CURF 3: Final Reflections of the Semester

Over the course of the semester, my understanding of the research process changed quite a bit. Last spring, it appeared that my experiments were more successful on average. However, looking back, this is not completely true. Working with fewer variables and simpler mechanisms, my previous data looks better, and that was on purpose. Instead of testing novel theories and new constructs, I was verifying experiments that were supposed to work-and most did. My research this semester ran into many dead ends and experiments that did not work out the way we hypothesized. Experiencing this failure firsthand helped me understand that this was nothing unusual in the world of research, and I will likely run into the same kind of problems in the future. To rectify the problems I encountered, I relied on my graduate student mentor, who helped me through many of the problems that I encountered both in experimentation and in data quantification. My PI and other members of the lab also offered some suggestions as well, and I read several papers to understand the underlying mechanisms I was investigating. To other undergraduate researchers, it is important to understand that you will run into setbacks. To advance past these roadblocks, you must glean information from those around you that are more experienced and be able to think outside the box. Conducting undergraduate research is nothing like a laboratory you will take for a class, and you are not just working for a grade-there is much more at stake. To be a good researcher, you must be able to be accurate and precise with observations and measurements, as well as being able to digest lengthy research papers and deal with failures that will inevitably occur. Novel ideas will change due to testing, and you must be able to adapt to the changes in your research that will most likely take place.

Although my CURF is ending, I plan on continuing my research into the PIP5K enzyme. I will continue to work in the Hammond lab, and hopefully showcase my research in the near future. My CURF experience was a great one, and in the future I will be applying to other Frederick Honors College fellowships to support my research. I hope to be able to conduct research for a career, either getting a PhD or MD/PhD. Although I am not completely certain on what I will do after graduating, having research be a part of whatever I do is important to me.

This is the results of an experiment testing the recruitment of different phospholipids to the cellular membrane. Nir1 is a probe for phosphatidic acid, or PA, and C1ab is a biosensor for diacylglycerol, or DAG. The top four graphs have C1ab attached to a green fluorescent protein, and Nir1 attached to a red protein. The bottom two graphs have the biosensors switched; with Nir1 attached to a green marker and C1ab attached to a red one. Our results were a little all over the place-showing that science isn’t always so cut and dry.

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