STEP Reflection

I spent the bulk of this summer doing research with a professor in the Department of Psychology, Dr. Laurence Coutellier. Her lab studies the way that chronic mild stress lends itself to behavioral and molecular changes in mice. My specific role for much of the summer was slicing mouse brains, performing genotyping, and performing behavioral tests on mice.

This summer, I learned the importance of taking responsibility for my own schedule and time management. I was also forced to learn the skills required quickly and efficiently. Working with my graduate student (my direct supervisor), I also learned the importance of communication skills and the proper way to ask for help when I needed it. Working in my undergraduate research position taught me how to be an efficient and independent member of a team.

Working in my research, I spent much of my time alone. As a result, no one told me when I needed to do things or how to budget my time. I was given things that I was responsible for over the week, and then I found time to do them. I was forced to work around my schedule with taking summer classes as well as having another part time job. Balancing all these with my own personal life meant learning when to prioritize school work or studying, when to prioritize working in the lab, and when to prioritize spending time for myself. While time management may not seem like a transformational thing to have learned at this point in my life, I had never been forced to exist so independently before, and so having responsibilities that I had to manage on my own changed the way that I work as a student.

Starting new in the lab, I also had to learn many new skills in a relatively short time frame. I was performing tasks that I had never been taught before, and doing things that were important for other people’s research, so if I made mistakes, it wasn’t okay. That pressure encouraged me to make sure that if I didn’t feel confident in my own skills, I would ask someone who could verify my abilities. After doing so several times and not having made mistakes, I learned to feel confident in my instincts and not to be overly scared about doing things wrong. This confidence will, in the future, make me a more independent worker.

The skills I learned this summer will help me to fit into a new team more quickly. In learning to manage my own time appropriately, I will be able to make myself a schedule to stick to, and therefore to perform as much work as needs to be performed in the adequate time frame. I also will be able to better trust myself as a new employee (as well as know when to ask for help when I need it), which will better allow me to work independent of supervision. Altogether, having learned these skills will better prepare me in the future for being able to work in a new place more efficiently and independently, two incredibly important skills of employees today.

Below are two images of brains that I sliced over the summer. The first shows the slices as well (each is 50 microns thick).