My Summer Participating in Undergraduate Research

For my Step Signature Project I participated in an Undergraduate Research project under the guidance of Dr. Alvaro Garcia Guerra. My project looked at an allele in cattle that causes multiple ovulation in cattle. I spent most of the summer staining the slides and then looking at them under the microscope to analyze the size of follicles in cattle with and without the allele. I also had the opportunity to travel to farms to help my advisor gather data for his own research projects.

 

During my STEP signature project I learned a lot about myself. My project allowed me to take a large leadership role and to plan something on my own. I needed to write the proposal and set the schedule for the project. This gave me an opportunity to work very independently and learn how to keep myself on task. Being able to motivate myself when I had no specific deadlines was difficult, but it was also rewarding to see my project begin to come to fruition. This was transformational for me because it showed me that I could work on my own, without a rigorous structure, like during classes.

 

One of the things that helped facilitate the transformation discussed in #2 was my relationship with my research advisor, Dr. Garcia Guerra. His initial involvement helped me figure out my project and he taught me a lot about my topic. His guidance gave me the confidence to take on my project and work independently. He also allowed me to help with some of his projects which gave me the opportunity to work with beef cattle, an animal species I had little experience with.

A second relationship that helped lead to the transformation discussed in question two, was with a histology technician at the College of Veterinary Medicine Histology Lab. She helped to teach me how to stain and place cover slips on the slides needed for my project. She was very helpful throughout as a resource for any questions I had. Instead of doing it herself, she allowed me to learn how to do it on my own. This gave me the ability to be independent during my project.

Towards the end of the summer, I started to finish the first part of my project. This event motivated me to keep working. I also was able to get an idea about what the results of my research project would be. Seeing this potential result also helped motivate me to finish my project because I wanted to figure out if my hypothesis was correct.

 

This change is transformational for me because it taught me a valuable lesson about work ethic. The further I get in my academic career, many of my classes will have less structure and I will be forced to set my own goals and schedules. This will also be very true in my professional life. I hope to one day own my own veterinary practice. If I am to own my practice, I would be in charge of deciding when and how everting gets done, and I would be solely responsible. It would be very important for me to be able to set schedules for myself and to have the self-discipline to stick to them.

My Summer with IcemcQC

Name: Victoria Niu

Type: Undergraduate Research

For this summer, I joined Dr.Amy Connolly’s research group studying the ultra high-energy neutrinos in Antarctica. My work for the group is to design IcemcQC, a quality and control for supercomputer simulation, and improve it to better generate simulation result for ANITA group to study.

In my STEP proposal, the name of the project I wrote is AraSimQC, simulation for ARA. However, at the beginning of my professor asked me to focus on another group, IcemcQC, simulation for ANITA. The projects are basically the same, though based on different clusters and used for different detectors in Antarctica. Simulation is a common method physicists use to study the measurement. ANITA is a giant flying detector in Antarctica detecting the ultra high-energy neutrinos which is very rare to see on Earth. Due to the scarcity and big cost, simulation for ANITA is a very important way for scienctifst to find the neutrinos, which is called Icemc project. And my job, IcemcQC, is to write a program so that supercomputer will automatically run the simulation, analysis the data, and generate mathatical plots for ANITA group to study so that they can better improve their dector and simulation.

I was mainly engaged in writing codes this summer. The whole IcemcQC program is made of computer codes written in C++ and Unix. It was not finished by previous QC group and I had to debug and rewrite every parts of the program. I built the new shell environment, finished the plots script, wrote a new IcemcQC plotter, and debugged the rest parts of IcemcQC with the help of two graduate students, Brian Clark and Keith McBride. Now IcemcQC can complete its task thoroughly.

My viewpoint of physics study has changed after IcemcQC project. I am physics major student and I am planning to go to graduate school and become a physicist in the future. But the career of physicists are not as simply as I thought. Times of Enisten when scientists only used pencil and paper has past. Nowadays, it is inevitable to use computers and large-data base in science researches. To be a physicist, you need to be well trained with computer programming skill, good sense of teamwork, and good command of large-data management, which sounds like a computer would do. I have to think whether I enjoy such working or not if I am going to be a physicist. Through the summer project, it seems that I get used to it and accumlated lots of useful skills for programming. Such experience and learning will be greatly helpful in the future career of physics.

Such understanding of physic career first brust out when I was joking with my friend. I was writing a bunch of C++ code for plot script, while my friend asked me what I was doing for my research. I said, “At first, I thought it was something about neutrinos, but I am only writing code every day. Maybe my professor should find someone who is computer science major.” Truly, at the beginning, my professor asked me to build the cluster, which is coding. Then we turned to plot script, C++ coding. After plot script, it was IcemcQC program coding and Unix coding. And the group we were working with, Icemc, is also coding only. It seems that only ANITA is the actual job that is related to physics, while ANITA is also built by computer programs that physics engineers wrote.

I had no ideas about ROOT and Unix before I started the summer project. Even if I have taken one class in C++, none of it really applies outside the class. I have to learn how to write a specific programming and update myself with current supercomputer knowledge. During the project,  I increasingly realized that what I was engaging in would be the life routine of a physicist in the future. I talked with my professor about the confusion I have—what does a physicist do in his job? Do physicists really do calculation and think about physics problems everyday? If not, will I enjoy the new working environment of physics career? The answer from my professor was simply and clear—As physicists, we don’t do physics everyday. Sciencitists nowadays spend most of their time on building mathematic models and then write computer program based on it.

My understanding of a physics career completely transformed when I finished my first Unix project, the IcemcQC Plotter. At first, I intended to keep using the old one by debugging it. However, following the inconsistency, the final version of Plotter has nothing similar to the old one. In other words, I rewrote it all by myself while I don’t feel it is very challenging or non-physicist. Physics and programming use the same thinking process and it is very fun to let a supercomputer to finish the repeated job for you. I start to get used to the modern physics study method and are still willing to pursue a path of physics.

The IcemcQC project is very important to me, as a good experience of doing research and also a better understand of career of physicists. It happens all the time that the things you learn from the class or you think about are different from what it actually applies outside the class. It is necessary to understand your career and the work style of the career you want to pursue before you actually pick it for you life. Presentation (Summer Program)-2o1iqj4

Step undergraduate research

Name: Yi Yan

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

  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.

My STEP project is about undergraduate research. In this summer, I work in the department of chemistry as a research assistant in Dr. Terry Miller’s group and conduct theoretical research on spectroscopy.

  1. 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.

This experience changes my assumption of the field of spectroscopy. It expands my understanding of how spectroscopy can be used in different areas and what are some of the frontier directions that scientists are devoting their time in. Also, it prepares my mind for graduate school by letting me experience how does it feel like to work in an academic lab on a daily basis, which is what I want to do after graduating from college.

  1. 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 in completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

One of the most important activity would be the weekly group meeting. At first, it is a bit stressful for me to get used to the pace of a weekly group meeting and talk about my research updates in front of others and getting questions. But it is a great way to actually communicate and get instructions. Also, it can improve your own understanding of what you are doing when you present your works to others.

Moreover, I learned many specific skills. I learned to use several software related to calculating and visualizing spectrum and also how to use models to predict spectrum and fit them with experimental data. In order to run programs faster, I also get to use the supercomputer a little bit. I become used to give presentations and answer unpredicted questions.

Also attending the international symposium on molecular spectroscopy truly expand my understanding of what spectroscopists can do. Scientists from different nations come and give presentations on molecular spectroscopy in different fields and this experience indeed gives me more than I ever expected.

Besides those, interactions with other scientists let me understand the importance of communication and corporation even in the field of science. During this summer, I need to communicate and skype meeting with professors from other universities and using data and models developed by them. And I learned to communicate with them in a respective and efficient way.

  1. 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.

The transformation is valuable for my future academic goal is because I get to have a first-hand experience of what it would be like if I continue to study and do research after getting my bachelor degree. Also, the communication skills and corporation skills can be useful for me both personally and professionally.

STEP Reflection

Cathryn Schoeppner

Undergraduate Research

My project consisted of doing physical and analytical chemistry research in Dr. Heather Allen’s lab from May to August of 2018. I had the opportunity to work on a number of projects, including surface tension studies of acids and salts, RAMAN spectroscopy of ferric salts, and the opportunity to work on the development of a new portable RAMAN device called EYE which works with a software system to produce a quick analysis of a sample.

 

I believe this summer primarily made me a more responsible person. The level of independence I was given in the lab put the pressure on me to take a more active role in my progress as a researcher. I’ve noticed a significant difference in my confidence in the lab from the beginning to the end of the summer. I’ve learned to ask questions when I don’t understand and help others when I do understand. I’ve also ventured into aspects of research that I had never previously considered to be of interest to me.

 

I think I’ve also become a more open person over the summer. In a personal sense, I formed strong friendships with the people in my lab when we had previously been more of acquaintances. I stopped considering myself like an underling in the lab who was afraid of the graduate students and instead started talking to them and asking for help and advice when I needed it. The other undergraduates and I also began hanging out outside of lab, and the entire lab started having weekly volleyball games and going to trivia. I had never expected to be friends with people in their thirties while still in my undergrad, but now I often find myself hanging out in the office just to talk with the grad students.

 

The research I did this summer was very unique, even though I participated in research in the same lab the year before. Last year I had much less experience and was still closely supervised by my graduate student and followed specific instructions on the projects I worked on. This year however, with over a year of research under my belt, I was much more independent in the lab. I often worked with only short instructions such as to collect data on a certain salt. The timeline of my work, the concentrations I used, and fixing problems as they arose was all up to me. I learned to take more responsibility in the lab, signing up for instrument time on my own and working out for myself what the most efficient way to collect the data would be. I wrote my own procedure on the tensiometer in order to produce the most  reproducible results. I was also responsible for processing my data, comparing it to published values, and determining the best method to fix my own. At a time when it was determined that salts were arriving with contamination, I independently tested several cleaning methods and determined their efficiency. I was at first annoyed that I seemed to have more responsibility than the other undergraduates in my lab who were still closely supervised, but I eventually came to appreciate that making decisions and holding responsibility was an essential part of research. I am still reflecting on whether this responsibility is something I am comfortable with, and it will be important for me to consider this as I decide if graduate school is still the path for me.

 

Unlike last summer when I consistently worked on the same project, my project came to a halt midsummer when it was determined a new instrument would be necessary to reach the desired level of precision. With my project paused and my grad student preoccupied with candidacy, I was at a loss for experiments to fill my time. Instead of stagnating, I began working with another grad student, Juan, on his project to build a portable RAMAN device. The goal of this device was to be an efficient quality control tool for the food industry. Although the device was primarily finished by the time I joined the project, I was able to learn about the theory and mechanics behind it. I’ve always considered myself a fan of the natural sciences with very little affinity for electronics and computers. However, Juan showed me how he wrote his own program to analyze his data, and showed me how to build a circuit board by hand. I was shocked by how much sense the circuit board made once I built one myself. I’ve gained a new interest in the technical side of science and have decided I would like to take a coding class as a further introduction.

 

Outside of the lab, the summer was still transformative based on the friendships I developed with the other members of my lab. My roommate and I hosted a dinner for the other undergrads in our lab so that we could get to know each other outside of the lab setting. These social events became regular, and began to expand to the entire lab when we decided to play volleyball one day and a few grad students tagged along. The volleyball became a weekly occurrence that even Dr. Allen began attending. Being friends with the people I work with has made me more excited about research in general and more optimistic about my daily life if I choose to attend grad school.

 

I think the transformations I’ve experienced this summer have given me a more holistic picture of what life in graduate school may be like.  After last summer I worried that grad school would consist of nothing but going to research and going home and nothing else. I now see that the work of a grad student, though it is a lot, is manageable with planning, time management, and dedication. I also understand the importance of taking into account the perspectives of your peers and asking for help. I also see the importance of developing some form of community with the people you work with. I feel now as if I have a strong network of people who want to help me succeed as I continue with my undergraduate career.

STEP Reflection

Name: Grant Stellini

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

For my STEP signature project, I participated in a molecular genetics research lab run by Dr. Susan Cole. My role in the lab was to investigate a specific transmembrane protein known as DLK1, with regards to its role in the Notch signaling pathway. The Notch signaling pathway is a highly conserved pathway that is present in many species and errors in this pathway can lead to diseases related to cell proliferation, such as cancer. More specifically, my work included running many western blots to find protein expression in a cell culture to determine uptake of target transgenes. Over the course of many weeks in the summer, I focused on developing my lab skills, and advancing work towards a potential Honors Thesis.

While participating in the research lab I learned what it is like to work in a research lab, and what it would be like as a future career option. When I started working in the lab, I was only able to work for around ten hours a week because I worked during the school year. This time restraint, along with the fact that I was usually working in the lab between classes, did not allow me to fully commit my time and focus to working in the lab. However, during the summer, my main focus was working in the lab. Focusing on my work in the lab allowed me to solidify the future of my research project, and the future of my time here at Ohio State.

One event that allowed me to nail down a direction on my project was the fact that I was finally successful on a step of an experiment that had taken several months of my time during the school year, and each previous attempt had resulted in failure. During my project, I focused on each step of the way leading up to the step I had previously failed at, and I believe that my methodical approach to solving the problem was something I would not have been able to do during the school year.

An interaction or relationship that enhanced my project was the improved communication with my fellow lab members. When it comes to understanding specific lab protocols and procedures, it helps to talk it through with other members in the lab that have previously carried out the given steps. With the extra time I had to work on my project over the summer, I was able to spend more time visualizing each step of the given procedure, which helped me improve my techniques, along with improve my yields for those procedures.

Lastly, an activity that helped improve my lab efficacy and efficiency was the organization of my lab notebook. I log my daily and weekly activities and goals in my lab notebook, and, similar to the last two improvements I made over the summer, I was able to better organize my lab notebook with the extra time I had to focus on my work. The organization of a lab notebook can make a world of difference- if a given experiment is carried out and things are labeled incorrectly, or the records of that experiment are misplaced, then that entire experiment will most likely need to be repeated, and that can eat up precious lab time.

The changes I described above are valuable to my life because they allow me to figure out and solidify my goals and objectives for an extracurricular activity that would otherwise be another unknown in my daily school year. This is very valuable because I can go into the next couple school years knowing what my plans are in at least one of the areas of my life. At the very least, I will be more efficient during the school year in balancing my classes and extracurricular activities. At most, I will be able to use the skills I have improved and advancements I have made to continue work towards an Honors Thesis.

STEP Reflection Post – Jamey Weyenberg

My name is Jamey Weyenberg and my STEP signature project centered around my position as an IMR Student Lab Assistant in the Semiconductor Epitaxy and Analysis Lab (SEAL) located in DLC 095. Day to day responsibilities involve regularly checking and recording various equipment readings, assisting in lab maintenance, updating the lab website (seal.osu.edu), and general lab assistance. The vast majority of users in the lab are there for research purposes which involves a very high level of knowledge in electrical engineering and material science. As such, every day was a learning experience in high-tech equipment, current research at Ohio State, and research techniques and processes.

Prior to my internship experience this past summer, I was completely sure that I did not want to pursue research and potentially a PhD, and furthermore that I might not have what it takes to achieve such a highly regarded degree. However approximately a month after starting my position, I found myself strongly considering research as a legitimate career possibility. As time went by, I became familiar with the laboratory and felt increasingly comfortable performing the tasks given to me. At the start of the summer, even trivial tasks felt rather difficult as I was terrified to bump into, or press, the wrong thing as everything in the lab was foreign to me. Everything in the lab must be done for a reason and with purpose. All the equipment requires a varying amount of training to use independently, which always involves a plethora of questions. Through learning how to use various sets of equipment, I became more confident in what questions to ask and when to ask them, as well as how to troubleshoot small difficulties. As a result, I now feel far more self-assured in my aptitude to obtain a higher degree after only a few months.

Many aspects of my job this past summer led to my change of heart regarding the research field. One such aspect was the people I worked with; from students to faculty, everyone was so willing to explain their higher-level work in lower-level terms that I could easily grasp. As a result, I was able to gain a strong understanding of the semiconductor research field.

I was fortunate to sit in on a group meeting for Dr. Tyler Grassman’s research group and even participate in learning the basics of the key machines used in SEAL, the Molecular Beam Epitaxy machines, or MBEs. This allowed me to really see firsthand some of the responsibilities that a PhD student has. For example, the students must be trained for several months before using the machines on their own. However, they prepare experiments, assist in running the machines, and perform individual and group analysis of experiments during this time. It was surprising that the students are involved in the research so soon after entering the PhD program.

Additionally, I worked through all the labs for ECE 5037 as the labs take place in the cleanroom and it is the job of the cleanroom supervisor (Mark Brenner) to ensure that all the equipment is functioning properly. Again, this gave me a window into what a course in graduate school is like, as well as how one should conduct his/herself in a laboratory setting. The labs went smoothly until about half way through the process. Something occurred at this point that caused the wafers to have a scorched appearance. Through examination it was determined that either a clean was performed incorrectly and/or a lower purity nitrogen was used for an anneal. Because of the damage, the process had to be repeated from the start. This set back gave me insight into the unforeseen troubles that can arise when working with sensitive materials in research. I felt a great sense of accomplishment once the labs were finished and the previous error avoided. The finished samples played a pivotal role in my viewpoint of my abilities; it gave me confidence in my ability to pursue a higher degree of education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many options available to electrical and computer engineers after a bachelor’s degree such as law, industry, research, master’s degree, PhD, teaching, freelancing, and more. I was overwhelmed with options and unsure of my future prior to this project. I now plan to pursue a higher degree such as a master’s degree or a PhD in the field of electrical and computer engineering. I am currently a third-year student and as such, now is the time to make decisions regarding my future education. This project has given me valuable perspective about the field of electrical engineering, as well as myself. I have achieved my goal for this project and it has given me something new and exciting to strive for.

Alex Shiplett STEP Reflection

STEP Reflection Prompts

 

As you may recall from your STEP signature project proposal, your STEP signature project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you. Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences completing your STEP signature project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.

 

Name: Alex Shiplett

 

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

 

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

My STEP project entailed me researching the effectiveness of botox injections for Cerebral Palsy. I gained access to Nationwide Children’s database and crossed reference many different statistics within this database. My job was to find commonalities between CP patients who received botox injections and increase in quality of life.

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

My understanding of myself was not changed as much as the other categories listed. Before this project, I was certain that I wanted to become a part of the healthcare field after attending medical school. I have worked with people with disabilities for many years now, and this furthered my excitement to become a physician. My assumptions, however, have changed throughout the entirety of this project. I don’t want to say that I assumed that many people could afford the necessary healthcare, but I did not know that the lack of adequate healthcare ran so rampant in the nation, even at a hospital so recognized as Nationwide. Many of the patients that should have had more records did not, and whether that was from poor scheduling or from inability to attend appointments, these children were not able to receive the necessary aide that their disability requires. It was very eye opening to also see that patients that were recommended to receive botox did not receive the injections because of the cost. As botox is relatively new to the medical field when referring to its help with spasticity in cerebral palsy patients, the cost of the injections is a concern for most families that it is recommended for.

  1. 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?

Events that led to the change in my assumptions started with meeting some of the patients that I would be studying through chart review. When I met these children that had cerebral palsy (and sometimes had other disabilities), I quickly realized the difference between the children that have shown progress in their maturation and health and those that have stayed stagnant/ declined. The children with the best in home care were head and shoulders above the children that did not have as attentive parents at their side to help them become stronger. The biggest thing that attentive parents were dependable for was coming to the hospital regularly and being on their children to follow what the physician had recommended. If the child had ankle and foot orthotics that the doctor prescribed the child to wear to help with weak ankles for example, the mother would ensure that their child had those on as often as possible and was able to communicate to the doctor if there was a problem with these devices, if they no longer fit, etc.

The issue with calling parents inattentive is that a majority of parents that have children that need a lot of attention are not able to give them as much attention as they would like. There are many different explanations for parents not being able to give ample time to their children, but the simplest answer is that they do not have enough time. Affording healthcare for their children was a main concern for many families, and in order to provide for their children, it took countless hours for these parents to make ends meet. However, making enough money to pay for these hospital visits and the necessary prescriptions, such as botox, these parents lost time with their own children and helping with their development. In short, a doctors visit is around 1 hour, and even if a patient is there regularly, it is not comparable to the amount of time that the child will spend at home. In home care from parents or others is crucial in the development of these children, but when finances are a concern, it can cause parents to trade quality time with their children so that they can afford the numerous hospital visits.

As mentioned in my “change in assumptions paragraph”, the change that I saw in myself with my understanding of the household finances changed dramatically. As a child, healthcare costs were not something of concern as it was something we always had money saved for. My parents always had sufficient insurance so that when I, for instance, broke my arm, we had the insurance to help cover the hospital bills, the orthopedic visits and other costs associated with a broken arm. Families that I observed, in person and during chart review, did not have this luxury. I want to work with people with disabilities, and this STEP project helped me realize this far and away. However, what I did not plan on changing my mindset on was healthcare. I had never thought in depth about my views on the healthcare debate, but after my experience this summer, I know understand the huge concern that our nation faces with families healthcare policies.

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

This change in my life is significant because it changes my values while I still continue on my dream job as a Pediatrician. I know have a focus in the finance side of healthcare, something that I never truly addressed until this summer. Since this project, I have become a member of UHA: Columbus’s finance committee, a club that I joined last year but was not on the finance side of the inner workings of the organization. I am thankful for this project for the many doors that it opened for me, but especially the light that it shined on the struggles that families have supporting themselves in the healthcare industry.

 

 

STEP Project Reflection

Nathan Meyer
Undergraduate Research

My project was working in Dr. Paul Janssen’s heart research lab over the summer at Ohio State. Throughout the summer I learned about a wide variety of research techniques and became proficient in running several protocols that are integral to the lab’s research projects.
Throughout the duration of my project, my understanding of how actual clinical research is conducted has been completely changed. There is so much dirty work that needs to be done, all these small details that need to be figured out. Most of the time in the lab is spent reading another researcher’s paper’s to better understand and design your own project. Also, the amount of maintenance and cleaning that needs to be done in the lab daily is immense and requires a lot of time. I knew that research wasn’t always running interesting experiments, but I drastically underestimated the amount of time spent doing prep work and other small tasks.
This change in my understanding of how research works happened gradually over the course of the summer. For the first few weeks I was content to just be there and do anything that I could to help the other’s in the lab. I wanted to learn everything I could, ranging from how to dissect a mouse heart to how to clean beakers properly. But I soon learned that research moves at a slow pace. Everything takes time, usually a lot of it.
For example, at the beginning of summer we were learning how to run a new set of experiments involving western blotting. After several weeks of learning how to properly run western blots, I assumed that we would begin the experiments soon thereafter. Not even close. That was in May, and we have just started running our own practice western blots in September. This is due to a variety of factors, including acquiring the necessary chemicals and glassware and other experiments that took precedence over the Western’s. However, it goes to show just how long it can take for any type of experiment to get up and running.
That isn’t to say that there is a lack of things to do in the lab. Glassware always needs cleaned, solutions made, or set-ups need checked. It can get especially hectic when we receive a donor heart, which almost always occurs in the middle of the night or on a holiday. However, I found these hearts to be the most exciting and interesting part of my project. Prepping the heart to be dissected and frozen requires a lot of work, and even more work running experiments with it. But it is worth it as so few people get to work so frequently with live heart tissue, and I always find it fascinating to see the wide variety of shapes and sizes the human heart can be. This serves to illustrate one of the main things I learned over the course of my project. Research is about patience. There are stretches where it feels like nothing is being accomplished at all, and then days where so many things are happening that you become overwhelmed. It is a very interesting rollercoaster.
Having learned so much this summer about the process of research has left me prepared to continue with work in the lab. Without gaining this knowledge, I would have a difficult time even thinking about wanting to start my own research project. I know now how much work I must put in, but I also know that I have the ability to do it, and the resources at my disposal to accomplish most reasonable scientific goals. This will directly help me with my future plans of going to medical school because it requires a lot of resiliency and patience, two virtues that I had to use a lot over the course of my project.

STEP Research

My STEP Signature Project was a research position with Dr. Larry Brown of the Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering Department over the Summer months of 2018. Our project was to plan, design, and install a two-stage system to remove harmful runoff nutrients from entering local waterways through runoff in agricultural areas. I performed jobs throughout the summer such as researching journals, organizing and discarding of old files, creating digital sketches of the structure using software, reaching out to companies to find the proper equipment, assisting grad student to collect data, learning to use field equipment, assist in the setup of the structure and data collection centers, traveling to see the progress of other structures, and potentially planning a new research project.

I was able to meet a variety of people this summer and many different areas of Ohio. Dr. Brown often liked to take the people we visited out to lunch or dinner, and the opportunity to talk to these people in a casual setting was very educational. I met other workers in agriculture, conservation, and research and how they came upon what they wanted to do and what they did to get there. I was also able to interact with a lot of graduate students and talk to them about graduate school as a possible option for my future. I received a lot of information and found that I have a great interest in research, especially the collaboration and planning it takes to make the project happen. I have read so many scientific papers over the years detailing the results of experiments, but I actually got to see what goes into the before stages leading up to obtaining any data. I found it takes much more time and work than I anticipated, as people are continuously thinking of new ideas and deciding on a different measurement here or there. Our structure was far from intricate as seen in this drawing bellow, but the planning it took was years and many revisions in the making. These structures have been implemented throughout the Midwest, and many professors and researchers from many different states have been collaborating on it and improving upon it. My view on research was changed significantly and I came to the conclusion that it is something with no right or wrong answer. One can only draw up the best plan, and hope for the desired results. If not, revisions must be made. That is what I loved so much about it because each day presents a new problem, and brainstorming with those around me and observing Dr. Brown come up with brilliant ideas encouraged me to think outside the box and really start to apply some engineering principles to a real-life situation.

The biggest influence on my experience was working with Dr. Brown. He was always so willing to make each day a learning experience for the other undergraduates and I, and encouraged us to ask questions frequently. I had the opportunity to spend whole days this summer with Dr. Brown traveling to these sites throughout Northwest Ohio and back, typically in the same day. He would drive us and often have conversations with us about what we wanted to pursue in our careers, and was eager to find us the connections we needed for what we thought we would like to do. When I mentioned I may want to go into research to improve water or soil quality, he ecstatic and was genuinely interested in helping me find out more about how I can get involved and even offered for me to do my own research project through him. He has become a great resource and friend to me, who I know I can reach out to in my own department if I need help with anything. He introduced me to so many people and no matter who it was, he was always kind and genuinely interested when catching up with them about their research and personal life. I was also able to observe him in action when brainstorming the plan for the structure. Dr. Brown was the leader of the engineering side of the project, and he knew exactly where each pipe led and how to alleviate something if they ran into a problem. I remember one particular conference call he had us listen in on from another researcher at Purdue University working on the same project in his own state. He was having trouble with getting a fast enough flow of water through his structure, and Dr. Brown immediately had a suggestion and explanation that the other professor had never thought of. They were very grateful for his input, once me and other the undergraduates were able show him how to work Google Hangout, of course. This made me realize how years and practice and being an expert in a field can be so beneficial, and the excitement of being a research engineer and solving new problems every day. I hope to be able to give valuable input when solving problems in a team one day, and maybe even conduct my own research such as this.

My favorite day this summer was the installation of one of the data collection centers in Putnam county, Ohio. We left very early in the morning to be able to work all day and met the farmer in charge of the property. He did not fully understand what we were about to do, so we explained that we were putting in water control structures that managed the speed of the water. These structures are where we are able to take samples of the water using ISCO sampling stations and pressure sensors. All of this technology is run through solar energy that charges a battery, however, all of these devices needed to be set up by hand as this was an original design. These two days of installation is where I learned a lot of about the mechanics behind the structure, and also gained a bunch of new technical skills I had never been exposed to before. Everyone was so willing to help me learn and it was a really positive atmosphere throughout the day even though we were doing hours of manual labor in the hot summer sun. I learned how to use power tools including a power drill and power saw. I also learned how to strip a wire and properly build a wooden structure to hold a solar panel at the right angle to get the maximum amount of sun throughout the day. Seeing the finished project at the end of the day was extremely rewarding, and the data is being collected for analysis this semester. I am still involved on the project and I am excited to see what the results show after a couple months of collection.

Another big influence on my experience was working with the graduate students and USDA workers who were also helping us on our project. They all were also very interested in what I would like to do in the future and really encouraged my passions in the field. I first thought graduate school was mainly for people who wanted to be professors or doctors, but they taught me that anyone can go to graduate school if they want to get more specific in their studies and have a good research foundation when entering the workforce. I also learned specializing in something very specific and unique and becoming an expert in that can make you a very valuable resource to employers, and will help you stand out better in an interview. As I am approaching my senior year I have worries about finding a job without having an internship yet, but this research position has given me something valuable to discuss that could potentially improve my chances of obtaining an internship for the coming summer. Even if I do not pursue graduate school right away, it is something I can talk to an employer about to show my goals of devotion and continual improvement for the company. These were all factors that they helped me consider upon discussion, giving me options for my future I had never considered. Hearing their stories and struggles to get funding, and listening to their advice was exceptionally educational and probably better than any Google search I could have done about graduate school. Knowing these students and USDA workers also added to my web of resources within my department who I still see every day in the Agricultural Engineering building when I attend my classes. I was touched when I received an email from one of them at the end of the summer commenting on my hard work and genuine interest for their research, because there were many instances where I could only observe because I was not at their skillset, and I felt helpless to what they were working on. Whether I decide to work in research or consulting with a company, I know I will have people to give me first-hand advice along the way. Pictured in the purple t-shirt and hat is one of the graduate students, Ashely, whom we spent a lot of time with as she is using data from the structures for her graduate work.

This project was very valuable to my college experience as it introduced a whole other option for my future. I had never considered graduate school as an option for my future, but I always knew I had a vague interest in research that I had never fully pursued before. The opportunity to live in Columbus and have the funds to feed and clothe myself for the summer helped me really be able to focus on my work and contemplate my future. I came upon the conclusion that research will be integrated into my future career one way or another and is a passion I will continue to pursue in my personal and professional life. I like to think in unique ways and continually question a problem until I understand it to be true, which is exactly the kind of mindset that drives research and technological innovation. Before this research project I had no one to resort to as a reference, no resources within my own department, and very little to talk deeply about in an interview setting. Now I have friends and colleagues with resources that I trust will guide me in the right direction. I can talk passionately for how I want to work towards better global soil and water quality, and possibly work towards cleaning up Lake Erie one day. Having more confidence when people ask me, “What would you like to do with your major?” and elaborating on what I did this summer has me excited for the upcoming job fair, as I feel like this experience will bring about more opportunities for an internship next summer. This summer and everything I learned will be one I’ll never forget, and I hope one day I can look back on it as the starting point in the passion for my field.

(Note: I was given permission to submit my post past the due date due to extraordinary circumstances. Please direct any questions to Chelsea Black at black.651@osu.edu)

Summer 2018 Research

This past summer, I was able to work in the department of Ophthalmology. As an undergraduate student researcher at The Ohio State University, I worked in the Dr. Abdel-Rahman lab, where we focused our research on the BAP1 gene – a gene that has been found to increase the risk for several cancers including ocular melanoma, skin melanoma, kidney cancer and mesothelioma when mutated. Our lab specializes on developing clinical trials for managing uveal melanoma patients with a high risk for systemic metastasis.