STEP Reflection: Undergraduate Research with LSVR

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP Signature Project was to conduct research with the Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research at the Ohio State University. The research I conducted involved measuring the vibrations produced by a driving car using an accelerometer.

Slam Stick Accelerometer Enginer Block Mount

Slam Stick Accelerometer Driving Data

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

One of the largest changes that came about from this project was that this shaped my view of research in academia. I went in with an expectation of that similar to how labs were performed in my classes. But, I learned that research is a lot more open ended than a lab. This opened up my view of research. Before, I thought that research was very narrow and specified, because applying to research positions often came from very focused research positions. But, doing research myself showed me how open it could be.

The research I conducted also defied my expectations on the level of freedom I would get. I expected to work under the professor a lot more and have more guidance with projects. I ended up getting a much more self-guided project, where I could work at my own pace. This had its pros and cons, but it definitely helped me see what it was like to have a hands-off research position. Overall, the research I did for STEP has helped inform me on what engineering research was like and if I want to pursue it in grad school.

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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

My view of how open ended labs were changed because the assignments I got during my research. I was given the task of collecting vibration data on a car using different road surfaces, given an accelerometer, and had nearly the rest of the experimental design in my own hands. I had to make a multitude of decisions on my own about the experiment – where in the car to mount the accelerometer, the settings of the accelerometer, the routes to drive, etc. This was a positive thing a lot of the time, but it also had its setbacks. I had to redo aspects of the experiment sometimes because of incorrect methodology and other limitations that I did not know before going into it.

Another thought that changed was that I learned that research was not necessarily as narrow and specified in the early stages, but this happens as the research goes along. A lot of times, it seemed like the meetings with my professor would just be spent coming up with how to use the previously collected data. This adaptability in the research showed me how these research ideas evolve from simpler experiments. Based on the data received from mounting the accelerometer on the inside of my car, the next experiment was done with the accelerometer mounted near the tire to reduce the shock absorption that showed up in the data.

The open ended-ness of my research was due to my professor having a partnership with a corporate company so that I could only meet with him once a week. This left me with a lot of independence in my research. This was probably a good thing for the future or research, as more and more of my research will be independent as I get to graduate level. The downfall of this is that I had to sometimes re do some of the trials if an aspect of them were wrong. For example, my first tests of gathering vibrations from driving was sampled at too low of frequency, setting me back about 20 hours of experimentation. This was a good test in adaptability though, as I had to conduct similar trials to the first in a different environment, because I did not have access to the original roads that I used the second time around. This open ended-ness of my research taught me of the importance of being an adaptive with your research.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This transformation of my view of research is very relevant to me because I want to go to grad school for engineering. By delving into engineering research, I will have an easier time getting started with the research, as I already am familiar with the process of how to set up experiments, record the experiments, and communicate them to a professor. The experience I had will also help me decide what type of research I will want to look for in the future. At the moment, I want to make sure that my future research projects are under a more present professor so that I can ask questions and take the research faster in the beginning. Also, I will make sure that I get research positions where I am not working as an assistant researcher, because I like the freedom of being able to construct my own experiment.  Overall, my STEP research project has made me more sure of my choice to pursue graduate school and a future in research.