STEP Signature Project Reflection

Name: Megan Broughton

 

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP Signature Project involved working in an undergraduate research lab with a microbiology focus. Our research dealt with Staphylococcus aureus and its growing and binding qualities with human proteins. My tasks involved measuring the speed at which different mutant bacterial strands grew as well as analyzing the data collected by using the Atomic Force Microscope.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I learned a lot through my time in the lab, about myself, research, and the effects we can have on others. I anticipated not enjoying working in a research lab because I am a very social and outgoing person. I most enjoy working with and interacting with other people, so I was afraid the lack of contact in a lab would deter me from research. However, I ended up loving the work I did and I was able to see how what I was doing in a small lab in the basement of a building would affect the lives of people I will likely never meet. I realized that my view of research was completely skewed and I should consider further pursuing it going forward. I also learned that even though I am a “people person”, there are many other ways to connect with people while working in a lab. Since my work began, I’ve been able to share and discuss our hypotheses and tests with other students and adults involved in research.

  1. 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?

Some of the key aspects that went into my transformation through my STEP Signature Project are the following: the opportunity to work in a different lab with other graduate students working in research, the independence to conduct experiments by myself and draw conclusions from this, and the ability to always seek help and ask questions about the project.

At the beginning of the summer, we began working in a different lab that had other equipment necessary for the experiments. Because of this, I became familiar with different lab settings and was able to converse with different researchers about their projects and interests. Most of them were graduate students, but they always made me feel welcome and answered any questions I had while working in their lab.

Secondly, my principal investigator and post-doctorate researcher continuously supported me and my interest in a laboratory setting. They often left me to work on little projects by myself and trusted me to complete the tasks. I was able to run experiments and create growth curves for all of the different strands of bacteria. I would also start the growing process of the bacteria early in the morning, to be ready by the time they wanted to start experiments. Nadia, the post-doctorate, also taught me how to use the Atomic Force Microscope and analyze the data that is collected. That was a major portion of the work I completed this summer.

Finally, I was always able to ask questions about the research and what certain things meant in the data analysis or ask about certain qualities of the bacteria. Nadia was always willing to help me to understand exactly what I was doing in the lab. She would draw everything out in my lab notebook as a reference for me throughout the experiments. She also encouraged me to read the papers we would be using for experiments- as a way to further understand the processes in the lab.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

I think this transformation is extremely important in my life because I used to be so certain of my future in the medical field. However, this lab introduced me to a new side of science that still allows me to help other people. Nadia has also showed me how to be a better person. She works very hard at her job and takes the work very seriously but she also realizes the importance of having other things to do in life. She understands the importance of classes among other activities and never tries to overwhelm me with things to do. This transformation relates mostly to my academic goals and future plans, it has sparked an interest in graduate school for me. It could potentially alter my future entirely, if I continue to pursue research.