STEP Reflection

My signature project involved modeling the decay of W bosons using monte carlo computer programs. By generating random numbers and assigning them specific probability values we can simulate real life results. The results simulated are from the ATLAS detector at the LHC in Switzerland.

I’ve learned that the scientific community does not care about the problems that countries have with each other. Everyone wants to work together and make new discoveries. CERN is actually a huge collaboration. Thousands of scientists from universities around the world all collaborate at CERN. Some universities design and send parts to CERN and some analyze data from the detectors there. It made me realize that we are past the point of singular discoveries. It is likely that most breakthroughs occurring from now on are the result of collaborations. As we know it now, science is much more of a team activity than I thought it was.

In terms of interactions during my STEP project I mostly only talked to my research adviser. There was a graduate student in my group that is at CERN so I haven’t got the chance to meet him but I’m looking forward to it. I had initially thought that it would just be me doing all of the writing and work while my supervisor watched over me but it turned out that the papers we wrote were for the most part too advanced for me so I had to do something that allowed me to contribute. I’m running monte carlo programs that simulate real world results but I did not necessarily know what it meant.

My adviser has reassured me that I do not need to know all the detail of what we are doing yet. The important thing was that I was getting real experience modeling real events and experience with doing statistics. It turns out that a lot of undergraduates doing research run into the same issue as me. The adviser makes good use of the student but understands that the topic is too advanced. It got me thinking that all of those thousands of people working at CERN are probably just the advisers, there are likely just as many undergraduates working on this project too. Its nice to know that I am apart of something bigger and I’m already involved as an undergrad.

This project has actually scared me a bit. I’m scared of going to graduate school and I’m scared of designing my own experiments to run, not knowing if I will find anything, not knowing where to even start looking. The only thing I can hope is that I get a good research adviser in graduate school that is willing to help me out. If not, I may have to rely on my peers. As of now, my adviser is very hands-off with me so I am getting experience doing research by myself but it makes me nervous to think about the increase in difficulty that is sure to come.

Of course, this experience was extremely valuable to me because I am going to grad school. It has definitely given me experience doing research alone and experience doing collaborations. It also helped me realize that I want to do experimental research in the field of particle physics. I thought that publishing my findings was trivial compared to the actual experiment but I learned that it’s actually very hard to be clear and being clear is the most important aspect of any paper. Overall, I am satisfied with my experience and am grateful to STEP for helping me do this over the summer.

 

This is about what my work space looked like half the time:

STEP Undergraduate Research

STEP Reflection

 

Jeremy Eid

Undergraduate Research

 

 

  1. Over the summer, I worked at Ohio State’s Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity and Orthopedics. Some of my responsibilities included isolating bacteria from infected artificial knee components and perfor
    ming cell counts and enumerating bacteria per component.
  2. Throughout my work in the lab, there was so much that I learned and my understanding of myself/my assumptions transformed greatly. I learned an immense amount of lab skills that will carry  ver to my time in medical school as well as my career. One of the most important transformations that occurred was my assumption of my medical school specialization. Before beginning my research, I had always wanted to go into cardiology. However, I am now considering orthopedics. I was so interested in the research I was doing in the lab that it transformed my views on orthopedics, and now I could potentially see myself being an orthopedic surgeon. Isolating and examining bacteria extracted from an artificial knee made me curious about orthopedics and I would love to continue research and potentially begin my career in this field in the future.
  3. There were many events, interactions, and relationships that occurred during my time in the lab that lead to the transformation described above. One of these relationships was with my principal investigator and lab manager. They were the people that I looked up to the most as they taught me the important lab skills that I used every day. They were very intelligent and cared so much about their research, I was able to tell how passionate they were about the work. They helped me understand anything that was confusing to me which allowed me to be passionate about the work as well as orthopedics. They are large part of the reason why I am considering this field for a medical career.Another relationship that lead to my transformation was working with other students in the lab. Majority of the time I spent in the lab I spent with other students working on projects with me. This taught me teamwork and leadership skills that will be helpful for me in medical school and my career. I was also able to talk to them about their educational experience as well as their future career plans. This was helpful to gain more knowledge and different perspectives on medical school and various specializations. One event that also lead to my transformation was performing all of the technical lab skills required for the lab. One example of this is, learning how to use an automatic pipet while transferring liquids. This was part of isolating the bacteria extracted from the infected artificial knee components. It will be very helpful in future research that I do throughout medical school. These skills that I learned confirmed by assumptions that I wanted to pursue medicine as a career but also transformed my specialization assumptions, as stated above.
  1. As stated above, the transformation that I gained from my experience with the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity and Orthopedics was one that will definitely affect my future. It is significant because I am now considering orthopedics for a specialization for my career. It is also valuable to me because it allowed me to explore a field that I did not know much about before and helped me discover my interest in orthopedics. Choosing the right specialization is very important to me because I wanted to be interested in and passionate about my career so discovering my interest in orthopedics helped me with this goal.

STEP Reflection

 

Maribelle Moufawad

Undergraduate Research

For my STEP signature project, I conducted research in Columbus, at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. I was responsible for continuing my research on the Melanoma microenvironment from the previous year and summer. Primarily, my work during my project consisted of running experiments and analyzing the data, as well as typical undergraduate tasks such as restocking media, pipette tips and other reagents.

Completing my project meant that this was the first time I was entirely responsible for the success of something that can impact the world. While I was mentored throughout the experience, I was still responsible for correctly completing experiments and ensuring the progression of my research. As such, I learned how grueling the process of research can be: experiments do not always work and sometimes, when they do, the results are the opposite of the expected outcome. These bumps along the road were overcome by collaboration and teamwork. Before, I had always been taught that research can be collaborative, but that is is mostly competitive. This view point changed entirely because without the help of other inside and outside our lab, a lot of our access and knowledge would have been restricted. As a result, I have learned that collaboration with others is imperative to successful research.

Since beginning research in the Fall of 2017, I have been paired with my graduate student mentor. As a part of my research, my mentor granted me access to necessary instruments that were located in other labs with whom she has collaborated, and still continues to do so. Without having access to these instruments, many analyses would not have been possible, and my research would not been able to continue. This is one of the many aspects that showed me how vital others are to an individual’s success.

Another aspect of research was overcoming a bump along the road of my research. My cells had not been growing properly with all of the necessary and experimental components, and we had not really been sure why. So, we asked others in the lab what they thought and what their advice was. The matter was quickly resolved with their help. My lab has a special camaraderie and everyone is always willing to help others in the lab be successful, and so we share new information about our projects with each other regularly. This definitely changed my previously- held idea of research being very private and secretive.

Also, during my project, we received many blood samples due for processing. While I did not directly handle these samples, I knew that they came in several times a week and were part of a different project on which my research lab was collaborating with another lab. Lab members that were available when the blood came in would process it and do cell counts and generally analyze the contents. The findings were then sent to another lab for their own project. Again, this showed me how reliant upon others research can be.

As someone pursuing a career in medicine, collaboration and teamwork are necessary for successful healthcare and patient outcomes. Working as a part of a team has allowed me to deepen my communication skills, as well as my leadership skills and dependability. In research, as well as in medicine, it can be easy to want to try and solve everything alone, but working with others is important because they can offer different ideas on how to resolve a problem. This allows for diversity in thought, which ultimately allows for personal growth and more successful outcomes.

Exploring Pharmacy

My name is Madison Campbell, I am a Senior BSPS major!

My name is Madison Campbell, and I am currently starting my senior year in the BSPS, bachelor of science of pharmaceutical sciences, program. My signature STEP project was an exploratory research project. Over the course of this summer I interviewed ten pharmacists in specialized areas. My research project consisted of research the specific area of pharmacy that each pharmacist practiced in and having the individual pharmacists fill out an informational survey.

My research is now a huge part of who I am. This summer I learned so much not just from doing the research to prepare me for my interviews, but from the connections I made with the pharmacists. I discovered that I didn’t have to have a plan. I don’t have to figure out exactly what I want to do with my future in pharmacy. All of the pharmacists that I spoke with this summer didn’t have a plan, and a pathway that they desired to go down. Specialization happens by chance, and with passion.

My most memorable interview this summer was with a pharmacist that specialized in nuclear pharmacy. Before I started this project, I didn’t even know nuclear pharmacy existed. I could bore you with the science that I learned from the pharmacist, but the best lesson that I learned from her is to remain inquisitive. She started her career like any other pharmacist, working in a local Walmart pharmacy. Along her journey she stumbled into nuclear pharmacy. Out of pure inquiry she started working at Cardinal Health as a part of a team of nuclear pharmacists. What I liked most about her journey was that it wasn’t focused on the title of her job, it was just about being passionate about our field. My last question in every interview was to give me a piece of advice, and the best advice I received was to remain inquisitive, that I should keep looking for new questions and answers. That I should continuously learn, I am so thankful to have met her, and I hope that connection I made this summer brings our paths together in the future.

Another interview that I learned a great deal from was actually with my boss. I work at a long term patient care pharmacy in Hilliard. My boss is the pharmacist in charge of our branch. Most of the pharmacists that I talked with this summer preached about taking part in a pharmacy residency in a hospital. Which in any specialized field is the status quo. My pharmacist at work told me otherwise. She told me that it would be a great opportunity to do a pharmacy residency, but that it doesn’t make you necessarily better than another pharmacist. She got to her position by working hard in our specialized field of geriatrics and rehabilitation. Knowing that you can be successful without having the experience of a rotation was great to hear. It changed my idea of my plan for the next 5-10 years. Seeing that hard work and passion can get you really far in the field of pharmacy opened my eyes. A large part of my program at Ohio State talks about the importance of a rotation, and seeing success outside of the status quo is helpful in making my decisions for my future. I am thankful to have had this conversation with my boss, these are truly things that I wouldn’t normally ask in a work setting, and learning about her journey, not only educationally but in the work place, was really helpful to see and understand.

Unfortunately with HIPPA regulations, I was only able to observe the two above pharmacists in a shadow setting. On the positive side, I got to see two really awesome sides of pharmacy. When I shadowed the nuclear pharmacist I showed up to the Wexner Medical Center at 4:30am.  Nuclear pharmacy takes time to prepare, so most of the medications are created very early in the morning. I showed up after the two head pharmacists were there. When I arrived I was fully gowned and sanitized, and I walked into the lab. I got to watch as the pharmacist worked with radioactive chemicals to create the medications that would be used later that day in the Wexner Medical Center. It was a great experience to see nuclear pharmacy in action. My second shadow was actually with a different pharmacist for the company that I work for. He is a consultation pharmacist, and he goes from facility to facility and looks at the charts for each patient and makes recommendations to the doctors based on what the labs are suggesting and how the patient is responding. It was an exciting day of overviewing charts and speaking with nurses at the different facilities. Both shadow experiences confirmed my passion for clinical pharmacy as it is more hands on.

Results from one of the questions in my survey!

This project showed me a lot about my field. Some things I knew about before the project, but a lot of it was brand new to me. Looking at some of the data from my survey I have seen that the correlations that have been made are not necessarily true when it comes to specialization in pharmacy, and that most things happen by chance. It was really interesting to see the data that I collected, but the most important thing that I gained from my project was interpersonal. I have made a lot of important connections with pharmacists in varying fields. When I go into pharmacy school and I am looking for internships these connections will be very important to have. I don’t know exactly what I want to do after I graduate from pharmacy school, but I have 5 more years to figure it out. Talking with these pharmacists this summer has been an important step in my career in pharmacy.

 

STEP Signature Project: Reflection

In the summer of 2017 and throughout the 2017-2018 academic year, I performed research under Dr. Sakima Smith in the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute to study the cardiotoxic effects of the chemotherapy drug Pazopanib. Within my role, I administered the drug to mice, monitored physiological data through electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and blood pressure recordings. Moroever, I collected data through proteomic analyses and cell immunofluorescent staining.

 

Though I had previously spent time volunteering in the Smith lab, it was not until the summer of 2017 that I was able to research full-time. As I spent 40-hour weeks collaborating with other group members and performing experiments, I developed a greater appreciation and understanding of the depth and breadth of the scientific community. Especially with the Pazopanib project, which spanned across fields of both oncology and cardiology, I was exposed to an enormous base of knowledge, one that excited me for a future in the profession. The more I spent working on the Pazopanib project, reading papers, and overall learning more about the heart, I learned how very little I knew. This realization drove my scientific curiosity to use my resources—mentors, literature, and the lab itself—to fill the gaps in my knowledge and strive for greater insights.

 

As I progressed through the project, I also matured as a scientist and could better see the world through the lens of biomedical research: how every clinical progress begins and ends with a research inquiry. Beyond learning to juggle multiple duties and manage my time responsibly, I grew in my understanding of the scientific method. By working a project from the ground up and describing the potential impacts of such efforts, all the way to publication and beyond, I grew a deeper respect for the extent of patience, intellect, and dedication that goes into every single research experience. Though I may ultimately find myself in a field outside of pure basic science research, I will forever remember the lessons in character and the effort behind every product and technique I use.

 

My STEP project studying Pazopanib’s effects in a dedicated timeline transformed my understanding of the scientific universe by being my first professional exposure to a laboratory environment. Prior to the project, I had been a member of the lab in a purely undergraduate volunteer capacity. However, because I was able to contribute full-time and take on greater, time intensive responsibilities like daily dosing of mice and running multi-day experiments, I gained tremendous perspective into the lifestyle and mentality of professional researchers. Moreover, in this role, my immersive exposure piqued my curiosity whiles simultaneously providing an environment that could answer all my questions. In the lab, I was constantly surrounded by visiting medical academic researchers, mentors, and had access to thousands of publications related to our research interests, all available for me to seek with any question I could imagine. Quickly, my knowledge of cardiac anatomy, physiology, and cardiology research inflated, and I found myself always wanting to learn more.

 

Moreover, as I spent equal time in the lab as any of the full-time employees, I formed genuine relationships within the research group, and realized I had integrated myself as more than “just” an undergraduate research assistant—the other research technicians and visiting scholars had become friends with whom I felt comfortable asking for professional advice, conceptual questions, and even topics completely unrelated to research. And as I learned from these individuals in both professional and personal lessons, I changed in my value of mentorship, which I had previously disregarded. Mentorship was a powerful way for me to develop as a young adult entering a professional environment, and I felt strongly to do the same for others. Later in my time with the lab, I took the initiatives to mentor newer undergraduates going through the same steps I had in the past. From basic lab techniques to reading scientific articles to balancing research with a busy academic schedule, I could translate my own experiences for the benefit of others, just as had been done upon me.

 

Finally, working for such a long duration in the lab was integral to my growth in understanding the extensiveness of research and in developing greater determination and patience for the process. Working with the project from the initial planning stages, going to lab week after week for over a year to collect data, and being able to see the results eventually come to fruition, I was exposed to every part of the research timeline. And in effect, I grew not only in my patience, but in my sense of scope for our efforts and the extent of impact that our findings could have. Moreover, as I read into other studies while performing my own experiments, I realized that all research in any field undergoes the same longitudinal process, one that takes countless hours of dedication, rested upon an even deeper foundation of the research before it. So much of the scientific community—and the world in a greater sense—is interrelated by some aspect of research, and I discovered a new passion in myself to be a part of such a meaningful network.

 

As I pursue a future a career in medicine, the practical laboratory skills, interpersonal relationships, and transformations in my mentality will undoubtedly translate from my time in the research lab. Medicine is an increasingly interdisciplinary field, dependent on intensive collaboration between specialties and professions to provide optimal patient care; being able to work on such a complex project like the cardio-oncology efforts of my STEP project offer a groundwork for a future in crossing traditional lines. In addition, medicine is fully based in research, and almost all physicians participate in some form of clinical research during their career. As such, my practice with the scientific method through my STEP Signature Project will be a valuable tool for forming my own questions and developing plans of approach.

 

Research is a continual process, one that strives for discovery and growth; over the past two years, my participation in this endeavor has led to incredible education in science and in maturing as a young professional. As I continue on towards my professional goals, I am certain the skills, lessons, and attitude I found in the Smith lab will facilitate my success, regardless of where I ultimately find myself.

STEP Reflection

Allen Ronis

Undergraduate Research

My step signature project involved spending the past summer in Columbus, conducting research within the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Research Institute in the department of Microbial Pathogenesis. I was responsible for continuing my own project studying a specific bacterial species which is a primary cause of sub-acute infective endocarditis. My day to day activities included running experiments, analyzing data, and keeping the lab clean and efficient.

 

I believe there was a fundamental change in what I see as being research. Before this experience, I had conducted research, but never full time such as this experience. Thus, I never knew what it was to perform and balance all pieces of a project or lab, as I had to rely on others to help me with parts of my project. Although I still received much help from others, I learned that research is a long and complex process. There are no vast discoveries made every single day, but rather it is small questions that hopefully leads to small answers. This leads to new questions and new answers. Eventually, we hope that it will lead to new discoveries which can help others. This is contrary to my own, and many others previous notions that research has groundbreaking discoveries daily and always focuses on the big picture first. I saw that by looking within the big picture at smaller fragments, it is possible to build up to a new finding.

Another key lesson I learned was that failure was inevitable. I can confidently say that I failed many more times than I succeeded in the lab. At first my failures would bring me down, but being able to be at the lab full-time allowed me to directly follow up on my failures. Over time I saw how to bounce back and learn from my failures, rather than get discouraged by them. This lesson has stayed with me in all areas of my life, as I now understand that I will fail, but it is about looking at the failure in a way that I can take something away from it, and hopefully not make the same mistake again, or improve in my process to succeed. I feel this was transformative in that I am not longer as afraid of failure as I was before. Although I still do what I can to succeed, I know that I can come back from my failures and work towards success.

 

 

I feel the events which most brought about this change in my idea of research was my interactions with my principal investigator and other members of the lab. With them, I was able to first observe how the scientific process was used to generate new questions and how a process could be developed to come closer to answer these questions. Under their guidance I was able to begin to learn more about the background of my research project and begin to think of my own questions which I would like to investigate. I then worked with them to conceive a viable plan to gather data to begin to piece together some of the answer. Finally, I was able to analyze the data and develop a plan for the future and create a new question from my old one.

The activities I performed were also very important in understanding the scientific process. I not only learned how to conduct the experiments I was performing, but I also learned to understand why certain experiments were preferred over others, the fundamental science behind the experiments, and how to use data generated from the experiments to help answer scientific questions. Through this, I learned many basic lab techniques such as PCR, plasmid construction and cloning, bacterial transformation and protein expression. These are skills which I can transfer to any lab environment, regardless of what that labs focus of research is. These background of scientific basics made me realize the complexity of many processes in the lab, but also showed me that I am capable of handling and understanding them.

This complexity also led to many failures, however. By talking with my advisors and other lab staff I was able to see that failure was a natural part of the scientific process. In fact, one can often gather valuable data even from the experiments which seem that they have failed. With their support I was able to deal with this failure, and feel I am now better equipped to deal with failure on my own within the lab and future endeavors. Failing over and over at the same experiment, reviewing the steps I took and how to improve it, and finally getting it right has showed me how to stay determined and focused.

 

 

These transformations mean a lot to my current and future goals. I am currently a senior and looking to finish my final year on a strong note. Being a biochemistry major, many of the techniques and scientific principles I learned and used first-hand help with much of the material covered in my classes. I now feel I have a better understanding of these topics and can better see how topics presented in class can be used to solve real-life problems. In addition to school work, I feel my experience will help with my future goal of becoming a physician. I feel understand and being involved in research is a fundamental duty of a physician aside from treating patient. The training a physician receives can be beneficial in research and lead to new treatment options, in turn helping more patients than before. Being able to conduct research as my project has given me the necessary introduction I need to be able to continue to conduct research in the future. Also, being a physician means facing failure. My experiences with failure and learning to overcome failure will help me in this aspect as well.

 

My Step Journey

I had the opportunity to spend the summer in the Ju Research Group as a student research assistant for my STEP Signature Project. Specifically, my research focused on elucidating the biosynthetic pathway of the production of two nitro-containing natural products, 2-nitroimidazole (commonly referred to as azomycin) and N-nitroglycine. These two natural products exhibit antimicrobial activity and have a unique chemical moiety of the nitro group.

Prior to this experience, I have had some experience doing research but I have never invested that much time into it nor did I have the skills to independently complete my own experiment. With some knowledge regarding the topic of biosynthetic pathways, I entered my STEP project believing that I could accomplish my goal with relative ease. I had read papers about determining the biosynthetic pathways of natural products before and was confident that I knew how to do this. However, this project opened me to reality. During my project, I realized that while being optimistic is good, you cannot be overconfident. I thought that I had the skills and mental fortitude to complete the experiment, but I was faced with many obstacles. Though I know that not all experiments, or even events in life, work out the way you want them to at first, I was not prepared to meet an onset of failures. It was very disheartening to repeat experiments to no avail. At some point, I even began to lose hope and wanted to give up. However, I tried to find a solution to my problem and realized that with will, anything is possible. Doing research is not easy—in fact it involves many failures that you cannot anticipate. I now know that I have to be mentally prepared for experiments not working the way you want them to, and that eventually it is possible to overcome these issues by finding a solution.

I started the project by first creating a cosmid library for 2-nitroimidazole. This was very difficult for me as I have never used the molecular genetic techniques involved in this before. Thankfully, with the guidance of my principal investigator (PI), I was able to successfully create a cosmid library on my first try though it was smaller than it should have been. I then had to design primers for the first time to screen the library for the putative gene cluster. Although the actual designing of the primers went smoothly, I faced my major failure in trying to screen the cosmid library via Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). I screened 960 cosmids from the library (though I managed to condense them to 96 actual reactions) using PCR, but there were no DNA bands when I analyzed the DNA gel. I knew that statistically speaking, I should have had at least two positive hits out of the 96 I had done, yet somehow there was not anything. At first, I thought that perhaps I had not correctly assembled the PCR reactions, so the next day I repeated them again, only to find that I had failed again. Again, I did the same PCR except changing the annealing temperature in hopes of getting some kind of result. Somehow, I had managed to waste an entire day and many materials on an experiment that had completely failed. I went home that night thinking of all the possible ways that I could possibly fix this issue.

At this point, I wanted to give up. I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and uselessness, and thought that there was no way that I could achieve my goal. I did not want to talk to my fellow lab mates nor my PI because I felt that I had failed them. However, with the advice of my friend who is also in a research lab, I decided to approach my PI about how we could solve this issue. The next day my PI and I discussed ways that we could optimize the PCR reaction. Our line of reasoning was that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the cosmid library nor the primers, but perhaps the PCR reaction was not the ideal conditions for my template and primers. Thus, I did several different PCR tests where I changed the reaction composition and even the PCR cycle itself until finally, one set worked. With this success, I was renewed with hope and screened the 960 cosmids once again, with 7 different positive results.

Although I had experienced that major failure, I had been able to overcome it by thinking about the reason behind its failures and coming up with a solution to overcome them. Suddenly I felt like I was able to do whatever I put my mind to. I managed to successfully create the cosmid library for the strain that produces N-nitroglycine on my own, and it was even larger than the first one. Because of these successes, I was able to do experiments without the need to rely on someone else, but if I ever got confused I had many people who I could go to for advice or guidance like my lab mates or PI. Though I had not completed my actual research project of elucidating the biosynthetic pathways of 2-nitroimidazole and N-nitroglycine during the STEP Signature Project, I am confident that I will be able to in the coming year.

Overall, I think that my STEP Signature Project has transformed me for the better as a scientist and person, and these will all help me in my future career as a pharmacist. Due to this experience, I am now equipped with more skills and knowledge that are necessary for performing research. I know more techniques and skills, but I also know that failures are not the end of a project. Even in the face of failures, I can troubleshoot to come up with possible solutions. In addition, I can independently perform my own experiments. These skills will better help me in my future research as I complete my research project. However, the most important thing that has changed in me is my confidence. I have a tendency to feel incompetent in the face of failure but because of this experience I feel more confident in my abilities. In addition, I am no longer scared to ask for help from those close to me. As I plan on becoming a pharmacist, I think that these qualities will be fundamental in my career. I will have to work in a hospital where I will undoubtedly be left in situations where I will be unsure of what to do. Now, I am better prepared to anticipate problems, find solutions, and ask for advice.

STEP Reflection

Allie Lenyo

STEP Research Project

1.For my STEP Project, I performed a research project called Determining the role of point mutation E566A in cholangiocarcinoma therapy resistance. Over the past summer, I performed cell-based experiments in order to study the causes and mechanisms of targeted therapy resistance in cancer. Over the course of the project, it was found that a point mutation that is acquired can lead to targeted therapy resistance through altering protein pathways.

2. Over the course of my STEP Project, my understanding about myself and my view of the world transformed. While I was completing the project, there were many obstacles that I encountered in the laboratory. For example, one assay I was performing would not work correctly, and a great deal of troubleshooting was required. However, I realized that when I am able to take a step back and think critically about a problem I face, it is often easier to come up with a valid solution. I also learned that brainstorming ideas with others about possible solutions to the problem can help me think of new ideas that I otherwise may have never discovered. I realized that I am truly passionate about helping cancer patients and conducting cancer research, and this has influenced my decision to apply to medical school this upcoming year.

My view of the world, and the scientific community, in particular has also changed because of this project. Although I have been a Biomedical Science major during all of my time at Ohio State, working in the laboratory really allowed me the chance to interact with faculty researchers. Through working with my principal investigator, Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, I learned not just about performing scientific experiments, but also about communicating research results and maintaining ethical research practices. I found that there is much more to being a successful researcher than simply knowing how to perform lab assays, and I plan to take this knowledge with me in my future career.

3.Many experiences and interactions during my STEP Project led to this personal growth. First, interacting with my laboratory mentors helped me to learn more about the process of conducting research projects successfully. My principal investigator, Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, held weekly student meetings in which he talked to students about what he has learned about maintaining a successful laboratory. He chose a different topic about which to talk each week, and he discussed research ethics, presenting research, laboratory safety, and how to cope with failure in the laboratory. Through this experience, I was able to learn from his experience as a researcher to help me as I embark on my career.

Another extremely valuable experience was the opportunity to learn from my postdoctoral research mentor, Dr. Melanie Krook. Melanie finished her PhD a few years ago, and she is very knowledgeable about the process of pursuing graduate or professional degrees in today’s world. She was able to help guide me through the process of determining what type of degree program I would like to enter after my undergraduate career. Melanie also helped me learn to perform a great deal of laboratory assays, and she gave me tips on how to be most efficient in the lab.

Next, I had the opportunity to attend laboratory meetings and journal clubs. At each meeting of journal club, we would discuss a scientific article that we read. This helped me to become more proficient in reading scientific articles. I also was able to connect the findings of other scientists to the work that we were performing in the lab. At times, I had questions regarding the articles we read that other members in the lab were able to answer. I was glad that I was able to not only learn from the articles, but also learn from other members in the lab.

Lastly, I was able to improve my critical thinking skills through solving problems that arose when performing experiments. For example, I was performing an assay called a Western Blot, in which I was probing for various proteins in a type of cell. For some reason, a few proteins were not showing up on my blot. At first, I tried redoing the assay with a different population of cells. However, this still did not solve the problem. I brainstormed different ideas of what could be going wrong, and I decided to try a new set of reagents. This solved my problem, and the Western Blot was successful. I learned that although the solution might not always be found on the first try, but thinking critically and having persistence can help to solve the problem.

4.When I was 15 years old, my younger brother was diagnosed with bone cancer. The physicians and researchers who worked on his case were so passionate about his care, and because of their hard work, my brother has now been cancer-free for four years. Because of his battle with cancer, I became inspired to pursue a cancer research project as my STEP Experience. This research project helped me to decide on a career. I knew that I had wanted to be a physician so that I can treat patients, but I have also decided that I would like to be a physician at an academic medical center so that I can also perform a bit of research.

This experience has also allowed me to network with scientists and other students who have similar goals to mine. I have been able to be immersed in the world of cancer research, and I have been inspired by not just the work of my own lab, but also the work of other labs at Ohio State. Because of this experience, I know that I want to perform more research in the future, and I have met some professional contacts who could also be collaborators someday.

 

STEP Reflection

Name: Charu Tiwari

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.

I conducted initial research on the mechanism for liver sinusoidal endothelial cell (LSEC) injury following cancer drug delivery. My work entailed standardizing antibodies and controls so that a human LSEC cell line could be tested for the expression of CD33, a target receptor.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

This project gave me valuable insight into a research career. This was the first time I worked full time in research, so I experienced spending almost 40 hours a week in the lab. It was really important for me to understand whether being in a wet lab for that long is conducive to my working style. I found that I struggled with the lack of routine that comes with research—the unpredictable nature of the job gave me anxiety that I did not know how to initially handle. I realized how important a routine and regular work schedule is to me—I discovered that it helps me plan around my hobbies and spending time with family and friends. I also struggled with feeling inadequate about the progress I was making, especially when experiments did not work or needed to be repeated, or had to be delayed for certain reasons. I thought deeply about my desire to be a physician and how well that career truly lined up with what I wanted from a job—I realized that when working with patients, I wouldn’t feel like any time or day was a “waste”, because even if you cannot cure somebody’s disease, every moment you spend with them has the potential to be positively impactful in their life. This is not really the same for research. I struggled with feeling like sometimes I wasting my time when things did not go right.

Although I have a deep respect and appreciation for biological research, in a job I need to be working more closely with people. Most of the research I did this summer was fairly individual other than lab meetings. I like working with team members throughout a project and sometimes being in a lab by yourself all day can get fairly lonely. I have gained a better understanding of the aspects I am looking for in my future career.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

The unpredictability of research that was referred to above presented itself in many forms. I am a planner—I feel most comfortable when I can lay out ahead of time what my goals are for the week and then in order to feel satisfied with myself, I need to accomplish those goals. During my research project this summer, the work that I had expected to complete totally did not happen, and the work I was able to complete took significantly longer than expected. For example, I was trying to standardize an antibody for a particular cell line; I started out using the antibody with just positive and negative controls. But, it was not working with the positive control. I spent almost a month trying to change variables such as temperature, the machine used to analyze data, antibody concentrations, etc. in order to figure out why the positive control wasn’t working. It turned out that this antibody does not work on fixed cells—they have to be fixed after the antibody is used. This experience frustrated me significantly because what I thought would just be one quick experiment took almost ten different experiments.

In relation to the frustration I felt when my plans could not be carried out, I also became anxious about the supposed lack of progress I was making with my project. I had wanted to take about half the summer to standardize antibodies and reagents, test them on the liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, and then explore the mechanisms for sinusoidal damage. However, because the standardization took so long, I was unable to get to explore the mechanism part of the project, which I had been looking forward to the most.

And finally, I realized how important it is for me to be working actively in a team. Although a lab is a team, the day-to-day work that I experienced was fairly individualized—I spent most of my time alone. Even if there were other people in the lab, my need to concentrate on my own work forced me to isolate myself either physically or by putting on headphones. I am a fairly social person that needs to engage with others on a daily basis in my work to feel satisfied with my job—I found that the type of research I did this summer failed to provide me with that. I again thought back to my physician shadowing experiences and remembered how they discussed everything together and worked as a team with nurses and other physicians every moment of the day, and how much that seemed like a better fit for me.

  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 research project has allowed me to learn and reflect on what it means to go into research, especially biological, as a career. This was very important to me because I have been fairly confused about what I want to do after graduation. I was considering going into research, applying to medical school, a public health field, and even teaching. Because I have been doing part-time research since my freshmen year, it was the most logical option. I had simply had more experience with it. However, I had never worked in research full time and was always balancing it with school. I finally worked full time in research this summer and found that it failed to fulfill key qualities I discovered that I needed in a job.

Although I am not considering research to be a significant part of my future anymore, this experience did make me more confident about my decision to apply to medical school to become a physician. My whole high school and college experience I’ve been trying to better understand myself so that eventually I can go into a career that will make me happy because I want to help people, but I cannot do that if I am not happy myself. Everything that I felt I was not getting out of research would be there for me in the role of a physician. I would be glad to continue contributing to research during my breaks in medical school, for example, but I feel that my personality is better suited to the role of a physician than for research.

STEP Reflection

My STEP project was focused on my research project in the lab of Dr. Jian-Qiu Wu at Ohio State. The Wu Lab studies the final stage of the cell cycle, cytokinesis, in fission yeast. The purpose of my research is to investigate the role of the Sec1 protein in a complex that is essential for cytokinesis to occur. Our understanding of cytokinesis in this model organism is important because we can apply these principles to mammalian cells, including humans. This knowledge is utilized when developing cancer treatments and anti-fungal medication. STEP gave me the opportunity to present this work at the 2018 Plant & Microbial Cytoskeleton Gordon Research Conference. Representing the Wu Lab at this week long meeting in New Hampshire allowed me to meet experts in the field, learn about their research, and gain experience presenting my own.

This experience gave me a new sense of confidence in myself. In order to prepare for this meeting, I practiced my presentation in front of members of my lab. This confidence became essential to me while presenting my work at the conference. Since I was the only member of my lab there, when people had questions about my project I had to make sure I had a full understanding of their question so that I could answer it to the best of my ability. As the only undergraduate present at the conference, there were certain parts of lectures and presentations that I didn’t understand. The confidence that I had allowed me to form intelligent questions to further my overall learning experience.

Early on in the meeting, I met researchers from all over the world. By forming these initial relationships, I was introduced to their colleagues and acquaintances from previous meetings. By the end of the week, I had networked with researchers across several disciplines. Not only did I get to learn more about their research through these personal conversations, but I got to learn about their experiences that led them to where they are in their career. I received huge amounts of advice that I did not expect. Following the conference, I have been able to maintain these professional relationships which has been incredibly helpful as I make important decisions about my future.

This experience was important to me in many ways. Since I have been a member of the Wu Lab for a year and a half, it allowed me to reflect on my work so far. I developed important skills at this conference that I will utilize as I continue my research. For example, throughout the week I became better at taking notes during research seminars as well as following along with a presentation in which I had minimal background knowledge about. Additionally, this experience motivated me to continue my research. Upon returning for the meeting, I submitted my Honor’s Research Thesis application and applied for Undergraduate Research Scholarships. Most importantly, I have decided to continue working in the research setting for a year or two after graduation before attending medical school.