My STEP Signature Project was doing undergraduate research in Dr. Laura Schmidt’s Sports Rehabilitation and Recovery lab. In the lab, I helped analyze data and helped some with data collection. My area was more focused on articular cartilage defects and I got to present a poster at the Denman Research Forum on the influence of defect location on sagitt al plane gait mechanics in individuals with knee articular cartilage defect.
Through my STEP Signature Project, I learned a lot about what I want to do with my career and my role that I can have in research. In respect to what I want to do with my career, I learned that I actually don’t want to be a full-time researcher. The experience was amazing, and I am still helping out in the lab today and plan to continue in the future, but it showed me that it might not be the only thing for me. I learned that I can help out with research on the side in the future, which would be neat, while working a different job full-time too.
My view of the world that changed through my STEP Project was how incredibly important research really is to the world. I got to learn the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes. I learned how to properly run a research study and the importance of always publishing your results, whether significant or not, so that people have the information out there to look at and then they can possibly take another angle at a particular research question.
Through my STEP Signature Project, I got the opportunity to work with multiple awesome graduate students, as well as Dr. Schmidt in the lab. They all helped me learn the process that goes along with research and were some of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. They showed me the importance of research and made it an enjoyable experience to come into the lab and get to work. These relationships made me enjoy research and helped me grow as a person and researcher in the lab. They helped teach me how important research is to everyone and how big of a role it plays in society, including the field of Physical Therapy, which is what I plan on going into.
Another major part of my STEP Signature Project that helped change me was the process of preparing for the Denman Research Forum. This whole process helped me become both a better researcher and presenter. In preparation for the forum, I had to remain organized and do a lot of literature review in an effort to explain what the research we did was showing and why it was important. It helped teach me the whole process that is involved within research and how it is not all just data collection and analysis. There is a lot that goes into any type of research and being a part of that process is really eye-opening in my opinion and from my personal experience.
Probably the biggest impact from my STEP Project that led to my transformation would have to be through the relationships that I made. I got to meet amazing people in all levels of learning, from Dr. Schmidt as a faculty member to graduate level students to fellow undergraduate students. These relationships helped me shape the way I look at research and made doing the research more fun. They all helped me continue to learn and grow through research.
The changes that I experienced are very valuable for many reasons. I went into this project already thinking that I didn’t see myself doing a lot of research in the future but wanted to experience it and learn from it and that is what I did. At the end of the day, I still want to be a full-time Physical Therapist, but I have much more interest in research now than I ever did before. I am thinking about having a research focus in Physical Therapy school, which is something I never would have seen before. It also will help me in my future career as a Physical Therapist by making me more interested in research and more likely to keep up on all of the new research findings that could impact how I do therapy and work with patients. The whole experience is very directly correlated with what I want to do with my career and led to me being more interested and wanting to at least somewhat stay involved with research and all of the new findings.