STEP Signature Project- Analyzing Mechanisms of Cancer Metastasis

Over the past semester my STEP project was to work on undergraduate research in the research lab I have been working in. My research project was focused on analyzing different factors that contribute to cancer metastasis on a micro level. Because my research was unpaid, I used my STEP money to cover living expenses.

While completing my STEP signature project, I was able to get a very good picture of what the field of academic research looked like. This was a great opportunity to gauge whether or not I want to pursue a more research approach to medicine after I graduate or if I want to remain more clinical. I was also able to acquire a vast array of research skills such as extracting and culturing bone marrow cells in a mouse model, performing immunohistochemistry protocol, and performing qualitative polymerase chain reaction and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction protocols. These skills will help me as I continue on my path to medical school and being a doctor. Aside from the actual research procedures and information I learned along with them, creating my STEP poster has helped me learn how to compile and put together all of my research findings. This is a skill I will need when I present at future events such as the Denman, and when I apply for future research grants/opportunities.

Although the actual project itself helped me realize I can really enjoy bench work in a laboratory setting if I am passionate about the subject matter, this experience also helped me develop in other ways. One of these ways was to actually begin to live as an adult. Since I was out of the dorms and had the STEP money to pay for my living expenses I was able to budget my money, go grocery shopping on my own and be in charge of paying my utilities and rent on time all without the direct supervision of my parents. For me this was really important because although I was 20 years old, I still really didn’t feel like an adult. In a few years I will going to medical school and will be in charge of everything all by myself. I could be as far away as Texas for medical school and although I know I can always count on my parents for advice and help, I feel learning to live more independently has aloud me to mature greatly. Without a doubt my project that STEP helped me complete has helped me develop into a more mature person.

Over the course of my project I was fortunate enough to continue to strengthen great relationships I have made in my research lab. The relationships I have with my project advisor and with the graduate student in my lab have helped me tremendously in expanding my understanding of the field of cancer research as a whole. I have learned so much in regards to the mechanisms and pathways that cancer uses to spread along with how different genes play different role in induction. My relationships throughout this project have definitely helped me feel more comfortable with discussing research in an academic setting and have helped me to improve professionally.

On a personal level there were many different things that I felt helped me mature. Among these was opening up a credit card in order to begin to build a line of credit. This is something that will be incredibly helpful in the future as I will need to take out loans for medical school, a house, and a car. Keeping track of and paying my rent and utilities on time also helped me develop independently and keep track of my responsibilities. During this project I also learned the importance of building a budget, and applying that budget. All of these experiences have helped me develop skills I will need once I graduate and become independent.

In terms of professional development, there were many experiences throughout my project that I felt helped facilitate my transformation. Specifically, building my poster and monitoring my progress throughout my research helped me gain experience with tracking and preparing research. This helped me develop more academic responsibility. Also, I know presenting my research at the STEP expo will help me further develop my public/professional speaking skills which I know will be very helpful for my future.

The changes and transformation I experienced as a result of STEP project have helped prepare me for my future goals in a number of ways. First, my project helped me mature and take steps to live independently once I graduate college. This was probably the most transformative part of my experience. Second, my project helped me visualize how I want research to be a part of my life as a doctor. My project made me realize that I am very passionate in the field of oncology and that is something that I will definitely carry with me as I continue on my path of becoming a doctor. Finally, my project helped me develop and improve my academic literacy. My experience has allowed me to discuss cancer research on much deeper level along with helping me become more familiar with the different aspects of scientific research in general. Through STEP, I feel that this experience helped me mature both personally and professionally, and that my path to my goal of becoming a physician is as clear as ever.STEP Research Picture-t27qsn