STEP 2015 Undergraduate Research – Using Bioengineering Methods to Understand Cardiovascular Disease

My STEP research experience took place in the Ohio State Medical Center in May 2015 when I began volunteering as a research assistant.   I joined Dr. Rita Alevriadou’s bioengineering laboratory, a part of the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, to investigate onsets of cardiovascular disease. I still research in the lab and plan to continue during upcoming semesters.

Throughout this experience, I learned considerably about what life as a researcher entails. This involves not only technical lab skills like aseptic technique and cell culture, but other endeavors like writing proposals for grants and funding in order to be able to continue researching. Seeing and implementing scientific method on a daily basis has taught me to think critically about every decisions I make in daily life, ensuring there is a driving purpose behind them.

Additionally, this past summer happened to be my first opportunity living off-campus in an environment away from home. Being in a school setting without classes and with only a fraction of the typical amount of students was quite an adjustment. Not seeing my usual friends on campus caused me to form friendships and develop new perspectives on college, and life as whole. I now truly value the relationships I share with others, especially my family, and strive to maintain them.

In the lab, the principal investigator, Dr. Rita Alevriadou, and PhD candidate graduate student, Chris Scheitlin, were excellent teachers and role models. They integrated me into their lab and provided an optimal atmosphere for growth. As a potential biomedical engineering graduate student, the opportunity to be mentored by an individual excelling in such a role was invaluable. Aside from the bioengineering content and lab skills I learned, it was inspiring to see individuals who work towards a goal so passionately. Their excitement and drive was contagious, and I strive to pursue a career that invigorates me in the same way.

Staying at Ohio State for the summer brought upon unforeseen challenges. As many of my friends relocated while I remained at school, I felt isolated at times. I quickly made new friends via my outgoing roommate, but this shock revealed the importance of relationships in my life, especially with my family. Accomplishments can provide temporary happiness but cannot compare to the contentment of a close friend. Personal happiness was a factor that I never considered when looking into new commitments, jobs, or internships. Now I realize its vital importance to living an enjoyable life.

Experiencing life off-campus was very different from that of on-campus, especially when being in a campus setting with no classwork. I was gladly forced to adapt to a life that didn’t involve constant stress and impending deadlines. Whenever I left the lab or work, there was no assignment I would need to work on at home; the work stayed at work. Believe it or not, with more free time on hand, I actually had some fun. This opportunity finally enabled me to explore Columbus. This change of pace provided a glimpse of what life may hold beyond my college years.

From a holistic point of view, my research experience has taught me so far that research is no simple task. It is a long process that includes trial and error. In fact, most of the time it results in a failure. Hence, the challenge is to figure out why something did not work and to tweak it accordingly until scientific conclusions can be drawn. To conquer such a challenge, elite problem solving and critical thinking skills are required. With that said, I plan to continue researching to grow and hone my abilities as both a researcher and an intellectual.

My STEP experience has helped me learn more about myself and better focus my career goals. Currently, I now have my sights set on dental school following my undergraduate career. I love to design, work with my hands, and help people; dentists perform these tasks daily. Thus, I have switched my pre-medicine course track to a pre-dental track. I plan to continue to shadow dentists and other doctors to confirm my conviction to become a dentist. I am very grateful for the opportunity STEP has provided me. Otherwise, I would not be set for my future like I am now.

By: Alexander Cetnar – Biomedical Engineering | Class of 2017

This is me with the PI, Dr. Rita Alevriadou, and PhD candidate graduate student, Chris Scheitlin, of my lab at a conference together.

From right to left, this is me with the PI, Dr. Rita Alevriadou, and PhD candidate graduate student, Chris Scheitlin, of my lab at a conference together.