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

My STEP project involved traveling to a scientific conference on prokaryotic biology. At this conference, I was provided with an opportunity to network with other scientist within the field and present my research involving novel antibiotics.

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

I have always had a strong interest in Microbiology. Since high school, I knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD and one day run my own lab. During college, I have been lucky enough to work in a great lab that has allowed me to develop the needed technical skills to have a successful early career. However, the science field is more than having technical skills. The other half is writing, presenting, and establishing credibility in your field of study. This was the part of science I had very little understanding/experience with. This conference was transformative because it allowed me to experience this other half of science. I was able to meet and talk with many high-level scientist in a welcoming environment and learned more about the processes of publishing, securing funding, and presenting your research to your peers. These are crucial to being a successful scientist and I feel I transformed into a more holistic scientist and, as a result of this conference, have added additional tools to my arsenal that will help forward my career.

3.)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?

I had several interactions that helped facilitate my transformation during the course of the conference. Some of these interactions occurred during the breaks between presentation sessions, many of the attendees of the conference would gather in the lobby to snack, drink, and make conversation. During this time, I was fortunate enough to strike up conversations with several graduate students and professors that had many insights that I have not even began to consider as an early-career scientist. For example, one of the first people I spoke to was a professor of microbiology at Georgetown University. I had mentioned to him that this was my first time attending this conference. He proceeded to tell me that the first time he had attended this conference he was only slightly older than I am, when he was a graduate student, and has come back every year since. At this particular conference, he had brought a couple of his own graduate students along. He had also mentioned how many of the people that he has attended this conference with over the years and how many of them have become close friends and collaborators and emphasized the importance of getting to know your fellow scientist.

Another interaction I had was with a pair of graduate students from Maryland. This was during the poster session, where I was presenting my research. I have presented a science poster previously, but I have never presented in front of experts in the field. These graduate students were extremely helpful and friendly. They asked engaging questions and made very helpful suggestions to where I can take my research in the future. They even suggested that I talk to their professor about applying to be a graduate student in her lab. They inspired confidence in the value of the work I have done in the lab, and were some of the first people in my field I had talked to about my research outside the members of my lab.

Overall, the conference provided me with a sense of belonging. I felt a new-found confidence in my abilities as a young scientist. I was able to meet and interact with several highly-respected experts in my field, and I really began to feel like more than just an undergraduate working in a lab. I feel that this conference can be considered my transformation step from undergraduate lab assistant to a young researcher

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

Science is a very challenging career field. The most visible part of science is usually the actual field work and is often the more glamorous side of science. The core of science is actually in the writing and development of the literature. Similar to any lab technique, writing and presenting techniques play a key role to your success as a scientist. The transformation I underwent at this conference is the first step in my developing my writing/presenting skills. By doing so, I have become a more well-rounded scientist that can successfully present their findings to their peers, which is the crux of developing scientific knowledge.