Summer STEP Project Reflection

The original intent of my STEP Signature Project was to aid in the research of graduate students in Dr. Katelyn-Reilly lab’s. Due to the lab being part of the Biomedical Engineering department this project was supposed to help my both hone my lab skills and expose me to a different type of engineering. A variable I did not account for was also getting an internship during this time, which I did just as last school year ended. I will go into more depth on how I dealt/ balanced this with my project later on.

 

The largest understanding of mine that changed during this project was my assumptions of the structure of lab work and balancing two completely different jobs. An example for the lab structure was when initially coming into the lab  I expected that I would have gotten a small project to work on from one of the graduate students immediately. What I have come to know with this lab, and most likely everywhere else, is that I must be vocal about what I want to do or who I want to help. I needed to go up to graduates and tell them what I wanted to do under their research because they were unsure of what general lab project I wanted to work on.

 

Balancing an internship (at Chemical Abstract Service) with lab work was a big challenge to me. I had not assumed any outside factors may affect the plan I had laid out already and it was hard for me to properly adjust this project with my internship. I had to adjust my work schedule multiple times to increase the hours I spent at the lab while also still putting in enough hours at work to make a supporting paycheck. However, I think the lesson I took away from this issue will be a great help in the future. I have never needed to split my time between two equally important things until now. Because of this, I believe I can better identify and rank tasks/ goals that need to be completed.

 

As an example to the previous two paragraphs, I remember the troubles of trying to advertise to the graduate students that I was available to help them in their projects. I initially thought that they would remember me telling them before the end of the school year that I was going to be around the lab during the summer and that I was willing to help anyone who needed it. One of the graduates actually seemed eager to want my help. However, when the time rolled around, it seemed that none of them remembered I was there. I had tried to contact them through buckeyemail to advertise I was available and still, there was little to no reply. This issue finally wore on me to the point where I began coming in, walking straight to the graduate office and physically asking any graduate if they needed help. Eventually, this worked and I began to receive work from the graduates in the lab.

 

Another instance of my change came with one of the individual meetings I had with Dr. Katelyn Swindle-Reilly. At that time, sometime around June/July, I had taking in a small amount of work from the graduate students but not as much as I had hoped. As I was talking with her, I realized that the hours I assumed would work with the graduates was not as good as I thought. The lab hours were segmented into small 1-2 hour days which I cam to realize was not enough to take on any larger projects. After talking with her I decided to lower my work hours and restructure my schedule so that I had larger blocks of lab time. Reflecting back on this, it was my inexperience with both summer lab settings and balancing two jobs that led me to this issue.

 

I think these changes are significant to me because as I see it, my college career is only going to get busier. I’m beginning to take more demanding and specialized class but I am also still trying to finish my GE courses.  I can’t solely focus on one or two classes anyone like my first two college years or else my performance in another class will slip. I am also still continuing both my lab work and internship into Junior year so my workload will be at the highest its ever been. Without this summer’s experience I would have been completely blindsided by the mountain of work that I am getting now.

 

I believe my issues with trying to advertise my availability and willingness to help to the lab graduates has prepared me for workplace settings. I feel more comfortable going up to others to ask for help or get my name out there. A skill like this is very helpful to workplace settings or things like the engineering career fair.

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