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. 2. 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. 3. 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 completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation. 4. 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.
My project involved researching cranial radiation therapy, especially whole-brain radiation (WBRT) may cause subacute and late toxicity to neurons, glial cells, and vasculature, resulting in cognitive impairment. My project this summer at James’ Cancer Research Center Radiation has been proven to cause over-expression of neuroinflammatory markers involved in cognitive deficits such as TNF-α and IL-6, among others; specifically, inflammatory markers were present in the hippocampus and cortical regions, areas of the brain involved with cognition and learning, even after FBRT selective partitioning of the hippocampus. My specific project had 3 components done this summer. First, for most of the summer I was working keeping multiple liver cancer cells alive, perfecting my basic lab technique. After having about 60 of these flasks I was able to inject the cultured cells into 30 mice. I then took care of the mice for about 3 weeks in which the tumors would begin to implant. The mice would then receive an infusion of sertraline or AK CX929 as we conducted our radiation treatment on the mice. Although the project has not been fully completed the next steps in finishing the research project are to run IHC western blot analysis on the liver and brain of the mouse.
During my STEP signature project, I learned several things that completely altered the way that I look at medicine. Due to the support of PI and the staff in the project I gained a stronger appreciation for research and its meticulousness. My PI and my doctoral student taught me the variety of ways research experiments can be deemed successful. I believe my fundamental understanding of research has changed tremendously. My PI had me set up my own project, begin my thesis and gain an in-depth understanding all the parts that go into running a project. I emailed several other laboratories here at Ohio State to utilize their resources such as a behavioral suite and learn how they can be valuable additions to our team. It was only through the collaboration on everyone’s part that I began to understand how collaborative medicine truly can be. In my previous research experiences, I was given a distinct role in a project, however being able to view the project I now know the difficulties in getting a project started and how not everything works in a way that is optimal for myself. STEP allowed me to view to understand the importance of team science and honesty in medical research. Without STEP I would not have been able to understand the true nature of medical research.
Several experiences this summer gave me a clear understanding of how to be an effective research scientist in the future of my career. My experience with Connor Jacob, another student in my laboratory, taught me how to fully trust another scientist with all of the experiments that are being conducted. In the past, I would never trust another individual to handle my cells or to write sections of research proposals and grants. Working with Connor, I learned the variety of ways he conducted experiments and how they differed from my own mannerisms. We both came from different research experiences in the past and we truly balanced each other, learning from each other every time we interacted in the laboratory. Putting my full trust in another individual to complete experiments allowed me to have a more flexible schedule and be more content with my time performing experiments.
My research with my Principle Investigator, Dr. Meng Welliver, shaped the way that I view how to be an effective mentor. In my previous research experiences, I have never experienced as much support as I have from Dr. Meng Welliver. She truly has consistently valued my opinion and allows me to discover how to be the best scientist I can be through helping me analyze my research experiment in as many ways as possible. The trust she showed in me, taught me how important it is in a. team to be fully transparent with your coworkers. Through being transparent, Dr. Welliver pushed me to work harder in my experiments and made me feel as though I played an important role in the laboratory.
One of the most incredible moments of the summer research experience was participating in the yearly fundraiser called Pelotonia which has raised over 200 million dollars over the last year to help raise the money that our laboratory uses to fund our experiments. During this movement, I rode 55 miles and agreed to raise $1,800 along with thousands of other riders to help fund cancer research at Ohio State. The entire experience was incredibly amicable due to the countless supporters cheering us on, to the diligence of the other bikers who encouraged each and every rider to keep on going. Seeing how far people who are currently in cancer treatment or have conquered cancer are willing to push themselves for their ride inspired me to continue doing the work that I have done to help patients realize the most effective possible treatments. This contributed to my world view of understanding the team science aspect of medicine. This crucial component was integrated into Pelotonia which helps make it an incredibly effective fundraiser. It also challenged me to constantly think of the people who are affected by the therapies that we develop in our research laboratory. It is incredibly easy in research to get caught up in the glamor of medicine, being published in well-respected journals and gaining tenured status at the respective university. However, it is equally important to hold in high regard who is more critically affected in the research that we conduct every day.
A tremendous amount about my assumptions of the scientific world changed during my STEP project. While I always understood that research takes an abundance of effort, patience, and persistence- this summer was the first time I experienced it firsthand. Working 40 hours a week in a lab was undoubtedly taxing, however despite the amount of hours I worked I realized more and more that one single scientific breakthrough can take decades of research with the same tenacity. My view of the world expanded through gaining an appreciation for every drug that is prescribed or treatment that is administered because I know fully understand the years of hard work it took to get it to a patient. Regardless of what I pursue after undergrad, after this STEP experience, I am confident that research will be integrated in my career. With this in mind, I am now strongly considering pursuing an MD/PhD.