Name: Robert Murcko
Project: Undergraduate Research and Undergraduate Summer Institute
1. 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 entailed spending the summer working in a research lab on the OSU campus. The lab PI is Dr. Julie Golomb. Her lab focuses on vision and cognitive neuroscience. This lab time was supplemented by time spent in seminars designed for undergraduates who are interested in research and considering pursuing graduate degrees in the future.
2. 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.
This summer was a transformative one. I learned a lot about research and graduate school, but I also learned a lot about myself. By this I mean that the summer helped me to realize that I really enjoy the methodical process of conducting research. It also helped me to put some things into perspective, and to start taking more control of the trajectory of my education and life.
3. 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.
The favorite thing I learned in the lab this summer was how to understand and analyze fMRI data. Our lab manager, Samoni Nag, taught me how to localize category-specific functional brain areas. In addition to this, she taught me about some of the statistics and background processes that allow us to make conclusions using fMRI data and also answered the plethora of questions that I asked her. This new task combined my love of technology and math with my interest in the brain. It was something that got me excited to wake up and come into the lab. It proved to me that research can be fun.
The Center for Brain and Cognitive Sciences Undergraduate Summer Institute I participated in over the summer exposed me to a lot of new things and ideas. Specifically it exposed me to a wide array of fields and types of research. This research spanned all the way from clinical applications in neurosurgery to diagnostics to social psychology and linguistics. Hearing these research talks peaked my interest and made me realize how broad and useful the field of cognitive science can be.
The career discussions at the Summer Institute were an important part of my summer as well. These discussions gave a first hand look into the life of researchers (both PhD students and professors). They helped me decide if I could visualize myself taking a similar path and allowed me to consider some of the day to day aspects of this lifestyle, as I have a tendency to focus too much on the bigger picture.
4. 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 summer was a pivotal time for my educational path. I had to begin the process of making some decisions of what my next steps after undergraduate studies will be. This is a decision I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. Although I realized that I enjoy research this summer, I also realized that I did not want to make it the primary focus of my career.
I believe I will be more comfortable in a clinical setting. Thanks in part to the experiences I’ve had this summer, I’ve decided I want to try and become a physician and pursue an MD or DO degree. This pathway has the potential to put me in roles that have a balance of research and clinical work that best fits my needs, talents, and interests.