STEP Reflection OhioMod

Jonathan Baetz
Undergraduate Research

Brief Description of the Project:
The STEP project I participated in was an 8-month research project that concluded with a biomolecular design competition in San Francisco. During the 8 months, I worked with a group of seven other undergrads with two graduate mentors on an optimization project in the department of Nano-engineering and Bio design. Our research involved the usage of a technique known as DNA origami, and its capability to be used as a drug-delivery vehicle. Utilizing the folding technology, we wanted to optimize the best structure to uptake the most cancer treatment drug. And with the knowledge we acquired design a new structure that would be able to take the best elements of each of the structures we tested.

My Projects Influence on My Understanding and How It Changed Me:
While participating in my STEP project I was granted the ability to get a glimpse of the experimental process and participate in the design, experimentation, and presentation of a project. Having the ability to see this first-hand was enlightening. I have always had the curiosity of exploration and discovery. Also, I’m intrigued by the inner-workings of objects and how everything works together. What I did this past summer gave me an insight into the real way things are put to the test. I was given a hand in the inception of a project and my group created an experiment to work together on. I do have to say that seeing the process gave me a lot more insight into just how tedious the process is. Also, it instilled the idea that you really have to think about how much time you have and if what you want to do is actually feasible. While that sounds like a no-brainer, it really is difficult to design a project that is able to be done with time and funding restraints. It takes a lot of prior research and investigation that I did not consider prior to this experience. In addition, I got to see very quickly that practical science is extremely challenging. Often, things do not go as planned and it is very difficult to trace back why and correct the error you had made. Sometimes another issue is that it is not even an error you made, but maybe an error in the sample you used. So I did experience many frustrations while participating in the project.
This experience also allowed me to see just how much can get done in what seems to be a pretty short period of time. When I started the project with my group I felt like we had so little time to complete everything that we wanted. We had a gamut of structures that needed these particular tests done on them and each repeated 3 or more times. So naturally early on the feeling of a time crunch set in. But as time went on I realized that working as a team was very conducive to managing the heavy task at hand. This all may sound very cliché but, not much is done as group projects in college. At least in my experience thus far. In high school, a fair amount of group work is done, but it always feels lopsided in who does the most work and who doesn’t participate enough. My research group allowed me to see how much can get done when there is a group of likeminded students with a strong work ethic. We managed to get everything done that we had set out to accomplish with some time to spare at the end. This cohesiveness that I experienced excites me for my future endeavors and gave me a great idea of what a strong team looks like as well as how it functions optimally.

How the Project Influenced the Change:
Being able to conduct a whole experiment from inception to completion allowed me to experience the tribulations and led to a deeper understanding of the process that I would not have gotten without this opportunity. With the guidance of our mentors we could create something that although daunting was manageable for the 8 months that we had. The idea of looking through other research articles and trying to come up with something testable was new. But reading over other research and discussing it with my group member was very thought provoking. I always wondered how experimenters come up with what they want to test and to be part of the process was very enlightening. I feel like the design of an experiment as well as the format of presentation for the competition increased my creative capacity. The presentation was not a normal formal presentation, but one where the teams tried to engage the audience through skits and interesting presentations. As well as the creation of a short movie and website to showcase the project we had done.
Not only did this project enrich my ideas of what research is but it provided me with a huge expanse of new experiences. Each week I was able to watch a different lab member present updates on their research. My group had the chance to present not only to our lab, but at the competition in front of the other 21 teams. Those experiences were great to practice taming nerves during presentations and to just practice giving large presentations. In addition to presentation experience everyday lab work gave me the chance to learn a great amount of new processes, but also great common lab experience. I became more proficient at correct pipet techniques and performing gel electrophoresis. I was able to watch the loading of different imaging slides. Such as the loading of an electron microscope grids and observing the imaging of the DNA nanostructures we folded.
As I stated before the ability to work with a great team really opened my eyes into what can get done when everyone is excited about what they are doing. I had an amazing group of peers. I was able to network and make connections not only on a personal level, but as well as on a professional level. At our presentation conference in California I met and spoke with many of the other students who participated in the competition. They were from all over the world: Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, etc. My mentors whom I enjoy and appreciate a lot were great. They were always there when we had questions and were great about steering us in the correct direction. Also, they were always personable and were willing to listen to more than just things about the project. These relationships I made with my group and mentors are definitely long lasting.

Significance of the Project:
My STEP experience was important to my life for many reasons. I for a time have considered going to graduate school, and this project gave me a glimpse into what I would be doing. My mentors also were able to give me advice and I could see what their lives were like. This insight into research gives me a better idea of what I would be doing prior to making any large life decisions. Also, the experiences, technology, and protocols that I learned in lab training and while doing my project can be translated into work experiences as well as other labs that I could pursue. The amount of lab experience that this past summer gave me greatly expanded my abilities when it comes to wet lab work. In addition to lab work my group presented to our lab three times and also presented at the competition in California. Although it was a bit nerve racking they were great experiences and at least in the lab presentations we were given constructive criticisms and a lot of feedback. In applying for internships and jobs post college I am excited because of the weight that this experience holds. Additionally, from this experience I have been offered a position on another project within the lab.
This experience has changed my life more than I ever thought it could. From it I have gained so many new friends and connections that I never would have believed I could before. It has provided so many new options for things I can pursue and has given me a huge amount of knowledge and insight. Working in the lab helped to develop more of on the spot decision making skills and helped to increase my lab proficiency. I also learned a lot more about working with others and explaining things in a way that is easy to understand by others. Overall, this experience was extremely enriching and I am so glad that I was able to take a part.

 

Link to our Projects Website: http://www.ohiomod2017.club/

 

STEP Reflection: Project SWEAT

My STEP Project was a research position on the main research team for Project SWEAT here at OSU. Over the summer, we conducted interviews with several families with children enrolled in local Columbus City elementary schools in order to study the weight gain of children over the summer. We began by recruiting families at the schools to participate in the study in May and throughout the summer we meet at their homes or other places on three different occasions for roughly 2 hours at a time to take food inventory, perform standardized tests with the kids, and question their recreational and eating habits.

This project was initially somewhat intimidating for me as I would be going into urban areas of Columbus asking very personal questions to people who I had never met. To say that these interactions changed my perspective of others would be an understatement. Growing up I was blessed with 2 loving parents who provided me with a life full of privileges that I am grateful for. I was rarely exposed to environments that differed from my own and thus had preconceived notions of those who lived differently that I did. These preconceived ideas and stereotypes that I once held were shattered this summer when I did my first interview with Project SWEAT.

These families lived in low income neighborhoods with neighbors so close you could see inside from one living room to another. They often lived off food stamps and would have fridges and pantries with little to no food sometimes. Originally I could not imagine growing up like this but overtime I noticed their appreciation for things that I took for granted and it was extremely humbling. Perhaps the greatest change in my ideals came from talking with the children. These kids had no idea that their parents were struggling to get by and they seemed just as happy if not more happy than I remember being as a child. Their quality of life wasn’t based upon what they had, but who they had. I realized soon that this in fact was the best and most fulfilling way to live life. They were some of the most accepting and kind people I have ever met even though they had very little. They appreciated each other and not material goods which is I like to believe rubbed off on me and my ideals. While I was supposed to be helping these people in the long run through this research, they ended up helping me almost immediately.

One interaction that sticks out was one of my last interviews toward the end of the summer. This family had 4 children in the study, none of which who were biological siblings but were all adopted. During this interview I had asked about their activity level and one of the kids began talking about playing outside but upon further questioning, I was told they had 1 basketball and a mini trampoline. As I was questioning how they would play outside so much with such little equipment his brother came around the corner with two sticks tied together with rope and called them nunchucks and he proceeded to play with them for 2 hours. This experience really hit me as I realized that these kids enjoy life just as much as others even if they have less. While they may have a more difficult living situation they are still children and have no problem finding fun with what they have.

Another experience I had was more related to the focus of our research. In July while conducting an interview with a single mother and her two daughters I was completing a food inventory and noticed that they had less than 10 items in their refrigerator. Although I had to hide my emotion for the sake of the research and its integrity, I was truly saddened to see such a thing in the home of such amazing people. As I was completing the interview my partner and I were caught off guard when the mother offered us dinner. We denied but she insisted we eat with them. This was one of the most eye opening experiences this summer. She had so little yet insisted that we eat her food that she made to be polite. Her kindness and selflessness brought about a feeling in me that it difficult to explain. Judging people on their income, “quality of life”, or social status was now, to me, the most ignorant thing one could do.

The last thing I will take with me from this research was the work I did with my team and the PhD candidate in charge of everything. Throughout the summer there were countless interactions between myself and others where we had to adapt to changes in the research because of its nature. Families would cancel, plans would change, data would be missing. All of these things taught me that in community research you have to be understandable and flexible in order to get accurate results. This is experience that I hope to take with me into medicine and dealing with real people. While research in a lab is fantastic, I believe the skills that I gained will help me immensely in the future when having to consult patients and work with them in order to achieve mine and their goals in regards to their well-being.

That being said, I know that this research experience greatly prepared me for my future in medicine. The first thing I learned was not to be judgemental of others and approach others with no predispositions or assumptions about them. When meeting patients and their families, I hope to be as kind as the mother who offered me food and as grateful as the children playing with sticks in my approach. I want them to feel like I want them to be there and not that they need to be there. I hope these experiences and relationships will help further this love for others that I have and continue to change the person I am for the better.

The next thing that I gained from this experience that will directly help in the future were the need for strong attention to detail as well as my ability to adapt to changing situations. As a physician, I know that I will be required to listen closely to patients to diagnose them or focus strongly during surgeries and collecting this data helped me tune these skills. During interviews I had to pay diligent attention to everything that was being told to me in order to answer each question with accuracy. Along with this, I had to be able to adjust the questions and my mannerisms based on the situation that I was in order to not offend any of the participants when asking the very personal questions.

Working with Project SWEAT this summer was something that has undoubtedly changed my outlook on life, view of others, and my personal ideals.

 

 

STEP Reflection- SPR Poster Presentation

  1. Project Description

My STEP Project was to present a research poster at and attend the annual Society for Psychophysiological Research Conference that in 2017 took place in Vienna, Austria. My poster was titled ‘Effects of Misspecifying Respiratory Frequencies on Developmental Shifts in RSA from Ages 8-15 Years’. In short, the research was about how RSA (Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia) generally is incorrectly analyzed in children.

  1. Transformations that Occured

Starting with myself, I never would have imagined myself presenting a poster at an international research conference, even just a year ago, and I never would have imagined it to be as it was. I gained a lot of confidence in myself because I am an undergraduate engineering student presenting at a psychology conference that is annually attended by tenured faculty from across the world. Also, I was told by the people in my lab that I did a good job of presenting and I am also proud of myself that I managed to learn so much about RSA in such a short amount of time (~1 year). In terms of the world, I got to visit Vienna, which I had never been to before. I had only been to Europe once before this trip, but seeing it again and with who I am now (before I was 16 when I visited), I was much abler to appreciate the differences in cultures and appreciate the city a lot more due to where I am in my life now.

  1. Causes and Effects of Transformation

For events, the actual presentation session at the conference and the lecture sessions I attended affected me. I have never before taken a psychology class, so when I was accepted into this lab in August of 2016, it was all a lot to take in. But after a little over one year, I was able to knowledgeably present a poster and understand lecture sessions I attended. So, in terms of transformation this helped me with confidence in my skill set and in the results that hard work can bring. I also learned an incredible amount about RSA in over a year, which is just something that’s cool and it could even help in my future career. For example, if I get a job in a health-related field, knowing how to properly analyze time intervals of heart beat variation, basically what RSA is, in children verses adults, as well as people with and without psychopathy could be a very valuable skill.

For interactions/activities, again seeing Vienna as a city, especially in the middle of semester when everything can begin to build up and be stressful, it was amazing to see another culture and experience it for a few days. It definitely opened my mind to focus more on what is/is not important in the grand scheme of things. For example, grades are obviously important, but I didn’t do too great on an exam a bit before I had left for this conference and I realized it’s okay, it will all work out as long as I keep working hard in my academics. Seeing the world in a very different setting than what I am used to help given me a reassurance that everything in my life will work out okay, as cheesy as that may be. It also helped me reprioritize my life a bit more, and focus my energy on what truly is important.

In terms of relationships, this project helped me grow closer to a few of the graduate students I work with, which I am very grateful for. They are all wonderful people, and I have learned a lot from them, as they were a big part in guiding me through this project and helping me every step of the way. I know I can ask them for anything, and they are all good connections to have in the future. I also met other graduate students and faculty at the conference, which I hope can be good connections in terms of networking.

  1. Transformation Significance

This transformation was valuable in many ways. Firstly, I am much more developed professionally than I was a year ago, or even 6 months ago. I have made networking connections through this conference and I am able to add a poster, and subsequent paper, to my resume. While I’m not certain I want to go into the field of psychology for a career, I am very confident in having it as a back-up career of sorts. While I do want to go into engineering research, it is comforting to know that if something goes wrong and that doesn’t work out, I can still have a stable enough career ahead of me. Academically, this project has challenged me to keep up with academics while using this project to pursue professional avenues for me. Through the entire time I was gone, I kept up with all assignments and turned them all in in a timely manner. And lastly, personally, I was able to experience another culture while in Vienna.

STEP Reflection-OhioMOD Biomolecular Research Team

1.Description of Project

I worked with a team of undergraduates called OhioMOD to participate in research as part of a international competition called BIOMOD. The research took place in Nanoengineering and Biodesign Lab in Scott Laboratory. The research focused on biomolecular technology specifically using DNA origami for drug delivery applications.  Link to project website: http://www.ohiomod2017.club/

2. Transformation

Through this project, I gained a better understanding of academic research and biomolecular technology. Previously I had no research experience and real lab experience. Being in an academic research lab performing experiments and collecting data gave me a better appreciation of this type of work. Also, attending the international competition gave me a broader view of the type of research that occurs around the world. I also learned that research is something that I’m interested in pursuing in the future.

3. Causes of Transformation

For this research project, I worked on a team with 8 undergraduates as well as 2 graduate mentors. We performed experiments over the summer and planned for the international competition. In addition to developing a project, performing experiments, and collecting data, we also had to create a website and video describing our project. Performing experiments and collecting data taught me the importance of patience. Experiments were often tedious and time consuming in addition to not always giving clear results. This project transformed me because I came into this project not knowing about biomolecular research, DNA origami, and general lab practices. Now, I have a decent understanding of these topics and can share my experiences to help me with future opportunities like finding a new lab position or finding a job. Also, I helped create the website for our project which helped me learn about the process of setting up a website, coding, and using GitHub.

Working with a team of motivated people in a research lab was a great way to make connections with people who share similar interests. I made new friends and created new opportunities for myself by meeting people who worked in academic research. Although the project involved hard work, it was a lot of fun working with others towards a common goal. Everyone in the lab was very friendly and excited to tell us about their research projects.  The mentors and other graduate students were very helpful and willing to spend time to answer any questions I had.

Attending the competition was an amazing experience because I got to learn about cool projects around the world that related to the field of research I was involved in these past few months.  It made me realize how awesome this type of technology is and the potential applications it can have. Not only can it be used for biological purposes but also for improving the environment. Learning about other projects gave me a better appreciation of research and made me realize that I was a part of something that could one day make the world a better place.

4. Significance of Transformation

The transformations from this project are significant and valuable to me for my academic and professional goals. I had always wanted to participate in academic research and this project provided me with the opportunity to achieve this goal. Also, having research experience looks great when pursuing opportunities in other labs. In addition, this experience was something that I could put on resume and talk about at interviews. This opportunity gave me valuable experience working with a team on an open ended project. The skills and knowledge I gained from working on this research team will definitely help me with my future endeavors.

STEP Reflection

My undergraduate research experience was with the Molecular Genetics department. My project involved identifying critical amino acid sites in two critical proteins Mps1 and Sas6 that have the ability alter the way the protein function during centrosome duplication. This is a form of cancer research, because an over-abundance of Mps1 results in genetic instability and aneuploidy, which is a hallmark of breast and prostate cancers.

This summer experience has mainly taught me how to troubleshoot failures. If a certain experiment does not go as planned I would have to figure out using diagnostic techniques and critical thinking skills how to fix it. I learned this summer that many times your response to failures allows you to learn more about what you are studying. Many times, while fixing a failed experiment, I learned more about the properties of Mps1 and Sas6. This would translate to my profession as a physician as well. The best physicians must know how to respond to failures and always have a backup plan. You can never give up after a failed diagnosis or a complicated surgery. I learned through this experience the complexity of molecular biology, allowing me to appreciate the field even more. I hope to integrate what I have learned into my career as a physician.

Through this experience, I have gained some very meaningful relationships with my genetics professors and fellow classmates. The best working environments are those where people support each other and assist each other when needed. I am grateful for all of the graduate students who took the time to answer my questions and demonstrate procedures to me. Because of them, I now want to pass on the knowledge I have gained to help others like myself. I have applied to be a teaching assistant for organic chemistry.

Another lesson I have learned involved the importance of the small details. When I first began my project, I found that many times I would miss small details which affected my experiments. Since then, I have learned to keep an organized lab notebook which has every calculation recorded with every procedure written out in full detail. I learned to not be afraid to ask questions, because it is better to ask a question and do an experiment properly. It is important to ask the right types of questions as well. Rather than “I do not understand the process of site-directed mutagenesis”, I learned to ask questions such as “how did you find which amino sites needed to be changed, and can you show me an example on a vector map?”

Lastly, I just gained an extremely in-depth knowledge of my major and its applications through this experience. My research experience has allowed me to excel in biochemistry and upper level genetics classes because I am able to picture the reasons behind basic facts. For example, my genetics exam just tested us on fluorescence microscopy and its applications. I performed indirect immunofluorescence microscopy in my lab, so I was able to answer those questions and develop possible experiments in which this technique can be used.

This things I learned from this experience will surely be applied in my life as a physician. I have come to understand the complexity of human disease, which inspires me to be a physician even more. I have found that I physically loved to perform longer, more hands-on experiments, which I am sure will help me do surgeries and procedures as a physician. Also, the support I have been given from all of the graduate students, teachers, and classmates in the lab as provided for me an outstanding example of teamwork. The best physicians are those with the best teams.

STEP Reflection: Research Assistant in the Department of Biomedical Engineering

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 involved working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Over the summer, I contributed to a study of the effects of low-intensity vibration on skeletal health. In addition to working a full-time job as a research assistant, I worked a part-time job at the Chittenden Veterinary Clinic, and I lived off campus for the first time.

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 summer helped me learn more about two major aspects of myself: my perspective of research and my ability to live independently. I learned a lot about the inner workings of research projects, and realized that I enjoy how rewarding the work is when all of the information you read and gather can be directly applied to investigating real-world problems. Research experiences are such different learning experiences from classes because in class you learn information in order to apply it to doing well on an exam. During research, all the information you learn is directly related to the problem you are trying to investigate and helps you get closer and closer to a solution. It completely changed my perspective on learning; I found myself curious to learn more, and exploring new information on tangents as I continued to expand my knowledge of the subject matter.

Living independently this summer in an off-campus house without the ease of a dining plan or the comfort of a dorm seemed intimidating at first, but I soon learned that it’s not as difficult as I was originally imagining. I learned important time management skills including how to make time to cook during the week while balancing work, spending time with friends, and making time for recreation. I also learned about the different aspects of living in a house with 5 other people including not-so-equally distributing household chores and day-to-day interactions with people other than a roommate or dorm floor.

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 position I had over the summer was my first position to give me a large responsibility in my contribution to the project. Rather than helping with tech work carrying out the experiment, I learned a lot about the process of planning for an experiment. Before the study began, we read relevant literature, gathered information on the most effective experimental methodology, and determined the equipment we’d require. Not only did I learn a lot about the beginnings of a research study, but I also became well versed in the subject matter of the effects of high-frequency, low-amplitude vibration on bone development, as well as histological analysis of fluorochrome labels. During the actual experiment, I learned about proper sterile lab techniques, lab mouse handling, and maximizing efficiency of procedural tasks. Along with the benefits of research, the people I worked with made the experience infinitely more enjoyable and made me look forward to going to work every day. The casual relationships with my professor, doctoral student, and fellow undergraduate researcher developed into relationships that I truly value today.

My summer house’s distance from west campus was overcome by finally having a car, which also contributed to ease of buying groceries, running errands, visiting home, and traveling places to have fun. Since I had never cooked for myself before, I was forced into the situation by necessity. My savior was my all-knowing roommate, an amazing cook who taught me everything I needed to know from what ingredients to buy at the grocery store to how to prepare all of it. After overcoming the annoyances of living with a large number of people, like the sink always being full of dirty dishes or the trash always being full, I learned that I enjoy always having someone around the house to hang out with toward the end of the day and on weekends.

My part-time job at the vet clinic also contributed to my development of my time management skills. Working late nights and weekends was stressful and tiring, but rewarding in the end. In addition to improving my clinical skills and knowledge, I also formed valuable relationships with another wonderful group of coworkers. Working in a vet clinic helped me learn more about the valuable skills of running a vet clinic such as treating animals, keeping the pharmacy stocked, and generally keeping the clinic clean and functioning efficiently.

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.

This summer felt like my transformation into adulthood. I had my first full-time job along with managing a part-time job, and I lived off campus for the first time. My research position helped me develop valuable professional and personal relationships with faculty and fellow students. It also helped me realize that I really enjoy research, and it has opened up biomedical research as a potential future career path. I learned how to cook pretty decent meals, and overall to perform all the necessary duties required for living. My STEP experience helped me develop academically, professionally, and personally, and I had a lot of fun in the process.

STEP Reflection 10.08.17

  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 project consisted of me working in a research lab over the summer to study the biomechanical forces involved in the cervix to prevent pre-mature birth. To study this I had to learn how to use COMSOL modelling software, and try to model the cervix to the best of my knowledge from current papers and ongoing research.

  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.

While completing my STEP Signature Project, I had learned how much work actually goes into a research project. Most of the time during this project, I spent learning how to use the software and be able to code with it. Even with my efforts I was not able to create something sufficient enough that could be used in the field, but it showed me how almost every single engineering aspect in my education can be used in modelling software. This project also gave me insight into the community of university research and how competitive it is. To be able to fund anything you must prove a research model first as many labs run on grants. To continue to receive funding, research must be fast paced, as competition with other labs may impair ones research.

  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.

One of the most common interactions I had were the weekly lab meetings with the whole lab. It was very interesting to see how a lab communicated in a professional setting as they solved lab related problems as a team. A common day would include everybody giving an update on their own projects in a sequential order. If anybody had a conference or presentation, they would present their project in a more professional way and constructive comments about the presentation were provided to improve their presentation. Overall the lab meetings were always productive, and no time ever went to waste.

An activity that most of my project included was programming and working on COMSOL. I spent countless hours studying how to create models, how to program certain objects, and studying already made models to understand how COMSOL worked. My particular problem of modelling the cervix included me reading many research papers to better understand the correct biomechanics of the cervix. Throughout my struggle I learned to appreciate research a lot more, and how much time is dedicated to even a small model like mine.

These events affected me by teaching me how hard working a researcher truly is. To be able to succeed a team of individuals must be working together and fast enough to get a result. It was mesmerizing to see a real lab perform as a team, and discuss lab challenges, even my projects problems. The criticism they gave was very important to everybody’s improvement, and I even saw improvement in my own project by others helping me tackle my challenges.

Other interactions included one on one meetings with the lab advisor which allowed me to grow as a researcher more. Since many of the problems that I faced regarding my model were tough to solve, I was able to learn from my lab advisor by showing me examples

  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.

This transformation is significant to my life because it allowed to me to learn and experience what a researcher does. This perspective allows me to decide if I want to further pursue research as a possible field that I may want to get into. Since I am a biomedical engineering major with a focus on pre-med, I have the option to also do research as my future career or my academic future. Since I would like to go to medical school, this opportunity for research was beneficial for me as I learned I am interested in the research division of medicine. This lead me to learn that there are PhD/MD medical school programs, and I have become more interested in attend a PhD/MD program than just a MD program.

STEP Reflection

Type of Project: 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.

 

  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.

 

  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.

 

  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.

 

 

  1. As part of my STEP project, I worked in a summer research lab at Ohio State under the guidance of Dr. Anne Strohecker. Dr. Strohecker’s lab focuses on autophagy, an intracellular mechanism that are responsible for regulating many diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s. I learned many lab research techniques throughout my experience, and am continuing working in the lab this fall.

 

  1. One primary realization I came to during my STEP Signature project was that regarding how competitive research is, and how exactly difficult it is to receive funding. PI (principal investigators) are constantly writing grants, whether they be to the NIH or a third party. Obtaining these grants is extremely difficult due to the sheer amount of other research labs also applying for the same ones, and proposals must be extremely polished and substantiated to even fare a small chance. In addition, renewing grants requires displaying significant amounts of data, with multiple trials for each experiment. I didn’t previously realize how intense research was at the university level, as well as the sense of urgency expected each day. Consequently I have made sure that I am always ready to work when I arrive each day, and move fast and efficiently.

 

 

Another change was that regarding my sense of autonomy. I have usually always considered myself a relatively independent person, but at the same time most of my schoolwork and experiences have been dictated in terms of being regimented and having to follow instructions. While there are indeed protocols for certain experiments, research is fundamentally focused on solving new issues and developing plans to solve tasks. This requires quite a deal of independent creativity, and constant tweaking through trial and error. Throughout the summer experience, I have grown significantly in this aspect, and am confident to be creative.

 

  1. While I had heard from both my PI and fellow colleagues regarding the competitiveness of the research world, most of these were words, and my perception was merely theoretical. That all changed one day late in the summer, when I noticed that a nearby lab was moving a large number of items and equipment from one of their bays. Upon asking a member of that lab what the cause of commotion was about, he informed me that his lab’s stream of funding revenue had come close to drying up, and that they were forced to downsize their lab as a result. The friend was obviously downcast, and he sounded bitter as he said that a layoff might be imminent if the drought continued. This shocked me, as I knew that the lab was an upstanding lab that had quality members. However, they had not generated enough publications, and thus were punished. This could be something as simple as just not having experiments work, through no fault of their own. They work just as hard as any other lab, but are punished regardless. I found this inherently unfair, but soon realized that this is an unfortunate reality of research today.

 

Regarding the sense of urgency in research, the adage of “experience being the best teacher” once again held true. While there are indeed bouts of leisure, one must be hyper-efficient with their time. Everyone has a job and is ultimately expected to deliver results to contribute to the well-being of the lab. While everyone in my lab does a great job and has a great balance, there are others in other labs who do not treat their time in lab as a priority, and can often be found on their phones; they also would come late and leave early. For one such friend, his PI was known for being an extremely nice person, so I assumed that the behavior was tolerated. However, after two months I was informed that the student was laid off. I was initially surprised and expressed my sentiment to my mentor, but she explained to me how much time and money was invested in each person to train them and weather through their inevitable trial and error. If they continued to not deliver, then ultimately they represented a net loss for the lab. I was then fully cognizant of the situation, and remarked to myself to never let my guard down.

 

For the bulk of my hours in lab during the summer, I worked during the day, while everyone else was in lab; if I had a question or clarification, I could ask my mentor, or another person in lab. However, one day I had to spend a late evening in the lab due to the constraints of my experiment, and found myself completely alone. Part of my experiment involved culturing my cells and seeding them for a next-day step. However, my plans took a turn when the cells appeared to be inexplicably dying. My first instinct was to notify my mentor, but I quickly realized that I was alone. After a brief second of panic, I took a deep breath and analyzed the situation. I walked through the entire process, and made a quick optimization to compensate for the cell death. I noted the change in my notebook and proceeded along with the experiment. I did not know if I was 100% correct, but trusted my judgement. The next day, I experienced a great sigh of relief, as my mentor informed me that I did indeed make the right call. The overall day taught me that I do not indeed need to rely on other personnel, as I had grown comfortable enough in lab to be able to self-direct myself.

  1. The growth in my autonomy and self confidence is luckily a skill that is not just applicable to lab, but something that is transferrable to all other aspects of my life. From time to time, I tend to have self-doubt while engaging in tasks. This slip in confidence can impede me from proceeding with something through which I otherwise would be totally prepared to do. It is merely a mental correction, but the benefits would be huge. In addition, I have become even better this summer at honing my overall productivity and efficiency, and can apply these skills to my life, whether they be through studying faster, learning dancing moves faster, or finishing projects more efficiently. I can then repurpose the accrued extra time to even more beneficial tasks, whether they be recreational or educational.

 

STEP Reflection: Undergraduate Research with LSVR

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 was to conduct research with the Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research at the Ohio State University. The research I conducted involved measuring the vibrations produced by a driving car using an accelerometer.

Slam Stick Accelerometer Enginer Block Mount

Slam Stick Accelerometer Driving Data

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 largest changes that came about from this project was that this shaped my view of research in academia. I went in with an expectation of that similar to how labs were performed in my classes. But, I learned that research is a lot more open ended than a lab. This opened up my view of research. Before, I thought that research was very narrow and specified, because applying to research positions often came from very focused research positions. But, doing research myself showed me how open it could be.

The research I conducted also defied my expectations on the level of freedom I would get. I expected to work under the professor a lot more and have more guidance with projects. I ended up getting a much more self-guided project, where I could work at my own pace. This had its pros and cons, but it definitely helped me see what it was like to have a hands-off research position. Overall, the research I did for STEP has helped inform me on what engineering research was like and if I want to pursue it in grad school.

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.

My view of how open ended labs were changed because the assignments I got during my research. I was given the task of collecting vibration data on a car using different road surfaces, given an accelerometer, and had nearly the rest of the experimental design in my own hands. I had to make a multitude of decisions on my own about the experiment – where in the car to mount the accelerometer, the settings of the accelerometer, the routes to drive, etc. This was a positive thing a lot of the time, but it also had its setbacks. I had to redo aspects of the experiment sometimes because of incorrect methodology and other limitations that I did not know before going into it.

Another thought that changed was that I learned that research was not necessarily as narrow and specified in the early stages, but this happens as the research goes along. A lot of times, it seemed like the meetings with my professor would just be spent coming up with how to use the previously collected data. This adaptability in the research showed me how these research ideas evolve from simpler experiments. Based on the data received from mounting the accelerometer on the inside of my car, the next experiment was done with the accelerometer mounted near the tire to reduce the shock absorption that showed up in the data.

The open ended-ness of my research was due to my professor having a partnership with a corporate company so that I could only meet with him once a week. This left me with a lot of independence in my research. This was probably a good thing for the future or research, as more and more of my research will be independent as I get to graduate level. The downfall of this is that I had to sometimes re do some of the trials if an aspect of them were wrong. For example, my first tests of gathering vibrations from driving was sampled at too low of frequency, setting me back about 20 hours of experimentation. This was a good test in adaptability though, as I had to conduct similar trials to the first in a different environment, because I did not have access to the original roads that I used the second time around. This open ended-ness of my research taught me of the importance of being an adaptive with your research.

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.

This transformation of my view of research is very relevant to me because I want to go to grad school for engineering. By delving into engineering research, I will have an easier time getting started with the research, as I already am familiar with the process of how to set up experiments, record the experiments, and communicate them to a professor. The experience I had will also help me decide what type of research I will want to look for in the future. At the moment, I want to make sure that my future research projects are under a more present professor so that I can ask questions and take the research faster in the beginning. Also, I will make sure that I get research positions where I am not working as an assistant researcher, because I like the freedom of being able to construct my own experiment.  Overall, my STEP research project has made me more sure of my choice to pursue graduate school and a future in research.

STEP Reflection

Name: Stephen Wu
Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

This past summer, I worked two research roles, one with the Dept of Engineering Education: Women of Color Research Group and one with the Dept of Computer Science Engineering: Interactive Data Systems Group. The former was under the supervision of Dr. Monica Cox, using data analytics and automation in Python and Excel to identify viable survey candidates for NSF Study: “Why We Persist: An Intersectional Study to Characterize and Examine the Experiences of Women Tenure-Track Faculty in Engineering.” The later was under Dr. Arnab Nandi, developing a multi-device data coordination library in NodeJS for JavaScript-based data visualizations.

The project helped me understand the research process, how different projects and researchers connect, and the role of PIs, NSF, and grants. Furthermore, I got to work with a wide array of technical tools. As a CSE major interested in pursuing a masters degree, this experience was very valuable in helping me understand more about higher ed. In the data analytics role, testing and training classifiers really piqued my interest in the field of AI. In the interactive data systems role, I got to work with new JavaScript libraries — React, Leaflet, MIDI, Crossfilter, D3 — and create rapid prototypes to demo. Seeing how the tool I built fell in line with the other software built in the research group and the long-term plans for them was interesting and rewarding.

With each demo came numerous challenges in the technical details, and trying to build a library for the first time helped me realize the need for proper documentation and intuitive implementation. Chorus — the tool I built to coordinate data between visualizations — will be used with another project that helps visualize spatio-temporal data to expand its feature set and improve its demo-ability. Trying to incorporate Chorus with first D3, then MIDI, then Crossfilter, then Leaflet, then React each posed a new set of problems to address. My favorite project was using the MIDI.js library, where I created a collaborative keyboard and notes visualization, where users can create music from multiple synced devices whose note frequency would be visualized in a D3 barchart. For Leaflet, I sought to make map collaboration — adding markers, shapes, and other annotations — seamless and in real-time, so users could draw on any arbitrary map (of the world, factory, or even a human body) important annotations, whether it be a geographical point of interest, inefficiency in a factory, or cancerous area.

In weekly meetings with our PIs and other research group members, I improved my teamwork and communication skills. In the Women of Color Research Group, we used Trello for task management, Git, and implemented a bit of Agile with sprints and story points. Ultimately, the two roles really helped me clarify my research interests and gain knowledge about research and a wide array of tools used in real data analyst and software engineering roles.