Madison Post Reflection

  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.


My step signature project was conducting research over the summer in a program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital called Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). I worked under the direct supervision of my principal investigator to pursue a personal project that involved in vivo and in vitro experiments.


  1. 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.


I learned a lot during my summer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I learned about research and techniques and science, but I also learned more about myself. I had many times when an experiment didn’t go the way we hoped that it would, and we had to regroup. I learned that I am very good at brainstorming ideas and I like communicating with others about what is going on, even if they might not be directly involved. I also learned that as I like being able to make my own schedule and do my work at my own pace, I like to work with others. There were a few days this summer that I did experiments completely alone, and I didn’t like the feeling that if I chose a career in research this might be the norm. My view of myself changed after this experience because I learned that I need to choose a career path that allows me to work directly with others. I also discovered that I have to choose a career that challenges me because I get bored if I am not learning new things or tying out new techniques.


  1. 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.


Most of my time during the summer was spent processing data from previous experiments done before the summer. I had organs collected from mice dissections that I used to embed into wax, and then section into little sheets that are one cell layer thick. These sheets were placed on glass microscope slides and then dyed so that the cells and structure of the tissue can be seen under a brightfield microscope. Then, we took images of the sample seen through the microscope and used them for calculations. All of this process was new to me and sounds easy enough but takes time to master. I spent days just trying to section the samples correctly. I learned that scenarios like these when I am challenged is when I thrive because I make it my mission to get better. In order for data to be used in a publication it has to be exact, precise, and true and I wanted my data to be able to stand up to those measurements. Because of this, I enjoyed the research because it taught me so many new things and broadened my scope of knowledge about research.


Although it was exciting to be learning new things, I did not enjoy sitting in a room alone doing these things for hours at a time. I found myself wanting to go check on my lab members and see what they were up to. Previous to this summer, I had not had a personal project I was focused on. So, transitioning from helping others with their work to having to focus on my own was a bit of a change. I like the work I did over the summer and I am proud of my poster that I made, but I am glad that I am not pursuing an entire career in research because I don’t think it would best fit my personality.


Finally, during this summer things went wrong. Research is a maze that no one knows how to navigate completely. There are many things that can go wrong and sometimes it isn’t clear why an experiment failed. I had to learn many new techniques over the summer, but cell work was by far the hardest. We repeated the experiment many times and each time we changed something that we thought would help. Each time it didn’t work felt like a personal failure. As I am a perfectionist, this was really hard for me to grasp. I had to learn to be okay with things going wrong and had to work to fix them without getting insecure or upset. Because of this I am better able to handle adversity and criticism, which are skills that can benefit me in any career field.


  1. 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.


This summer has solidified my decision to pursue a career in medicine because although I like conducting research, I don’t think my personality is conducive to a career in research. I love working in a research lab and want to continue to donate some of my time to research moving forward, but I do not want research to be my career. I have changed from this experience mainly just from learning more about myself. I have learned to be more self-aware and confident because of my work in the research lab. I have also gained skills in critical thinking and reasoning along with problem solving. I have learned to be open to criticism and to work harder when things fail and not to give up. I have solidified that I am a social person that likes to work with other people and have decided to apply to medical school, and I know that all the skills I have gained from this summer in research will help me in the future.

An Undergraduate Engineering Research Experience

Over the summer, I used my STEP funds to support myself while I worked as an undergraduate research assistant with the Versatile Structures Lab in the College of Civil Engineering.  Over the course of the summer, I played an important part in the lab and gained many valuable experiences.  Working in the lab helped to reassure me of my post-undergrad plans to continue on to complete graduate school with masters or even a Ph.D.

Before working in the lab this summer, I had been working for an internship where I learned a lot about what I don’t want in my career. As a researcher, however, I found out a lot more about myself and what I do want to do with my life.  Perhaps the biggest skill the experience re-enforced in me was the importance of being driven by passion – in this case by the discovery and the open-endedness that is critical to research.

I was afforded a lot of freedom to work on assignments as I saw fit and when I saw fit, working remotely most days.  Initially, coming from working my 9-5 internship, this radical freedom took a lot of getting used to.  It was tempting to procrastinate, however, I realized that I couldn’t take the opportunities for granted and that I needed to make the most of them.

I also learned a lot for our labs bi-weekly whole-team meetings.  Each project group would present their progress so that the rest of the lab.  Not only did this keep the entire lab informed, but it also was a safe space to practice for when we would eventually present this research to others.  Often, we would stop each other mid-presentation with questions, feedback, and comments on how to improve.  The first of these presentation sessions were rough, but over the course of the Summer, we all became much better at telling the stories of our research.

At the end of Summer, I put these skills to the test when I presented my research as part of The Consortium poster presentation, an event put on by Ohio State’s Graduate School.  I spent about a week creating my poster, making sure that my research was summarized clearly and cohesively. The presentation helped me feel a sense of ownership in the experience and was a great finale to the whole experience.

Because of this experience, I know that I want to go continue undergraduate research to earn a graduation distinction, continue my research on to graduate school, and I am even considering becoming a professor. It also helped me to build my confidence and self-disciple, for school and for life alike.  I’m excited to go into this school year with these lessons learned as I challenge myself with other new experiences like being a teaching assistant and teaching engineering outreach.

Discovering My Future Ambitions with Undergraduate Research

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.


Over the summer, I worked in a research lab working on quality control of clinical trials. The specific clinical trials I worked on involved determining the volume of meningiomas and craniopharyngiomas, both types of brain tumors.



  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?


This summer I was exposed to the world of medicine in a way that I never have been before. Having a role in the process of advancing human knowledge is a humbling, but exciting, experience. This summer confirmed to me that medicine is absolutely my calling. My desire to be a physician increased substantially, as I know that making a positive difference for others is the only way I will be fulfilled. On top of that, the intellectually stimulating nature of medicine was shown to me this summer. Having a career in medicine requires one to always be learning. With each year, new and exciting treatments are being introduced. Following those in whichever specialty I end up, is just another way I discovered that medicine is for me this summer.



  1. 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?

First and foremost, the most influential event, interaction, relationship, or activity this summer was the person with which I worked most directly: Connor Nealer. Connor truly took me underneath of his wing and helped explain to me the WHY behind the WHAT of our operation. Without him, the summer would not have been as inspirational and transformative. Connor explained to me what patients suffering from the different brain tumors would experience, the way the treatment works, and how the novel treatment could be better than prior treatments. Knowing that information helped make the work meaningful. Connor also took the time to invest in me and figure out why I wanted to go into medicine. His probing questions led me to truly think about why I wanted to be a physician.

Next, the act of contouring and then determining the volume of brain tumors is incredibly meticulous. Completing one scan for one patient can take up to seven hours. Most patients have at least four scans and there are over 100 patients in these trials. The sheer number of man hours needed is incredible. For most people, this would be miserable. However, I found the circumstances to be incredibly motivating. New knowledge is not easy to attain, and being a part of that process empowered me to work more efficiently and for longer hours than I would have otherwise.

Lastly, the craniopharyngioma trial I was working on was incredible. As I worked through different patients’ scans, I was able to see the progress that almost every single patient made. Seeing a tumor shrink over the course of a couple months is inspirational and makes you realize the power of what we are doing. If seeing a patient beat cancer before your eyes doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will. This experience specifically has ignited a fire and vigor inside of me for medicine that I did not have prior to this summer. When I went into the summer, I expected to enjoy what I was doing, but I didn’t expect to have my view of medicine changed the way that I did.




  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This summer could not have been more valuable to my future if I tried. Besides the experience in a highly-regarded lab, I have a new appreciation and passion for medicine. I now plan on doing research in this lab during my gap year before going to medical school. I love the work and people at this lab, so being there full-time for a whole year is appealing. Additionally, I didn’t plan on doing research long term into my career before the summer. Now, I am seriously considering the idea because I have seen how beneficial it is to the patients. If I truly want what is best for my patients, partaking in research is the way to go.


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.

Can Fairies: Inequality Made Magical and Invisible

  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 researched the people that collect cans that have been left on off-campus yards by OSU students and evaluate how students use the languages and euphemisms to strengthen class differences between them and the so-called, “Can Fairies.” To do this, I conducted interviews with OSU students, observed students’ and collectors’ weekend activities, and searched the internet for previous references to this phenomenon.

  1. 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.

Through my STEP signature project I was exposed to a world of knowledge that a Pharmaceutical Sciences major like myself had never even heard of. Folklore, as a field of study, approaches the world and the people that inhabit it in a way that I find fascinating, unique, and important. By enrolling in Folklore-focused courses, working with Folklorists, and researching the Can Fairies, I have acquired the skill set necessary to approach the world through a new lens. Furthermore, my observations, conversations, and research allowed me to gain a different perspective in regard to a phenomenon that had become a normal part of my college experience – referencing and leaving cans for the Can Fairies. I have a newfound awareness of the words I use and how they may seem divisive or condescending. I am also aware now, more than ever before, the importance of acknowledging one’s own privilege and dismissing prejudice in order to work towards equality between socioeconomic classes.

  1. 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.

My STEP signature project was made meaningful for many reasons, but the main reason I gained benefit from this project was my Folklore advisor – Dr. Dorothy Noyes. As I met with her individually, participated as a student in her class, and applied her notes, I grew as a writer, a student, and a person. She provided me with the opportunity to see the world differently and apply my newfound knowledge of Folklore to my career interests. She showed me, with ease, how the euphemisms I am examining as they apply to the Can Fairies, as well as the socioeconomic disparities I was observing, will follow me through my life as a physician and as a women’s health advocate. Understanding how people use euphemisms to ignore the lived experiences of women and those less fortunate than themselves is imperative to breaking down barriers between groups of individuals and allowing everyone to be heard.

In addition to my experience with Dr. Noyes, my STEP project was made meaningful through the formation and strengthening of other friendships as well. For example, this project gave me an excuse to interview fellow classmates and learn about their experiences outside of the classroom while also forcing myself to learn to be more outgoing and bold in order to begin these informative conversations. By making connections with my classmates, I was able to obtain the contact information for the Sustainability Director here at OSU and have a conversation with him that was especially thought provoking, fascinating, and eye-opening. From that phone call I learned so much about OSU and how our University handles waste and recyclables.

The most challenging aspect of my project (and possibly the most transformative) was actually writing my paper and discussing my findings. As a Pharmaceutical Sciences major and a person who – oddly enough – enjoys taking exams, I find writing extensive papers incredibly difficult. I feel myself repeating myself or at a loss for words through the entire process. But, with the help of Dr. Noyes and a bit of determination, I was able to overcome my distaste for writing in order to share my observations and reflect on their larger context. I am thankful for this opportunity and its impact on my progression as a student.

  1. 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 newfound understanding of socioeconomic disparities and the euphemisms people use to ignore these disparities will stay with me as I work as a women’s health physician in the future. Women’s health, while different from the world of can collectors and undergraduate students, is field that is littered with euphemisms intended to make the bodily processes and lived experiences of women easier for people to handle or to simply ignore. Unpacking such euphemisms as well as understanding the importance of listening to, rather than pitying, those that have long been silenced due to economic, social, or racial differences will allow me to be a better person, friend, and physician.

A truck entirely filled with aluminum cans collected by a “Can Fairy”

A “Can Fairy” collecting aluminum cans left on the ground by OSU undergraduate students the night before. Picture taken by student from inside their home.

STEP Signature Project – Undergraduate Research in Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics

  1. During this past summer I stayed on campus to help conduct research in Dr. Gina Sizemore’s lab in the Radiation Oncology department of The Ohio State James Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her lab studies the brain metastatic tumor microenvironment through in vitro and in vivo mice modeling to provide more mechanistic information on how brain tumor microenvironment contributes to breast cancer metastatic progression. This summer, I was tasked with multiple responsibilities which included genotyping, helping in the mice room with dissections and daily work, tissue processing, staining slides, and taking pictures of slides using a microscope.


  1. After working this summer in the lab, I’ve realized how important the tedious work in the lab can be. Everything builds on each other and if one step is done improperly the results may not be accurate. From measuring tumors on mice which are millimeters long to pipetting samples in order to determine a mouse’s genotype through a PCR needs to be done with precision. I’ve also realized that I really love the science that is behind the research. As a pre-med student there is a lot of pressure to be involved in research for medical school applications, but honestly even if I wasn’t applying to medical school I would still like to be involved in this lab. Everyday I learn more, and find the work fascinating. In the future when I am a physician I would like to be working on research in order to help the medical community continue to push the envelope of what we can do in medicine.


  1. Throughout this entire experience I have gotten close and learned a lot from everyone in the lab. However, it was the relationship that I did get to form that brought me to this lab specifically. I come from two parents who are Egyptian immigrants. My grandmother who died before I was born past away from brain cancer tumor that metastasized from her breast cancer. This is the exact form of cancer that is being studied in this lab. It’s motivating to know that the work you are doing could one day give someone more time with their loved one.

    In the lab, I learned a lot from two research assistants that are on their gap years in between undergrad and medical school. I am also planning on taking a gap year in between undergrad and medical school and research is definitely something I have seriously considered doing during my gap year. On the contrary, the one thing that is holding me back from doing research in a lab over my gap year is that I really enjoy patient contact and interaction. That is one of the biggest reasons why I want to become a physician. I would like to make a direct impact in improving the quality of life in others.

    I also shadowed a couple doctors this summer in varying specialties. I really enjoyed shadowing a surgical urologist and combining that experience with my experiences in the mice room performing and observing dissections made me realize that surgery could be a possible route for me in the future. I love the hands on aspect to it, and the directness of it. You can’t get more direct in medicine than going into a patient’s body and fixing an issue using your hands or medical instruments.


  1. This summer was significant in my progression to become a physician because it gave me time to learn how important the scientific method and research is to medicine. Every technique in medicine was one time created and designed by someone. That is one reason why I love medicine, it is constantly evolving and being challenged. I like the room for innovation and looking for the most efficient way to perform a task. I am constantly doing that in my life and would love to be doing that to improve the lives of those afflicted. This summer had affirmed my love for the field of medicine.

STEP Undergraduate Research Reflection


For my STEP Signature Project, I worked in undergraduate research on Ohio State’s campus over summer 2019.  The research integrated psychology and political science, and I helped to prepare a study researching the voting behaviors of English-Spanish, which was especially pertinent to my Spanish minor. 


My view of academic research was transformed as a result of this experience.  Previously, I had lab experience only from my chemistry, biology, and biochemistry coursework, and this experience enabled me to see how studies involving human subjects are submitted and ran.  This broadened my view of the types of research that one can pursue in college and beyond, and also helped me to realize that many types of scientific inquiry interest me. As I plan to go to medical school in the future, I know I want to go after another scholarly pursuit alongside my studies.  This need not come in the form of a bench lab experience but perhaps a clinical trial or a study like what I experienced this summer.


         In my STEP Signature Project, there were several events that led to my transformation and affected my perspectives.  Right off the bat, I learned of all the training that needs to be completed for anyone to work in research with human subjects.  As the study I worked on would involve voluntary participants, I needed to be put on the lab’s IRB protocols, which involved two online courses: Basic Human Research and Responsible Conduct of Research.  This made me realize all of the training that can go into different research positions, especially ones higher than my own, and the importance of these trainings due to poorly managed experiments in the past.  I also observed several current studies in the lab to get a feel for how they are run. With human participants, it’s important to make sure they feel comfortable at all times with the study.

         I also learned that things won’t go according to schedule.  It can take time to recruit participants, especially when they need to fit a certain demographic, like English-Spanish bilinguals.  I compiled resources for where to recruit Spanish speakers on campus and in Columbus for when the study begins, so I also learned the value of conducting these studies in a city, because there is a diverse range of organizations and people willing to get involved.  It can also take time to get a study up and running. Studies involving human participants need to be detailed and submitted for approval, and can be rejected for a number of reasons. I realized that studies such as this one take a great deal of patience, attention to detail, and willingness to revise previous work.

         Most significantly, as I worked to format and edit the stimuli that participants will see in the study, I realized that one small error can invalidate the results of an entire experiment.  Specifically, some of the studies run in my lab involve an eye-tracking portion and then additional surveys. The eye-tracking portion helps to indicate potential biases in voter decisions by revealing what words and pictures they gravitate towards.  However, if there is a typo or error in the text, we don’t know if they are focusing on a phrase due to its meaning or because there is a typo. Every detail matters so it’s important to collaborate with other lab members and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Overall, this experience matters to me because I found that research comes in several forms other than what I had experienced in class, and is something I want to continue to pursue.  Since the study is ongoing, I will get to use what I learned into this fall and run participants in the study I helped work on. My PI and the grad students I worked under were always helpful with my questions and made the experience a lot less intimidating.  This is valuable to me because I gained experience, made connections with the other lab members, and learned a lot about how research is conducted at Ohio State. This also boosts my resume and makes me a more competitive medical school applicant.

STEP Signature Project – Undergraduate Research in Mechanical Engineering

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

For my STEP Undergraduate Research Project, I conducted project-based research in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, movement lab, under the guidance of my research advisor-Associate Professor Manoj Srinivasan. The goal of the project is to design, manufacture, and control a spherical jumping robot. Through the College of Engineering Honors Program, I got approval from IRB. My objective this summer consists of brainstorming ideas, designing and manufacturing parts, assembling and testing, and 3D dynamic simulation. I enhanced my problem-solving skills though hands-on practice that involves multiple fields of Mechanical Engineering. By conducting this research, I enhanced my understanding and ability of research and set up my goal of pursuing graduate school.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Before conducting this research project, my understanding of research from what I heard from people was just stay in a laboratory to collect data over and over, and analysis with extensive programming. The research project I conducted was surprisingly challenging and interesting. Because this project is not based on other people’s previous research, everything I was doing was made out of scratch. The technical knowledge was mostly new to me so I have to learn everything from start. There were numerous difficulties and challenges along the way, and I sometimes were very desperate and wanted to give up. I reached out to every people that could help me and even get referrals. I crack the problems step by step and now I believe nothing is impossible if I take actions.

I talked with my research advisor recently, and he admits that this project is best for a group of Ph.D. students to work together, and each focus on one aspect of the project. He was very impressive about what I’ve done even though I didn’t meet my end goal by STEP’s due date, however, I honestly feel that I learned a lot more than what I’ve learned in the classroom. I will finish this project by the time of my graduation and I’m also starting another research focusing on biomechanics during Fall 2019.


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?

When I first started doing the design of the prototype, I thought this project would not be hard and everything will flow in a streamline. However, when I finish designing my SolidWorks parts and prepare to make physical parts, I found it hard to choose a 3D printer that fitted my budget and had a good performance. I ended up buying an Anycubic Photon SLA 3D printer, which did a good job but I had no experience with SLA printing. The preparation job was tedious and messy. The printing also failed many times because of my lack of experience. Then comes another big problem, after I assembled the parts together with a small but “strong” DC motor, the motor was not able to exert enough power I desired. Consulting with people in my department and my research advisor, I decided to use the Brushless DC (BLDC) motor. I bought a really good but expensive one used by another robot project by one of Berkely’s research lab. Here came another big problem that took me a whole week to solve. The BLDC motor needed an ESC board and a Lipo Battery to actuate and to control its speed. I was going to use Arduino to program the whole circuit but after I tried all kinds of programming, hook up my motor with ESC from other labs, hook up with my ESC with BLDC from other labs, etc. I found that the ECS I bought was the problem. I ended up finding that the ESC that came with the BLDC motor was not compatible with Arduino. As a result, I bought a few more ECSs from other brands but the motor I bought was not durable and the copper wire broke when I put the load on. So I bought a few more that was heavier but stronger and more durable BLDC motors from other brands. And another problem rise. The motor was too powerful and the 3D printed bridge of the robot was not strong enough and it broke up into pieces. I printed a few more parts with more robust designs but obviously, the plastic just couldn’t do the job. So I went to the machine shop and milled an Aluminum part. The robot didn’t end up smash into pieces but looked like there was a balancing issue since the motor only had one side attached to the bridge. So I bought a few kinds of ball bearings which solved the problem.

Then comes the simulation parts. I wasn’t good at MATLAB and Simulink when I learned them in class so I was not confident about getting it done successfully. I started off with doing a 2D simulation using MATLAB plotting as what I learned in class. But it involved so many calculations and matrix manipulations and given that the 2D simulation is an extremely simplified model of the real prototype. So after I get the program running and found there were no more factors I can take into the program, I started looking for 3D simulation software. I found many from varies companies, but I ended up using SimScape under Simulink since I have some basic knowledge about Simulink. However, I was too naive. The programming process is much harder than I expected. There was no well-organized tutorial available so I had to watch and read everything I could find. Learning a program by myself is very challenging since every other program I learned were taught in class. However, when I crackdown a problem or bug in the program, the satisfaction was a big incentive for me to move on. Looking back, I really think it wasn’t really that hard in terms of the technical knowledge, it is the mindset that I need to overcome the most difficult. Therefore, this makes me believe that nothing is impossible if I keeping trying and trying.


4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

My dad often says I’m a shy boy and don’t want to take challenges. I admit that I was very introvert and timid. However, by completing this Signature Project, I enhanced my courage to reach out to people who I don’t know and to delve into the difficulties by myself and crack it step by step. I built a strong relationship with many people in my department which made me a more social and confident person. My personality became more matured after I went through this project and I’m really thankful for this valuable experience STEP to enable me to do. Without the fellowship, I wouldn’t be able to stretch out all my ability to participate in the research. It is also valuable because I made up my mind to pursue graduate school after college since I see myself capable of conducting good research.


One of the prototypes with a small but weak motor

Final prototype without completed dynamic feedback control.

STEP Signature Project – Undergraduate Research in Nursing

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

For my STEP Undergraduate Research Project, I participated in a study seeking to understand the effects of Reiki therapy on mechanically ventilated older adults in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Through the College of Nursing Honors Program, I have seen this study develop, garner IRB approval, and begin recruiting patients. My role this summer mainly consisted of being a sham-Reiki interventionist (the study’s ‘placebo’). I also developed my research skills by starting a separate systematic review on the barriers and facilitators of ABCDEF bundle implementation with my mentor. I enhanced my understanding of inpatient nursing by working part-time as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? 

Before beginning to work on this project, my understanding of research was very much associated with science fair experiences of my youth. The experiments I conducted in that setting helped me develop a passion for science and nurtured my interest in the scientific process. In my undergraduate nursing curriculum, we are immersed in the cutting-edge world of evidence-based practice (EBP). Learning the nurse’s role in integrating the highest levels of evidence to enhance patient care led me to take part in the College of Nursing’s research-focused Honors program and eventually take part in this study.

In the time I’ve worked with the RISE-ICU study, I have grown to learn that in order to produce high quality evidence we can safely translate to practice, the research process must be rigorous and thorough. I also learned of the great number of parties involved in a successful study – Principal Investigators, Clinical Research Coordinators, statisticians, the Institutional Review Board, and the patient’s care team (RNs, RTs, PCAs) in the hospital, to name a few. I now have a more realistic understanding of the amount of time and effort which is needed to produce a high quality study. Additionally, I understand more clearly the roles of a nurse scientist and a bedside nurse in research.

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? 

My relationship with my mentor, Dr. Michele Balas, has helped shape me as a student, researcher, and healthcare provider. She has taught me the importance of being self-motivated in each of these three roles. Dr. Balas grants me autonomy in my work while simultaneously being an accessible resource to support me in my learning experience. Particularly through the addition of a systematic review to my project, Dr. Balas has taught me how to develop a relevant research question and review the literature existing on the topic. She has also helped me grow in resilience and taught me the benefits of a curious mind. I am grateful for the ways she has shown me how to advocate for myself, for my patients, and for my work.

Having had the opportunity to work with the study since its beginnings in Autumn of 2017, I have grown in patience and in my understanding of the research process. Completing the sham-Reiki intervention in the inpatient setting provided me with the challenge of coordinating with the care team, especially the patient’s nurse, when I could complete the intervention. This will influence my future practice as a bedside nurse, as I have an increased appreciation for promoting the research process, or as a nurse scientist, understanding the barriers that come with implementing a study to patient care.

An interesting intersection of my research experience and my part-time job as a PCA in the hospital occurred in the times I worked in the ICUs, which was also the setting of the RISE-ICU study and the typical environment in which the ABCDEF bundle is implemented. There were several instances where I used light-touch therapy and massage therapy techniques to calm patients who were experiencing agitation and allow them to sleep. The knowledge of how to do this and of the evidence suggesting its benefits came from my involvement in the RISE-ICU study. I am grateful to Dr. Susan Thrane, co-PI of the study, for her mentorship and guidance on how to incorporate these complementary therapies into practice.

Additionally, the hospital uses an early mobility (the “E” of the ABCDEF bundle) program; this allowed me to see first-hand the barriers and facilitators to its implementation which I was learning about as I reviewed the literature for my systematic review. I engaged in conversation with the hospital’s physical and occupational therapists, their main champions of the early mobility protocol, and was able to understand their perspective on the program. It was a fruitful opportunity for me to see the implementation of an evidence-based intervention in practice as it reminded me of the improvement to patient care that will hopefully come from our research.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

The transformation I’ve experienced through my STEP Signature Project is significant in my life because it has helped me understand the career potential of a nurse involved in research. This experience, in tandem with my clinical experiences through the nursing program, has allowed me to make an educated decision on my future career plans. I hope to become a Nurse Practitioner and will have an even greater responsibility to incorporate evidence into practice to provide my patients with the best outcomes. Working on this project has given me a greater appreciation for the evidence we use to guide our decision-making in healthcare. Additionally, my new familiarity with the process of conducting a high-quality RCT will help me to decipher the evidence presented by studies I will read in the future and enhance my ability to choose what to incorporate into practice. I am grateful for the learning opportunities the STEP Transformational project has allowed me.


Here is a link to a YouTube video of Dr. Susan Thrane, one of the study’s co-PIs, discussing her research:  The images within the video show the intervention I was delivering as a sham-Reiki therapist.


STEP Undergraduate Research Reflection

  1. My STEP Signature Project was a research project for my undergraduate thesis. I researched whether the executive function ability, inhibition, could be predictive of children’s interpretations of the quantifiers each and some. In order to do this, I went to a couple summer camps, received parental consents, and ran a 45-minute protocol consisting of several tasks that tested inhibition and a task that tested collective and distributive interpretations of sentences on children.
  2. By completing this STEP Signature Project, I grew personally and professionally in multiple ways. I became more confident and more adaptable. Before this project, I was not comfortable with rapid changes to any plans I had. I liked to have every aspect planned out, as well as any obstacles that might get in my way. I learned that it is not possible to have every possible situation mapped out, and, sometimes, the only way to solve these kinds of problems is to be flexible and adapt to the current situation, in other words, “go with the flow.” I also became more confident in my ability to work in a professional setting without much management. I oversaw my own schedule, my own projects, and my own strategies on how to run the protocol. I had never been able to have this much independence on a project before, and it forced me to learn very quickly how to manage myself and my time.
  1. One of the biggest events that happened during my STEP Signature Project was a continuing issue that arose with the Institutional Review Board in approving different aspects of my project. Because my subjects were people, all of the tasks and locations where research was collected had to be approved by the IRB. This process could take weeks at a time, which hindered our ability to collect data as quickly as we wanted to. This was the main reason I learned to be more adaptable as a result of this project. Because there were periods of time where I was not able to collect data when and where I wanted to, I had to adjust my schedule and strategies so that I was still doing something valuable with my time pertaining to my research project. Additionally, I had never had a lot of interaction with children before this and knowing how to adjust to their moods and whims was a learning curve for me. I often would have to take additional breaks during the protocol instead of running it all at once, or I would have to split the protocol into a few sessions over several days, which slowed down the data collection as well. This was something I could not plan for, so I had to accept each setback as it came.
  1. These changes, being more adaptable and confident in a professional setting, will help me in any career, including the end of my undergraduate career. In any job and in life unexpected issues always arise because it is impossible to plan for everything. Also, being more confident in a professional setting will help me in my future career. I feel more comfortable managing myself and my time, as well as in my abilities to direct my own projects, which will be immensely helpful for me in the future.