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.

STEP Project: Undergraduate Research

Name: James Enouen
Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

My STEP project was doing undergraduate research in mathematics with a group of peers over the summer of 2018. This included enriching my personal knowledge by attending weekly talks and seminars about different topics in mathematics. The majority of my summer was spent in a small group with three other peers, researching a mathematical object called Stanley’s symmetric chromatic polynomial.

This research experience gave me a deeper look into how math research works which I wouldn’t say is the most obvious. At one point in human time we didn’t know about the quadratic equation or Euler’s identity but ultimately some mathematician discovered these facts. This process is still ongoing today but obviously people are reaching deeper and deeper into their respective field. As my life goes on, I am starting to realize more and more that I would love to be on that list. I would love to make a meaningful discovery that gets used by humanity decade after decade. Math is one of the basic sciences which fuels the fire of the whole array of sciences which is why I believe it is so fundamental and so important. This research group helped me also the value of math for its own sake and strengthen my belief in research in general.

I am currently a computer science and engineering major as well as a mathematics major. This experience reinforced the idea that my computer science knowledge would help me study mathematics. I was able to code software which would generate the symmetric chromatic polynomial for trees with up to 10 vertices which would be a ridiculously tedious calculation on hundreds of trees. This gave us a lot more data to work with when analyzing the open problem called the tree conjecture on Richard Stanley’s symmetric chromatic polynomial. Although the problem remains unsolved, we feel we made steps in the right direction towards understanding how Stanley’s polynomial is able to distinguish trees. I am very pleased that I was able to put both of my majors together into one project and make so much progress.

Over the summer, we learned about knot theory and developing knot invariants; this is a strategy of how to research knots in mathematics. Then we took a look at graph theory and some theorems about them and how this would influence our study of Stanley’s polynomial which is a polynomial defined on a graph. We then studied a lot of the interplay between these two topics and some other related results. In addition to these seminars which occurred multiple times every week, we also had weekly meetings with our adviser. Here we would have a personal conversation about what we had studied on the polynomial over the past week. We were ultimately able to accomplish our adviser’s goal of developing a B_n symmetric type version of the A_n symmetric chromatic polynomial. In a certain sense we changed from only using positive colors for the chromaticity of our polynomial to using both positive and negative colors on our polynomial. After we accomplished this goal, we further generalized slightly in the same direction by putting an arbitrary group on the edges of a finite graph in what is called a voltage graph or a gain graph. We did not push this idea too far because it didn’t seem particularly fruitful.

After this, we studied some of the deeper results which had been discovered on Richard Stanley’s symmetric chromatic polynomial and after we understood these results, we were able to come up with the parallel results for our signed polynomial we had constructed. This was notably prolific because the more we understood both Stanley and our polynomial, the easier it was for us to understand a result about the chromatic polynomial, and the easier it was for us to make the generalization into the signed polynomial. Once we felt we had covered a sufficient array of results about our newly created signed chromatic polynomial, we moved on to some other material surrounding Stanley’s symmetric chromatic polynomial. Most notably, we studied the conjecture that given a two different trees which are not the same, their symmetric chromatic polynomial will also not be the same. At the end of the summer, we applied for and attended a youth conference at the Ohio State University where we presented our findings to a group of peers.

It felt very rewarding to discover something entirely new, even if it really wasn’t of the greatest importance to the majority of math. Just going through the process of discovery was interesting enough on its own. This process helped me further realize that what I enjoy even more than designing a product for a particular person is discovering a result for the entirety of humanity. This has inspired me to focus even more on academia because I think that even outside of just math I would like to study for a large proportion of my life. This experience makes me feel the desire to do research in computer science as well. I want to study the machine learning and computer vision on the forefront of the wave of technology for the future. I want to be right in the thick of developing new techniques and new algorithms to let artificial intelligence pave its way through our society. Ultimately, I see so much value in learning new things that humanity is yet to discover and I am itching with excitement as I move through my undergraduate career to find the opportunities to study in this way. Inside of class, outside of class, inside of industry, outside of industry, there are so many ways to participate in this kind of research. I hope that as I go into my junior and senior years of my undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University I am able to find these chances in both computer science and math to further my education and to develop fields which are yet to be fully fleshed out. My future plans have been altered to align with this aspiration to have a meaningful contribution to the world. I strongly feel I can best help the planet through research in both mathematics and computer science, so this is not only what I yearn to do, but what I need to do.

STEP Reflection: The Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research

Dahlia Najjar

Undergraduate Research

This summer I worked as a student research assistant for the Stress and Health Lab in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research in Columbus, Ohio. Within my lab, there are four current studies: two involving breast cancer patients and two involving the impact of relationships on one’s health. My job entailed performing tasks for each study and working as an experimenter for the in-person full day visits our subjects would attend in the Clinical Research Center. I also became cross-trained for a graduate student’s and a full-time research assistant’s position so that I was able to cover their jobs while they vacationed throughout the summer. My jobs entailed working the visits, completing desk tasks for my PI, Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser; creating the lab schedule for visits; transcribing participant sessions; uploading data; verifying data; processing participant payment forms; recruitment; and more.

I surprised myself and gained a significant amount of personal confidence from this STEP signature project. I was scheduled to work almost every day of the week at 7:00am and took on a lot of responsibility in the lab on top of juggling classes at Ohio State and working weekends at a pharmacy in Cleveland. I was trained to take on so many new roles in an extremely short amount of time, but I was so motivated that I was able to keep up with it all. I pushed myself to new limits and as a result learned more about myself and my potential. By the end of my sophomore year I had doubts about continuing my pre-med track, but this summer really encouraged me to move forward with my ambitions.

My assumptions regarding research also changed. My exposure to clinical research really opened my eyes to not only the impact it can have in changing people’s quality of life, but to patients/subjects’ immense willingness to give back to others as the experiments they participated in were quite tiring, long, and somewhat invasive. It was refreshing to be able to see what clinical research entailed and meet all the professionals involved. My interactions with these professionals, such as doctors, directors, nurses, graduate students, etc. led to great conversations. I learned a lot about different career paths and various topics of interest within medicine. This led me to focus on my specific interests in medicine, research, and science. When people used to ask me what kind of doctor I want to be, I simply would respond, “I just want to get to medical school first and then I will decide.” Though ultimately this is true, now I recognize that I truly do have specific interests and questions that I want to ask scientifically. My passion for neurology has basically been cemented, and still I’m determining what subtopics/sub-specialties I want to explore and learn more about all that I can do.

Because of this experience, I’ve also begun to think about continuing in research before and possibly after medical school. During visits, when subjects would ask me about my interest in research and my future in it, I hadn’t considered the answer before. Now, I want to continue within research for a year or more before attending medical school upon my undergraduate graduation from Ohio State. One of the graduate students I covered for over the summer spoke to me about her plans to complete her master’s degree in Psychology before attending medical school and how her experience within this lab really helped her decide what areas of medicine she wanted to make an impact in and explore in her future medical career. All my conversations and experiences within the lab really pushed me to think about where I want to go in my career and all the knowledge I want to gain.

This summer research position was the most responsibility I have ever taken on. Not only was I in charge of completing a lot of integral tasks within the lab each week, I had to present myself in a new professional way consistently. I also was forced to make lifestyle changes and transform into an accountable, independent, disciplined, somewhat functional adult, as this was my first time living on my own. I learned to budget my funds and save money because I was completely dependent on my own finances and pay. I was forced to go to bed early, which was something I haven’t been able to do since I was in grade school. I also had to develop and stick to an efficient daily routine.  There were so many aspects of independent living that I encountered but had not been prepared for or knew how to handle, but I learned. I made mistakes, but took responsibility for them and adjusted. It was even hard emotionally to handle the new and different stress I came across all on my own, but I did it. I’m actually really proud of myself and I have a newfound confidence that I will be able to handle the stress of my future profession.

These personal transformations are most valuable to me. Yet every aspect of my summer experience here in Columbus was meaningful, the good and the sometimes hard. I feel I have grown so much as a student and human being. I’ve gained significant confidence and motivation regarding my future career, and I also have a lot to think about in terms of continuing research in the lab following my graduation and what paths of medicine I want to explore.

 

STEP Reflection

Lauren Peltier

Undergraduate Research

 

  1. My STEP Signature Project involved undergraduate research in a Dr. Anita K. Hopper’s lab in the department of Molecular Genetics at The Ohio State University for the summer of 2018. I began training in the lab with my mentor in May and developed my own personal project over the course of the summer involving the accumulation of tRNA introns under stress conditions.
  2. My understanding of myself and the scientific community as a whole changed dramatically through the completion of my STEP Signature Project. When my collegiate education began, I was sure that I never wanted to do undergraduate research or work in a laboratory. It seemed both overwhelming and uninteresting to me. This summer, I learned exactly how wrong I was in making these assumptions. I discovered that undergraduate research is the complete opposite. I found the work I was doing in the lab to be intellectually stimulating and exciting. In addition, I came to appreciate the extensive amount of work that goes into scientific discoveries. I was fascinated when I was able to tie material learned from my classes into the lab techniques and protocols I was using.
  3. The relationships that I developed over the course of the completion of my STEP Signature Project were extremely transformative. I was able to build strong mentorships with the other members of my lab and my P.I. as well as develop friendships with them. They are people who I now see on a daily basis when I go into the lab. I am able to have intriguing conversations with them about all sorts of topics, not just science. I can go to them for help in the realm of the laboratory as well as with any questions I have regarding my classes or even career and professional advice. They have shown interest in teaching me about the prior discoveries made by our lab and any material related to these discoveries. They have also shown patience and compassion when I have made mistakes or struggled to understand something. All of these things have helped me feel welcome and comfortable in the lab, which has ultimately led me to think and explore for myself. I am able to contribute intellectually and I feel as though my ideas truly matter, despite the fact that my level of education is not the same as the graduate students or the post-doctoral fellows. In addition to the relationships I have developed, I have also had a few specific events contribute to my transformative experience. My specific project in the lab has been quite successful and my P.I. has taken a great interest in it. She previously asked me to present a poster of my research at the Rustbelt RNA Conference this coming October. Just recently, she suggested that I even apply to give an oral presentation of my research at this conference. These events have made me feel as though the work I am doing in the lab is worthwhile and significant.In addition, my P.I. asked me to sit on a student panel for one of the classes she teaches and discuss my research experiences. This student panel took place a week ago, and as the students in the class asked me questions, I realized just how impactful my undergraduate research has been. I found myself strongly encouraging these students to get involved in research because I wish I had done so sooner.
  1. My transformation that occurred because of my STEP Signature Project has been truly impactful in my current motivation to succeed in school, as well as in my career aspirations. I have also wanted to go to medical school and become as physician. My research has allowed me to have interactions with professions within the scientific community and get a true understanding of what it is like to solve problems. Although undergraduate research and medicine are extremely different, I was able to relate my experiences in the lab to things I might one day experience as a doctor. My ability to see these connections have given me a newfound motivation to succeed in my remaining undergraduate years and get into medical school. I think the most important thing I have learned from STEP is how important my career aspirations are to myself.

Saurabh Pancholi STEP Research Project

My STEP signature project involved an in depth analysis of cancer research here at The Ohio State University. I investigated the methylation of different human tissues and related it to Uveal Melanoma metastasis.

While completing this project, I learned a number of things. It mostly transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to develop a strong sense of how cancer is spread in the body. Moreover, this project explained to me why cancer is developed in the first place. These are all very valuable things to know, since cancer is one of the most leading causes of death in the world.

There were quite a few key aspects that lead to my transformation during the completion of this project. However, the two key aspects that lead to this most professional development were the people I interacted with during my project as well as the science behind the project.

My Principal Investigator, graduate/post-graduate researchers, and the undergraduates truly made a big difference during the project. Obviously, undergoing a scientific research project can be difficult, but having a solid team under your belt to guide your ambitions and explain difficult concepts was very helpful. It not only leads to learning more for myself, but I also was able to acquire a strong commodore amongst my lab.

Finally, the science I learned this summer in cancer genomics was extremely worthwhile. I learned about how Uveal Melanoma affects people through different types of tumors. Also, I learned how to effectively use Microsoft excel and work with large sequences of data. And finally, I was able to work independently which made me a better thinker and scientist in general.

This transformation is significant to my life because it was able to teach me a number of things. As a molecular genetics major, it was able to teach me in depth topics that would not be covered in my core classes. Furthermore, it taught me life skills of independence, critical thinking, and strong analyzation skills that will help aid me in any job I choose to pursue in the future. And finally, this project allowed me to develop strong connections with people in a variety of industries that will also aid in professional development.

STEP Project Reflection: Acute HIV Research in Lilongwe, Malawi

This summer, I spent ten weeks in Malawi, a small country in southeast Africa, completing my STEP Signature Project. In Malawi, I worked on an epidemiological study through the University of North Carolina’s Project Malawi. The study, called iKnow, focused on acute HIV sexual partner and social contact referral with goals to determine the most effective ways to identify, test, and treat the HIV-infected population of Malawi and other regions like it. Through these efforts, the study works to advance Malawi towards the UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 initiative, a treatment target by which 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

I served as the project intern for this study with main responsibilities of managing and cleaning study datasets, completing needs assessments to determine sustainable ways to improve study efficiency, facilitating team training sessions to implement these efficiency initiatives, and updating study protocol documents. I spent a large amount of time shadowing nurses, gynecologists, pediatric nephrologists and pediatric cardiologists allowing me to compare standards of care in Malawi to those in the United States. I also spent a large amount of time shadowing various epidemiologists to observe study development, implementation science, and other research methods in practice.

This summer was my first time out of North America. I was hesitant for my first experience abroad to be such a long trip to a third-world country. At times I thought about pursuing an informal vacation abroad before an academic experience abroad. Despite any formal orientation to the type of environment and culture I would soon become immersed in, I successfully completed this experience. This showed me that I can challenge myself and thrive in conditions foreign to me.

This experience furthered my ability to relate to people of different backgrounds. An example of this occurred within my first few weeks in Malawi. I was under the impression that being placed in an established intern position would mean that my help would be immediately accepted in the clinic. However, I found that I had to prove myself as a person, friend, and co-worker before gaining the clinic staff’s trust. As I gained their trust and friendships I also gained responsibilities.

Photo: Me and the iKnow study staff at the clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi

In addition to the clinic staff, I made lasting connections with visiting accomplished researchers and physicians, and graduate students in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and public health. I was able to learn about their interests and career paths and apply their experiences to my life. I am still in contact with some of these students, researchers, and physicians – both American and Malawian – who have become mentors and friends to me.

Before participating in this experience, I was fairly certain that I wanted to pursue medical school after graduation but was unsure how much research I wanted to incorporate into my studies and career. After completing this experience, I have additional confidence in a career in medicine and infectious disease epidemiology. I have determined that I really enjoy the research process and I am now considering working towards an MD-PhD in Epidemiology. Having an MD-PhD will give me medical and research methods skills that would allow me to lead projects, similar to the one I worked on this summer, that focus on infectious disease epidemiology both locally and in developing countries.

Despite hesitations, fears, and culture-shock, this experience was the best way I could have used my STEP funds, as it transformed me personally and professionally. It transformed how I view the people, governments, infrastructure, and medical systems in the United States and third-world countries like Malawi. It transformed my educational path to one, that while much longer, will be that much more fulfilling.

STEP Project Reflection

Reflecting on my time as an intern at The Ohio Department of Health

Kiran Phuloria

Being a Health Sciences major and Biology minor, I was interested in combining my scientific and healthcare knowledge to immerse myself more into the workings of the medical and healthcare fields. I wanted to experience, first-hand, how doctors, nurses, administration, epidemiologists, and many more professionals work together to provide the absolute best patient care and treatment. Pursuing an internship at Ohio Department of Health helped me learn just that, along with many more life and professional lessons. I was an intern in the Bureau of Infectious Diseases, program that investigates and analyzes information on the incidence and prevalence of general infectious diseases, health events, vaccines, and more. I worked mainly with infectious diseases such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. My role was the call patients diagnosed with these specific diseases and ask them questions about clinical information, food history, animal exposures, and travel and activities, in an effort to gain more information about where outbreaks may happen or if there are links between cases. Talking to the patients allowed for more investigation from an epidemiological standpoint and also allowed me the chance to work with epidemiologists closely to find causes of diseases.

Throughout the summer, my understanding of myself, my assumptions, and my view of the world all changed into a more comprehensive, appreciative view. Before the internship, I had never worked in a professional setting, moreover a healthcare setting; my previous experiences included retail jobs and volunteering at hospitals. My outlook on myself changed through recognizing more specific goals for my future. I learned how important it was for me to interact directly with patients and to receive and give timely responses to emails/other tasks. As for my assumptions, I used to be oblivious about the inner workings of how different healthcare professionals work together, assuming there was medium to little interaction. However, I learned, through various events over the three months, how incredibly close hospitals, private practices, retirement homes, health departments, infection prevention, and many more work together. Finally, my view of the world became more positive and realistic. I don’t think individuals realize adulthood and career until they truly immerse themselves in the environment and I saw how individuals truly carry their passions from college into the workplace, aiming to provide better health outcomes, all while balancing their own personal and financial situations. I aim to carry my passions from college along with realistic life lessons, all the challenges and joy that comes along with adulthood.

Finding my appreciation for direct patient interaction and timely responses came from every interactions I had at work. Talking to the patients and asking them questions on symptoms/health history opened my eyes to how much compassion and understanding is required in the healthcare field, which I never truly understood until actual patient interaction. Listening to their comments and concerns, and answering to them, was more rewarding to me than any basic question that was part of protocol.

Next, I learned about how close hospitals, health departments, and other health institutions work with each other through a specific event in our department, Bureau of Infectious Diseases. Our epidemiologists were working on an investigation regarding a romaine lettuce outbreak and asked the interns to talk to specific patients, with strains of interest, to see if they had any romaine lettuce, or where they are from, and matters of that sort. While calling these patients, I also cross referenced test results and information with nurses. Often times, nurses would redirect me to a laboratory or an infection prevention department. Other times, I would be referred to primary physicians or long term care facilities. This process made me realize how many institutions are tied together on the health concerns of a single patient, and how communication between these places is important is best helping the patient. Gaining information or confirming information from all these sources gave me, and ultimately, our epidemiologists more answers for the investigation.

Lastly, I was able to develop a more positive and realistic view of the world through the relationship I developed with my immediate supervisor. During my job training, she clearly provided me with objectives and normal job expectations, like uploading data, talking to patients, faxing, filing, etc. However, she also provided me with great advice on how to succeed at the internship, which was not necessarily written in any official objectives. She shared stories of her background and how she came into public health. She also talked about her love for her pets, how she enjoys camping with her family, and her day to day life outside of work. Through these conversations, I learned how it is possible to have amazing passion in your career and have a joyful life outside too! In college, sometimes, there is a pessimistic attitude that people do not enjoy their jobs in the future or actually have a life outside of work. However, through my actual hands on experience, I realized how this is not true and with personal effort and growth, anything is possible.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have interned at the Ohio Department of Health. This transformation, as a student and aspiring healthcare professional, was valuable for my life for many reasons. Being a Health Sciences, on the pre-medical track, I was always intrigued to get more information and insight to how day to day interactions and tasks would be; this is not something students get to experience in the classroom. It was also significant to see how knowledge from the classroom, specifically from general biology to healthcare management classes, were able to apply at work. The experience relates to my future personal and professional goals as it reaffirmed and grew my passion for the healthcare field and showed me how I am on a promising path to do what I love as a career, as long as I work hard to follow objectives, build interpersonal relationships, and bring my strengths to anything in life.

Presenting at a statewide meeting

STEP Signature Project: Undergraduate research on melanoma and its cooperation with UV light

My name is Emma Crawford and my STEP Signature project was completing a research project studying melanoma and its relationship to different types of UV. For this project I used a mouse model designed by my lab to study the effects of UVA and UVB light as well as the efficacy of certain sunscreens in blocking these types of UV. Through this process I completed a lot of animal work as well as analysis of the UV signatures found in the tumor DNA.

This summer has helped me grow a lot and really learn how to problem solve. I have become invested in my project and I am very excited for the next steps to come. I feel as though I have become a lot more independent and I finally have my own individual project. I am certain that this project has helped me develop as a leader and a student. I believe that this project has given me the opportunity to apply my knowledge of the biological science from my classes to real life applications. I also think that it has prepared me very well for my future career in the biological sciences by giving me a practical view of the field.

It has been difficult to maintain my confidence when experiments fail, especially when there are repeated failures, but I don’t stay discourage for long. With help from my mentors and peers in the lab I have been able to work through and around my problems to find solutions. This is the perspective that has changed most for me because of this project. Before I used to be so sensitive to failure, but in research you have failures everyday. This is part of the process and it only helps you problem solve and become better. It also makes your successes that much more rewarding. I am very glad that I had this experience and I am very excited to see the outcome of my project in the future.

My biggest influences during this summer were the graduate students and my peers in the lab. They all helped me prepare for my transition to becoming more independent and were supportive the whole way. The graduate student who I worked directly under, Becky, was especially helpful. She brought me out of my shell and taught me many of the valuable skills that I now use every day for my project. Because I would eventually be inheriting her project when she graduated at the end of the summer, Becky and I spent a lot of time together discussing the projects and their future directions. Through this process she helped me to not be embarrassed by what I didn’t know or what experiments didn’t work and it was very transformational.

My peers were also especially supportive. My fellow undergraduates in the lab were my support system. We were constantly bouncing ideas off one another to help us understand our results. When things didn’t work out we would brainstorm and problem solve. They were truly a great resource and taught me a lot about collaboration.

Finally, my mentor, Dr. Burd, taught me a lot about independence and ambition this summer. From her I learned that I am capable of completing this project and that I need to have more confidence in my own abilities. She changed my view of myself through her own belief in me and has made me a more confidant and competitive student.

I believe that this summer really has changed the trajectory of my life and has established an amazing ground work for my future. I see my future in a clinical setting in the health field. Because of my project researching cancer, I hope to go into oncology and I believe that my background in this research will be invaluable. I will also carry the confidence and independence that I have gained, with me into my future career. I think that this experience has made me a better person and student. From this project I have been able to improve myself and I will be able to draw form my experiences this summer for the rest of my life.

This is a link to my personal OSU blog page where I have posted my “journal entries” for the summer about my research, and this is a link to the final draft of my poster for my presentations at the STEP expo and the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum

 

STEP Undergraduate Research Project: The Effects of Mentoring on Student Researchers

My Step Signature Project entailed the completion of a research project during the Summer of 2018. This was an engineering education research project that focused on determining the effects of mentoring on student researchers. Through the analysis of data and qualitative observation, conclusions were drawn to answer the research question.

Something that was transformed while completing my Step Signature Project was my self-esteem. For the longest time, I did not believe that I was capable of completing something, such as a research project, all on my own. Throughout my research project, my PI guided me through the steps of completing my own project. As an undergraduate researcher, I extracted a subset of data from a larger project and formulated my own research question. I further analyzed the data and assessed it in an online coding platform called dedoose. Based on these assumptions I drew various conclusions about what I had found.  Most of the work was done personally, by me,  and I would report back to my professor for feedback. Her positive feedback and crucial criticism made me feel as if i was making progress in my project. After the completion of the STEP project, it showed me that I have the capability to do anything that I set my mind to do. No matter how hard the challenge may be, I have the capability to accomplish many things. I am grateful that I got to complete this project because it taught me a lot of things about myself that I did not know of before.

During the STEP signature project, my research professor was a big factor in the transformation that occurred. Doing a research project, on my own, was a challenging task to take on. Never had I ever done a full research project or overseen the planning, preparation, execution, and conclusion of this type of task. It was hard to know where to even begin. I would personally work on the project week to week and bring all my completed tasks for the week to my professor. My professor would then take the time to oversee all of the things that I have done, and she made an effort to steer me in the right direction. Even if I completed something wrong, or interpreted something in a wrong way, my professor would be there for me to pick up the pieces and help me realize all of the positive things that I was doing during my research project.

My advising professor for the undergraduate research project was very hands on and truly helpful. Without her help on the project, I do not think it could have been completed. She guided me through the basis of creating a project and the steps that I would need to take to complete the research. This helped boost my self-esteem because I knew that someone would always be supporting me and helping me throughout the way. For example, there was a time that I was stuck in my research project, in terms of not knowing what next step to take. I had collected data from interviews, and did not know how to pull together the data to form conclusions. My research professor found  sample papers for me that explained what other individuals would say about their personal experiences with deciphering data. This ultimately steered me in the right direction and made me feel as if the work I was doing was actually headed somewhere.

During my research project, I also had the ability to share my ideas to a team of undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students. This group of individuals helped me immensely. They gave me critical feedback, tips, and support on my research project. Their previous knowledge helped me formulate what I needed to get done for my research to be successful. I would have a meeting with this gorup of individuals every other week. The meeting would be open to questions or any sort of topic related to research,  would be discussed. This help lead me to have the confidence I needed to complete the project.

This transformation is significant or valuable for my life because it is very easy to be hard on yourself and believe that you are not good enough to do what you want to accomplish. With the support of others, you can gain the confidence to pursue your dreams. This confidence will translate to other aspects of my personal and academic life. In the future, I will have the perseverance to go after the things I want and will not hesitate to take on challenging tasks, whether that is personally or educationally.

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STEP Undergraduate Research with The Buckeye Center for Hearing and Development

For my STEP signature project, I worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Buckeye Center for Hearing and Development. This is a part time position that took place over the summer in 2018. I worked at the Buckeye Center for six to nine hours every week, evaluating the speech perception of cochlear implant patients.

During this project I gained a decent amount of insight on what I want to do with my life. Working with cochlear implant patients helped me understand and realize that I want to help create and improve medical equipment. Seeing the frustrations that the inadequate technology brought upon the patients made me want to fix the problem at hand.

Due to this new found interest in my life, I have decided to pursue a biomedical engineering minor. This minor will allow me to help people who are disabled, have an easier life. This project has helped me gain the understanding of what career path I want to follow in my future.

During my STEP project I got the chance to attend various events and create multiple relationships. I created relationships with an audiologist, Kara Vasil, and otolaryngologist, Dr. Aaron Moberly. These relationships have allowed me to make great connections with The Ohio State Wexner Center that I may possibly need in the future. It is very possible that these connections could help me pursue a career at the Buckeye Center for Hearing and Development in the coming years.

The most interesting event that I was fortunate enough to be a part of during this project was observing a cochlear implant surgery. The surgery was performed by Dr. Aaron Moberly, the head of our research team. He was performing surgery on one of our research participants. This was my first time observing a surgery and therefore had a large impact on me.

These relationships and events have directly affected my career interests, as stated earlier. Observing a surgery and learning about the technology used in the surgery furthered my interest in biomedical engineering applications. Specifically, I would love to improve the efficiency of cochlear implants so that people who use them could have an easier life.

This transformation was very valuable because it gave me the opportunity to have hands on experience with something that I could be a part of later on in my life. Without this experience, I would not know how interested I am in the medical field.  In the future, I hope to participate in work that is very similar to what I did as a Research Assistant at the Buckeye Center for Hearing and Development.