STEP Final Reflection

This past summer, I was able to utilize the resources gifted to me by the STEP program to gain valuable experience within a professional research lab at The Ohio State University. For my STEP signature project, I worked in a laboratory overseen by Dr. Estelle Cormet-Boyaka at Goss Laboratory in the Veterinary Biosciences department at Ohio State. In this position, I worked alongside both Ph.D. candidates and post-doctoral researchers within the laboratory setting and was able to conduct research and carry out experiments that not only coincided with the work the overall lab managed but also projects that my colleagues worked on to supplement the lab’s data. Alongside conducting and running experiments, each member of the laboratory, including myself, had weekly tasks that needed to be completed to ensure efficiency in the operation of the facility. Some assignments I was tasked with included calibrating the lab’s pH reader, autoclaving pipette tips and Eppendorf tubes, and checking the eyewash stations. Even the smallest and seemingly-menial tasks are essential to the proper functioning of the lab and the output of its results.

During my time in the laboratory this summer, many academic concepts that I had learned from courses I had taken became apparent. However, many more concepts were foreign to me and I was tasked with learning them through physical engagement through experimentation. Many of the skills that aided me in my time in the lab included those learned from organic chemistry courses I had taken, especially the laboratory courses. They helped build my understanding of adhering to a strict discipline when conducting experiments and analyzing data as well as following having basic knowledge about protocol in a laboratory setting. Because the laboratory was more of a cellular biological/biochemical setting rather than an organic chemistry one, I found myself needing to change my approach to conducting experiments and tasks early on in the summer. This included adapting to changes small and large from learning the layout and resources available within the laboratory to learning to utilize advanced machinery such as an Ussing Chamber and PCR machine in the collection and analysis of biological samples. Overall, the experience I have had the opportunity to have in this laboratory differed from my initial expectations but has helped shape me to become a better researcher and critical thinker.

Throughout my STEP signature project this summer, I learned how to operate within a laboratory in a professional and academic while conducting collaborative research among other professionals within the field. The skills I learned and gained during my time have helped better equip me for research in the future, regardless of discipline. These transferable skills have allowed me to explore a research perspective that I would have otherwise been unaware of or at least only been able to read about. Being able to do hands-on work and learn alongside others that have been researching more multiple years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career so far. I see this style of learning – in the field – as an effective method to hone my analysis skills and proficiency in research ethics. Additionally, I decided to continue doing with research with Dr. Cormet-Boyaka’s laboratory and help analyze the effects and potential causes of cystic fibrosis in a cellular biological setting. This experience through the STEP program has strengthened my desire to continue to pursue a career within scientific research and hopefully bring innovative practices and ideas to the table to better the way in which we as a society view, practice, and educate on scientific matters.