Undergraduate Research Project
My STEP Signature Project involving undergraduate research entailed identifying changes in PTEN activity and localization caused by SDHD loss of function in thyroid specific systems. Examining SDHD interactions with PTEN under conditions of oxidative stress allowed for better understanding of mechanisms involved in thyroid tumor development.
During the completion of my STEP Signature Project involving undergraduate research, I underwent several changes pertaining to my perceptions regarding myself and involvement in the research process. At the beginning of the STEP project, my understanding of a research scientist was minimal and restricted to thinking of the research process as one with a constant upward trajectory. I believed that experiments would always yield results upon primary attempts and that oftentimes the expectations for a given project would prove to be accurate. However, at the end of the project, I realized how scientific research is full of both success and failures, and that it requires multiple attempts and revisions of one’s understanding and hypotheses to eventually accomplish the research goals. I was also under the initial impression that procedures and processes within research were already pre-established and that they required very little improvement and adjustments to modify and enhance the experiments. In addition, my knowledge about the collaboration and practical application of research was naïve and inadequate. Yet, through this project I was able to learn how research methods can be improved and expanded upon and the ways in which collaborative research can expand the field in which a scientist applies their findings.
Throughout the STEP Signature project involving undergraduate research, I experienced countless events and interactions that had a profound impact on altering my mindset and outlook on several aspects of research as well as my impressions of a scientist. One of the major transformations that occurred involved my understanding of the path of progress within research. Throughout my undergraduate research project, there were many instances where the experimental results were inconclusive and in some cases further experimentation was required to procure better data for deduction. Oftentimes, there were situations in which tests and protocols repeatedly failed, forcing me to develop and utilize efficient troubleshooting skills in order to identify and correct the issues at hand. This process that I experienced provided me with an understanding of how failure can often be commonplace within the realm of scientific research and how overcoming obstacles is a course of action that researchers must undergo on a daily basis. This experience impacted my ideals of dedication and gave me a strong sense of motivation to continue to work past difficult times within my life and achieve success.
Another event that I experienced through my STEP Signature Project involving undergraduate research pertained to learning about the constant adjustments and updates researchers must do in order to improve upon their work. During the course of my undergraduate research project, I encountered situations in which the methods used were under constant revision. Oftentimes, through trial and error, the ideal protocol for a procedure would be compiled and put together based on experimentation. Several times, this required input and interactions from my mentors and advisors within the lab, in order to produce a method based on their experiences as well as research and laboratory knowledge. These interactions and events impacted me profoundly, helping me realize the importance in revising and improving upon existing ideas to better and more efficiently produce quality work. I also learnt how gaining advice and ideas from those with greater amounts of experience can be beneficial and instructive for me within the research and academic environments in the long term.
A final experience that I encountered through the course of the undergraduate research within my STEP Signature Project involved understanding and learning about the aspects of collaboration and application of science within research. Over the time spent with my research group, I was exposed to the various co-investigators whom my research advisor and mentor worked with. I was able to learn how aspects of scientific research can be accomplished and further enhanced through the process of working with other individuals and groups. This experience imparted the ideals of teamwork and how working together for a greater goal is a successful way to accomplish the tasks at hand. Another aspect of research that I was exposed to involved the application of research into everyday life, which in my situation involved clinical testing of biomedical researched concepts. This gave me an understanding of what the overall purpose of research can be and how the efforts of individuals in science can have a beneficial impact on the health of others.
Overall, the experiences that I encountered over the course of my STEP Signature Project involving undergraduate research have a significant impact upon me and changed my attitudes and outlooks towards several aspects of scientific research. These changes provided me with valuable insight and instruction that will most likely prove to be beneficial for me in my future career. As I hope to be involved in scientific research at a professional level in the future, understanding how the research process can be oftentimes difficult and in need of constant refining is valuable to me for pursuing my own research interests. In addition, gaining the necessary skills to revise and modify protocols and experiments through advice and experience of others will be instrumental in overcoming obstacles that I may encounter in research. Finally, being able to see how collaboration and application occurs within research will be extremely valuable for me in order to lead my own research and work with other researchers in order to accomplish research goals and provide beneficial applications for others. In conclusion, the STEP Signature Project that I completed with undergraduate research as my focus has changed and transformed my outlook of research and provided me with the skills to allow me to confidently conduct research as a future scientist.
- 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 participated in my research project during this summer at Dr. Williams’ lab. My time consisted of performing western blots, cell culturing, and flow cytometry. These experiments were performed to test the drug AZD-1775 on cancer cell lines.
- 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 undertaking this STEP project, I have never worked on my own research project full time. The STEP project has transformed my view of research overall. Commanding a research project on my gave me a sense of pride in my work, and made me realize my interest in research. Being involved in every step of the project, from the data collecting to the analysis of the results, has opened my eyes on the satisfaction of gathering results and making adjustments when the data is faulty.
Furthermore, the STEP project has allowed me to live independently for the first time of my life. This summer, I was in charge of rent, research, food, and transportation. The attempt to balance these activities have improved my planning and has taught me to be responsible. The most crucial life skill I learned this summer was how to meal prep and pack lunches accordingly to my schedule. The skills I have gathered will be instrumental later on in my life.
- 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.
I began my summer research already past the inception of the project. During the STEP project, I had completed my initial experiments and started on replicating the results. However, I realized that the project will not occur without complications. Throughout this summer, I had encounter mistakes, problems, and had to make adjustments accordingly.
These experiences taught me that mistakes will happen in lab, and that I will have to adapt to these changes and think of innovative ways for to have the experiments succeed. Unexpectedly, these results did not discourage me from continuing the project, but instead, I felt motivated to correct these errors and try new methods. The experience was eye opening to me as it made me realize that even the failures in research are an enjoying experience for me.
During the STEP project, I also focused a lot on health and wellness. I kept track of my diet and made sure I balanced work, study, and exercise. This focus refined my planning skills and personal responsibility. Throughout this summer, I made sure I meal prepped every week and had meals planned out a week in advance. I made sure to plan ahead on when I would be available to go to the gym. Not only did I make progress on my project, but I also made a healthy lifestyle change that I believe would stick with me for the rest of my life.
- 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.
These changes are significant impacts on my life because I have always wondered if I should get an MD/PhD as a career pathway. I was unsure before, but now I am more confident on my path to this career choice. I will begin doing more research on this career and discuss this decision with my PI who also has an MD/PhD. This STEP project has allowed me to reconsider my future path and will be a significant and valuable experience of my life.
Furthermore, during the summer, I made a lifestyle change focusing on my health and wellness. These changes I believe will be permanent and will be significant because I want to live a life that is healthy and productive. Incorporating my newly developed planning skills and knowledge of health, I am able to craft a healthy lifestyle that will affect both my mentality and physical wellbeing. These experiences I developed during the summer will certainly affect my academics and personal plans.
The transfer process shown here was a critical step to transfer proteins from the gel to a special membrane that can be analyzed.
The first step of analyzing proteins required running a gel that would separate different proteins based only on size.
- My project was to further understand how phosphorylation of serine sites 23 and 24 of the troponin I protein complex affects the kinetics of the subsequent phosphorylation of tyrosine 26. My experiments largely included kinase assays – used to detect change in phosphorylation over time – and the western blot technique – used to measure amounts of specific proteins or protein modifications present.
Perhaps the simplest lesson I took away from this experience, is that science is deceptively complex. The depth required to write a paper was something that I did not entirely understand going into the project. I helped develop experiments and ideas for the paper; many which were taken. However, there was always one more thing I forgot. Whether it be an additional repeat of experiment or even an entire new figure for the paper, I learned that writing a legitimate scientific paper is much more involved than they portray in our undergraduate classes. My transformation was a deeper respect and understanding for meticulous and accurate work; especially work in the scientific field. At the beginning of my project, I was being a little bit more “reckless” with my experiments and simply going through the motions. By the end, I was very careful with everything that I did and made sure that is was all “publish-worthy” work that I would be willing to put my name next to in front of the scientific community.
One of the most eloquent traits of science is that nothing is ever proven, only supported. I had worked on research before, and I always knew it was a difficult art to master. However, this was my first experience attempting to develop a paper to be published. Rather than blindly performing experiments for graduate students or other labs, I had real responsibilities. For the first time, I had to truly concern myself with the budget of the lab; I had to develop and subsequently perform experiments; and I had to create small presentations of my recent work and upcoming goals and present them to the professor and the post-doctoral researcher. As I began working towards this paper, I started understanding how important it was to cover every detail so that we could clearly show that what we were saying was happening, was actually what we were showing through our experiments.
Throughout the summer I took two classes while on campus, biochemistry and organic chemistry lab. In this lab that I have now worked over a year for, I have been performing biochemistry research and lab techniques without ever knowing it. My research is technically under the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology. However, we use biochemistry lab techniques to perform our research. Through biochemistry, I learned so much more about what my research really means on a deeper level and how what I do effects the physiology of our heart. Additionally, I learned about the lab techniques I apply and how each step I do carries a significant weight in the performance and accuracy of our experiments. Using my newly found knowledge about proteins and different fundamental principles of biochemistry, I could further my conversations with the surrounding faculty and students.
Perhaps the most impactful part of my STEP project, was also the most frustrating part. While working on creating one of the figures for the paper, we had to create more solution containing purified troponin I protein. Upon creating the different solutions, I measured the concentrations of the proteins using a reliable spectroscopy method. However, we were finding that the measured concentrations were off. It took almost six weeks of unplanned experiments and collaborating with other labs to finally determine the best possible estimate for the different protein concentrations. This was a frustratingly slow and unplanned time commitment for the project that severely limited our abilities to get the paper at least close to done before the end of my project. Through the weeks of careful analysis and collaboration, I learned to appreciate the power of teamwork and having multiple ideas to help conquer a simple, yet important problem. I also learned the power of persistence, and how even though the long route is usually the harder and more frustrating route; performing the extra experiments at that time severely increased the reliability of our experiments and our paper.
For the past couple years I have been debating what my goals in the future are. I knew I wanted to consider graduate school, but I have been unsure as to whether I would pursue medical school or graduate school focusing on research. For the first time in my life, I was able to put everything aside and focus on research. During the academic school year, I always had difficulties finding the time needed for the lengthy experiments required by my lab; which is why this summer of research was so crucial in my developing decision. Through this process, I have learned that I really enjoy the art of scientific research and the underlying complexities of every question. However, I also shadowed doctors this past summer. Through my process of shadowing and performing research, I learned that I prefer the idea of becoming a doctor in the future. Therefore, this program has opened my eyes to my calling of medical school; however, graduate school will be a backup for me that I know I would truly enjoy.
During the summer I spent my time doing Undergraduate Research in a Cognitive Development Lab under Vladimir Sloutsky. Throughout this time, I worked with children between the ages of four and six to try to understand the developmental processes of perceiving and memory that were occurring.
I personally did not know what to expect coming into this experience. I had changed my major to Psychology soon before, but only had basic knowledge of what Cognitive Development meant. While in this project I was able to establish an understanding of Cognitive Psychology and see at a young age, and in a very short window of time, just how much the brain develops. I, myself, could see a change in my character and leadership skills that I did not necessarily know I had. I was able to run experiments on my own, and collect data to be interpreted in a way such that knowledge could be added to others doing similar studies in order to make an impact on the world.
As stated above, this project allowed me to gain leadership skills that were not once prominent. I ran studies for an advisor but most of the time, everything that was done was on my own. This was something that I had not known before as in other labs for courses I have taken, I always had someone watching and critiquing on the spot. In addition to running studies on my own, I had to develop relationships with the children as well as the faculty I spent the summer with. I went to a different school and handled different children each day. Working with numerous young children each day showed a lot of variance within their personalities. The relationship I had with each individual taught me to balance patience and assertiveness.
In addition, working in this lab provided me with a better understanding of the psychological world. Psychology is a very large department taking a lot of time to fully understand each part of it whether it be cognitive, behavioral, or biological. Being able to actually work within a branch was very beneficial as I had hands on learning, rather than just reading a textbook. This experience helped me to not look at psychology as overwhelming, and to see that things could be broken down into more narrow ideas to make the understanding easier.
Finally, I was able to not just have co-workers, but also friends due to participating in this lab. As a group, we all worked together to advance the psychological pool of knowledge which is what any lab advisor would want. We did, though, take time to participate in team bonding, such as going to the zoo, to get to know each other better and not just be work related acquaintances. These people are not just co-workers, they are new friends. They are capable of giving me insight to what my future could look like and truly are there to help when needed whether it is related to the lab or not.
Participating in this lab was valuable for many reasons. To begin, it showed me that this is what I want to do as a career. Changing my major midway through my second year of college was stressful, and it was hard to know if I was personally making the right decision. Joining this lab, however, showed me that psychology was truly something I was interested in. In addition, it gave me hands on experience which is important in the future when I begin applying to graduate schools. This lab gave me the stepping stones to lead up to my future career as I am now able to focus on writing a thesis under this lab, and making more connections with others in order to have a good resume for my future endeavors. It also allowed me to make new friends that can help along the way if I need it. Overall, this experience helped me grow as a person and understand that I can accomplish a lot if I set my mind to it.
Visiting an agricultural exhibition at RMC
Name: Jing-Wei Lee
Type of Project: Undergraduate Research in Meat Science
Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
I chose research as my STEP signature project. Under the guidance of Dr. England, a meat scientist, I explored the proteolytic activity of mushrooms and their effect on beef quality. Through this experience I also attended the 2017 Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC) as part of the Ohio State University (OSU) team in the Undergraduate Quizbowl Competition.
What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
This project transformed me into an experienced researcher and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of how to overcome personal obstacles. At the start of summer I took the time to ask questions and locate chemicals, technology and other materials in the lab. When I tried to run multiple procedures at once during this early stage, I found myself making mistakes, racing against the clock, and getting confused. Once I was familiar with the lab and had repeated a procedure several times, I felt confident enough to multitask. In addition to experience, multitasking required careful planning and detailed records. At the end of the day I would make a list of what I wanted to accomplish tomorrow, and the next morning I would run through my plan before starting anything. Coming in prepared allowed me to get a lot done in a short amount of time. I also had to acknowledge that I can’t remember something just from watching someone perform a procedure once; my mind would forget the small details, so when I was first shadowing another researcher, I recorded everything they were doing. What file did they choose on the computer? Where are the collection bags for the samples located? How do I adjust the temperature of the incubator? Keeping a meticulous lab notebook allowed me to answer these questions and work independently.
This experience also transformed my views on the scientific community, with emphasis on the word “community.” In the lab we reviewed each other’s papers, worked through obstacles together, and lent a helping hand with time-sensitive procedures. As I grew proficient in running gels and enzyme activity assays, I transformed from a student to a teacher, showing other researchers how to do procedures I had only learned a few weeks before. Now at the end of my STEP project, I come out not only with lab skills, but also with a greater understanding of the importance of community, the patience to wait for experience to develop, and the ability to plan and organize my day to perform at my best.
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?
Working in a lab environment, attending RMC, and exploring Columbus are all key facilitators of my transformation. In the lab I learned a variety of techniques, such as grinding tissue for sample preparation, immunoblotting, and SDS-PAGE. I started the summer making and running gels, then moved on to assessing the proteolytic activity of mushrooms using a casein assay and the nanodrop. I ended the summer learning how to analyze meat quality using pH, color and shear force. Learning so much in a short amount of time was challenging, but also stimulating, and I come out with better time management skills as well as an understanding of the scientific process.
This summer I also learned the importance of sharing resources and collaborating with other scientists. For example, the technology on OSU’s West campus is communal. In order to analyze my gels and nanodrop my samples for enzyme activity, I would walk to another building to use the machinery. In turn, I would see students from other labs come into the one I primarily worked in to use the spectrometer or incubator. I also helped fellow students prepare samples not only for scientists in other areas of study, such as cancer, but also in other parts of the world.
At RMC, I listened to lectures from people from all over the nation as they informed the community on new findings related to sensory testing, the global meat industry and new technologies. Communicating research through publication and at conferences such as RMC is important not only for scientists, but also for the industry. For researchers, learning about recent findings provides a deeper understanding of current procedures and can set the stage for further research. If researchers find a way to improve sensory testing or the taste and texture of a particular food product, this could help the industry develop new foods that appeal to consumers. Attending RMC allowed me to not only observe, but engage with other scientists. I competed against students from other schools at quizbowl, and had the chance to talk with some of them during the student mixers. I was also introduced to visiting company representatives and professors to discuss job prospects and graduate school. This trip showed me how communication could help the scientific community as a whole, and how conferences like RMC are an avenue for building connections and finding opportunities.
I am grateful that my STEP project was located in my adopted city, because it gave me the chance to explore Columbus. From wandering the showrooms at the popular Ikea store to walking around festivals at the Scotio Mile, I saw Columbus as a city beyond the university district. As I walked to festivals with friends, we posed in front of the world’s largest gavel between the justice buildings and observed the majesty of the Columbus skyline. At the Arts Festival I marveled at the pictures taken of outer space with friends. At the Jazz and Ribs festival, I swayed along to the tunes of the local band Mojo Flo and enjoyed the ribs from Texan Barbeque grill masters. At the Ohio State Fair, I sampled fresh taffy and volunteered at the 4-H Poultry Judging Competition with other OSU students and alumni. From the scientific community to the Columbus community, this summer broadened my view of the world and encouraged me to explore and interact with new people.
Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
The lab skills I have obtained this summer will be invaluable to my academic and professional future. Thinking back to my freshman year General Chemistry course, I remember the stress and confusion of working in the lab in a timed setting. Many of the procedures I had to master this summer, such as making buffers and taking pH, are used in courses such as Organic Chemistry lab, which will allow me to be a calmer, more organized student. I look forward to seeing my experience reflected in my academic performance. In a professional laboratory setting, these methods are used daily, so my experience will give me a leg up when I go job hunting.
Throughout the summer I worked with Masters students and graduating seniors. Conversing with them about graduate school has encouraged me to consider continuing my education. We talked about the GRE, where they wanted to go and what research they wanted to pursue. While I enjoyed the biochemical work I did this summer, I would like to talk to microbiologists and explore that field further. I also plan on attending more conferences like RMC. Competing in quizbowl was a fun test of knowledge, and the RMC would also allow me to meet professors from other universities to find a research assistantship for a Masters. Overall, my STEP experience will serve me well professionally, academically, and personally. The summer spent honing my lab skills and meeting new people through the lab and RMC will pay off in the future.
I also documented my experience in a blog: https://shroomlabrat.blogspot.com/