STEP Reflection: Research Assistant in the Department of Biomedical Engineering

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP Signature Project involved working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Over the summer, I contributed to a study of the effects of low-intensity vibration on skeletal health. In addition to working a full-time job as a research assistant, I worked a part-time job at the Chittenden Veterinary Clinic, and I lived off campus for the first time.

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.

This summer helped me learn more about two major aspects of myself: my perspective of research and my ability to live independently. I learned a lot about the inner workings of research projects, and realized that I enjoy how rewarding the work is when all of the information you read and gather can be directly applied to investigating real-world problems. Research experiences are such different learning experiences from classes because in class you learn information in order to apply it to doing well on an exam. During research, all the information you learn is directly related to the problem you are trying to investigate and helps you get closer and closer to a solution. It completely changed my perspective on learning; I found myself curious to learn more, and exploring new information on tangents as I continued to expand my knowledge of the subject matter.

Living independently this summer in an off-campus house without the ease of a dining plan or the comfort of a dorm seemed intimidating at first, but I soon learned that it’s not as difficult as I was originally imagining. I learned important time management skills including how to make time to cook during the week while balancing work, spending time with friends, and making time for recreation. I also learned about the different aspects of living in a house with 5 other people including not-so-equally distributing household chores and day-to-day interactions with people other than a roommate or dorm floor.

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.

The research position I had over the summer was my first position to give me a large responsibility in my contribution to the project. Rather than helping with tech work carrying out the experiment, I learned a lot about the process of planning for an experiment. Before the study began, we read relevant literature, gathered information on the most effective experimental methodology, and determined the equipment we’d require. Not only did I learn a lot about the beginnings of a research study, but I also became well versed in the subject matter of the effects of high-frequency, low-amplitude vibration on bone development, as well as histological analysis of fluorochrome labels. During the actual experiment, I learned about proper sterile lab techniques, lab mouse handling, and maximizing efficiency of procedural tasks. Along with the benefits of research, the people I worked with made the experience infinitely more enjoyable and made me look forward to going to work every day. The casual relationships with my professor, doctoral student, and fellow undergraduate researcher developed into relationships that I truly value today.

My summer house’s distance from west campus was overcome by finally having a car, which also contributed to ease of buying groceries, running errands, visiting home, and traveling places to have fun. Since I had never cooked for myself before, I was forced into the situation by necessity. My savior was my all-knowing roommate, an amazing cook who taught me everything I needed to know from what ingredients to buy at the grocery store to how to prepare all of it. After overcoming the annoyances of living with a large number of people, like the sink always being full of dirty dishes or the trash always being full, I learned that I enjoy always having someone around the house to hang out with toward the end of the day and on weekends.

My part-time job at the vet clinic also contributed to my development of my time management skills. Working late nights and weekends was stressful and tiring, but rewarding in the end. In addition to improving my clinical skills and knowledge, I also formed valuable relationships with another wonderful group of coworkers. Working in a vet clinic helped me learn more about the valuable skills of running a vet clinic such as treating animals, keeping the pharmacy stocked, and generally keeping the clinic clean and functioning efficiently.

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.

This summer felt like my transformation into adulthood. I had my first full-time job along with managing a part-time job, and I lived off campus for the first time. My research position helped me develop valuable professional and personal relationships with faculty and fellow students. It also helped me realize that I really enjoy research, and it has opened up biomedical research as a potential future career path. I learned how to cook pretty decent meals, and overall to perform all the necessary duties required for living. My STEP experience helped me develop academically, professionally, and personally, and I had a lot of fun in the process.