STEP Reflection

Name: Megan Pantaleano

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

My STEP signature project was involvement in undergraduate research for the autumn semester of 2017. The main project I worked on was a mouse study, with a sample size of nine mice. The study looked at the effectiveness of a viral treatment (AAV) on stopping or reversing sarcopenia. I was responsible for conducting the behavioral assays on the mice once or twice a week and compiling and analyzing the retrieved data. I also got the opportunity to view a lot of the other projects completed at the laboratory where I was conducting my undergraduate research.

The largest transformation that I experienced because of this STEP project was my understanding of myself. By doing preclinical work in this laboratory for my STEP project I realized how important it is to me to work toward finding cures and therapies for illness. Doing research towards these outcomes made me feel valued and important. It also showed me that I seek a career in medicine and changed how I viewed my future career path.

Also, this STEP project transformed my view of the world. It gave me such an appreciative and amazing view of the world that I felt I hadn’t really felt before. I understood more my place in the world and felt confident in the good that was present all around me. While in research you are so close to illness, it was the efforts to change those ailments that showed me how positive life can be even in proximity to darkness. Overall, my STEP project clarified all doubts I had as a sophomore and helped me make a confident transition into an upperclassman while transforming my understanding of myself and the world around me.

The three main interactions/activities that led to my transformation I described above are my relationship with my team and PI, my working with the mice as disease models, and the general environment and events throughout my semester in the laboratory.

I got to be able to work with a group of peers and professional to seek out ways to lessen the burden of illness on others. While we may only be one part of the process to creating these therapeutics for the masses it made me see the good in our society. All of the hard work my team is doing makes such a big difference. I worked very closely with my PI. He was the person I sought out to obtain the position in the lab and the person who taught me how to conduct the behavioral assays I was responsible for. He clarified the intent of the study and how physiologically sarcopenia worked. His dedication to his research was something that really stuck with me. It was working with him and other students and professionals that changed how I viewed my future in medicine and how I viewed the world. Seeing the good in these people who worked with illness every day transformed my world view.

Through this project I found out about myself that I also had a real attachment to the mice. While they serve as our models for disease they are often seen as a vessel for learning and treating disease. It wasn’t until I worked with them on such a regular basis that I began to feel a sense of awe when I interacted with them. I often felt introspective. This was because we, as a species, have advanced our scientific knowledge to be able to manipulate the genes of another living creature and use that new creature to our benefit. We translocated a human illness into mice and study and manipulate that disease model to find cures for our own species. I know it may sound odd but being able to do that made me very more understanding and appreciative of life in general. And very simply put, using the mice tugged at my heartstrings. The use of the mice in my STEP project added to my overall experience and transformation in ways I didn’t originally foresee.

Within the lab a lot of work is done on treating disease and trying to find therapeutics for all types of ailments. I found myself being very attached to my work and to learning about the multitude of projects others were working on in the same lab. The laboratory environment bred my curiosity and whenever someone was using a piece of equipment I hadn’t seen before I would ask to observe and learn about their project. I had the opportunity to view many procedures on the mice and to be able to teach my own behavioral assay responsibilities to a student who joined the lab halfway through the semester. I felt like being a part of the lab showed me my love of medicine and the pursuit of knowledge. And I owe that to STEP.

This transformation in my understanding of myself and my world view is so unbelievably valuable because of the impact it has on my future. It relates to my academic, professional and career, and personal goals. Academically, I have created within myself a stronger tie to science and medicine which will be important in my academic future. Because of my STEP project I have decided to commit to Pharmaceutical Science as my major and I intend to continue my education in pharmacy school to pursue a career as a Pharmacist. I really enjoyed the knowledge I gained about drug intervention when working in the laboratory and that changed how I viewed my future career. Also, personally, the positive world view I gained will stay with me forever.