Growing as a Researcher: Reflecting on my Experience with CURF

Reflecting on my experiences with CURF over the past semester, it is evident that I have grown immensely as a researcher. Among many other things, I have learned the importance of patience, flexibility, and persistence while approaching the numerous challenges that often accompany scientific research. In terms of my particular research project, I was given the opportunity to learn various new computational, molecular, and biochemical lab techniques in order to select, clone, and express 17 different pre-existing human missense variants in the Renal Outer Medullary Potassium (ROMK) channel protein and subsequently assess their functional impact in a yeast model. Throughout this process, I faced multiple challenges while executing and conceptualizing the objective of each new experiment. Not only this, but I also became familiar with multiple computational tools including the TOPMed database, RHAPSODY, PrimerX, Snapgene, and Genewiz. Although the learning curve felt steep at times, I found it especially helpful to ask questions frequently. More specifically, I relied heavily on the advice and guidance I received from my wonderful research mentor, Katie Nguyen, my principal investigator, Dr. Jeffrey Brodsky, as well as the other undergraduate researchers in the Brodsky lab. Ultimately, my most valuable realization from this past semester is that collaboration is essential when taking the first few steps on your journey through a seemingly overwhelming research project. Overall, I now look at this fascinating realm of research with an outlook full of excitement rather than intimidation.

Correspondingly, my personal CURF experience has also emphasized the importance of communication in terms of sharing my research findings with other scientists. Through creatively describing the progression of my project in my blog posts, I have learned how to properly convey my thoughts and ideas to a knowledgeable audience. Reading the blog posts of my peer undergraduate researchers participating in CURF has also helped me to gain some useful insights about similar experiences when starting research. Additionally, with this semester being unlike any other, the CURF experience has taught me the importance of adaptability. Despite all of the uncertainties existing in the world currently with the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, CURF has provided a platform for young scientists like myself to continue research projects in diverse ways. 

In the future, I plan to utilize the knowledge I have gained from the CURF experience to continue my investigation of Bartter’s disease-causing mutations in an ion channel, ROMK. In particular, I hope to soon perform cycloheximide chase assays and western blot assays to further assess the stability of the 17 ROMK variants. With the ultimate goal of better understanding the essential residues in ROMK underlying its structure-function relationship, I will strive to analyze my experimental data and effectively communicate my findings to make a lasting impact on the scientific community.

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