For my STEP signature project, I conducted research in Columbus, at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. I was responsible for continuing my research on the Melanoma microenvironment from the previous year and summer. Primarily, my work during my project consisted of running experiments and analyzing the data, as well as typical undergraduate tasks such as restocking media, pipette tips and other reagents.
Completing my project meant that this was the first time I was entirely responsible for the success of something that can impact the world. While I was mentored throughout the experience, I was still responsible for correctly completing experiments and ensuring the progression of my research. As such, I learned how grueling the process of research can be: experiments do not always work and sometimes, when they do, the results are the opposite of the expected outcome. These bumps along the road were overcome by collaboration and teamwork. Before, I had always been taught that research can be collaborative, but that is is mostly competitive. This view point changed entirely because without the help of other inside and outside our lab, a lot of our access and knowledge would have been restricted. As a result, I have learned that collaboration with others is imperative to successful research.
Since beginning research in the Fall of 2017, I have been paired with my graduate student mentor. As a part of my research, my mentor granted me access to necessary instruments that were located in other labs with whom she has collaborated, and still continues to do so. Without having access to these instruments, many analyses would not have been possible, and my research would not been able to continue. This is one of the many aspects that showed me how vital others are to an individual’s success.
Another aspect of research was overcoming a bump along the road of my research. My cells had not been growing properly with all of the necessary and experimental components, and we had not really been sure why. So, we asked others in the lab what they thought and what their advice was. The matter was quickly resolved with their help. My lab has a special camaraderie and everyone is always willing to help others in the lab be successful, and so we share new information about our projects with each other regularly. This definitely changed my previously- held idea of research being very private and secretive.
Also, during my project, we received many blood samples due for processing. While I did not directly handle these samples, I knew that they came in several times a week and were part of a different project on which my research lab was collaborating with another lab. Lab members that were available when the blood came in would process it and do cell counts and generally analyze the contents. The findings were then sent to another lab for their own project. Again, this showed me how reliant upon others research can be.
As someone pursuing a career in medicine, collaboration and teamwork are necessary for successful healthcare and patient outcomes. Working as a part of a team has allowed me to deepen my communication skills, as well as my leadership skills and dependability. In research, as well as in medicine, it can be easy to want to try and solve everything alone, but working with others is important because they can offer different ideas on how to resolve a problem. This allows for diversity in thought, which ultimately allows for personal growth and more successful outcomes.