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.