For my STEP signature project, I helped to conduct research in a Human Nutrition/Exercise Physiology lab. As an undergraduate research assistant I had the privilege to be mentored by one of the leading experts in the world in the field of nutritional ketosis. While learning about the research process in general I also learned many other useful skills as well including; how to draw research participant’s blood, taking participant’s blood pressure, how to process blood for future analysis, run assays on blood to look at specific blood markers, measure urine for hydration, reading blood glucose and ketone values, testing physical and cognitive changes. I also cooked the food that the participants ate in our controlled feeding studies. I learned how we utilized magnetic resonance imaging in our studies in order to monitor visceral heart fat and even was given the opportunity to learn how an MRI is done. Our lab also utilized a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) machine that allows us to see body fat distribution and bone mineral density. I learned the process of applying for grants to fund research, how to write and present abstracts/posters at forums and conferences, how to interact with populations affected by obesity, diabetes, insulin sensitivity, and chronic diseases.
Furthermore, I conducted research in the field of Human Nutrition which connects directly with my plans on becoming an Endocrinologist. I hope to one day become an Endocrinologist and help those with diabetes and other hormonal issues. The field of Nutrition is crucial to the treatment of patients suffering from these kinds of diseases. Therefore, by conducting research in this field I recieved first-hand experience in the area I wish to pursue in medicine. Through this research experience I have gained a better understanding of what it would mean to be a physician and how I would go about explaining research to a lay audience such as my own patients. This is exactly what I will be doing at the Denman undergraduate Research Forum in the spring for the reporting back process of the STEP project when I present my research poster.
As a future physician being able to conduct, interpret, and explain research to my patients will be a crucial part of my career. Learning about the research process, conducting the research, and then presenting on it as an undergraduate has been a great transformational experience for me that has helped to propel me along on my career aspirations.
My understanding of the research process as a whole changed by experiencing how research is actually conducted and presented, which is something I always wanted to do. The people I meet in the research lab are like minded individuals who have already achieved much in the areas I hope to have a career in one day. I learned from them and slowly built my knowledge base when it comes to research.
This project has been valuable to my life because without the STEP program I may not have been able to afford rent for staying on campus over summer to conduct this research. Learning about the research process is something I will have to do at some point in my career and the STEP program facilitated this significantly.