My experience as an undergraduate researcher has turned out to be an accumulation of experiences. I see the research process as puzzle I have been collecting pieces for over the years. It is clear to me now how throughout my four years at the University my experiences in lab rotations, research based class, and fellowship added onto my understanding of the research process. In my first year as an undergrad, participating in the research seemed just like a requisite for graduate school. After 4 years, I have come to realize the scope of the research process and why scientists have devoted their lives to research. I think it is amazing that each scientist has different questions, but the research process is shared. This semester, as a CURF student, I was forced to take a step back and look at the research process as a whole.
Irrespective of the field of research, every step must lead back to the scientific method. I have vivid memories of learning the steps of the scientific method 10 years back. It seemed so irrelevant at the time. It is not till this semester that the significance of that process started to sink in. Everything starts with the question at hand; then, the background research needed to be done, the hypothesis was constructed, the experiments needed to answer the questions were designed, the results were analyzed, and finally you presented what you learned. Everyone knows this simple sequence, but as obstacles come in the way (troubleshooting, redesigning experiments, refining your hypothesis) it is easy to drift away from the question at hand. I am grateful for my mentor who always harped on the importance of finding where I was stuck in the scientific method. There were many times this semester where inconclusive results would keep pushing me to the start of my experimental design. It was important that I always looked for solutions in order to address my hypothesis. My advice to student who are starting to get involved in research is to not be discouraged when you make mistakes, look back at the steps of scientific method, and continue to take the next step forward to answering your question.
As I reflect on my undergraduate career and move onto the next chapter of my career, I am realizing that I each of those research experiences have built onto my love for the work. No matter how irrelevant I thought there were at the time, I came around to being so excited about listening to research, doing my own research, and being part of the community. My CURF experience has solidified my interest in pursuing research as a professional career. Four years ago, I would never imagine deciding to spend 8 more years in school. Now, becoming a Physician Scientist is what I want to do. After graduating, I will be working as a research technician to gain more experience in the wet lab. I also hope to learn about the intricacies of what it takes to run a lab because I aspire to run my own one day. In the coming two years, I aim to get more clarity into the field of translational research that I want to dedicate myself to in graduate school.