STEP Reflection

Allie Lenyo

STEP Research Project

1.For my STEP Project, I performed a research project called Determining the role of point mutation E566A in cholangiocarcinoma therapy resistance. Over the past summer, I performed cell-based experiments in order to study the causes and mechanisms of targeted therapy resistance in cancer. Over the course of the project, it was found that a point mutation that is acquired can lead to targeted therapy resistance through altering protein pathways.

2. Over the course of my STEP Project, my understanding about myself and my view of the world transformed. While I was completing the project, there were many obstacles that I encountered in the laboratory. For example, one assay I was performing would not work correctly, and a great deal of troubleshooting was required. However, I realized that when I am able to take a step back and think critically about a problem I face, it is often easier to come up with a valid solution. I also learned that brainstorming ideas with others about possible solutions to the problem can help me think of new ideas that I otherwise may have never discovered. I realized that I am truly passionate about helping cancer patients and conducting cancer research, and this has influenced my decision to apply to medical school this upcoming year.

My view of the world, and the scientific community, in particular has also changed because of this project. Although I have been a Biomedical Science major during all of my time at Ohio State, working in the laboratory really allowed me the chance to interact with faculty researchers. Through working with my principal investigator, Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, I learned not just about performing scientific experiments, but also about communicating research results and maintaining ethical research practices. I found that there is much more to being a successful researcher than simply knowing how to perform lab assays, and I plan to take this knowledge with me in my future career.

3.Many experiences and interactions during my STEP Project led to this personal growth. First, interacting with my laboratory mentors helped me to learn more about the process of conducting research projects successfully. My principal investigator, Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, held weekly student meetings in which he talked to students about what he has learned about maintaining a successful laboratory. He chose a different topic about which to talk each week, and he discussed research ethics, presenting research, laboratory safety, and how to cope with failure in the laboratory. Through this experience, I was able to learn from his experience as a researcher to help me as I embark on my career.

Another extremely valuable experience was the opportunity to learn from my postdoctoral research mentor, Dr. Melanie Krook. Melanie finished her PhD a few years ago, and she is very knowledgeable about the process of pursuing graduate or professional degrees in today’s world. She was able to help guide me through the process of determining what type of degree program I would like to enter after my undergraduate career. Melanie also helped me learn to perform a great deal of laboratory assays, and she gave me tips on how to be most efficient in the lab.

Next, I had the opportunity to attend laboratory meetings and journal clubs. At each meeting of journal club, we would discuss a scientific article that we read. This helped me to become more proficient in reading scientific articles. I also was able to connect the findings of other scientists to the work that we were performing in the lab. At times, I had questions regarding the articles we read that other members in the lab were able to answer. I was glad that I was able to not only learn from the articles, but also learn from other members in the lab.

Lastly, I was able to improve my critical thinking skills through solving problems that arose when performing experiments. For example, I was performing an assay called a Western Blot, in which I was probing for various proteins in a type of cell. For some reason, a few proteins were not showing up on my blot. At first, I tried redoing the assay with a different population of cells. However, this still did not solve the problem. I brainstormed different ideas of what could be going wrong, and I decided to try a new set of reagents. This solved my problem, and the Western Blot was successful. I learned that although the solution might not always be found on the first try, but thinking critically and having persistence can help to solve the problem.

4.When I was 15 years old, my younger brother was diagnosed with bone cancer. The physicians and researchers who worked on his case were so passionate about his care, and because of their hard work, my brother has now been cancer-free for four years. Because of his battle with cancer, I became inspired to pursue a cancer research project as my STEP Experience. This research project helped me to decide on a career. I knew that I had wanted to be a physician so that I can treat patients, but I have also decided that I would like to be a physician at an academic medical center so that I can also perform a bit of research.

This experience has also allowed me to network with scientists and other students who have similar goals to mine. I have been able to be immersed in the world of cancer research, and I have been inspired by not just the work of my own lab, but also the work of other labs at Ohio State. Because of this experience, I know that I want to perform more research in the future, and I have met some professional contacts who could also be collaborators someday.