What my project was:
My undergraduate research STEP project was researching the use of copper-infused fabric as an anti-microbial in canine Staphylococcus sp. infections. During the course of the STEP project, I met with my PI, Dr. Dubraska Diaz-Campos, my laboratory supervisor, and one of the attending clinicians in the Department of Dermatology at Ohio States Veterinary Medical Center in order to compile existing literature and create a methodology for our project. While the course of my STEP project has ended, this research will be ongoing and I will continue with the experimental phase throughout the semester.
What made this experience transformative:
One thing that I had always wanted to do when I got to OSU was to conduct undergraduate research. This project allowed me to do just that, and I got to see all of the facets that go into research. I also learned that the literature review process can be tedious and may not go as fast as one would like. At the conclusion of my STEP project, we had just finished our literature review and we are now finalizing our methods before starting the experimental phase of our project. I think that this experience was transformative because it allowed me to take charge of a project that both helped to further understand my knowledge in microbiology and veterinary medicine and to help me gain practical research experience. While many of my classes have exposed me to the research process previously, I never got to conduct a true research study like this one. I also learned to hone my communication skills from working in a team setting on this project. Overall, this experience has provided me with practical skills that I will hopefully utilize in my future career.
What events led to this transformation:
This past summer, I was looking to do a research project with my lab. The lab I work in is the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Center. We mainly conduct diagnostics for patients at the hospital, but there are always a few research projects going on as well. I had a few ideas in mind for my own research project, but due to COVID-19, we were unable to spend money on research. However, that’s when my PI was approached by the Dermatology Department, and they proposed a project that would require minimal expense and would be quick. This proposal turned into my current project, as my PI immediately brought me and another fellow student at the lab on board. Shortly after the fall 2020 semester started, we had our first project zoom meeting, where we discussed the logistics of the project and began to look for literature related to our topic.
Copper fabric has been used extensively in human medicine, and copper itself is known for its inherent antimicrobial properties. However, its use in veterinary medicine has been extremely limited, and our goal with our project is to find alternatives to traditional antibiotics that may foster antibiotic resistance. The positive about using copper is that there is very little resistance to it, and virtually none in Staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which is the main Staph. species that infects dogs. Like MRSA in humans, MRSPs are becoming increasingly more common in canine dermatological infections, which is why this research is so important. Through our literature review and planning, I was able to come to understand antimicrobial resistance at a higher level, as well as understand how alternative antimicrobials may work to combat infection.
Through our many literature review and methodology zoom meetings, I learned how to write up a method for conducting research that can be followed by any member of the team. Since I and the other student involved were the ones who came up with the methodology, we learned how to develop a practical and replicable experiment. I also learned how to skim other research papers for important information in order to contribute to our methodology. I also learned how to explain and run through complicated calculations that we had to undergo in order to create dilution factors that can be reported in a paper from a standard value and estimated number of CFUs.
While at the conclusion of my STEP project this research is still ongoing, we are hopeful that we can start with the experimental phase soon, where I will learn even more about data collection and microbiology. I am excited to utilize what I have learned so far in both my classes and in my future career. This experience was a transformative one because it allowed me to experience the process of research for the first time in a laboratory setting, and it helped me to develop original ideas in a team setting. ‘
Why this transformation is valuable
As a student aspiring to go to veterinary school, I want to learn more about the infectious disease process in animals and how we can use alternative antimicrobials to reduce antibiotic resistance. I have always been profoundly interested in microbiology, and working in a microbiology laboratory has allowed me to learn a large sum of information on common pathogens in animals and zoonoses. This research project has let me take my knowledge a step further and allowed me to apply what I learned working in the lab to a practical study that can be applied to both veterinary and human medicine. Learning how to conduct research in a team setting has also been valuable to honing my communication skills. Overall, my STEP Signature Project has allowed me to explore the field of veterinary research and develop skills that will one day be useful to me in my career path.