KIPP Internship

Name: Frank Wang

Type of Project: Internship

1. I was an intern at KIPP Columbus Primary, a local Kindergarten to First Grade charter school, over the summer. I managed and updated data on students’ test scores and participated in teacher training sessions.

2. I learned that people come from different places and it’s not your place to judge. I didn’t personally experience this anecdote, but I heard it from a teacher at the middle school. The kid acting out the most in his 7th grade class was homeless, couch-surfing, and a young father of a baby. Almost instantly, the “troublemaker” is seen as a child desperately calling out for help, who understandably couldn’t care less about algebra or American history. Another thing I learned is that, in general, worthwhile projects are composed of individuals doing their best, but no one individual is above the team. The work isn’t about you or your giant ego. Be present and be humble.

3. I had a very positive relationship with my boss, who I feel like really embodies the idea of being present and being humble. Quite literally, I never saw him eat lunch before 2pm. Until he had to eat, he just didn’t. He was constantly rushing back and forth, going to meetings or typing emails or meeting with coworkers. His work ethic was truly something else. I’ve received emails from him at both five in the morning and eleven at night. Yet, he also found a balance. He would take weekends off and just take a break from work. He is an definite role model and somebody I seek to emulate moving forward in my own career.

Near the end of my internship, I had the chance to attend some teacher training sessions during teacher orientation, which basically amounted to the first teacher in-service. Here, I again learned the lesson of just being present. When I just closed my mouth and payed attention, I learned so much. From how to manage a classroom to how to speak to misbehaving students to how to take criticism from coworkers, I feel like I emerged as a much better teacher, but also as a much better person, as cliche as that sounds. I also had a lot of positive role models here, especially with some of the younger teaching fellows, many of which were near my age and recent college graduates.

I also definitely became more professional. One very noticeable change is that I’m much more comfortable now wearing more formal outfits, be it business casual or business formal. Having to wear business clothes every day just made it a regular thing, and not something to be uncomfortable about, which I definitely was at the beginning of the summer. Furthermore, my coworkers and superiors drilled into my head the importance of being accountable for yourself and your actions. Be on time (or early if you can), do your work, and don’t make excuses for things you messed up on. A lot of this I knew, but there is a stark difference between being on time to lecture versus being on time to a work meeting.

4. Before this internship, I was very uncertain about the shape of my professional or academic career after my time at Ohio State. I came into undergraduate thinking that I was going to attend graduate school. In retrospect, I was quite naive. My disillusionment with the academy, poor work ethic, and diminishing lack of interest in my areas of study all contributed to rejecting graduate school/academia as a viable option. The summer at KIPP was my way of exploring a very different option, teaching K-12. While I didn’t find K-1 teaching to be the thing I wanted to do after undergrad, I came away with a lot of important lessons. First, all jobs require hard work and pain and sweat. Teachers and administrators who love what they do still have bad days, when their chosen careers feel like a burden. And, more importantly, I learned that, in the correct work environment, that is totally okay. Second, I learned about the important of company culture. Happy hours (where I drank water!) were some of the best times I had this summer, learning more about the sort of people who willingly teach five and six year olds. I felt welcome and a part of the team. This summer could have been a lot different and a lot worse if my coworkers weren’t willing to be friendly and open to the young intern. Finally, I realized or finally came to appreciate the importance of a healthy work-life balance. In college, it’s very easy to constantly be “on” and constantly working, from extracurriculars to work to classes. You don’t get to be lazy on Sunday without regretting it later during another all-nighter. But, talking to my coworkers, I learned that sometimes you have to take weekends off to, quite frankly, make it through the challenging work week. I’m still not sure what my future holds, but the lessons I learned from KIPP will helpfully guide me as I apply to internships and jobs this fall.

STEP Reflection

  1. For my STEP signature project, I worked in a yeast genetics lab at The Ohio State University during my summer months. This was my first experience in a professional laboratory setting, and there I worked alongside graduate and doctorate students alike to further our understandings of genetic processes in budding yeast, knowledge which can then be applied to human genetics. The majority of my experiments involved inspecting the budding patterns of yeast cells with various mutations, as well as digesting plasmid DNA in order to verify the identity of these mutants.
  2. Because this was my first time working in a professional lab, I learned a lot about the daily work ethic and mindset of career researchers. At first, it was overwhelming to consider all of the seemingly tedious details that go into executing an experiment. When doing laboratory work, the goal is to produce publishable results. This means that I learned to take meticulous notes regarding what steps I took for perform these tasks, and grew to appreciate the delicate art of the scientific method. Often, students learning about the scientific method in class overlook one of its most valuable steps—determining how to turn poor results into good results in a follow-up experiment. Out of everything that I learned from this lab, this lesson must be the most important. One of my colleagues reportedly spent six months perfecting the construction of a desired mutant plasmid, yet they remained determined to see their experiment to completion because the end results were rewarding beyond measure.
    All in all, I now have a great appreciation for the scientific process. Laboratory work is an art that takes immense patience, care, and perseverance; as a result of my time spent in this lab, I can confidently attest that I grew to demonstrate these qualities to their fullest by the end of the summer. The best evidence of this is that my lab director was kind enough to ask me to stay on the lab roster part-time through the fall semester, a position which I gladly accepted. Even more rewarding is that I am now helping to train new undergraduates in the lab so that they develop these essential qualities of patience, care, and perseverance that lab work requires.
  3. Looking back over my summer research experience as a whole, I can identify specific times at which I truly felt that my future was being impacted. For instance, my second day in the lab consisted of learning to run a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) experiment. In the DNA research community, PCR is arguably one of the most crucial tools a scientist can have at their disposal. Because everything I was doing was for the first time, it took me a while to trudge through the procedure. Nonetheless, I left at the end of the day with a sense of pride. A couple years before, I was merely being told the benefits of PCR by a biology teacher and never thought I might one day be using this technique myself. But sure enough, there I was, performing this essential task as if I was a part of the science community. Surely, that’s what it meant (even if I didn’t realize it initially)—joining this lab as a research assistant meant that I was a part of the global research community.
    My sense of accomplishment and pride swelled further during our biweekly lab meetings, during which the senior members of the lab would give presentations, and everyone else would have the opportunity to share any progress they had made in their respective projects. Being the only undergraduate in the lab, these sessions were nerve-wracking at first. For the first time in my academics career, I was surrounded by people that were years ahead of my in knowledge and intellect. This turned out to be advantageous for me, however, as these circumstances forced me out of my comfort zone. My colleagues filled me with feelings of importance when I was given time to discuss my lab progress with them, and especially when they conversed with me as if I were an equal in the lab and not a random undergraduate who came to clean the glassware. It was in this way that I found inspiration to make my experiments the best representations of my work ethic as possible.
    A final, impactful experience that I had while working in this lab over the summer was when I was first being trained to assist in the making of stock solutions and growth media for yeast. As my lab director described it, laboratory work is misunderstood to be an individual activity. On the contrary, I found lab work to be surprisingly collaborative. Our lab used a weekly rotation to assign side work to everyone. For example, I may have had to sterilize a large nutritious yeast media for the use of anyone in the lab one week. If I fell behind on my duties, or was careless in my duties, the entire lab’s work would suffer as a result. Because of this, each individual in the lab relied on each other for the success of their experiments. It was an excellent dynamic, in my opinion, because seniority or degree didn’t matter in this aspect—undergraduates, like me, and doctorate students were to carry out these same responsibilities just the same. Despite the gap in knowledge and experience between myself and the others in my lab, we were all united and grounded by this system of reliance and teamwork, which proved to be my favorite part of laboratory work this summer. Not only did I command the success of my own experiments, but my hard work also was able to help my mentors to succeed in their experiments as well. It ultimately made me feel like a necessary part of the lab, and not an expendable intern that other undergraduate students may be reduced to in other settings.
  4. In conclusion, this experience has been influential in my plans for my future academics and eventual career. It has always been my intention to enroll in a graduate program after my time at OSU, and my research experience has served to bolster this ambition. However, I entered this lab in June unsure of what I would like to specialize in for my graduate program. In addition to seeking practical lab work experience, I sought to use this opportunity to explore how much I might enjoy a career as a researcher. Despite the many fascinating aspects of lab work, I have discovered that it would not be the correct career path for me, as I would prefer a greater amount of personal interaction. However, this lab did prove my interest in genetics, allowing me to hone my career ambitions on genetic counseling, a profession that combines the academic payoff of studying genetics and my personal preferences of being in social settings. Again, I will be continuing my work in this lab throughout the fall semester, and likely the spring, too. Without the funding from STEP, I may not have been able to discover my newfound interest in genetic counseling, neither would I have been able to develop the traits of a professional researcher which I will undoubtedly be able to apply to my future academic ventures, all for which I am grateful.

STEP Project 2017

My STEP project was a research project called Project S.W.E.A.T. which stands for Summer Weight and Eating Assessment Trial. In our research project we went to low income socioeconomic areas of Columbus and studied the eating habits and exercise tendencies of elementary aged children in the summer as apposed to during the school year. We used surveys as well as data points such as height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure to obtain the data.

After participating in Project S.W.E.A.T. I learned about a community that I had not been able to have interaction with in my lifetime and that changed my views. There has always been the stereotype that people in low socioeconomic situations or people that are in shelters or homeless tend to be lazy or are dirty and that is why they are in the situation they are in. After interacting with the people in these situations, that is not in fact the case for most of them. In some situations they had been dealt bad hands during life or had a major life event that set them back while they are trying to provide for their family.

There are a couple examples of families that I met with that helped in altering some of my views. Working and talking through the surveys with these caregivers and their children really made me sit back and see how they are looking at life. We worked with a family that had five children in the study, but worked to take care of over 10 children on some to most days. There was another family with four children in the study, and I met another family with five children. My family has three children and there are times when it is hard to make some ends meet, so to imagine having to take care of up to 12 children seemed nearly impossible to me

Some parents I worked with were in the process of going back to school to finish their degree or to try for a masters degree. As part of the research we had to call to perform dietary recalls, so in order to do these we had to plan time that would fit our schedule, but more importantly fit their schedule. I struggle enough to juggle school work with extracurriculars and my friends. For these people, they have to juggle their school work, a job, as well as their families. For them to find the time to talk to us and go through seemingly endless surveys speaks to them and how they want the best for their children.

There were even families that had to send their children to different schools just to make it work in the house. This point may sound odd because one would think that sending kids to different schools would end up being more difficult than just sending them to the same school, but for a couple of families they had kids going to both schools. I never personally asked why they sent kids to multiple schools, but I could only imagine the struggles that goes along with that.

This alteration in my view will impact my life in the future in my preferred career path. I wish to be a MD after it is all said and done. With being a MD, comes the necessity to be able to gain the trust of people from many different backgrounds, so they believe what you are saying and do as you prescribe them. I feel like the best way to connect to people and gain their trust is to have a knowledge of what their background is or could be like. Having done this will definitely help me by being to connect to someone who may be living in a low socioeconomic situation.

 

STEP Signature Project Reflection

Name: Megan Broughton

 

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

 

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

My STEP Signature Project involved working in an undergraduate research lab with a microbiology focus. Our research dealt with Staphylococcus aureus and its growing and binding qualities with human proteins. My tasks involved measuring the speed at which different mutant bacterial strands grew as well as analyzing the data collected by using the Atomic Force Microscope.

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

I learned a lot through my time in the lab, about myself, research, and the effects we can have on others. I anticipated not enjoying working in a research lab because I am a very social and outgoing person. I most enjoy working with and interacting with other people, so I was afraid the lack of contact in a lab would deter me from research. However, I ended up loving the work I did and I was able to see how what I was doing in a small lab in the basement of a building would affect the lives of people I will likely never meet. I realized that my view of research was completely skewed and I should consider further pursuing it going forward. I also learned that even though I am a “people person”, there are many other ways to connect with people while working in a lab. Since my work began, I’ve been able to share and discuss our hypotheses and tests with other students and adults involved in 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?

Some of the key aspects that went into my transformation through my STEP Signature Project are the following: the opportunity to work in a different lab with other graduate students working in research, the independence to conduct experiments by myself and draw conclusions from this, and the ability to always seek help and ask questions about the project.

At the beginning of the summer, we began working in a different lab that had other equipment necessary for the experiments. Because of this, I became familiar with different lab settings and was able to converse with different researchers about their projects and interests. Most of them were graduate students, but they always made me feel welcome and answered any questions I had while working in their lab.

Secondly, my principal investigator and post-doctorate researcher continuously supported me and my interest in a laboratory setting. They often left me to work on little projects by myself and trusted me to complete the tasks. I was able to run experiments and create growth curves for all of the different strands of bacteria. I would also start the growing process of the bacteria early in the morning, to be ready by the time they wanted to start experiments. Nadia, the post-doctorate, also taught me how to use the Atomic Force Microscope and analyze the data that is collected. That was a major portion of the work I completed this summer.

Finally, I was always able to ask questions about the research and what certain things meant in the data analysis or ask about certain qualities of the bacteria. Nadia was always willing to help me to understand exactly what I was doing in the lab. She would draw everything out in my lab notebook as a reference for me throughout the experiments. She also encouraged me to read the papers we would be using for experiments- as a way to further understand the processes in the lab.

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

I think this transformation is extremely important in my life because I used to be so certain of my future in the medical field. However, this lab introduced me to a new side of science that still allows me to help other people. Nadia has also showed me how to be a better person. She works very hard at her job and takes the work very seriously but she also realizes the importance of having other things to do in life. She understands the importance of classes among other activities and never tries to overwhelm me with things to do. This transformation relates mostly to my academic goals and future plans, it has sparked an interest in graduate school for me. It could potentially alter my future entirely, if I continue to pursue research.

 

Nicholas Pennza: Undergraduate Research Reflection

  1. Nicholas J. Pennza

     

    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.

         This summer I worked in a research Lab under the Biomedical Engineering department. There, I researched the properties of the human eye lens homogenate. This included wet and dry bench research techniques.     

     

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

    One previous view that changed is how research is funded. I had previously known that a researcher would apply to a university or another origination that may give them funding if they felt that a project is well thought out and productive for the better of science. What I learned is that receiving a grant is not that simple. What became apparent is that projects will only be founded if the information gained from the research will only interfere with an already profitable business.

    In addition, before my project, I liked to rushed my science projects to get them done as fast as possible. This aspect of myself was challenged during my project. I found that I had to stop worrying about how much time something took and let the science take as much time as it needed. This is something that has also seeped into my daily life after my project. I find myself being less worried about a schedule and allowing myself to give whatever challenge in front of me the dedication it deserves so that I can learn as much from it as I can.

     

    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.

                           

    While working in my lab, I often had time to talk to my PI, Dr. Matt Reilly, and one of the PHd students. During that time, I got to know them better on an individual and professional level. Often, I was able to discuss with them their goals within their field of research and how they planed to get there. They were able to give me a first-hand insight into how grant can be applied for/received.

    In our lab, we research the characteristic of the eye lens that apply to presbyopia, a condition of the eye lens that all humans fall victim to around the fourth decade if life. However, we hope that our work could also be used to assist cataract formation research one day. What my lab superiors explained was that cataract surgery is the most profitable surgery in America. Because of that, major national non-profits, made up of many ophthalmological surgeons who personally benefit financially from cataract work, they very well may not fund any that could disrupt the very profitable business that is cataract replacements.

    As my PI says, “there is science, ethics, and someone in the middle who can make money.” I found it very disturbing that many scientific advancements may be halted in the same way research on cataracts can be. Its hard to think of that we could be living in a better world, but are not because if the politics revolving around money.

     

    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.

    My future goal is to attend a United States Medical school after my time here at OSU. In such, physicians need to be experts in the health care knowledge. A part of that will be scientific, such as skills gained from research. A second part of that is also knowing the local and national politics and how those impact the way health care professionals practice medicine. My STEP project give me a good first step into understanding both of those two topics.

    In addition, this also played into the transformation from the previous question as it challenged me think critically about my life plans and the previous schedule that I have lead out for myself. Working in the research lab has showed me that there are multiple paths anyone can take to get the results that they desired. Some paths may be quicker than others, but the longer paths contain many adventures of their own with plenty of skills to learn along the way.

     

     

     

     

     

Summer Research

For my STEP project, I worked in the Graphene Factory, an undergraduate research group at Ohio State. My main objectives were to obtain a molybdenum calibration on the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) system in the NanoSystems Lab, as well as learn techniques for analyzing samples. This will be important for the future work of the group.

Throughout my STEP project, I became more self-reliant and a better scholar. When you’re an undergrad doing research, a lot of what you do is self-motivated. If I didn’t get something done on time, nobody else really suffered for it; I only set myself behind. I learned to be persistent in following up with faculty members in order to get trained or get a piece of equipment fixed. I did a lot of outside reading to attempt to get up to speed with what the group was studying and would visit my advisor’s office to ask her questions about what I was learning.

A couple interactions that impacted my experience were my training sessions with staff members from the NanoSystems Lab. Two different staff members led my training sessions for microscopes and the CVD system. At first I was afraid of making a mistake or asking a question, but I learned that the only way I would learn to do something correctly and accurately was to ask questions and fix issues before they developed further.

Another activity that impacted my STEP experience was reading research papers. Research papers can be very dense and difficult to understand. The first paper I read took me nearly a week and a half since I had to stop reading to research a topic I did not understand. Being persistent in reading papers is the only way to develop some understanding of the topic. Once I finished my own reading and analysis, I would take my findings to my advisor, who would explain things that I may have misinterpreted or missed completely! My reading time has increased, and my ability to comprehend has increased. I’ve even been able to develop theories for different protocols for preparing substrates before depositing metals, which would influence the structure of the TMD’s I prepare.

My experience working in the lab during the summer prepared me to continue the work I started as I move into the new school year. Although I do not have the same amount of time to be able to commit to some projects, I have a better understanding of what I need to do in order to be a productive member of the group to contribute to the main goal.

The most notable change to come from this experience is my ideas for my own future. Prior to this experience, I had grappled with the idea of pursuing a PhD in Physics before going into industry. Although I value my research experience and what I have learned from it, I do not think that pursuing a PhD would be for me. I would much rather apply other people’s findings to real practice instead of doing my own research.

STEP Reflection

Over the summer of 2017, I was fortunate enough to participate in the STEP program. I was involved in an undergraduate research position at the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, working as an undergraduate research assistant in the biomedical engineering department. Through the course of the summer, I work on proprietary project contracted with the CDME. I also worked on private material testing for the engineering center.

 

While I was at the CDME, I finally realized what I wanted to do with my career. Over the past two years, I have always been conflicted about whether to follow an engineering or medical path. After working at the CDME, I felt a strong calling to follow my path with the medical profession. While performing engineering work was incredible in its own right, the strong themes of patient interaction and public health were missing from that scene. I have always felt passionate about those topics and without them in my future profession, I would feel lost in a way. My love for person to person interaction and the betterment of my community are a part of me and need to be practiced in my future career.

 

A couple of reasons led me to the conclusion to pursue medicine instead of engineering. First, I can truly say that engineering work does not interest me as much as the idea of practicing medicine. Practicing medicine is very active and personal while performing engineering tasks, to me, are much more slow paced. Engineering projects are detailed beasts that have to be completed to perfection and must satisfy all requirements set by the contractor. This makes the project go by slowly and delays lead to complete pauses in the project. There were many times where I wanted to continue to pursue a project, but was stopped due to a need for clarification of machining limitations.

 

Furthermore, I mentioned that patient interaction was truly important to me. Engineering does feature business interactions but as implied, the conversations were business oriented. In medicine, you are testing to see if someone is healthy and at times, people are not. This can be a very vulnerable subject for the patients and as a medical professional, one needs to be able to be approachable and comfort the patient. Being a doctor requires empathy, a skill that I have and use to the best of my abilities.

 

Lastly, my STEP project taught me a very valuable lesson about myself, I want to be directing situations, not being directed. As an undergraduate student, I have to work under professionals in order to learn. Moreover, engineers are a part of a team and work under the project manager. I cannot see myself in the future simply working on my portion of the project that I was assigned. I want to be making my own decisions and  directing myself as I go. As a doctor, you are still not always the boss, however, you have some autonomy over your decisions and how you want to treat your patients.

 

This change in my desire for my future career path has solved many confusing questions in my life. As mentioned before, I have been questioning myself about engineering or medicine since freshman year. Now that I have answered this question, I can finally devote myself completely to the pre-med track. This means committing the MCAT and applying for med school in the coming year. Thanks to STEP, I have realized where I want to end up and can see myself happy living a life in the medical profession.

A Summer of Reserach

  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.

In Dr. Coss and Dr. Phelps’ lab, I contributed to the study of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common and lethal type of liver cancer. The main project I was involved with was elucidating the macrocellular consequences of canonical and variant androgen receptors in hepatocellular carcinoma. The assays, research models, presentations, and people I became familiar with established a foundation of knowledge and techniques I will use as I continue this 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.

My involvement in this lab began in January 2017, but I lacked the time to understand and progress in my project until the beginning of my STEP project in May. My full-time involvement in the lab immersed me in many aspects of research, such as learning from other scientists, independently solving problems, and asking new questions based on novel data. With each failed experiment or new research question, I became increasingly interested in the research; the potential influence that solving the research questions would have to patient health motivated me. Ultimately, I realized that my interests can only be satisfied by a career as a medical scientist. With both MD and PhD degrees, I will be trained to care for patients in the clinic and use those interactions to ask innovative, influential research questions that can improve the medical field’s service to the patient.

  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.

My aspirations broadened and developed as result of my experience in research. My prior career goal, a pharmacist, seemed dull compared to a life of trying to answer crucial questions about medicine that potentially benefit innumerable people. In Dr. Coss’s and Dr. Phelps’s lab, I am experiencing the aspects of a career in research. Over the summer, I was in the lab nearly 60 hours each week. I was enthused to be investigating the project, knowing that what I was doing was beneficial to the lab and the field of research. Having the experience of working in a lab full time showed me that research aligns with my curiosity and interest in academics.

Most of my summer was spent with the members of the lab, who became valuable resources and my friends. The team consists of faculty who have experience in the pharmaceutical industry, PhD candidates, and research scientists. Interacting with these people, who compose a diverse range of expertise, has taught me that a career in research is spontaneous and suits those who are curious. For instance, within my relatively short time in research, my initial plan of research has drastically changed and been supplemented with several other projects. I enjoy this variety and flexibility, attributes that I didn’t experience in pharmacy opportunities.

Learning to use the people available to me helped me succeed in this research project. However, I was initially reluctant to ask for help from the experts, fearing that I would be annoying them. For instance, an assay I was attempting to optimize continuously failed. Persistent and confident, I read the literature, adjusted variables, or changed the entire method. In return, it still didn’t work. I had exhausted all the papers that I could learn from. The other researchers in the lab became my final resource. They were excited to help me and excited when I used their advice to get the assay to work; my sense of accomplishment was felt by the whole group as result of involving them. The collaboration, academics, service, and variety inherent to research and medicine are essential to my well-being and development. I feel it is my purpose to dedicate my time to advancing both research and practice aspects of medicine by becoming a medical scientist, that is, completing and MD/PhD program.

 

  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.

I suspected that a MD/PhD program aligned with my interests prior to this experience. However, I doubted my motivation to prepare for and complete this rigorous, lengthy dual degree program. After engaging in research in my STEP project, I can only imagine myself pursuing both MD and PhD degrees. This will enable me to serve patients directly in the clinic and use those interactions to ask research questions that can improve the outcomes of that service; I cannot foresee an opportunity that would be more impactful and bring me greater satisfaction. Ultimately, my summer research experience introduced me to resources that will prepare me to become a successful physician scientist student in the forthcoming years.

STEP Project Summer 2017

STEP Project Reflection

This summer I completed a STEP project in the category of Undergraduate Research. I participated in mathematics research under the guidance of Dr. Ghaith Hiary from the OSU Math Department. My project investigated a topic called the canonical height of points on a structure called an elliptic curve.

This project helped to change my view of myself and of the world of academia and research. My view of myself was transformed in the sense that I realized that math is the subject that I truly enjoy and want to pursue as a career, and I realized that I also enjoy doing research and the research process. As I worked on my project, I began to find that I was extremely interested in the subject I was learning and the project I was taking part in. I also noticed that I began to become more enthused about the prospect of finding new results and just the process of research in general.

Following on that sentiment, I also learned a lot simply about the process of research and the world of academia. I realized how much work professors put into their research to achieve meaningful and exciting results, and how much they enjoy their work. To do meaningful work you must greatly enjoy your subject and be willing to become fully engrossed in it. In doing that, your work becomes more exciting and interesting, which allows you to achieve better results.

The most important interaction that lead to my realizations were those with my project advisor, Dr. Ghaith Hiary. He helped me understand the steps needed to pursue a research project and gave me advice and guidelines on how to proceed when I hit a roadblock or found some new result. His enthusiasm to teach and to learn drove me to want to work harder and learn as much as I could about the subject area of my project topic.

An activity that helped my transformation was simply the research process that I was involved in. As I read books and articles on my project topic, I began to realize how much I enjoy the field I was working in. This reading and working also showed me that I enjoy the research process and the world of academia. Reading working level research articles gave me a new view and insight into the world of current math research and the work of modern math researchers.

The final aspect of my project that lead to my transformation was that I could work solely on my research, since I was not taking any summer classes. During the school year, I had to split my time between classes, work, and research, so my research project did not have the highest priority. But during the summer I could give my project highest priority, and because of that I was able to make significant progress. This progress helped fuel my aforementioned realizations and new insights.

This transformation that I have been discussing is perfect for my career aspirations, as I hope to attend graduate school to get a Ph.D. in mathematics, then become a math professor. A large part of the job of a professor is to publish current and relevant research, so learning about the research process and research in general was a great boon to me and my career aspirations.

With all of the changes and insights mentioned above, I hope that my experience this summer will help greatly in my future studies and career.

My Experience Presenting Nutrition Research at a National Conference

Name: Jeffrey Laubert

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research/Research Presentation

 

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

 

My STEP Signature Project allowed me the opportunity to travel to the 50th Annual Conference of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior in Washington, D.C. to present research that I conducted in the spring of 2017. While at this conference, I presented a research poster; attended education sessions related to communicating the science of nutrition and effective research techniques; networked with professionals in the field of nutrition and dietetics; and went to Capitol Hill to advocate for the importance of nutritional topics within future legislation.

 

  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.

 

Before attending this conference as a result of receiving the STEP Fellowship, I was doubting what my career path would be in dietetics. I was interested in so many different paths, but primarily interested in going into nutrition industry. Because of this, I was more focused on getting an MBA than furthering my education in nutrition. However, attending this meeting showed me the value of receiving a graduate degree in nutrition and has influenced me to seriously consider that as an option.

From this project, I learned to look past the typical career paths of dietitians and utilize my education as well as my interests outside of dietetics to enter into a career with nutrition that better fits my interests. I learned that to be truly successful, a person is happy with what they do. And further, I was reaffirmed that I am happiest when working to improve the lives of others through nutrition.

 

  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.

 

During the second day of the conference, I attended a meeting of the Nutrition Educators with Industry committee. While at this meeting, I met many individuals who have led successful nutrition careers in industry, to include a man who was the USDA advisor to Presidents Bush and Obama and who now works for Chobani, a woman on the committee in charge of creating the dietary guidelines for Americans, a woman who works for Nestle, and others. This meeting served as a great foot-in-the-door with this group of individuals, and more opportunities arose when they invited me to dinner that night.

While at dinner, I had the opportunity to talk more in depth with an employee at Chobani regarding his current role with the company, his education, and how he got to where he is today. I heard how he is in charge of overseeing research trials at Chobani and how he shares the results of those trials with a marketing team that then strategically shares the information with consumers. I have always enjoyed research and also marketing, so this was something I was interested in. This employee recently received his PhD in Nutrition from Penn State, and after our conversation I can see the value of a graduate-level degree within industry.

On the fourth day of the conference, he introduced me to his friend Laurie, a dietitian who works for a nutrition marketing company called FoodMinds that Chobani partners with; I set up a time for us to talk later that day. Laurie had a lot of great things to say about FoodMinds and how it allows her to combine her passions for writing and nutrition. Laurie did not enjoy the clinical side of nutrition and said that this kind of role was a much better fit for her. This conversation, along with the others that I had with nutrition educators working within industry, allowed me to see the many opportunities in dietetics outside of the typical clinical or community education settings.

 

  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 change came at a time when I was uncertain about what I wanted to do in my dietetics career and it reaffirmed my initial decision to go into the field. Attending this conference and meeting these individuals furthered my passion for dietetics and gave me some direction. I am  excited to go into my junior year and take the remainder of the courses for my degree, while also beginning to look into graduate programs in the field of nutrition. I look forward to going into a profession that is so versatile in what it can offer to professionals and that works to improve the quality of life of others.