STEP Reflection

Taylor Vassis

Undergraduate Research

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

For my STEP Signature Project, I served as a research assistant in a study designed to observe how environmental factors, such as light, sound, and touch affect the stress levels of infants in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit. I was personally responsible for coding the data for sound interruptions the child was experiencing during their stay in the hospital.

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

My STEP Signature Project gave me a newfound sense of appreciation for the research field. Before this project, I had no experience in research and really only had a basic sense of how the process worked. Throughout the semester I was able to see all the pieces and parts that must come together in order to execute and accomplish the goal of a researcg study. Seeing all the hard work that goes into performing a research study, truly made me appreciate all those who dedicate their careers and life to research. Research is genuinely the future of medicine and therefore the future for each of our lives. Without the advancements research has provided, as a population we would be digressing in health and not have close to any of the number of vaccines and treatments as we do today. My STEP project reiterated this message  and showed me how grateful we should all be for how much research has given to our society.

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? 

My relationship with my PI, Dr. Tondi Harrison, really allowed me to gain this newfound appreciation for research. From our very first meeting, I noticed the love and passion she has for her work. Besides teaching me about the process and “how-to’s” of coding, she taught me to appreciate the process. She told me that coding especially may seem never-ending and unimportant at the time, but being able to analyze all the data in the end and determine a conclusion makes all the tedious work worth it. Dr. Harrison was an instrumental part in shaping my first experience with research into such a great one.

I told myself from the very beginning to keep an open mind about what I may be doing in the project. I let Dr. Harrison know that I was comfortable doing whatever she felt best suited me and was needed at the time in the study. I believe that one of the reasons I have enjoyed my research experience so much this far is because of the freedom she offered me from the start. Dr. Harrison not only presented me with many different options to choose from, but thoroughly showed me how to code for the different options before I made a choice. Last semester and currently my responsibility in the project has been to code for sound in the data collected from Nationwide Children’s. Originally the only sense that was going to be coded for was touch, but in conversation Dr. Harrison and I realized that sound, especially in a hospital, would have a major effect on an infant’s healing process. From that conversation, Dr. Harrison decided that we should include sound as a factor of the study and allowed me to code for that aspect.

I began my STEP Signature Project with the intention that this would be a great learning experience, but I finished gaining so much more. I was able to learn about the process of research and coding data. Although, what I value the most from this experience is being able to understand how much goes into research and making advancements. Seeing this firsthand by actually being part of a research team has been very impactful. I think many people take for granted the outcome of research studies, without thinking about all the time and individuals that are needed to make it happen.

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

With aspirations of working in the healthcare field, specifically as a pediatric nurse practitioner, this experience was very beneficial to my future. I was able to observe pediatric patients recovering from cardiac surgery and get a look into how interactions like hearing their parents’ voices or being comforted by touch were able to influence this healing process. Since Dr. Harrison works in the college of nursing she has been able to provide me with many insights and tips regarding the graduate nursing program I will be applying to next fall. Through my STEP Signature Project I was able to gain experience and form relationships that will be valuable in allowing me to pursue my dream career.


Each participant’s bed is set up with sound and video recorders.


Coding page


STEP Reflection

Name: Jacob Caponi

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

  1. My STEP Signature Project consisted of being a research assistant with sociology graduate student Brandon Moore on the PrEP Perception Study. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is used to prevent HIV. I transcribed interviews, conducted interviews, analyzed data, and reported findings from the study in my position.
  2. Overall, through this project I was able to develop critical thinking and professional skills. The position of research assistant gave me the experience of understanding how research development takes place in a large institution such as OSU. I was able to develop my own questions surrounding how individuals perceived PrEP usage while gaining knowledge from participants about how history, biology, politics, and society all play a role in perception of PrEP usage. Combining all of these perspectives allowed me to find my passion for public health which is the major I changed to after pursuing this research project. Without this research position I may have not found my passion for public health as quickly.
  3.           In order to begin the project the proposal had to be submitted through different IRBs – OSU and the city health department where the study was conducted. This was done to recruit participants, but I learned how research is a process and not a simple “ah-ha” moment often portrayed in the media. Social science research begins with an idea and requires many steps before participants are even interviewed. I learned how to navigate queer spaces to promote this project and understood how society functions to create spaces for “others” in a physical and medical sense. As a first time “investigator” this was a big step in being culturally competent with my intended participants.

Once the previous was accomplished I was able to hear the stories of individuals who lived as men who have sex with men (MSM). Ages varied and learning of gay history was a first as it is often excluded from the heteronormative history taught in schools. Significant to this research project, how MSM view a medication that could save their life, was the AIDS crisis. Comparing older MSM narratives to younger MSM provided insight to how HIV/AIDS is viewed.

The relationship with my mentor, Brandon Moore, provided me with the dedication to pursue graduate school. Brandon was able to give me advice and motivation to apply for grants, interview individuals, and share this project at community events. Brandon also helped read over my personal statement for a masters in public health which I was accepted into for next year.


  1. This project allowed me to find my passion for public health and gender and sexual minorities. Understanding the perception of PrEP medication aligns with my minor in pharmaceutical sciences and also my major in public health. I was able to find a mentor who encouraged independent, critical thinking which sparked my interest in graduate school. I also am able to take the skills from this research project and apply them in graduate school where I will continue research. My future plan is to get my PhD and become a professor/researcher.


Food Safety in Cancer Patients

  1.  During my STEP project, I worked in a Microbiology lab. While in the lab I extracted DNA from rat feces for research.


  1. Before my project, I was not interested in pursuing microbiological research as career. I wasn’t even interested in any kind of research. I was very nervous about working in a lab. However, by the end of my project I was surprised how comfortable and how much I enjoyed working. I was also provided with many researches that helped me academically. I could build relationships with professors and other students like me in the nutrition filed. This large network of resources allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and ask for help.

3.  First I was transformed by getting out of my comfort zone. As I mentioned above I was nervous about starting a research project. This was something I had never done before and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. After I started working not only was I able to use knowledge I have gained from previous classes but I also learned so much more from the people I was working with. Because I enjoyed working on the project so much this semester I will now get out of my comfort zone more often.

This project also increased my confidence. Being able to accomplish such a difficult project showed me that I could succeed academically. I am much more confident with my school work and telling myself that I am smart enough to take a class or pass a test.

Finally, I was transformed with the way I view content covered in class. As I mentioned above, I used information I had earned previously in class to help me in the project. This showed me how valuable what I am learned is to my future career. Being able to apply that knowledge made me more excited to learn about nutrition.


  1. These transformations with help me in so many ways. First, they will help me as I finished my last year and a half of school. I will try more new things, be more confident in my school work and view my classes as a resource instead of something I must get through. Thinking further in life, it will help me in my future career. By trying new things, I will be more open to something I have never done before, I will be confident in my accomplishments during college and I will use my knowledge to solve problems as a dietitian.

Chris Kalweit

Step reflection

Prompt 1
My step signature project involved undergraduate research at the Fuchs lab in the biological sciences library. I synthesized and purified the experimental antibiotic 5- chlorothiophene-2- sulfonyl chloride which used to fight the campylobacter, a common chicken food borne illness. This involved running a synthesis reaction followed by extraction and purification. I also ran my finished compound through a proton NMR to observe its properties and to in fact make sure I had what I thought I did.

Prompt 2
I think the person I am today and at the beginning of the semester are 2 entirely different people. I think I realized more about myself than anything else. At the start of my project I was not sure how I would like the lab work. However, as I started my project and worked with my mentors my view changed a little bit. I started to enjoy some of the lab techniques and the work seemed less tedious and more enjoyable, granted I enjoyed some parts more than others. For example, synthesis and extraction were pretty straight forward and fun, but column chromatography purification was a huge pain in the butt.

Prompt 4
Moving forward, I do think my work in the future will involve chemistry and lab work. I think it may however be in a different context. As opposed to synthesizing new and novel antibiotics, I would like to use extraction to isolate therapeutic compounds from nature. I want to take what I’ve learned and apply it in a holistic/ herbalist sense to help the world around me. I also will take this information and use it in my organic chemistry labs because many of the techniques are very similar and used often in todays day in age. It will give me an edge, having seen the techniques beforehand.

Prompt 3
There were a few parts of this project that were transformational. Of course, the chemistry knowledge in itself was valuable and changed my perspective. Learning the process of synthesis, extraction and column chromatography showed me that it is possible to create and separate compounds through manipulating the properties of nature. I also learned that I like and enjoy some of the work. I want to incorporate elements from this lab into my future career even though I’m not quite sure what it will be.
The atmosphere I made were also very important to my transformation. I learned a lot from Dr. Fuchs and it was really cool to be part of his lab group. I got to go to seminars and see people from Pfizer and other prominent companies give presentations. This and being part of the lab in general gave me a higher feeling of belonging and motivated me to work harder in school. I kept thinking to myself that I because I was now part of this amazing lab that I had to push myself to be better in school and everything else I did. The standards there were high and this caused me to raise my own as well.
I think the most valuable lesson I learned and the one that had the biggest impact on me came from one of the grad students in his lab. He was kind of my mentor, helping me when I needed help and giving me advice. Whenever I came to him with these questions or if I was just unsure if whether I screwed he would tell me not to worry. He would then proceed to explain how most of the time your probably not going to get something right the first time, that failure is a part of success. The standards at the lab were high but I could see that even a really smart graduate student such as himself was human. This was very humbling and made this research more of a life lesson than just a semester project.