, we organized a dinner party and invited homeless/food insecure people in the area. This was my favorite part of the trip because it was definitely the most eye-opening part for me. We were able to sit down and have dinner with people who have been through so much in their lives, and it helped me realize how much alike we are to them. I was able to have acompletely normal conversation with a disadvantaged man who didn’t have a place to call home, yet he still hada smile on his face. What surprised me the most was when we offered him seconds, he said no. He only took what he needed and nothing more. It made me realize that we shouldn’t stereotype the homeless/food insecure people because they are normal people just like us who have had to deal with unfortunate events in their lives, but who are still fully capable if given the opportunity. It was heartbreaking to see them leave and not know what they were going back to, but it was a truly eye-opening experience and I enjoyed bonding with them. The fourth day of service was a little short, where we helped stock and organize a food pantry. Lastly, on the fifth day we went to a Synagogue where they held a dinner every Thursday mostly for the homeless/food insecure, but anyone was welcome. It was interesting to see how they didn’t limit the amount of people that could attend, they served food and didn’t ask any questions. What I loved was how they made it like a party for the guests where they set up the tables nicely, we served them and asked them what they wanted to eat and drink, and they even provided entertainment where someone sang and played the piano. I think it’s amazing of the Synagogue to do because it gave people assurance that they had a meal to look forward to every Thursday.
The first and last days were free days where we toured a lot of NYC. Throughout both free days we were able to visit Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, Chinatown/Little Italy, Washington Square Park, Central Park, the 9/11 memorial, walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, ride the Staten Island Ferry, and go to the very top of the Rockefeller Center that overlooked all of NY.
Overall I am extremely grateful I was able to go on this trip. Not only was it amazing to explore New York for the first time, but it opened my eyes to what homeless and food insecure people go through and how many wonderful centers there are in NY that devote so much of their time to helping. I talked to a woman at the Synagogue who was also helping serve and she told me she had been volunteering every Thursday for 16 years, which made me so happy to think about all the meals she was able to serve and how many people she was able feed. This trip definitely makes me want to devote more time to helping the homeless/food insecure here in Columbus because they deserve our help just as much as anyone else.

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.