STEP Reflection

My undergraduate research experience was with the Molecular Genetics department. My project involved identifying critical amino acid sites in two critical proteins Mps1 and Sas6 that have the ability alter the way the protein function during centrosome duplication. This is a form of cancer research, because an over-abundance of Mps1 results in genetic instability and aneuploidy, which is a hallmark of breast and prostate cancers.

This summer experience has mainly taught me how to troubleshoot failures. If a certain experiment does not go as planned I would have to figure out using diagnostic techniques and critical thinking skills how to fix it. I learned this summer that many times your response to failures allows you to learn more about what you are studying. Many times, while fixing a failed experiment, I learned more about the properties of Mps1 and Sas6. This would translate to my profession as a physician as well. The best physicians must know how to respond to failures and always have a backup plan. You can never give up after a failed diagnosis or a complicated surgery. I learned through this experience the complexity of molecular biology, allowing me to appreciate the field even more. I hope to integrate what I have learned into my career as a physician.

Through this experience, I have gained some very meaningful relationships with my genetics professors and fellow classmates. The best working environments are those where people support each other and assist each other when needed. I am grateful for all of the graduate students who took the time to answer my questions and demonstrate procedures to me. Because of them, I now want to pass on the knowledge I have gained to help others like myself. I have applied to be a teaching assistant for organic chemistry.

Another lesson I have learned involved the importance of the small details. When I first began my project, I found that many times I would miss small details which affected my experiments. Since then, I have learned to keep an organized lab notebook which has every calculation recorded with every procedure written out in full detail. I learned to not be afraid to ask questions, because it is better to ask a question and do an experiment properly. It is important to ask the right types of questions as well. Rather than “I do not understand the process of site-directed mutagenesis”, I learned to ask questions such as “how did you find which amino sites needed to be changed, and can you show me an example on a vector map?”

Lastly, I just gained an extremely in-depth knowledge of my major and its applications through this experience. My research experience has allowed me to excel in biochemistry and upper level genetics classes because I am able to picture the reasons behind basic facts. For example, my genetics exam just tested us on fluorescence microscopy and its applications. I performed indirect immunofluorescence microscopy in my lab, so I was able to answer those questions and develop possible experiments in which this technique can be used.

This things I learned from this experience will surely be applied in my life as a physician. I have come to understand the complexity of human disease, which inspires me to be a physician even more. I have found that I physically loved to perform longer, more hands-on experiments, which I am sure will help me do surgeries and procedures as a physician. Also, the support I have been given from all of the graduate students, teachers, and classmates in the lab as provided for me an outstanding example of teamwork. The best physicians are those with the best teams.