Wrapping up HSRF

The summer that we are now approaching the end of has had a great impact on my understanding of and relationship with research. Although I have been active in the lab since my freshman year, much of this was a hands-off, virtual experience due to the pandemic. As such, coming back into the lab physically this year was an opportunity to learn many techniques I would have learned earlier in person, and ramping up the intensity of my work during the summer has allowed me to work on a project of my own. My understanding of research has grown within the sphere of my lab’s work, as well as outside of this through talking with other researchers in my cohort.

My previous experience in the lab was mostly confined to working on isolated parts of various projects, and accordingly, my understanding of how the research process works has been aided by the ability to work on all parts of a project from start to finish. For example, I have learned through my own trial and error that research is not always straightforward and that being able to adapt is crucial. Over the summer, I have seen the need for researchers to sometimes change protocols and redo tests. This need for flexibility seems to transcend the boundaries of subject matter, as it is also present for members of the Brackenridge cohort I have talked to.

Something else that has changed my understanding of research is seeing the different forms that it can take. Of course, I always have known there are countless ways to research, but hearing about other people’s projects has made this all the more apparent. Within the health sciences and not, there are numerous tangible methods as well as philosophies that people utilize in their work. This was a very valuable part of HSRF, in that it provided a space for us to talk not just about what we are doing, but how we feel about it, and what we want to do with this experience.

During my senior year, I plan to finish the project I have worked on for this fellowship and write my thesis about it while continuing to assist with other ongoing projects in the Cheetham lab. I am nervous yet excited to finish my time at Pitt and am grateful that this fellowship could be a highlight of my college experience. After graduating, I hope to take a couple of gap years working and narrowing my research interests before applying to graduate school!

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