- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.