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.

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