My STEP Signature Project was a research project that I lead in the lab of Dr. Long-Sheng Chang. My research focused on testing the efficacy of a drug on osteosarcoma cells. I performed various experiments, such as western blots, to determine the cells’ protein content after drug treatment.
As a pre-medical student, I had known that I enjoyed interacting with patients; however, I was unsure whether or not I would enjoy the research process as it lacked the patient interaction that I treasured. Yet, during my semester researching, I attended various conferences and heard the stories of how other researchers were making an impact on patients worldwide without actually helping them directly. The initial mindset that I had was that I would not enjoy it as there was no patient interaction. Although I did not have any patient interaction during my time researching, I did learn about the process that it takes for drugs to be approved and how there is a comprehensive approach to ensure the safety of the patients. With this, I had developed a greater appreciation for the works of researchers.
During my time researching, I had the chance to work closely with my Principal investigator, who has been researching for over 30 years. I would come in every weekday at noon and leave around 6 PM or so. On the days that I would arrive early to complete an experiment, I would see my PI already here at the lab. Likewise, on the occasion where I stay late until probably 11 PM or midnight, he is there as well. I realized that he was dedicated to fighting cancer and that he was driven to succeed. This dedication was exceptional and helped me develop a further appreciation for research as it requires a sacrifice to benefit society.
As I spent the semester researching osteosarcoma, I had the unique opportunity to lead my project with the guidance of my PI and the Ph.D. in the lab. I had always known that research was a field that required time and dedication; however, over the course of the semester, I had the chance to experience the required dedication and commitment. As I was performing treating the cells with the drug, somewhere along the way, there was an uneven division of cells that practically threw off the entire experiment. I had no idea until it was near the end of that experiment. Because of something as small as an uneven split of cells, two weeks’ worth of work had gone down the drain. Every step had to be taken with precision and care as even loading a couple of microliters more would result in a result that was not truly reflective of the experiment.
Although there was no patient interaction while researching, I had the opportunity to attend the tumor board meetings where physicians discussed their patients’ treatment courses. During this time, I had the chance to see how the research was directly impacting the patients. The analysis provided the data on what course of treatment should be pursued. Seeing the physicians consider the prior study was an eye-opening experience for me as I was able to see the connection between patient care and research, which I was not actively aware of before this experience.
This experience researching in the lab of Dr. Chang has taught me always to keep an open mind. Although on the surface it may not seem that research would have the same satisfaction of working with patients first hand, this experience has been just as rewarding knowing that I was contributing to the patient care of countless numbers of future patients. I had the chance to learn about how research helps to guide physicians’ choices to achieve the best outcome and care. The mentality will be something that I will take with me as I continue to pursue a medical degree. In the medical field, it is essential always to have an open mind when it comes to listening to the patient and creating a treatment plan. Without an open mind, patient care has been shown to decrease since every person is unique drastically
Although there was no patient interaction while researching, I had the opportunity to attend the tumor board meetings where physicians discussed the courses of treatment for their patient. It was during this time where I had the chance to see how the research was directly impacting the patients. The research provided the data on what course of treatment should be pursued. Seeing the physicians take into account the prior research was an eye opening experience for me as I was able to see the connection between patient care and research, which was something that I was not actively aware of prior to this experience.