Undergraduate Research: Heat Stress Effect on Schizocosa ocreata Reproduction

Emma Lykins

This past summer I conducted an independent research study here at the Ohio State University under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Roberts. I studied the heat stress effects on reproduction in Schizocosa ocreata in the Museum of Biological Diversity. Over four months a raised the spiders to maturity, bred them, conducted experimental heat stress tests, and recorded the outcome of the offspring.

Through my experiences during the undergraduate research funded by STEP I know I have deep passion to continue research in my future career. Although I do not necessarily want to conduct research with spiders, I will use my knowledge from my experience in my future dental research. This project transformed how I viewed the scientific process and the mental dedication it takes to follow through an entire research experiment. I’ve gained a self-appreciation for all of the hard work and time I dedicated to a project. Even though the results were not what I had expected, I conducted and followed through an entire live-animal experiment by myself. Knowledge is power, every skill and piece of knowledge I gained from this experiment will be useful in my future endeavors. STEP provided a change in not only my mentality but it transformed me into a more knowledgeable and passionate student at the Ohio State University.

My relationship with Dr. Roberts and his graduate student Salvatore Sidoti really opened my eyes to the possibilities research can bring about. They are both super passionate about research, mainly arachnid, and helped guide me through my own project. They invited me to present my project at future research conventions to network even more. It was amazing to have a support system throughout my STEP project. They taught me how to preform many statistical tests on my data and how to analyze the results. I found this to be super valuable because I use stats in almost all of my Biology major courses. I appreciate everything they have done for me and I hope all their hard work and passion can be translated into the research I conduct someday as a dentist.

As for the experimental process, I endured many obstacles that showed me that research isn’t always picture perfect. Since we worked with live animals, I faced many challenges with spider deaths and parasites among my experimental group. This can be transferred into clinical research because I may not always obtain the result I want. It was also difficult because my research relied on the breeding of spiders and this summer we had a very difficult time getting the spiders to copulate. I really love research but the problems I encountered demonstrated how tedious lab work can become. I believe that this lab only furthered my dedication and passion for research. I gained respect for the many other people who endure these struggles in their own research.

Through my research with arachnids, I gained many valuable skills and traits. I had to learn to become tedious, the breeding process required a lot of data to be collected in such a little amount of time. I also learned that results cannot always be seen by the naked eye. I had to analyze all of my data as a whole, I could not directly tell whether my data had any significance until I found correlations when preforming statistical analyses. I had several professional meetings with Dr. Roberts to update him on the progress of my project. I also held the responsibility of having 24 hour access to his laboratory. This project taught me to think and create as individual. I no longer needed to rely on other partners, I had a full laboratory to myself in order to coordinate this project.

The transformation that STEP provided me will be carried through my future career as a dental professional. Someday I hope to be working on clinical research that focusses on the genetics behind congenitally missing teeth. Although spiders may not be directly related to dentistry, the process that I used to study the spiders can be translated into my future research as a dentist. All of the skills I learned will help guide me in developing yet another independent research study. My networking skills gained through Dr. Roberts and his partners will enable me to connect more openly with other dental professionals. I’m very happy I got the opportunity to partake in STEP because it has truly expanded my horizon for future research opportunities.

Below are two photos of the species we worked with this summer! The photo on the left shows a female with her offspring growing on her back. The photo on the right demonstrates how we mated the spiders.

STEP Reflection

I spent the bulk of this summer doing research with a professor in the Department of Psychology, Dr. Laurence Coutellier. Her lab studies the way that chronic mild stress lends itself to behavioral and molecular changes in mice. My specific role for much of the summer was slicing mouse brains, performing genotyping, and performing behavioral tests on mice.

This summer, I learned the importance of taking responsibility for my own schedule and time management. I was also forced to learn the skills required quickly and efficiently. Working with my graduate student (my direct supervisor), I also learned the importance of communication skills and the proper way to ask for help when I needed it. Working in my undergraduate research position taught me how to be an efficient and independent member of a team.

Working in my research, I spent much of my time alone. As a result, no one told me when I needed to do things or how to budget my time. I was given things that I was responsible for over the week, and then I found time to do them. I was forced to work around my schedule with taking summer classes as well as having another part time job. Balancing all these with my own personal life meant learning when to prioritize school work or studying, when to prioritize working in the lab, and when to prioritize spending time for myself. While time management may not seem like a transformational thing to have learned at this point in my life, I had never been forced to exist so independently before, and so having responsibilities that I had to manage on my own changed the way that I work as a student.

Starting new in the lab, I also had to learn many new skills in a relatively short time frame. I was performing tasks that I had never been taught before, and doing things that were important for other people’s research, so if I made mistakes, it wasn’t okay. That pressure encouraged me to make sure that if I didn’t feel confident in my own skills, I would ask someone who could verify my abilities. After doing so several times and not having made mistakes, I learned to feel confident in my instincts and not to be overly scared about doing things wrong. This confidence will, in the future, make me a more independent worker.

The skills I learned this summer will help me to fit into a new team more quickly. In learning to manage my own time appropriately, I will be able to make myself a schedule to stick to, and therefore to perform as much work as needs to be performed in the adequate time frame. I also will be able to better trust myself as a new employee (as well as know when to ask for help when I need it), which will better allow me to work independent of supervision. Altogether, having learned these skills will better prepare me in the future for being able to work in a new place more efficiently and independently, two incredibly important skills of employees today.

Below are two images of brains that I sliced over the summer. The first shows the slices as well (each is 50 microns thick).

Tyler Young, Undergraduate Research

For my STEP signature project, I helped to conduct research in a Human Nutrition/Exercise Physiology lab. As an undergraduate research assistant I had the privilege to be mentored by one of the leading experts in the world in the field of nutritional ketosis. While learning about the research process in general I also learned many other useful skills as well including; how to draw research participant’s blood, taking participant’s blood pressure, how to process blood for future analysis, run assays on blood to look at specific blood markers, measure urine for hydration, reading blood glucose and ketone values, testing physical and cognitive changes. I also cooked the food that the participants ate in our controlled feeding studies. I learned how we utilized magnetic resonance imaging in our studies in order to monitor visceral heart fat and even was given the opportunity to learn how an MRI is done. Our lab also utilized a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) machine that allows us to see body fat distribution and bone mineral density. I learned the process of applying for grants to fund research, how to write and present abstracts/posters at forums and conferences, how to interact with populations affected by obesity, diabetes, insulin sensitivity, and chronic diseases.

Furthermore, I conducted research in the field of Human Nutrition which connects directly with my plans on becoming an Endocrinologist. I hope to one day become an Endocrinologist and help those with diabetes and other hormonal issues. The field of Nutrition is crucial to the treatment of patients suffering from these kinds of diseases. Therefore, by conducting research in this field I recieved first-hand experience in the area I wish to pursue in medicine. Through this research experience I have gained a better understanding of what it would mean to be a physician and how I would go about explaining research to a lay audience such as my own patients. This is exactly what I will be doing at the Denman undergraduate Research Forum in the spring for the reporting back process of the STEP project when I present my research poster.

As a future physician being able to conduct, interpret, and explain research to my patients will be a crucial part of my career. Learning about the research process, conducting the research, and then presenting on it as an undergraduate has been a great transformational experience for me that has helped to propel me along on my career aspirations.

My understanding of the research process as a whole changed by experiencing how research is actually conducted and presented, which is something I always wanted to do. The people I meet in the research lab are like minded individuals who have already achieved much in the areas I hope to have a career in one day. I learned from them and slowly built my knowledge base when it comes to research.

This project has been valuable to my life because without the STEP program I may not have been able to afford rent for staying on campus over summer to conduct this research. Learning about the research process is something I will have to do at some point in my career and the STEP program facilitated this significantly.

 

 

STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection

Jaimee Chen

Undergraduate Research

 

My STEP experience took place during the summer of 2018 doing undergraduate research at the Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. I assisted undergraduate research assistants in Dr. Albert de la Chappelle’s Thyroid Cancer Research Lab. I began this journey during the school year, and was able to continue building on what I have learned throughout the summer because of STEP. The main activities consisted of perfecting basic lab bench work, as well as getting the freedom to design my own experiment and controls.

During my summer at OSUCCC, I learned a lot about myself and how to be independent and rely on my abilities in a lab, while also respecting my supervisors and peers. At first, working in a research lab intimidated me because everyone around me was much older with years of experience under their belts, while I was still learning the basics. I assumed that it would take me a long time to catch up and be able to decide how I would want to run my experiments and tests. However, the graduate assistants were extremely helpful and made sure I had the proper training from the beginning, so that later down the road my experiments would run smoother. It made me gain a sense of confidence that I did not have before, and encouraged me to think out of the box and try new procedures. I also did not shy away from asking my peers for help when I needed it, because I realized that even a simple error would result in redoing an entire experiment which would waste the facility’s time and money. This was a new pressure that I was not used to, but I realized that I would need to adjust to this pressure because I will face that in my future career.

I have always viewed myself as an independent person to a certain extent; however, working in the research lab around professionals heightened this trait of mine. Each person in the thyroid cancer lab has their own responsibility, so it was my responsibility to decide what I wanted to accomplish that day, and how I would accomplish it. The weekly meetings where the entire lab would discuss their findings and update the peers held me accountable and encouraged me to maintain a weekly agenda. I recorded all of my research and data in a lab notebook, which must stay in the lab at all times, and referenced this to keep my peers up to date on my progress.

I also learned how to keep a record of the products I was using in the research lab, and make sure that I had enough supplies. If not, I would have to order them myself. This financial responsibility made me more aware of the products and chemicals I was using, and how to conserve materials by making sure I don’t make simple errors that would result in restarting my procedure. When I first started working in this lab, I did not have to worry about these financial responsibilities because my supervisor would order things for me. As I gained more experience in the lab this summer, I was able to see how costly these experiments can be, which makes you value what you are doing.

Overall, my experience working in this research lab over the summer was positive. I was able to design what I wanted to do, and knowing that my supervisors trusted me was an uplifting feeling. However, when I truly reflect on this experience, I believe that I would not feel fulfilled if I had to do this for the rest of my life as a career. I thought I had always wanted to be in a lab, but getting this experience was what I needed to realize that I would like to explore other career options for my future.

This transformation has served as a valuable lesson in my life by giving me insight on what I truly want to do with my academic and professional career. Although I learned endless information that I would not have been able to experience elsewhere, and my peers and advisors were nothing but helpful, I realized I would like to pursue a different path in my future. Realizing that I may not want to work in a research lab in the future has been the most significant realization in my undergraduate career so far, because it was something that I always had my heart set on. However, I would like to get more involved with my biological engineering degree, and pursue an opportunity in research and development in an industry. This transformation has encouraged me to attend the OSU 2018 Engineering Expo, where I networked with several accomplished engineering companies to express my interest in an internship. Because of the opportunities STEP has given me in helping me realize I want to go down a different career path, I now have interviews for several engineering companies for an internship for the summer of 2019.

STEP Project Reflection

Henry Wu

STEP Project Reflection Research/Internship

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.

I worked at Free the Slaves, an international NGO, as a research intern for my STEP Signature Project. Free the Slaves focuses on the issue of human trafficking through direct interventions in countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. The primary objective of my project was to support FTS’s global anti-trafficking operations and conduct research of existing anti-trafficking efforts. I worked with operations and research professionals at FTS. In this role, I conducted data analysis using social science research techniques to identify patterns and prevalence rates for human trafficking.

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.

My understanding of human trafficking changed dramatically. Specifically, I was unaware of the extent to which human trafficking exists as well as what we don’t know about human trafficking. From children forced into the fishing industry in Ghana to women trafficked into commercial sex in Bangladesh, human trafficking occurs in almost every region of the world. In each country, there are different forms of human trafficking including forced labor, sex trafficking, forced begging, forced marriage, debt bondage and domestic servitude. This was something I was not aware of previously, and has shaped my view of the world.

Most importantly, I found the need for governmental institutions and strengthening the rule of law to be crucial for protecting human rights. In completing my STEP Signature Project, I identified potential interventions to reduce the prevalence of slavery. Often, the key factor was strengthening local rule of law, which may include training police officers, educating citizens about their rights, and assisting law enforcement with the prosecution of traffickers. This has influenced my own career goals as well and fits with my goal of attending law school.

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.

In researching human trafficking, I created comprehensive country reports and utilized data analytics to visualize the problem. Social science research involves reading, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing. However, one of the key activities that led to the transformative changes in #2 was visualizing and presenting my research. Specifically, I was able to create data visualizations and infographics that allowed one to easily comprehend the research that was being conducted. In one particular example, I looked into the relationship between counterfeit goods production and human trafficking. By visualizing the problem, I was able to obtain a comprehensive understanding of what was going on.

This project was intellectually challenging in many ways. First, I applied what I have learned in my courses to creating reports and presentable documents. I engaged in accurate research that has the potential of affecting the lives of individuals who are trafficked. Additionally, this has challenged me to get accustomed to the culture of FTS and take on difficult and new tasks. This was especially intellectual challenging because the scope of this project will be greater than anything I have done for class.

Finally, I was challenged by networking with nonprofit leaders as well as legal advocates in the anti-trafficking field. One example of an event I was able to attend was a Congressional Panel on Trafficking and Mental Health. In this event, I was able to hear from doctors, healthcare providers, trafficking survivors, and other individuals working on anti-trafficking issues.

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.

My goals are two-fold. In the short term, I would like to learn more about human trafficking and other human rights issues. I will build upon the knowledge I gain over this summer to effectively write an interdisciplinary senior thesis in philosophy and political science. Second, my long-term goal is to have a career in human rights law. This change has clarified my specific interests in human rights and the law. Through professional networking as well as the research that I did, I was able to more clearly define my future career plans.

Terry Kaiser Summer Research

Step Project Reflection: Internship/Research

This summer my STEP project was with Radiology Partners which is a 24/7 365 radiology practice based out of El Segundo California.  For the practice I worked with the clinical research team on an IVC filter retrieval best practice recommendation.  This project was very eye opening for my experiences at hospitals around the US.  Through the practice and STEP I was able to travel to Orlando, Tampa, New Orleans, Maryland, and Las Vegas.  At each of these different locations I was able to see how hospitals differed and as well as how doctors practiced at each of these places.  This helped me better understand what I want to do in the future as well as what I want to continue studying.  The individuals I met made a very large impact in my life because they showed me what type of person I want to be and how I want to impact others lives.  One thing that transformed me was giving my final presentation in front of the clinical team.  At first, I was so intimidated because I was surrounded by 40 doctors, researchers, and chief medical officers.  Slowly through my presentation I realized that they were all there to hear me speak so I was able to calm down a bit and after several of these individuals approached me to speak to me about my future.  They told me that they were very impressed with my research as well as what I am doing at Ohio State, this transformed me because at first I had always been a bit timid about my research and involvement but now that these important individuals were impressed I felt proud.

The first event that led to this transformation was my first convention in New Orleans.  Here I met some of my coworkers on the business team where we attended the Rural Hospital Association Conference.  While here I helped work at the booth where I spoke on what research I would be starting over the course of the summer.  This was my first transformational experience because I was the youngest individual at the convention and many other health care employees came up to me to speak to me about my involvement at the practice.  I was taken aback by the interest that others showed in my research at the practice.

The second transformational experience occurred in my first conference call with the board members of the clinical team.  The first thing that occurred in the call was the CEO introduced me and asked me to talk about myself to over 30 other doctors and influencers in the practice.  This was a great experience because everyone was so welcoming and excited to have me join the team.  To me this was very transformational because I was able to see how I want to treat others when I have an important position.  They immediately treated me as part of the team and everyone was very excited that I was going to take part in the research.

One of the other very influential moments that I had was when I attended the Fellows Summit in Las Vegas.  Here all soon to graduate fellows were able to listen to a speech from the CEO and founder of the practice and the he made sure to mention the research that I was starting over the summer.  This was very transformational for me because it demonstrated how important what I am doing really is.  It showed me that I am having an impact in the practice and in the lives of patients down the road.  This was so inspirational to me because I did not think what I was doing was that important as a student.  To me this was influential because I want to have an impact like this in someone’s life later on once I have the means to.

As I have stated throughout this essay the reason this was so inspirational to me and so significant was because I aspire to be able to influence kids like this someday.  To me it was amazing seeing the joy it brought in the CEO’s eyes when he spoke about how a student was researching this groundbreaking study.  I want to be able to give back to others when I have the means to make an influence in someone’s life just as they did for me.  When my project for the summer finished th ey asked me to come back next summer to continue my research in phase two.

Ezgi Ulger STEP Project

My STEP project revolved around growing professionally and academically. This was done by upholding a voluntary research position in the summer and partaking in a three-day backpacking trip led through the Ohio State Adventure Center.
I grew a lot from my experiences of researching and backpacking. My research position consisted of a lot of recruitment. I was able to practice my marketing skills and the important skill of being rejected. Every time I approached another individual, I was stepping outside of my comfort zone. Another way that I stepped outside of my comfort zone was during the backpacking trip. I had never gone backpacking before. Through this experience I practiced “leaving no trace” on the trail, and I gained a deeper understanding of what it means to take care of the Earth. I learned that I love the outdoors and adventuring. This trip was a reminder of how I want to live: always spreading my horizons.
Some of the interactions during my time recruiting that helped transform me were my interactions with my partner. Her and I would go to COSI and recruit families. I accepted my research position very anxiously knowing that I struggled with recruitment. By watching her approach families with so much ease, I was able to gain a better perspective on the potential of being rejected. She helped me view recruitment as a feasible skill.
Another event that changed my mindset on the outdoors was on day 2 of my backpacking trip. On this day, it down poured. This caused the entire trail to be immensely muddy and wet. There were puddles inside of our shoes and our feet remained soggy for the rest of the trip. This however was my favorite part of the trip. I loved being dirty. When I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry and my clothes clean, I was able to fully embrace how soaked I was in nature. I told myself that I couldn’t get any muddier than I was, and this enabled me to be fulfilled by my conditions. Overall, this specific instance taught me that I can find comfort in discomfort by fully embracing a situation for what it is.
The backpacking trip also reminded me of how I want to live. One of my trip leaders was a middle-aged man who had a big role at the OAC. He had such a big heart and offered so much positivity. I was inspired by how he presented himself. He was an experienced backpacker, but he stayed in the back of the line and hung out with the people towards the end of the line. He always made funny comments about how his feet were so dry as he was putting on wet socks and shoes. He in an embodiment of someone who doesn’t settle with life. I admire how he prioritizes adventuring and doing what he loves.
These changes have been very important for my life because they have made me realize that I never want to stop growing as a person. I want to continue striving to better myself and what I can offer to other people. Most importantly, I don’t want to let anything stop me from living. College has been academically very challenging for me, but these experiences have made me realize that embracing every moment cannot be placed to the side until school ends. I created a bucket list for this semester in order to motivate me to continue expanding my horizons during this stressful year.

STEP Undergraduate Research Reflection

Matt Jajowka

Summer Research STEP Project 2018

 

During the summer of 2018, STEP provided me funds with which I was able to complete a summer research project in the biochemistry lab of Dr. Venkat Gopalan. This project was aimed at gaining experience in a laboratory setting to further my knowledge on research as well as exploring this as a possible career option. The responsibilities that I maintained during this project were developing and overseeing experiments that were essential to my graduate students work.

This summer was the first time in which I decided to spend the summer away from home. I rented my own apartment and learned how to live independently with no one overseeing my health or telling me what to do. I believe this was the biggest learning moment that I experienced throughout my entire summer research project. Whilst living alone, you also learn that you are to only rely on yourself and that how successful you are is completely dependent on your goals. This has led to a major change in attitude that I adopted in this school year as I can now much more efficiently plan my time.

The lessons that I gained from working in the laboratory are very similar to those that I related to living alone. You are completely dependent on your own motivation to work, and the effort that you put into something is represented in the product that you produce. I was forced out of my comfort zone in the laboratory setting since it was something that I had not experienced before. During this summer research, I had to report on my work every two weeks in the form of a presentation to the whole lab group. My presentation skills and confidence while presenting increased a great amount because of this and I was able to witness a great transformation in my abilities. Another responsibility of mine was to present my work to Dr. Gopalan every week in the form of a document summary. This was something that I was able to experience get better as I could compare it to my previous weekly reports.

Since I was not well versed in biochemistry laboratory techniques, I was working very closely with a graduate student, Blake. He was my mentor during this summer and taught me introduced me to the laboratory setting. The greatest impact that this relationship had on me was improving my ability to communicate my ideas to others. Since he had already gone through undergrad and had been performing graduate work for a few years, he was a great mentor to me in how future career could plan out if I followed this path. This ability to communicate ideas was also enhanced in the form of reporting every week. By being able to use Blake’s suggestions and his helpful critique, my abilities increased greatly.

Dr. Venkat Gopalan was a very important mentor during this research project in multiple ways. He treated me as an important member of the group and not as an undergraduate who is there to only do busy work. With this expectation set so high, it forced me to work even harder to understand the material and attain a respectable level of knowledge on the subject. The idea, and realization, that you nothing is owed to you in this world and that your effort and dedication to getting better is the major defining trait of an individual. This led to me giving my best attempt at working hard in the laboratory every day, and has also had a positive influence on my work attitude towards school and other aspects of life.

The environment of the laboratory was very inducive to the sharing of ideas and learning amongst each other. This experience led to my understanding of the importance of this in the scientific community and in life as general. The flow of ideas between people is very relevant to the world today and has led to a greater understanding of this for me. In conjunction with this transformation, the growing ability to convey my ideas have worked together to allow me to become a better scientist and person.

All the ideas and transformations that have taken place in my life within the past summer have contributed greatly to my future career path. After this experience, I have determined that I enjoy the process of research and find it to be very fulfilling. With my hopes to attend medical school in mind, I would love to continue research on a topic in a medical field in my future. These lessons that I have experienced are not solely confined to working in a laboratory and are instead applicable to life in general. The quality of work that you perform is directly related to the desire that you have for the subject in every aspect of life. This is the most important lesson that I learned while working in the laboratory and is something that I think will have a very positive impact on my life and future career.

 

For my step signature project I took place in undergraduate research. During my project I was responsible for analyzing data collected in the lab. I also performed behavioral testing on the animals, and assisted in tissue collections.

While performing my STEP signature project I developed a greater understanding of the depth and processes that occur behind the scenes of large research project and developed an appreciation for the countless hours that go into completing a research project. Before I began my STEP signature project I did not appreciate the immense amount of man hours and funding that are required to produce the scholarly research that takes place at Ohio State. After spending three months volunteering in a research lab I have developed a great appreciation for the dedication of the graduate and undergraduate students who perform much of the research, as well as the principle investigators who construct the grants and proposals. Additionally this experience has helped me to determine that a future working in a research laboratory is not something that I am interested in pursuing, although I enjoy my time in the lab, I do not see myself working in that field as a career.

My interactions with other members of the laboratory were an important factor in deciding that I did not desire a future working in a laboratory setting. Speaking with members of the laboratory who had been there for many semesters I developed a greater understanding of the true scope of laboratory work and the schedule that typically follows. The work life balance of the graduate students who work in the lab is nearly non existent. Additionally the graduate students often have erratic and non-predictable schedules resulting in shifting schedules to late nights or other changes to schedules. This inability to balance work and research responsibilities is not a path I would like to continue after receiving my bachelor’s degree

Additionally the work I performed during my STEP project helped to lead me to the decision that I did not want to continue performing research after finishing my undergraduate degree. Most of the work performed in the laboratory was repetitive, and boring. Laboratory work consists mostly of inputting data into spread sheets and various data analysis programs. Even work such as performing behavior tasks, and handling the animals is incredibly monotonous and became boring after a few weeks of performing it. Overall I found the work I performed in the laboratory to be incredibly tedious and mundane, which did not at all live up to my idea of laboratory work and turned me off from the idea of performing research in the future.

My interactions with my principle investigator while performing undergraduate research helped me to develop a greater appreciation for what it truly means to conduct research at a university such as Ohio State. Before my STEP signature project I did not know what conducting research as a principle investigator meant. My discussions with my principle investigator during my STEP project helped me develop a greater understanding of what tasks the principle investigator performs. Primarily conducting research into past publications to find source material for referencing in their own grant proposals, as well as presenting their findings at research forums, symposiums and presentations. Once again the reality of working as a principle investigator turned out to be way different from my assumptions about the career and in learning more about them I discovered that a future working as a principle investigator is not something that interests me.

My discovery that I do not want to perform research in the future is an important distinction that helps to clarify my path following my undergraduate education. Before my STEP project I was unsure if I wanted to pursue a secondary education in a graduate program or a medical program. After the completion of my STEP signature project it is clear to me that I would be much happier and ,I believe, more successful in pursuing a secondary education in a medical program. This experience has made me much more secure in my hopes for the future and as a result when the time comes that I am making the transition to medical school I will be much more confident in the decision that I made.

STEP Reflection: Undergraduate Research as DAAD Rise Scholar

My name is Lauren Ballard, I am a third year Biochemistry major at Ohio State, and my STEP signature project was focused on my position as an undergraduate research assistant in an organic chemical lab in Dresden, Germany.  The team focused primarily on radiopharmaceutical research in attempts to synthesize a new chelator that could encapsulate cationic radium in use for alpha radiation therapy as a form of cancer treatment.  Day to day responsibilities on my end consisted of running reactions, determining purities of intermediate products, reading up on new findings and scientific papers, and several other miscellaneous tasks.  The majority of my research team were PhD students, Masters students, and professional chemists who had an intense organic chemistry background.

 

In completing my STEP project, I had several global realizations and occupational discoveries that rerouted my track at Ohio State.  Previously, I had been thinking about becoming a doctor by obtaining my MD/PhD.  Although the research I did this summer was extremely fascinating, I realized that being in a laboratory setting for extensive hours was not particularly something that I enjoyed.  I recently talked with my academic and pre-professional advisor, and am on track to take the GRE next fall instead of the MCAT to pursue other post-baccalaureate opportunities, although that is still variable to change.  However, the realm of possibilities for my personal future more than likely does not involve extensive research in a lab setting.  With that being said, I also gained a new appreciation for my major and the work that research scientists do.  Their patience is a profound characteristic that I greatly admire.  Having completed this project overseas, I did have an entire spectra of global realizations as well.  I gained a new appreciation for a variety of European cultures, foods, and festivities.  I also have a burning desire to learn several languages and to become an avid world traveler someday in order to fully communicate and blend into any culture I decide to assimilate into for a brief period of time.  I really gained a new appreciation for the life that I lead as well, and no longer take as many of my blessings for granted.

 

With the day to day tasks, and the consistent language barrier, I grew extremely exhausted.  Through this constant separation of me from the rest of the German people in Dresden, I learned the value of persistence.  After realizing that lab work wasn’t likely in my future, I had to persist through the entirety of my time there, working as hard as I could to help the team I was apart of.  My brain had to be turned on constantly, using as much German (which is not much, I can assure you) as I knew outside work to blend into the normalcy of the society I was slowly integrating myself into.  I also had to use the knowledge that I had gained at Ohio State during work in the lab in really applying what I knew to draw conclusions from NMR readings and visual observations.  This consistent state of being alert kept me on my toes and became extremely wearing after 6 weeks.  I had to keep pushing through and realizing the amazing opportunities I had been apart of and still had yet to take part in.  There was a constant battle between missing what I knew in America and appreciating what was in front of me in Europe.  I also learned to appreciate more of what I had and understand the incredibility of the life I led for that 11 weeks.

 

These changes are so significant to my life because it guided not only my career path to something that will hopefully be more suitable for me, but it also changed my mentality and ways of thinking about everything that I encounter in my daily life.  I appreciate my family more, my major, the people that are multi-lingual, those that are patient enough to help when there is a communication barrier, and most importantly, I learned to appreciate the backgrounds of all individuals.  Until you personally indulge yourself fully into another society or way of living, there is no way to entirely understand personal backgrounds of others until you have truly lived it.  Not to say that I understand every single background in the world, but I definitely have broadened my horizons in beginning to understand differences in societies and human characteristics.