Undergraduate Research – Development of a sense of ending

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.

For my STEP project I stepped away from my job for the summer to focus on my thesis research full-time. In the process, I was able to apply and get into Boston University’s Conference on Language Development and was able to gather enough extra participants to strengthen my poster. Because of this, I will be able to focus solely on writing and poster design during my semester, giving me more time to focus on my studies.

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.

For much of my experience at Ohio State, I have felt rather out of place as compared to my peers who I felt were “doing more.” I’ve always known I wanted to do research, but I never felt validated as a researcher. My STEP signature project gave me the opportunity to take time aside to be a researcher, and to make it a full-time commitment. For me, talking about the project I conducted over the summer and explaining the fact that I was funded through STEP to do so validated my research experience. Through this validation, I have found the confidence to not only call myself a researcher, but also communicate better with other researchers be they lab directors managers, or assistants—even the general public!
From my newfound validation and confidence as a researcher, I found myself undertaking new roles and responsibilities. I found that some of my newer lab-mates came to me for help, advice, and resources to begin their journey into research. I realized that I needed to be for these people what I needed and wanted when I first started working in my lab. I learned the importance of listening to others ideas and hypotheses, and to encourage them to look deeper into them. Often many of my peers felt nervous to talk to our managers and directors, as they were “too cool” or would be “too busy.” By providing them the initial platform to talk with me, I was able to instill in them the confidence to talk to their mentors more clearly about their ideas and goals.

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 to four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completeing your STEP Siganture Project that led to this change/transformation.

The past few years I have struggled finding time away from work and school to dedicate towards my own academic interests. My STEP funds allowed me to set more time aside to focusing on my own research and becoming engaged with the Cognitive Science & Linguistics community at Ohio State. Specifically these funds allowed me to read a popular book within my lab, engage with new and temporary members of my lab, and helped two of my lab-mates progress further into their research journey. These opportunities are what gave me a sense of validation as a researcher, and taught me the importance of using my position as an opportunity to help others get ahead.
My STEP funds allowed me to spend more time away from my part-time job as a gymnastics instructor, and spend more time as a research assistant. Initially, I thought this meant I’d fill my hours at the lab, however I found myself partaking in activities I never considered apart of lab work. The summer REU students were required to read Whistling Vivaldi by Claud M. Steele—a novel about stereotype threat, an experience felt by marginalized groups which result in underperformance not by means of their own ability but rather the environment imposed upon them. Because I’d be working closely with the REU students, I decided to read the book along with them. Not only did this allow me to connect with them better, but also changed the way I interacted with them throughout the summer to minimize the stereotype threats they may have felt. The lessons and ideas I gathered from Whisting Vivaldi not only helped me throughout my STEP project, but will continue to serve me as I go forward to research, design, and develop inclusive educational tools during my graduate education.
Throughout the entirety of my experience working in my lab at COSI this summer, I strove to meet and regularly engage with the REU and summer research assistants. Two of my lab-mate in particular I got really close with, and for the sake of privacy I will call them Brooke and Nicole. Brooke, a second year neuroscience major, wanted to get into research to gain experience for graduate school, but found that she was more interested in neuroscience and statistical work rather than developmental psychology. Nicole, on the other hand, found that she loved the work, so much so that we spent hours together talking about the fascinating world of linguistics together. My experience with them and the other students largely shaped by experience this summer.
Nicole came to me multiple times—nervous to talk to our advisor about switching labs. She found the work we were doing did not quite interest her, but this went unnoticed by her incredible recruitment abilities. Nicole struggled to feel comfortable in the lab, and specifically opening up about moving labs. Through our budding friendship, her discomfort quickly became apparent and I proposed some other OSU researchers she might be interested in. While I know I was not the only influencer in her decision, I feel that I gave Nicole a platform to at least engage with a new idea. By giving her access to this platform, she was able to open up more, feel less threatened or nervous, and eventually move on to a new lab. We currently have a class together this semester, and I look forward to hearing about her new journey in a field which visibly makes her happy!
Another of my lab-mates was Brooke, a fellow incoming fourth year student aspiring to go to graduate school for something language/linguistics related. At the time, neither of us quite knew what we wanted to do, but over the course of the summer we shot ideas around about things which interest us. Brooke not only gave me a platform to develop my own research ideas, but I also gave her a platform to talk about her ideas. Together we were able to push ourselves to what we want to pursue. Brooke is now pursuing a full-bright and hopes to work on language documentation!

4.) Why is this change/transformation significant 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.

Going forward, I plan to attend graduate school, receive my Ph.D, and hopefully go onto being a professor and researcher at a university. This experience validated my desire to so and validated my belief in myself as a researcher. From this validation, I decided to continue pursuing graduate education. Through and after graduate education, this experience revealed to me the importance of being inclusive and provided me a framework for creating future inclusive environments. As I ascend the academic ladder, I hope to maintain the lessons I learned from my experience. Specifically, I would like to maintain my understanding of my role in inclusion as a researcher, and the need for me to minimize stereotype type threat as much as I can for my future peers, students, and lab.

Not only did this opportunity provide me ample time to grow as a researcher and shape my mentality towards being a researcher/professor, but it allowed me to apply and get accepted into Boston University’s Conference on Language Development! At this opportunity I will be able to connect with and meet researchers in my field, and increase my chances for getting into graduate school and meeting my goals.