STEP Reflection

My STEP Signature Project was an undergraduate research project in the College of Public Health. I worked on a biostatistics project focusing on the transmission dynamics of Mumps in the United States.

At the beginning of the project, I was not really sure what to expect.  I did not have any previous experience working in a lab setting.  I had no solid experience applying the steps of the scientific method to a real-world, cutting-edge example.  In addition, I had only a basic understanding of biostatistics, disease modeling, and R programming software.  Throughout the project, I was able to better understand how to construct and implement a research project from beginning question to publication of results.

The changes in my understanding of myself and the world of research came from the experiences and the relationship I built with the professor I worked with over the summer.  Dr. Laura Pomeroy is an assistant professor of environmental public health in the College of Public Health.  She is an expert in the areas of infectious disease transmission and control. The opportunity to work with her was an incredible experience and relationship to build.  I would not have learned so much about the topic without her vast knowledge and support.

Another source of personal transformation came from learning how to use R programming software.  While I had previously been introduced to the software in a statistics course, I was very much a novice at the beginning of the summer.  I used R throughout the project for data collection, cleaning, analyzing, and modeling.  There were numerous times throughout the project where I had to problem-solve with R and although it was challenging, I was able to preserver and teach myself the language. I am now very comfortable with using R software, which I would not be without this project.

The transformation I experienced during my STEP project is valuable in my life because I was able to further confirm my interest in scientific research.  I was also able to make valuable, lasting personal relationships with a professor and other student researchers.  These relationships helped me grow during the project personally and professionally. They also helped expand my professional network for the future.  Learning R was also immensely transformative because it is a very in-demand skill that employers value.  Overall, the research I did over the summer profoundly changed my academic, personal, and profession outlook.