- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
My STEP Signature Project entailed assisting my post-doctorate, Dr. Nicola Zanesi on evaluating the effect of thymidine supplementation on tumor development in carcinogen-treated mice of both genotypes, Fhit +/+ and Fhit +/-. Our conclusion after the first round of the experiment was in order to better evaluate the effect of thymidine supplementation this experiment needs to be repeated increasing the number of animals involved and/or increasing the concentration of thymidine administered in the diet. This took place in the Biomedical Research Tower under the cancer comprehensive center of research.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
Before beginning research, I did not have a full understanding on what I thought research would initially be like. For instance, when provided the opportunity to participate in a lab, I never understood when mentors of mine explained that lab work is very tedious and long. When starting my lab work for this project, it was a very long process to even be able to start. We had to wait for the mice to be fully bred and meet our expectations to complete the project. Meaning that we needed to have the right sex, initial weight and the correct genotype in order to use them. To get these results is where the constant repetition of DNA extracting and PCR experiments can become tedious. I also realized that when researching, things do not always go as expected. Although you may hope everything in research turns out to be black and white, it does not. When assessing some of the tumors on the fore stomach of the mice, we should have received certain results based off of our initial analysis, but this was not always the case. Therefore, when given the opportunity to work on this project, a lot on my initial assumptions changed because of actually experiencing these experiments firsthand.
- 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?
These interactions formed during my STEP project affected me personally in a positive manner. Although there were many aspects I did not understand such as the time and effort that has to be put into research. I received the chance to fully experience what hard work and dedication it takes to be in this work field. Through my relationships with my post-doctorate, I realized that patience, support and idealistic mentalities is needed in order to be able to work in a lab. This opportunity of participating in the lab led to the interactions, relationships and activities that fueled my transformation.
Patience and support are two fundamental aspects that are needed in lab work. For example, as I already explained researching is a long process. Receiving results do not just happen overnight. They may take up to years until a researcher is able to have something presentable enough to be published. Therefore, this is why support is needed in lab work because there has to be a chain of command starting with a principle investigator and ending with an undergraduate. This process led to my understanding of how the initial planning, duration and the post-experiment take a lot of consistent effort and production.
Idealistic mentalities are also a fundamental aspect because a researcher has to understand that things do not go as planned. I thank my post-doctorate for having me realize this in a lab setting because that is not what I initially thought. I was under the impression that once we finished this first experiment, my post-doctorate and I might have something to publish. But this wasn’t the case at all because we still have to perform additional experiments to test if the thymidine concentration needs to be increased in order to not have tumor formation on the fore stomach. Overall, I was able to change my mindset when performing experiments for the lab. I had to understand that is all about the process and how it is done, rather then the overall outcome.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
This change is valuable to my life because I hope to become a physician one day. I would also love to have a specialty/fellowship in oncology once obtaining this goal. Therefore, understanding the elemental parts of research are necessary for an oncologist. They have to know the processes of the cancer formed within their patient they are treating. Moreover, having the opportunity to participate in a project like this, I was able to appreciate the developmental procedures needed in lab work. This transformation also gave me the urge to want to continue research in my career alongside with becoming a physician. The opportunity to apply my learned techniques will contribute to my future plans after undergrad.