For my STEP project, I worked in the Graphene Factory, an undergraduate research group at Ohio State. My main objectives were to obtain a molybdenum calibration on the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) system in the NanoSystems Lab, as well as learn techniques for analyzing samples. This will be important for the future work of the group.
Throughout my STEP project, I became more self-reliant and a better scholar. When you’re an undergrad doing research, a lot of what you do is self-motivated. If I didn’t get something done on time, nobody else really suffered for it; I only set myself behind. I learned to be persistent in following up with faculty members in order to get trained or get a piece of equipment fixed. I did a lot of outside reading to attempt to get up to speed with what the group was studying and would visit my advisor’s office to ask her questions about what I was learning.
A couple interactions that impacted my experience were my training sessions with staff members from the NanoSystems Lab. Two different staff members led my training sessions for microscopes and the CVD system. At first I was afraid of making a mistake or asking a question, but I learned that the only way I would learn to do something correctly and accurately was to ask questions and fix issues before they developed further.
Another activity that impacted my STEP experience was reading research papers. Research papers can be very dense and difficult to understand. The first paper I read took me nearly a week and a half since I had to stop reading to research a topic I did not understand. Being persistent in reading papers is the only way to develop some understanding of the topic. Once I finished my own reading and analysis, I would take my findings to my advisor, who would explain things that I may have misinterpreted or missed completely! My reading time has increased, and my ability to comprehend has increased. I’ve even been able to develop theories for different protocols for preparing substrates before depositing metals, which would influence the structure of the TMD’s I prepare.
My experience working in the lab during the summer prepared me to continue the work I started as I move into the new school year. Although I do not have the same amount of time to be able to commit to some projects, I have a better understanding of what I need to do in order to be a productive member of the group to contribute to the main goal.
The most notable change to come from this experience is my ideas for my own future. Prior to this experience, I had grappled with the idea of pursuing a PhD in Physics before going into industry. Although I value my research experience and what I have learned from it, I do not think that pursuing a PhD would be for me. I would much rather apply other people’s findings to real practice instead of doing my own research.