Throughout my time working under the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (CURF), I have gained a greater understanding of the research process as a whole. I have experienced some highs and lows in my work this semester, but I am glad to say that I took something away from each and every experience.
Sometimes, it is easy to assume that everything in the research process is well-defined and all processes will run smoothly. I am here to tell you firsthand that this is not always the case. For example, I have been conducting some immunohistochemistry, procedures designed to process and stain biological tissue, and the lab staff and I have run into many issues. Throughout the semester, we had to work to redefine the existing protocols, testing over and over again just to try and get our brainstem tissue to look exactly how we needed it to for analysis. I will say that we got very frustrated with this uncertainty, but it was well worth it in the end to see our excellent results.
To any other undergraduate researchers, I hope you can take my experience in this regard as motivation to keep persisting, even through the most frustrating portions of research. I also would advise other researchers to build good relationships with the people you will be working with on your project. I have excellent working relationships with my lab manager Jonathan Shulgach and my lab technician Pooja Amin, and I think our collaborative work environment has allowed us to solve problems faster and with greater efficiency. I also think that we all are able to function as a nice support group for each other, and I surely appreciate their help and advice with all of my research and professional goals.
The most valuable part of my CURF experience was the further development of my research skills. Technically, I have become much more experience in data analysis through my repeated processing and interpretation of physiological recording data. I have also learned a lot about neuroscience and how neuroscience research is typically conducted. I really valued being able to apply what I have learned about the nervous system in the classroom to real life research.
Now that the Fall 2020 CURF is over, I plan to continue my research into the spring semester and beyond. In particular, I plan to help complete our lab’s ongoing data analysis and use these results to write a thesis of my own in conjunction with an upcoming lab publication. I am especially excited for this project, as it will allow me to experience the full process of writing, revising, and editing research for publication to the scientific community. I think this experience will be my best preparation for graduate school yet.
I would like to give one last thank you to everyone who helped me with different aspects of this fellowship, especially Dr. Bill Yates, the rest of the lab staff, Pitt’s School of Medicine, and the Pitt Honors College. This experience has been wonderful and I can not be more thankful.