Over the course of the 10 weeks I’ve spend in the Jia lab, I feel that I have become a much more competent researcher, as well as gained more perspective on the role of research in science and science education. Over the course of my research project, I have learned a great deal about the day-to-day process of research that I had, for the most part, only understood through minor lab experiments as part of classes and an outsider’s perception of research. Experiments that are either disregarded, or simply minor parts of a larger research project can each take weeks, but somewhat surprisingly I found the entire experience to be exciting. Yeast grows rather quickly, which made for a research process in which I could physically see my results when they became evident. I also had the opportunity to master techniques over this summer that seemed unattainable at the beginning when I was first stumbling through them. Additionally, over this experience I gained a great deal of independence in the lab. In the beginning of my internship, I was typically waiting for my mentor to come to me with tasks and trainings, while in these most recent weeks I was completely able to independently come into the lab and accomplish my work that was building on everything I had completed previously throughout the summer. While I still checked in and consulted with my mentor, I had a complete idea of my tasks and goals for each day, and throughout the week.
I now feel, overall, much more confident as someone who is able to conduct research, and understand the steps that need to be taken to accomplish an overall goal. Additionally, I feel that I now have an increased confidence to ask for help when I am unsure. I am sometimes uneasy when asking for help because I don’t want to seem incompetent or unable to accomplish tasks, but over this summer in research I have learned that simply asking questions, even if they seem foolish or unnecessary, can make accomplishing tasks far more effective. I, of course, have known this for a long time but being sometimes completely clueless in the lab led me to be more active in my pursuit of knowledge from mentors.
Completing this research experience has led me to think about how important research is in STEM education. Overall, I feel that being able to engage in research is essential for students to have a full understanding of science subjects. While many students have laboratory elements in classes, actually experiencing what a lab setting is like, and understanding the world of science research, changes an individual’s idea of science. Of course, not every student can experience research before beginning college, but having a teacher that is intimately familiar with research can be very beneficial for students. As I have said, I feel like I have an increased ability to explain the process of scientific research and how discovery works now that I have fully experienced research.
In the future, I will be able to use these research skills in future research, when I, most likely, complete a research thesis, as well as when I continue to engage in science education. With the many research skills I have gained, I will be able to be a much more competent researcher, and begin to pursue my own research goals with the skills I have gained. I hope to become a better science educator, and be able to explain to students how science truly happens and how the information they are learning has come about. Additionally, I want to help students think critically about scientific discoveries and how reliable scientific data is. During my internship, I reviewed a variety of papers that occasionally disagreed on the interpretation of results, and I hope to help students understand that even if there is information in a scientific journal, it is not necessarily absolute truth.