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


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