As summer research winds down, I have taken some time to really appreciate the marvel that is Barnard Chemistry as well as the Summer Research Institute. Likewise, I have been able to reflect on my progress as a researcher and ceaseless learner. The SRI poster session really substantiated all the positive feelings I had regarding the program. It was quite remarkable to see over one hundred posters displaying the research of about one hundred and sixty undergraduate women! It was not until the provost mentioned that the poster session of undergraduate women presenting their work in STEM was probably one of the largest events in the country, that the significance of the implication really set in. While discussing other students' research with them at the poster session I realized just how much science I have learned in the past year both in the classroom and in the lab. Not only is it kind of impressive to recall and apply the chemistry, biology, and other sciences I have learned, but it really rewarding to be able to have a conversation with professors and researchers regarding a range of topics. Even when I or my peers do not understand certain aspects of someone's research, we are able to ask intelligent questions which can help clarify our confusion or unfamiliarity with the subject. I often find myself recalling various course lessons from different classes to put things in perspective. I really enjoyed moments this summer when a friend and I bounced ideas off one another, drawing from past lectures or labs. Moments like these were helpful for brainstorming research ideas, as well as confirming and testing your own scientific knowledge.
In anticipation of the poster session, I had to spend some time planning my presentation. I had to consider the story I wanted to tell based on the research question I had originally set out to answer and the data I had collected. Once I compiled all my data and really sat down to look at it, I saw the story in front of me and where it may lead to. The background information consisting of literature and work done by previous researchers helped dictate my experiments this summer. The bulk of my story stems from my results from this current summer, and the future directions of the project are influenced by the questions I have and conclusions I can make about my results.
For instance, I have been getting varying results concerning one of the proteins of interest in different cell lines. I am unsure if the results I have been getting are differing based on the cell line or based on my experimental procedure. In the past, I have experienced many problems with immunoblotting, but need to rule out any inconsistencies I have seen by repeating the experiment multiple times in all the three cell lines to get a more definitive answer. Additionally, I have seen some results that do not exactly line up with or support the results from a previous researcher and will need to continue to either establish the pattern I am seeing or get similar results as the former student. Future work will hopefully clarify the results and thus the conclusions we can draw from it. When I first started conducting research, I would have asked these questions to my mentor, but now I can plan my own experiments aimed at answering these research questions I have. I have definitely grown as a researcher by learning which questions to ask, how to set up an experiment to properly address my research question, and how to analyze the results.
The next step in preparing for my presentation was to design my poster to best represent the research story I wanted to tell. I had a template from the previous year's poster session but needed to update a lot of my results. Originally, I tabulate data based on an individual experiment, but in order to tell my story more concisely, I needed to compile results from experiments under the same conditions. This took more time than I anticipated, but it really helped when presenting my work to more definitively show a pattern. While compiling my data, I learned that I am very much a visual learner. I retain information better when I can read over the experiment and see the specific conditions set. I always keep a pen and small notebook next to me whenever I step into meetings even for something very quick because on many occasions my research advisor and I would bounce ideas off each other and I would leave unsure of our final decisions.
I also practiced my presentation tailoring it to various audiences based on timing, content, results, and future directions. For some people, they are more interested in the conclusions and outcomes of the research while others are interested in the specific details of the procedure and results. Throughout this process of preparing and presenting at the poster session, I found that I became more dynamic and flexible in diverse environments. During this summer and especially at the science symposium, I found that I was improving as a presenter and possibly and educator. With group meetings aiding as additional practice, I learned how to present my results in a comprehensible way. Being able to teach or talk about a very specific topic in a coherent way confirms my understanding of the material let alone my ability to present to others.
At the end of the summer, it is extremely important that I make sure all my files of raw and analyzed data are comprehensive, organized, and match the work documented in my lab notebook. Similar to the time when I needed to compile results from various trials of the same experiment, I needed to thoroughly and carefully go through all the files I had generated this summer and make sure that others such as my research advisor and new student researchers could easily refer back to my work. Even in a month, when I return to the lab, I will appreciate the work I did to clarify my procedure and experiment conditions. I couldn't stress enough the significance of an up-to-date lab notebook.
I look forward to continuing doing research in the Fall. I really enjoyed running my own experiments and planning the course of my inquiry. Conducting research over the summer allowed me the opportunity to work full time, pursue questions, and run experiments which I would not be able to during the school semester. This summer, as well as my past semesters conducting research, has been a great learning experience where I overcame challenges, developed new skills, and grew as a student and researcher.