STEP Reflection

Name: Shivani Deshpande

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

I conducted research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in the Center for Perinatal Research. My lab studied a disease called necrotizing enterocolitis, also referred to as NEC. My project focused on the long-term, neurodevelopmental effects of NEC. I spent my time working on an animal model of experimental NEC and neurodevelopment and analyzing collected data.

When I first began this project, I remember feeling rather overwhelmed at the task before me. Our lab had never done a behavioral study before, and I was helping my lab mentor implement this model for the first time. I was unsure of how I would succeed in this project, but I decided to take on the challenge. I worked full time over the summer, and day by day I would get a better grasp of things. I still felt like a rookie every day, but I wasn’t discouraged by my knowledge gap so much as taking it as inspiration to study even more, to read even more articles. By the end of the summer, I had collected enough preliminary data to be able to present it at a poster competition at Nationwide Children’s. Through this experience, I learned about what it takes to collect and present scientific data, and was able to do so under the mentorship of skilled doctors.

My strategy at dealing with stress and anxiety changed over the course of this project. My timeline began at the beginning of summer, but continued through the school year as well. I had to learn how to manage the demands of my schoolwork and lab, and how to balance the two. My time management skills were truly tested, and I think the most transformative personal portion of this project. I learned how to prioritize my tasks and conduct both my lab experiments as well as homework.

When I first began this project, I was very nervous about the task I had to undertake. My lab mentor is who I credit with giving me the confidence to work on this project. I am a very detail oriented person, and like to have to have as much information about a subject before taking on a task. My mentor, sensing this, sent me all the papers and protocols she had researched before developing our animal model. This extensive research, and mentor-mentee relationship helped me gain the initial confidence to conduct this research.

As mentioned earlier, I presented preliminary data at Nationwide Children’s poster competition. This was a very key aspect of my transformation. I had to begin preparing for the competition weeks prior to the actual presentation. I learned how to create a scientific poster. This process takes a couple weeks, and goes through many editing rounds. Through this process, I learned how to approach a scientific presentation. I had to practice presenting my poster in front of my lab prior to the actual competition. Every time I practiced, I noticed something else I had to change in my speech. This taught me that in the future, practice is the best thing I can do prior to giving a scientific presentation. Finally, I learned how to answer questions on the spot. After I presented my poster to the judges, they would follow up with a few questions. This was the most transformative portion of the poster experience, and I could only experience it at the competition itself. I learned how to take a second and process the question, and answer it calmly and thoroughly.

I also had to learn how to acknowledge my own gaps in knowledge, and how to communicate that I did not know the answer to everything. As a premedical student, this proved difficult, to admit that I was not sure of something. Often, the judges themselves knew the answer, and would supply it once I communicated that I was unaware of it. This experience taught me that admitting your own weaknesses is also a necessary skill, as it can lead to a gain of knowledge in the end.

Finally, once the school year began, I learned how to refine my time management skills. The biggest component of this was communication. I had to communicate to my lab the times I had to prioritize being a student. This was a unique situation, as my standing in lab was largely as a professional colleague. I had to discipline myself to reduce distractions and complete my work on time. I also refined my communications skills by relating to my lab when I had a big midterm or project coming up, and had to scale down my hours that week. This process showed me that communication is the best way to avoid potential conflicts and help in prioritization.

The skills I gained during this project relate directly to my professional goals. I hope to go to medical school and become a physician in the future. This project immersed me in an environment where I was surrounded by the very people I hope to be. I was able to gain invaluable advice, and make strong relationships with incredible individuals

This project provided me with technical skills I will definitely use in my academic and future career. As a premedical student, I will have poster presentations in my academic career. This experience taught me how long it takes to make such posters, and provided me with public speaking skills that will only help me in scientific presentations.

Finally, the time management and communication skills I refined through this project will benefit me in every area of my life. Not simply academically or professionally, but personally as well. I learned how to communicate with people in an assertive manner, and was able to see firsthand how this avoided future conflicts. The skills and experiences gained during this project will be immensely helpful both in the present and future.

STEP Reflection

Taylor Vassis

Undergraduate Research

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

For my STEP Signature Project, I served as a research assistant in a study designed to observe how environmental factors, such as light, sound, and touch affect the stress levels of infants in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit. I was personally responsible for coding the data for sound interruptions the child was experiencing during their stay in the hospital.

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

My STEP Signature Project gave me a newfound sense of appreciation for the research field. Before this project, I had no experience in research and really only had a basic sense of how the process worked. Throughout the semester I was able to see all the pieces and parts that must come together in order to execute and accomplish the goal of a researcg study. Seeing all the hard work that goes into performing a research study, truly made me appreciate all those who dedicate their careers and life to research. Research is genuinely the future of medicine and therefore the future for each of our lives. Without the advancements research has provided, as a population we would be digressing in health and not have close to any of the number of vaccines and treatments as we do today. My STEP project reiterated this message  and showed me how grateful we should all be for how much research has given to our society.

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? 

My relationship with my PI, Dr. Tondi Harrison, really allowed me to gain this newfound appreciation for research. From our very first meeting, I noticed the love and passion she has for her work. Besides teaching me about the process and “how-to’s” of coding, she taught me to appreciate the process. She told me that coding especially may seem never-ending and unimportant at the time, but being able to analyze all the data in the end and determine a conclusion makes all the tedious work worth it. Dr. Harrison was an instrumental part in shaping my first experience with research into such a great one.

I told myself from the very beginning to keep an open mind about what I may be doing in the project. I let Dr. Harrison know that I was comfortable doing whatever she felt best suited me and was needed at the time in the study. I believe that one of the reasons I have enjoyed my research experience so much this far is because of the freedom she offered me from the start. Dr. Harrison not only presented me with many different options to choose from, but thoroughly showed me how to code for the different options before I made a choice. Last semester and currently my responsibility in the project has been to code for sound in the data collected from Nationwide Children’s. Originally the only sense that was going to be coded for was touch, but in conversation Dr. Harrison and I realized that sound, especially in a hospital, would have a major effect on an infant’s healing process. From that conversation, Dr. Harrison decided that we should include sound as a factor of the study and allowed me to code for that aspect.

I began my STEP Signature Project with the intention that this would be a great learning experience, but I finished gaining so much more. I was able to learn about the process of research and coding data. Although, what I value the most from this experience is being able to understand how much goes into research and making advancements. Seeing this firsthand by actually being part of a research team has been very impactful. I think many people take for granted the outcome of research studies, without thinking about all the time and individuals that are needed to make it happen.

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

With aspirations of working in the healthcare field, specifically as a pediatric nurse practitioner, this experience was very beneficial to my future. I was able to observe pediatric patients recovering from cardiac surgery and get a look into how interactions like hearing their parents’ voices or being comforted by touch were able to influence this healing process. Since Dr. Harrison works in the college of nursing she has been able to provide me with many insights and tips regarding the graduate nursing program I will be applying to next fall. Through my STEP Signature Project I was able to gain experience and form relationships that will be valuable in allowing me to pursue my dream career.

 

Each participant’s bed is set up with sound and video recorders.

 

Coding page

 

STEP Reflection

Name: Jacob Caponi

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

  1. My STEP Signature Project consisted of being a research assistant with sociology graduate student Brandon Moore on the PrEP Perception Study. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is used to prevent HIV. I transcribed interviews, conducted interviews, analyzed data, and reported findings from the study in my position.
  2. Overall, through this project I was able to develop critical thinking and professional skills. The position of research assistant gave me the experience of understanding how research development takes place in a large institution such as OSU. I was able to develop my own questions surrounding how individuals perceived PrEP usage while gaining knowledge from participants about how history, biology, politics, and society all play a role in perception of PrEP usage. Combining all of these perspectives allowed me to find my passion for public health which is the major I changed to after pursuing this research project. Without this research position I may have not found my passion for public health as quickly.
  3.           In order to begin the project the proposal had to be submitted through different IRBs – OSU and the city health department where the study was conducted. This was done to recruit participants, but I learned how research is a process and not a simple “ah-ha” moment often portrayed in the media. Social science research begins with an idea and requires many steps before participants are even interviewed. I learned how to navigate queer spaces to promote this project and understood how society functions to create spaces for “others” in a physical and medical sense. As a first time “investigator” this was a big step in being culturally competent with my intended participants.

Once the previous was accomplished I was able to hear the stories of individuals who lived as men who have sex with men (MSM). Ages varied and learning of gay history was a first as it is often excluded from the heteronormative history taught in schools. Significant to this research project, how MSM view a medication that could save their life, was the AIDS crisis. Comparing older MSM narratives to younger MSM provided insight to how HIV/AIDS is viewed.

The relationship with my mentor, Brandon Moore, provided me with the dedication to pursue graduate school. Brandon was able to give me advice and motivation to apply for grants, interview individuals, and share this project at community events. Brandon also helped read over my personal statement for a masters in public health which I was accepted into for next year.

 

  1. This project allowed me to find my passion for public health and gender and sexual minorities. Understanding the perception of PrEP medication aligns with my minor in pharmaceutical sciences and also my major in public health. I was able to find a mentor who encouraged independent, critical thinking which sparked my interest in graduate school. I also am able to take the skills from this research project and apply them in graduate school where I will continue research. My future plan is to get my PhD and become a professor/researcher.

 

Food Safety in Cancer Patients

  1.  During my STEP project, I worked in a Microbiology lab. While in the lab I extracted DNA from rat feces for research.

 

  1. Before my project, I was not interested in pursuing microbiological research as career. I wasn’t even interested in any kind of research. I was very nervous about working in a lab. However, by the end of my project I was surprised how comfortable and how much I enjoyed working. I was also provided with many researches that helped me academically. I could build relationships with professors and other students like me in the nutrition filed. This large network of resources allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and ask for help.

3.  First I was transformed by getting out of my comfort zone. As I mentioned above I was nervous about starting a research project. This was something I had never done before and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. After I started working not only was I able to use knowledge I have gained from previous classes but I also learned so much more from the people I was working with. Because I enjoyed working on the project so much this semester I will now get out of my comfort zone more often.

This project also increased my confidence. Being able to accomplish such a difficult project showed me that I could succeed academically. I am much more confident with my school work and telling myself that I am smart enough to take a class or pass a test.

Finally, I was transformed with the way I view content covered in class. As I mentioned above, I used information I had earned previously in class to help me in the project. This showed me how valuable what I am learned is to my future career. Being able to apply that knowledge made me more excited to learn about nutrition.

 

  1. These transformations with help me in so many ways. First, they will help me as I finished my last year and a half of school. I will try more new things, be more confident in my school work and view my classes as a resource instead of something I must get through. Thinking further in life, it will help me in my future career. By trying new things, I will be more open to something I have never done before, I will be confident in my accomplishments during college and I will use my knowledge to solve problems as a dietitian.

Chris Kalweit

Step reflection

Prompt 1
My step signature project involved undergraduate research at the Fuchs lab in the biological sciences library. I synthesized and purified the experimental antibiotic 5- chlorothiophene-2- sulfonyl chloride which used to fight the campylobacter, a common chicken food borne illness. This involved running a synthesis reaction followed by extraction and purification. I also ran my finished compound through a proton NMR to observe its properties and to in fact make sure I had what I thought I did.

Prompt 2
I think the person I am today and at the beginning of the semester are 2 entirely different people. I think I realized more about myself than anything else. At the start of my project I was not sure how I would like the lab work. However, as I started my project and worked with my mentors my view changed a little bit. I started to enjoy some of the lab techniques and the work seemed less tedious and more enjoyable, granted I enjoyed some parts more than others. For example, synthesis and extraction were pretty straight forward and fun, but column chromatography purification was a huge pain in the butt.

Prompt 4
Moving forward, I do think my work in the future will involve chemistry and lab work. I think it may however be in a different context. As opposed to synthesizing new and novel antibiotics, I would like to use extraction to isolate therapeutic compounds from nature. I want to take what I’ve learned and apply it in a holistic/ herbalist sense to help the world around me. I also will take this information and use it in my organic chemistry labs because many of the techniques are very similar and used often in todays day in age. It will give me an edge, having seen the techniques beforehand.

Prompt 3
There were a few parts of this project that were transformational. Of course, the chemistry knowledge in itself was valuable and changed my perspective. Learning the process of synthesis, extraction and column chromatography showed me that it is possible to create and separate compounds through manipulating the properties of nature. I also learned that I like and enjoy some of the work. I want to incorporate elements from this lab into my future career even though I’m not quite sure what it will be.
The atmosphere I made were also very important to my transformation. I learned a lot from Dr. Fuchs and it was really cool to be part of his lab group. I got to go to seminars and see people from Pfizer and other prominent companies give presentations. This and being part of the lab in general gave me a higher feeling of belonging and motivated me to work harder in school. I kept thinking to myself that I because I was now part of this amazing lab that I had to push myself to be better in school and everything else I did. The standards there were high and this caused me to raise my own as well.
I think the most valuable lesson I learned and the one that had the biggest impact on me came from one of the grad students in his lab. He was kind of my mentor, helping me when I needed help and giving me advice. Whenever I came to him with these questions or if I was just unsure if whether I screwed he would tell me not to worry. He would then proceed to explain how most of the time your probably not going to get something right the first time, that failure is a part of success. The standards at the lab were high but I could see that even a really smart graduate student such as himself was human. This was very humbling and made this research more of a life lesson than just a semester project.

STEP Reflection – Agarwal Lab

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to conduct undergraduate research in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. I was fortunate to be selected to become a part of the research group under Dr. Gunjan Agarwal. During my project, I learned how to culture cells, conduct various assays of proteins, and analyze stress curves.

Before I started researching, I really had no idea what a research laboratory would look like, let alone what I would be doing. I have been a General Chemistry TA since sophomore year, so I have had some experience in a teaching lab context. To my surprise, I was able to carry over many of the concepts from my job to my research, such as how to use a spectrophotometer or how to properly deliver fluids using a pipet. This benefitted me in my research lab as I was able to immediately go to work and needed very little orientation for instruments. Additionally, I am able to bring this application of knowledge back to my job and be a better TA by giving my students context into how they can use laboratory techniques in a career.

Three key components of my research, as previously addressed, were working with cells, proteins, and analysis of data. I learned the basics of cell culture by working with another undergraduate, Nirvan Shanker. I learned how to handle biohazardous materials by not contaminating a work surface while also not destroying biological samples. By working with the cells, he taught me how to both culture cells and how to transfect them to synthesize proteins. Attached is a picture of cells we cultured and how they are differently expressed with collagen added.

These proteins were utilized in other assays that I was able to conduct with a graduate student, Arghavan Farzadi. Together, we conducted a number of assays using a spectrophotometer, of which I used a basic version in my General Chemistry laboratory. This was an interesting facet because I was able to use a much more advanced version of this apparatus with more accurate data. I now know how to collect protein concentration data using Lowry, UV280, and BCA analyses. In these tests, different concentrations of protein react with a solution, and light is beamed through the solution to measure adsorption of the protein based on color change. Further, I was also able to conduct thermogravimetric analyses of mineral samples where a small sample of mineral is heated gradually to analyze mass change over time.

In addition to these analyses in a wet lab, I was able to conduct dry lab analyses using atomic force microscopy software. One of the undergraduate researchers in our lab, Anna Debski, is conducting research on the aortas of mice. Small samples of the aorta have stress applied by cantilevers. I was able to take the data collected and determine its acceptability based on graphs produced. This analysis took place at Nationwide Children’s Hospital once or twice a week near the end of the semester. This facet of my research has been one of my favorites, because I was not only able to perform work that I enjoyed, but I also got to observe very advanced research facilities at Nationwide.

All the aforementioned experiences have developed my knowledge of laboratory methods as well as my interest in research. I believe that this experience can make me a more marketable candidate as I apply to internships. One possible career in which I’ve displayed interest has been in research, so this experience could be the stepping stone to career. I also believe that this experience can add more depth to my resume, as I am soon applying to graduate schools and may be conducting research with this education.

I will continue to be involved in research next semester. It is my hope that soon I will be able to start presenting some of my own ideas on topics to investigate or be able to lead some of the projects. I also am hopeful that I will be able to be mentioned in one of the publications produced by our laboratory, which would provide me with great exposure for my future career.

STEP Reflection

Name: Michael Heinz
Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

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

My STEP Signature Project was conducting research in mathematical physics under Professor Ovidiu Costin. In this research, I analyzed methods of resummation of divergent series and applied a new method of resummation to the divergent asymptotic series of a particular differential equation, the Painlevé equation PII. I conducted a lot of numerical analysis of the accuracy and precision of our method and documented my results on Maple, a computing machine.

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

First, I assumed that doing research while conducting coursework was much easier than it actually is. In all of my previous research endeavors, either I didn’t have much coursework or the research I did was not very time-consuming (requiring around three hours per week). This was completely blown out of the water in the research project. I started the project during the summer while taking courses to satisfy GE credits, and the coursework was much more time-consuming than I had expected. Because of this, the beginning of my research was extremely slow, and it took me about a month to really get into the swing of things. My course load this autumn semester was relatively light, and therefore research went much smoother, but I have definitely gained a lot more respect for how research is conducted in tandem with coursework and how you have to manage your time to do so properly.

Second, and more importantly, I loved this research. It was extremely stimulating and interesting, and it made me want to go back and work on it over and over again. This was something I had not experienced with my previous research positions, so it was very refreshing to be working on something I actually love. It has definitely confirmed my desire to attend graduate school with a long term goal of becoming a professor, as both the research and teaching aspects appeal to me. I was hoping I would find an answer to the question,”Is graduate school the right thing for me?” and I believe I have.

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?

I think the largest cause of this transformation was my relationship with my research advisor, Professor Ovidiu Costin. He has been a great mentor throughout this whole process and has been very understanding concerning my workload throughout both the summer and autumn semesters. He has shown me a great deal about mathematical physics and asymptotics over the last seven months, but he also really helped me understand what it meant to do research in these areas. I am very grateful to have Professor Costin as my advisor, and I attribute some of the reason why I fell in love with this research to him.

Additionally, many of my friends in the math and physics programs who also do research have been a great help in finding my love for research in this project. I was very close to a friend over the summer who was also taking classes and doing research, and he really helped me figure out how to balance out these two aspects of my academic life. When I entered autumn semester, there were many of my other friends in the math program that I could talk to my research about. Simply being able to talk to others at a similar math level about some of the concepts really helps clarify them for myself, and that was very useful in making progress in my research.

Finally, I think one of the best experiences I have had throughout this STEP project has been presenting at the 2018 Autumn Research Festival. The presentation itself was not satisfying since there were no judges, and most of my friends/colleagues had classes. Hence, there was nobody really to present to at the festival. However, the preparation for the presentation was amazing. Not only did it really make me have to understand all the details to my research and how they build onto one another so that I could compile it into a poster, but being able to give mock presentations to my professors, friends, and family was extremely rewarding. Seeing how interested some of these people were in my research (although they knew very little about the field) made the work I did throughout the project so much more worthwhile. I think this rewarding experience really made me fall in love with this research and the idea of doing research in general, and I expect the Denman in Spring of 2019 to be a similarly positive experience.

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

This transformation is very valuable to my life because it has helped me decide what I want to do in the future. I was debating between doing an REU or an internship over the next summer (the latter for more work experience), but due to this project I have little desire to gain an internship experience to be able to go into the industry as I would rather go to graduate school for math or physics to become a professor. This project has clarified a big question mark in my professional goals and future plans as I was very split between going to graduate school and going into the industry. I am very grateful that STEP gave me the opportunity and the funding to work on this extremely worthwhile project.

 

Biofilm Conference in Washington D.C.

Niki Grotewold’s Reflection:

 

For my STEP project I went to a research conference in Washington D.C. hosted by the American Society for Microbiology called the 8th Biofilm Conference. This was a five day conference where over 60 professors from around the world gave talks on biofilms and after the talks we were able to socialize and get to know about each other’s research. It also entailed me presenting a poster on one of the days and various graduate students, post-graduate students, and professors would ask me questions and give recommendations on how to proceed with my research.

 

Months ago, I was hesitant to embark on the journey to presenting at such a large conference due to the prestige of the people that would be there and the overwhelming amount of high-level science that would be involved in the everyday schedule. After much consideration I realized that I was ready to prepare a project that would be worthy of presenting at such an event. I spent a lot of time doing research in the lab to advance my research project and finalizing the poster so that it would look professional and be understood easily. I had much help from my two post-graduate mentors and from my professor.

Attending the conference taught me a lot about science and about wanting to pursue a PhD when I grow up. The constant discussions at the conference about various research projects going on throughout the world that all connect with each other to add information to databases that doctors can use to help cure patients gave the institution of research much meaning for me. I think that this experience helped to finalize my decision about pursuing a PhD and about doing research for the rest of my life. Being the first person to discover something significant and then relaying it to other scientists that are researching topics related that are then able to make discoveries off yours was seen at the conference in so many ways.

 

At the conference the day would start at 8 am and talks would be given for two hours until there was a 20 minute coffee break and then talks would be given another two hours until lunch. At these breaks, professors and students from across the world were able to mix at tables and talk to each other about their research. This had a major impact on my view of the field which has the rumor of being anti-social but in all reality is filled with interactions and collaborations that fuel scientific discovery. Talks would then resume until 4pm where we would then go to see poster boards of specific research projects. Being able to interact with researchers 1 on 1 about their project and their thinking of how to test certain parts of it to achieve a result were very rewarding. I felt like my brain was stimulated throughout the conference and that it was an irreplaceable experience in terms of learning what it’s like to be in the science research field. I greatly look forward to repeating this experience at other conferences.

STEP Reflection Prompts

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research
1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
As we’re all aware, breather cleaner air and drinking clean water are categorized as
undeniable human rights. The aim of Dr. Hendrik Verweij’s is to produce a cheap and energy
efficient inorganic membranes to accomplish such a task. The principal advantage of these
membranes is that they operate isothermally and can approach reversible entropy limits.
My job was to aid in the fabrication and testing of these membranes as well as other
geometries such as a tube, opposed to a disc.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world
changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
During my project, I truly understood the notion of engineering, finding a problem and
building or solving a solution. During coursework it is easy to put your head down and just
do what is required; however, during my time working on this project I was finally able to
understand why. When I was younger I always viewed people that wanted to improve
something important as somehow more than human. As one would expect, it was people
just like myself working towards a better solution. I also learned that graduate school is not
a path I would like to pursue. I enjoyed the interpersonal relationships that were built;
however, I’d much prefer a larger scale.
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?
When I first began my time at the lab, I worked with a graduate student named Yi. I was
nervous that someone much more experienced than me would view me as more of a pawn
than a partner. However, after working with him all summer, it turns out we have very
similar interests. I was even able to give him insight towards solutions where I had more
experience than him.
During the beginning of my project, our group was primarily working with flat, disc-shaped
membranes and using a furnace and other equipment to match. One day, towards the end
of my project, our research partner downtown sent us a membrane in the form of a
cylindrical tube. We had no way to test this membrane and had to build our own furnace. It
started off with the frame and then we drilled in holes for water-cooling. The point I’m
trying to make is that building this tube furnace from the ground up helped reiterate the
why as mentioned in #2. It was my first time having a problem and literally building a
solution with my own hands instead of doing theoretical work on a computer.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
Completing this project gives me motivation to complete my degree. I physically
experienced an end goal. However, I do not really plan on attending graduate school, but
the notion is still the same. I feel more comfortable entering the field knowing that
everyone started off clueless like myself and was seamlessly integrated. I was also able to
get experience communicating and reporting information to superiors, which is
undoubtedly useful for the future.

STEP Reflection

Name: Bekka Mayle

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to work under Dr. Dan Strunk in his Depression Research Lab. The goal of our research is to understand how different types of socratic questioning in therapy can help clients depressive symptoms. The main activities that I were involved in included coding recorded therapy session between therapists and their clients, attending lab meetings, and working with other coders to understand how we could work on our interrater reliability. While I had individual responsibilities, the group aspect of the project was very important as well.

I was able to learn so much about myself and the world from this project. As previously mentioned, I watched recorded therapy sessions from clients who suffer from depression. One of the first things that I noticed myself thinking during this time was how brave these clients were, allowing their extremely private therapy sessions be viewed for the greater understanding of psychology. I had assumed previously, especially from personal experience, that people diagnosed with depression tended to be weaker than others. However, this experience has made me really appreciate and understand the courage that people with depression can have, as therapy is a very intimate setting. I do not know if I would have the courage to do the same as these clients, which is very moving. These clients often come to my mind now, and truly have a large impact on my own life.

I also held previous beliefs that therapy was all the same, no matter where you looked. However, being able to experience therapy that was different than what I had experienced in the past not only taught me a lot about the process of rehabilitation of depression patients, it taught me that I may need to put more research into my own beliefs before I consider my beliefs as truth.

While I typically do not have face-to-face interaction with the subjects that I am studying, I do feel that we have an interaction that has contributed to the above changes that I have made. I am very privileged to be able to be a part of the extremely intimate process of therapy as I said previously, and the ‘interactions’ that I have with these clients stick with me in a very meaningful way. There are some clients that I observe that I can relate to because of their stories, or understand where they are coming from due to a family member or friend going through something similar. I think this really gave me a lot of perspective on situations that I may not have ever dealt with personally, but I am able to now empathize with due to truly understanding the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that are involved with their unique experiences.

Another way that my perspective was greatly impacted was in my observations of the therapists behavior. A large part of the research is understanding how the therapist’s interactions with the clients can have an effect on the depressive symptoms experienced by the client. As a psychology student that is interested in graduate school, and with the potential interest in becoming a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, I learned a lot about what the job entails. I learned that empathy, active listening, and questioning with intention are some of the most important characteristics to what I deemed to be a successful session. I hope to be able to take some of these qualities forward in my own work in the future.

While there were a lot of things that I learned in my lab from the clients and the therapists, there were also some lessons that I learned just from participating in research at all. For instance, I learned a lot about time management. When I have the responsibility of being in the lab for six hours a week, along with coordinating meeting times, along with classes and other extracurriculars, it can be quite difficult to manage all of these things. I learned a lot of discipline and prioritizing. One example of this is that the lab is only open during regular business hours, so while I may have wanted to spend the time from 8am-5pm in the library or in classes, I had to work with my schedule to be able to allot the proper amount of time to each activity that I needed to complete. I also learned that there are a lot of different roles in the research process. Every lab that I had worked in previously was a wet-lab; everyone would be wearing goggles and lab coats using chemicals and pipettes to complete their work. However, my job was very different than this considering it was psychology research. I was coding behaviors, which is possibly more difficult due to the amount of detail that had to be conveyed in my coding reports. Overall, this taught me to really appreciate the process of research and understand how much work has gone into everything that I have ever learned not only in a psychology class, but all sciences.

One of the greatest significances of this project to me is the empathy that it taught me. While I considered myself to be a pretty empathetic person previously, I think that I learned a lot about what it means to be there for someone when you can’t possibly understand what they are going through. I used to struggle with what to say when a friend came to me with an experience that I had not been through personally. I used to think that I needed to have the perfect advice or say the perfect thing that would fix the problem for them. I know now that many people just need a friend to listen, try their best to understand what they are going through, and be there for them. Whether I decide to attend graduate school for psychology, or enter the medical field, I believe that empathy is something that I can apply universally.

    This experience also taught me a lot of personal responsibility which will be extremely valuable in my future. Confidentiality is possibly one of the most important responsibilities that I have, as I have previously mentioned that observing an individual’s private therapy sessions is extremely intrusive and I have to protect this information. Since I will be working with patients in the future, understanding HIPAA and valuing the importance of confidentiality is crucial in keeping their trust.
Overall, I think I have learned so many things from this experience and I wouldn’t be the same person without it. I think this experience was invaluable and after my project ended, I decided to continue research in my lab due to the overwhelming benefits of being a part of it.

\ Photo of the Psychology Building