STEP Signature Project

My STEP signature project was conducting research under Dr. Campanella into Molecular Rotors.

While I was completing this project, I learned the importance of expedience since my lab waited the entire summer for components to the machine that I needed to use to conduct my research to arrive which held up my research. Additionally, I also learned what it was like to help run a laboratory group and all of the organizational effort that goes into managing that group. In addition, I learned how to effectively manage professional relationships.

The event that really underscored the importance of expedience during my STEP project was when it took the IT department at OSU three months to get a computer that was needed for one of our machines to work. This delay on the IT department’s part delayed my work greatly and was very frustrating. Additionally, since research is at times a very fast paced environment, I learned by working in it the value of getting things done in an expedient manner since others depended on my work.

Since the computer took so long to arrive, I began to work on other tasks for the laboratory such as organizing the lab space and setting up an organizational system. As I was setting up the laboratory, I learned about how a lab can be organized to create an environment in which lab members can work efficiently and safely since I had to figure out where to put all of the new materials I was ordering in the lab. All of these materials had to be placed in such a manner as to promote a safe environment and to comply with regulations.

Another aspect of my summer research that helped me to learn about running a lab was the lab manual that I wrote over the course of the summer. This helped me to learn about running a lab since I had to go and talk to people in other labs and ask them what they liked about their lab and what they did not like. Additionally, I had to think about what protocols in a lab needed to be standardized.

What I learned during my STEP signature project was significant because it will help to make me a better laboratory member in the future since I will know what goes into running a lab and how I can make it run smoother. Also, I plan on having my own lab group in the future so some experience running a lab group in some form is useful.

STEP EXPERIENCE

My name is Olamide Bola and I am senior in the economics department. For my STEP Project I conducted research on the effects of race and skin-tone on standard of living. Additionally, I engaged in activities that will prepare me for graduate school and a career in academia such as networking with academics, attending an academic conference and visiting and touring NYU Stern’s pre-doctoral program where I was able to meet and chat with faculty.

Prior to completing my STEP Project I was interested in completing research and had previously had experience as a research assistant. However, as a result of my STEP Project I had the opportunity to complete a research project independently. Because of this opportunity I was able to craft my research question, collect and create datasets, and work with a particularly large dataset. The experience I conducting research emboldened my interest in attaining a PhD. My experience conducting researching was not only incredible because I built upon technical skills—working with programing languages such as R and State— but also because I believe research is important to answering questions about inequality and social justice issues. I felt as if I was answering important questions by attaining results from my study. Importantly, I also realized that economics is not the only method to answering the questions and now I am seeking the field that will fit me best.

From networking with other social scientist it opened my eyes to the many ways research can be conducted and the many avenues through which inequality can be studied. In particular, I attended the Association of Black Sociologists’ conference where the theme was “Blackness in the City”. I was able to watch social scientist present and network and talk with them about their experience and findings. Additionally, this opportunity gave me a chance to experience research that lied at the intersection of race and theory and utilized social science methodology that is relevant to the research I conduct. For instance, I watched as social scientist observe research questions about poverty, race and feminism through a lenses of female hip-hop artists such as Cardi B.

Furthermore, my knowledge of the social science was expanded as I was introduced sociological research. Sociological research often attempts to answer many of the questions economics does but through a different framework. I was able to meet an alumnus of The Ohio State University who was an economics major as an undergrad but is now a sociology PhD student at Stanford University. And speak to her about my interests and how sociology may be suited for my interests as well and now I am also considering sociology PhD programs in addition to economics.

On the other hand, visiting NYU Stern was also transformational as it gave me an opportunity to meet research assistants and faculty and observe the advanced research they were carrying out. It brought into perspective the difficulties and obstacles one can face in attaining a PhD. It is a long process and I still have more preparation to fulfill until I’m ready. NYU Stern also provided me the opportunity to see if an economics PhD program is a good fit for my interest. Ultimately, I the experience was transformational because I came away with tangible knowledge and skills that have increased my readiness for a career as a social scientist.

Finally, STEP gave me the opportunity to complete my own independent research project. Whilst I have completed research projects this was my first time completing one independently whilst using large datasets. For my project I collected data Census data from 1850-1920 and collected data that detailed the number of people that identified as Black and “Mulatto”. I then merged this data with contemporary data on median household income, per capita income and and unemployment rate to capture the effect of race and skin-tone on income and unemployment. While the experience was daunting I was able to deepen my data analytical skills. But it also opened up my eyes to the challenges faced when conducting research including difficulty finding reliable data, the costs, and the need to be knowledgeable about different types of economic models.

 

(Me and faculty member at NYU Stern)

This experience was important because it gave me a chance to face the realities of a career in research. Conducting research can be an isolating, long and difficult experience. Additionally, attaining a PhD is no easy feat. However, I was excited to be able to interact with PhD holders. Networking with faculty was incredibly exciting and affirmed my commitment to enrolling in PhD programs and working within academia. I think that questions concerning inequality and social justice are incredibly important and that research can provide insight into how such issues can and should be solved.

Additionally, networking with both sociologists and economics expanded my view of social scientist and gave me an opportunity to experience social science research through a new lens. Since STEP, I have been networking with economist and sociologist and applying to research assistant and pre-doctoral programs of both types. Finally, getting to work independently and build research skills was incredibly rewarding and these skills will be valuable post-undergrad. Finally, it was helpful to network with academics and see research presented. I believe this experience was a great compliment to my undergraduate career and provided a lot of insight on the fields I am interested in and narrowed down my research interest. Ultimately, I am confident that in the future I will be a social scientist.

FHIT TD NMBA Project Reflection

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP Signature Project entailed assisting my post-doctorate, Dr. Nicola Zanesi on evaluating the effect of thymidine supplementation on tumor development in carcinogen-treated mice of both genotypes, Fhit +/+ and Fhit +/-. Our conclusion after the first round of the experiment was in order to better evaluate the effect of thymidine supplementation this experiment needs to be repeated increasing the number of animals involved and/or increasing the concentration of thymidine administered in the diet. This took place in the Biomedical Research Tower under the cancer comprehensive center of research.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Before beginning research, I did not have a full understanding on what I thought research would initially be like. For instance, when provided the opportunity to participate in a lab, I never understood when mentors of mine explained that lab work is very tedious and long. When starting my lab work for this project, it was a very long process to even be able to start. We had to wait for the mice to be fully bred and meet our expectations to complete the project. Meaning that we needed to have the right sex, initial weight and the correct genotype in order to use them. To get these results is where the constant repetition of DNA extracting and PCR experiments can become tedious. I also realized that when researching, things do not always go as expected. Although you may hope everything in research turns out to be black and white, it does not. When assessing some of the tumors on the fore stomach of the mice, we should have received certain results based off of our initial analysis, but this was not always the case. Therefore, when given the opportunity to work on this project, a lot on my initial assumptions changed because of actually experiencing these experiments firsthand.

  1. 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?

These interactions formed during my STEP project affected me personally in a positive manner. Although there were many aspects I did not understand such as the time and effort that has to be put into research. I received the chance to fully experience what hard work and dedication it takes to be in this work field. Through my relationships with my post-doctorate, I realized that patience, support and idealistic mentalities is needed in order to be able to work in a lab. This opportunity of participating in the lab led to the interactions, relationships and activities that fueled my transformation.

Patience and support are two fundamental aspects that are needed in lab work. For example, as I already explained researching is a long process. Receiving results do not just happen overnight. They may take up to years until a researcher is able to have something presentable enough to be published. Therefore, this is why support is needed in lab work because there has to be a chain of command starting with a principle investigator and ending with an undergraduate. This process led to my understanding of how the initial planning, duration and the post-experiment take a lot of consistent effort and production.

Idealistic mentalities are also a fundamental aspect because a researcher has to understand that things do not go as planned. I thank my post-doctorate for having me realize this in a lab setting because that is not what I initially thought. I was under the impression that once we finished this first experiment, my post-doctorate and I might have something to publish. But this wasn’t the case at all because we still have to perform additional experiments to test if the thymidine concentration needs to be increased in order to not have tumor formation on the fore stomach. Overall, I was able to change my mindset when performing experiments for the lab. I had to understand that is all about the process and how it is done, rather then the overall outcome.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This change is valuable to my life because I hope to become a physician one day. I would also love to have a specialty/fellowship in oncology once obtaining this goal. Therefore, understanding the elemental parts of research are necessary for an oncologist. They have to know the processes of the cancer formed within their patient they are treating. Moreover, having the opportunity to participate in a project like this, I was able to appreciate the developmental procedures needed in lab work. This transformation also gave me the urge to want to continue research in my career alongside with becoming a physician. The opportunity to apply my learned techniques will contribute to my future plans after undergrad.

STEP Experience

Description of my STEP signature project:

For my STEP signature project I conducted tests at the Institute of Behavioral Medicine and Research at The Ohio State University. The lab I researched in primarily focuses in the effect that inflammatory  mediators have on neuron degeneration in the brain. Part of my duties was to run tests with samples, whose results would later be analyzed.

 

How did my understanding of things change while completing my STEP project?

My time in the lab due to my STEP project made me realize that lab work and research plays an extensive role in healthcare. Professionally, I learned a great deal about how serious each day and each experiment is. Working in a lab involves many trials and many failed attempts but with each attempt you are getting closer to your final goal. My previous exposure to labs had only been through my undergraduate courses so I didn’t have that understanding or realization of why I was taking these courses, but after spending my time doing research I saw that many techniques I had acquired over time were coming into play.

 

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?

I was under the guidance of my lab manager who has extensive knowledge when it comes to thesis papers and bench work. Each day that I worked in the lab I was given the task of completing experiments such as immunohistochemistry and quantitative polymerase chain reaction. At first I didn’t understand the depth of what was to be gained from each run but my lab manager interpreted the data with me so I was able to get a better understanding. By working in a branch of behavioral research I came to realize the goal behind each experiment is to garner a better understanding of the cognitive processes within the organism being observed and its correlation with organisms in the natural world. The systematic analysis and investigation of human and animal behavior through the study of the controlled and naturalistic observation attempts to accomplish legitimate conclusions through rigorous formulations and observation.

Working in the Institute of Behavioral Medicine and Research I was fostered relationships with like minded individuals who are pursuing careers in the same field as myself and those who have devoted their time to science to better improve the quality of life for the population. This project proved not only to be a good experience but also a great way to meet like minded individuals and learn about opportunities.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This project proved to be of significant value to me because it reassured me that I have chosen the right future vocation for myself and allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone. I was able to apply what I have learned thus far in my undergraduate courses and further perfect my lab techniques. Working amongst individuals who have been in this field of study provided me with the confidence I need as I am about to begin my journey as an adult in the working world.

 

STEP Reflection

My signature project involved modeling the decay of W bosons using monte carlo computer programs. By generating random numbers and assigning them specific probability values we can simulate real life results. The results simulated are from the ATLAS detector at the LHC in Switzerland.

I’ve learned that the scientific community does not care about the problems that countries have with each other. Everyone wants to work together and make new discoveries. CERN is actually a huge collaboration. Thousands of scientists from universities around the world all collaborate at CERN. Some universities design and send parts to CERN and some analyze data from the detectors there. It made me realize that we are past the point of singular discoveries. It is likely that most breakthroughs occurring from now on are the result of collaborations. As we know it now, science is much more of a team activity than I thought it was.

In terms of interactions during my STEP project I mostly only talked to my research adviser. There was a graduate student in my group that is at CERN so I haven’t got the chance to meet him but I’m looking forward to it. I had initially thought that it would just be me doing all of the writing and work while my supervisor watched over me but it turned out that the papers we wrote were for the most part too advanced for me so I had to do something that allowed me to contribute. I’m running monte carlo programs that simulate real world results but I did not necessarily know what it meant.

My adviser has reassured me that I do not need to know all the detail of what we are doing yet. The important thing was that I was getting real experience modeling real events and experience with doing statistics. It turns out that a lot of undergraduates doing research run into the same issue as me. The adviser makes good use of the student but understands that the topic is too advanced. It got me thinking that all of those thousands of people working at CERN are probably just the advisers, there are likely just as many undergraduates working on this project too. Its nice to know that I am apart of something bigger and I’m already involved as an undergrad.

This project has actually scared me a bit. I’m scared of going to graduate school and I’m scared of designing my own experiments to run, not knowing if I will find anything, not knowing where to even start looking. The only thing I can hope is that I get a good research adviser in graduate school that is willing to help me out. If not, I may have to rely on my peers. As of now, my adviser is very hands-off with me so I am getting experience doing research by myself but it makes me nervous to think about the increase in difficulty that is sure to come.

Of course, this experience was extremely valuable to me because I am going to grad school. It has definitely given me experience doing research alone and experience doing collaborations. It also helped me realize that I want to do experimental research in the field of particle physics. I thought that publishing my findings was trivial compared to the actual experiment but I learned that it’s actually very hard to be clear and being clear is the most important aspect of any paper. Overall, I am satisfied with my experience and am grateful to STEP for helping me do this over the summer.

 

This is about what my work space looked like half the time:

STEP Undergraduate Research

STEP Reflection

 

Jeremy Eid

Undergraduate Research

 

 

  1. Over the summer, I worked at Ohio State’s Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity and Orthopedics. Some of my responsibilities included isolating bacteria from infected artificial knee components and perfor
    ming cell counts and enumerating bacteria per component.
  2. Throughout my work in the lab, there was so much that I learned and my understanding of myself/my assumptions transformed greatly. I learned an immense amount of lab skills that will carry  ver to my time in medical school as well as my career. One of the most important transformations that occurred was my assumption of my medical school specialization. Before beginning my research, I had always wanted to go into cardiology. However, I am now considering orthopedics. I was so interested in the research I was doing in the lab that it transformed my views on orthopedics, and now I could potentially see myself being an orthopedic surgeon. Isolating and examining bacteria extracted from an artificial knee made me curious about orthopedics and I would love to continue research and potentially begin my career in this field in the future.
  3. There were many events, interactions, and relationships that occurred during my time in the lab that lead to the transformation described above. One of these relationships was with my principal investigator and lab manager. They were the people that I looked up to the most as they taught me the important lab skills that I used every day. They were very intelligent and cared so much about their research, I was able to tell how passionate they were about the work. They helped me understand anything that was confusing to me which allowed me to be passionate about the work as well as orthopedics. They are large part of the reason why I am considering this field for a medical career.Another relationship that lead to my transformation was working with other students in the lab. Majority of the time I spent in the lab I spent with other students working on projects with me. This taught me teamwork and leadership skills that will be helpful for me in medical school and my career. I was also able to talk to them about their educational experience as well as their future career plans. This was helpful to gain more knowledge and different perspectives on medical school and various specializations. One event that also lead to my transformation was performing all of the technical lab skills required for the lab. One example of this is, learning how to use an automatic pipet while transferring liquids. This was part of isolating the bacteria extracted from the infected artificial knee components. It will be very helpful in future research that I do throughout medical school. These skills that I learned confirmed by assumptions that I wanted to pursue medicine as a career but also transformed my specialization assumptions, as stated above.
  1. As stated above, the transformation that I gained from my experience with the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity and Orthopedics was one that will definitely affect my future. It is significant because I am now considering orthopedics for a specialization for my career. It is also valuable to me because it allowed me to explore a field that I did not know much about before and helped me discover my interest in orthopedics. Choosing the right specialization is very important to me because I wanted to be interested in and passionate about my career so discovering my interest in orthopedics helped me with this goal.

STEP Reflection

 

Maribelle Moufawad

Undergraduate Research

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.

Exploring Pharmacy

My name is Madison Campbell, I am a Senior BSPS major!

My name is Madison Campbell, and I am currently starting my senior year in the BSPS, bachelor of science of pharmaceutical sciences, program. My signature STEP project was an exploratory research project. Over the course of this summer I interviewed ten pharmacists in specialized areas. My research project consisted of research the specific area of pharmacy that each pharmacist practiced in and having the individual pharmacists fill out an informational survey.

My research is now a huge part of who I am. This summer I learned so much not just from doing the research to prepare me for my interviews, but from the connections I made with the pharmacists. I discovered that I didn’t have to have a plan. I don’t have to figure out exactly what I want to do with my future in pharmacy. All of the pharmacists that I spoke with this summer didn’t have a plan, and a pathway that they desired to go down. Specialization happens by chance, and with passion.

My most memorable interview this summer was with a pharmacist that specialized in nuclear pharmacy. Before I started this project, I didn’t even know nuclear pharmacy existed. I could bore you with the science that I learned from the pharmacist, but the best lesson that I learned from her is to remain inquisitive. She started her career like any other pharmacist, working in a local Walmart pharmacy. Along her journey she stumbled into nuclear pharmacy. Out of pure inquiry she started working at Cardinal Health as a part of a team of nuclear pharmacists. What I liked most about her journey was that it wasn’t focused on the title of her job, it was just about being passionate about our field. My last question in every interview was to give me a piece of advice, and the best advice I received was to remain inquisitive, that I should keep looking for new questions and answers. That I should continuously learn, I am so thankful to have met her, and I hope that connection I made this summer brings our paths together in the future.

Another interview that I learned a great deal from was actually with my boss. I work at a long term patient care pharmacy in Hilliard. My boss is the pharmacist in charge of our branch. Most of the pharmacists that I talked with this summer preached about taking part in a pharmacy residency in a hospital. Which in any specialized field is the status quo. My pharmacist at work told me otherwise. She told me that it would be a great opportunity to do a pharmacy residency, but that it doesn’t make you necessarily better than another pharmacist. She got to her position by working hard in our specialized field of geriatrics and rehabilitation. Knowing that you can be successful without having the experience of a rotation was great to hear. It changed my idea of my plan for the next 5-10 years. Seeing that hard work and passion can get you really far in the field of pharmacy opened my eyes. A large part of my program at Ohio State talks about the importance of a rotation, and seeing success outside of the status quo is helpful in making my decisions for my future. I am thankful to have had this conversation with my boss, these are truly things that I wouldn’t normally ask in a work setting, and learning about her journey, not only educationally but in the work place, was really helpful to see and understand.

Unfortunately with HIPPA regulations, I was only able to observe the two above pharmacists in a shadow setting. On the positive side, I got to see two really awesome sides of pharmacy. When I shadowed the nuclear pharmacist I showed up to the Wexner Medical Center at 4:30am.  Nuclear pharmacy takes time to prepare, so most of the medications are created very early in the morning. I showed up after the two head pharmacists were there. When I arrived I was fully gowned and sanitized, and I walked into the lab. I got to watch as the pharmacist worked with radioactive chemicals to create the medications that would be used later that day in the Wexner Medical Center. It was a great experience to see nuclear pharmacy in action. My second shadow was actually with a different pharmacist for the company that I work for. He is a consultation pharmacist, and he goes from facility to facility and looks at the charts for each patient and makes recommendations to the doctors based on what the labs are suggesting and how the patient is responding. It was an exciting day of overviewing charts and speaking with nurses at the different facilities. Both shadow experiences confirmed my passion for clinical pharmacy as it is more hands on.

Results from one of the questions in my survey!

This project showed me a lot about my field. Some things I knew about before the project, but a lot of it was brand new to me. Looking at some of the data from my survey I have seen that the correlations that have been made are not necessarily true when it comes to specialization in pharmacy, and that most things happen by chance. It was really interesting to see the data that I collected, but the most important thing that I gained from my project was interpersonal. I have made a lot of important connections with pharmacists in varying fields. When I go into pharmacy school and I am looking for internships these connections will be very important to have. I don’t know exactly what I want to do after I graduate from pharmacy school, but I have 5 more years to figure it out. Talking with these pharmacists this summer has been an important step in my career in pharmacy.

 

STEP Signature Project: Reflection

In the summer of 2017 and throughout the 2017-2018 academic year, I performed research under Dr. Sakima Smith in the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute to study the cardiotoxic effects of the chemotherapy drug Pazopanib. Within my role, I administered the drug to mice, monitored physiological data through electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and blood pressure recordings. Moroever, I collected data through proteomic analyses and cell immunofluorescent staining.

 

Though I had previously spent time volunteering in the Smith lab, it was not until the summer of 2017 that I was able to research full-time. As I spent 40-hour weeks collaborating with other group members and performing experiments, I developed a greater appreciation and understanding of the depth and breadth of the scientific community. Especially with the Pazopanib project, which spanned across fields of both oncology and cardiology, I was exposed to an enormous base of knowledge, one that excited me for a future in the profession. The more I spent working on the Pazopanib project, reading papers, and overall learning more about the heart, I learned how very little I knew. This realization drove my scientific curiosity to use my resources—mentors, literature, and the lab itself—to fill the gaps in my knowledge and strive for greater insights.

 

As I progressed through the project, I also matured as a scientist and could better see the world through the lens of biomedical research: how every clinical progress begins and ends with a research inquiry. Beyond learning to juggle multiple duties and manage my time responsibly, I grew in my understanding of the scientific method. By working a project from the ground up and describing the potential impacts of such efforts, all the way to publication and beyond, I grew a deeper respect for the extent of patience, intellect, and dedication that goes into every single research experience. Though I may ultimately find myself in a field outside of pure basic science research, I will forever remember the lessons in character and the effort behind every product and technique I use.

 

My STEP project studying Pazopanib’s effects in a dedicated timeline transformed my understanding of the scientific universe by being my first professional exposure to a laboratory environment. Prior to the project, I had been a member of the lab in a purely undergraduate volunteer capacity. However, because I was able to contribute full-time and take on greater, time intensive responsibilities like daily dosing of mice and running multi-day experiments, I gained tremendous perspective into the lifestyle and mentality of professional researchers. Moreover, in this role, my immersive exposure piqued my curiosity whiles simultaneously providing an environment that could answer all my questions. In the lab, I was constantly surrounded by visiting medical academic researchers, mentors, and had access to thousands of publications related to our research interests, all available for me to seek with any question I could imagine. Quickly, my knowledge of cardiac anatomy, physiology, and cardiology research inflated, and I found myself always wanting to learn more.

 

Moreover, as I spent equal time in the lab as any of the full-time employees, I formed genuine relationships within the research group, and realized I had integrated myself as more than “just” an undergraduate research assistant—the other research technicians and visiting scholars had become friends with whom I felt comfortable asking for professional advice, conceptual questions, and even topics completely unrelated to research. And as I learned from these individuals in both professional and personal lessons, I changed in my value of mentorship, which I had previously disregarded. Mentorship was a powerful way for me to develop as a young adult entering a professional environment, and I felt strongly to do the same for others. Later in my time with the lab, I took the initiatives to mentor newer undergraduates going through the same steps I had in the past. From basic lab techniques to reading scientific articles to balancing research with a busy academic schedule, I could translate my own experiences for the benefit of others, just as had been done upon me.

 

Finally, working for such a long duration in the lab was integral to my growth in understanding the extensiveness of research and in developing greater determination and patience for the process. Working with the project from the initial planning stages, going to lab week after week for over a year to collect data, and being able to see the results eventually come to fruition, I was exposed to every part of the research timeline. And in effect, I grew not only in my patience, but in my sense of scope for our efforts and the extent of impact that our findings could have. Moreover, as I read into other studies while performing my own experiments, I realized that all research in any field undergoes the same longitudinal process, one that takes countless hours of dedication, rested upon an even deeper foundation of the research before it. So much of the scientific community—and the world in a greater sense—is interrelated by some aspect of research, and I discovered a new passion in myself to be a part of such a meaningful network.

 

As I pursue a future a career in medicine, the practical laboratory skills, interpersonal relationships, and transformations in my mentality will undoubtedly translate from my time in the research lab. Medicine is an increasingly interdisciplinary field, dependent on intensive collaboration between specialties and professions to provide optimal patient care; being able to work on such a complex project like the cardio-oncology efforts of my STEP project offer a groundwork for a future in crossing traditional lines. In addition, medicine is fully based in research, and almost all physicians participate in some form of clinical research during their career. As such, my practice with the scientific method through my STEP Signature Project will be a valuable tool for forming my own questions and developing plans of approach.

 

Research is a continual process, one that strives for discovery and growth; over the past two years, my participation in this endeavor has led to incredible education in science and in maturing as a young professional. As I continue on towards my professional goals, I am certain the skills, lessons, and attitude I found in the Smith lab will facilitate my success, regardless of where I ultimately find myself.

STEP Reflection

Allen Ronis

Undergraduate Research

My step signature project involved spending the past summer in Columbus, conducting research within the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Research Institute in the department of Microbial Pathogenesis. I was responsible for continuing my own project studying a specific bacterial species which is a primary cause of sub-acute infective endocarditis. My day to day activities included running experiments, analyzing data, and keeping the lab clean and efficient.

 

I believe there was a fundamental change in what I see as being research. Before this experience, I had conducted research, but never full time such as this experience. Thus, I never knew what it was to perform and balance all pieces of a project or lab, as I had to rely on others to help me with parts of my project. Although I still received much help from others, I learned that research is a long and complex process. There are no vast discoveries made every single day, but rather it is small questions that hopefully leads to small answers. This leads to new questions and new answers. Eventually, we hope that it will lead to new discoveries which can help others. This is contrary to my own, and many others previous notions that research has groundbreaking discoveries daily and always focuses on the big picture first. I saw that by looking within the big picture at smaller fragments, it is possible to build up to a new finding.

Another key lesson I learned was that failure was inevitable. I can confidently say that I failed many more times than I succeeded in the lab. At first my failures would bring me down, but being able to be at the lab full-time allowed me to directly follow up on my failures. Over time I saw how to bounce back and learn from my failures, rather than get discouraged by them. This lesson has stayed with me in all areas of my life, as I now understand that I will fail, but it is about looking at the failure in a way that I can take something away from it, and hopefully not make the same mistake again, or improve in my process to succeed. I feel this was transformative in that I am not longer as afraid of failure as I was before. Although I still do what I can to succeed, I know that I can come back from my failures and work towards success.

 

 

I feel the events which most brought about this change in my idea of research was my interactions with my principal investigator and other members of the lab. With them, I was able to first observe how the scientific process was used to generate new questions and how a process could be developed to come closer to answer these questions. Under their guidance I was able to begin to learn more about the background of my research project and begin to think of my own questions which I would like to investigate. I then worked with them to conceive a viable plan to gather data to begin to piece together some of the answer. Finally, I was able to analyze the data and develop a plan for the future and create a new question from my old one.

The activities I performed were also very important in understanding the scientific process. I not only learned how to conduct the experiments I was performing, but I also learned to understand why certain experiments were preferred over others, the fundamental science behind the experiments, and how to use data generated from the experiments to help answer scientific questions. Through this, I learned many basic lab techniques such as PCR, plasmid construction and cloning, bacterial transformation and protein expression. These are skills which I can transfer to any lab environment, regardless of what that labs focus of research is. These background of scientific basics made me realize the complexity of many processes in the lab, but also showed me that I am capable of handling and understanding them.

This complexity also led to many failures, however. By talking with my advisors and other lab staff I was able to see that failure was a natural part of the scientific process. In fact, one can often gather valuable data even from the experiments which seem that they have failed. With their support I was able to deal with this failure, and feel I am now better equipped to deal with failure on my own within the lab and future endeavors. Failing over and over at the same experiment, reviewing the steps I took and how to improve it, and finally getting it right has showed me how to stay determined and focused.

 

 

These transformations mean a lot to my current and future goals. I am currently a senior and looking to finish my final year on a strong note. Being a biochemistry major, many of the techniques and scientific principles I learned and used first-hand help with much of the material covered in my classes. I now feel I have a better understanding of these topics and can better see how topics presented in class can be used to solve real-life problems. In addition to school work, I feel my experience will help with my future goal of becoming a physician. I feel understand and being involved in research is a fundamental duty of a physician aside from treating patient. The training a physician receives can be beneficial in research and lead to new treatment options, in turn helping more patients than before. Being able to conduct research as my project has given me the necessary introduction I need to be able to continue to conduct research in the future. Also, being a physician means facing failure. My experiences with failure and learning to overcome failure will help me in this aspect as well.