My Brackenridge Fellowship Final Reflection

Hello and welcome to my last blog of this summer! First of all, I wanted to thank Dr. Say for his unwavering support and dedication in nurturing our growth as researchers. As the fall semester approaches, I want to take the time to reflect on my journey in the Brackenridge Research Fellowship summer program. 

For those who don’t know me, my name is Niharika Welling. I am going into my sophomore year as a Computational Biology major with a minor in Chemistry and a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. This summer, I delved into a cell biology research project at Dr. Partha Roy’s lab, where I experimented with inhibitory compounds to halt aberrant angiogenesis as it can lead to the spread of cancer throughout the body as well as other diseases including arthritis and diabetic retinopathy (an eye condition for diabetics). Although I started working in this lab during the spring semester, this summer I was able to invest more time and effort into the research which allowed me to take on more responsibilities and dive deeper into this project. 

The most significant lesson I learned this summer was that research requires a lot of patience. Initially, this frustration got to me: Why didn’t the experiment I worked on for a week succeed? Why were my cells dying? What caused the cells to cluster at the edge of the wells? However, as time went on, I found myself asking more questions, understanding the significance of each step in the protocol, and noticing patterns and trends in the data that I hadn’t observed before. Collaborating with my PI and lab members, especially the MS student who mentored me, during the weekly lab meetings proved to be one of the most crucial aspects of research. The feedback and advice I received gave me fresh perspectives on how to overcome my obstacles, which I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Although sometimes even the smallest successes took weeks to appear, I can confidently say that the entire process was invaluable. My passion for research has grown this summer as I began to appreciate its iterative and evolving nature. At the beginning of the summer, I started with about 15 different compounds that required testing, and I am proud to say that by the end I found the one that worked most efficiently in inhibiting the blood vessels from uncontrollably proliferating.

Beyond my own research, the Brackenridge program has provided me with a transformative experience that broadened my perspective on research outside of my own academic pursuits. As a STEM student, my preconceived notions of research were confined to laboratory work, experimental procedures, and data analysis. However, this program opened up new perspectives for me as I learned about research from different fields through our weekly seminars. For instance, one of my cohort members was examining trans archival materials to learn about the history of trans medicine. This approach captivated my interest as it introduced me to an entirely unexplored dimension of research. Additionally, through this interdisciplinary collaboration, I learned how to convey my research to people outside of my field. Not only did this allow me to refine my communication skills, but also it enabled me to better comprehend my research and learn how to raise awareness among the general public.

Overall, I am truly grateful for this incredible opportunity to dedicate my summer to research. With the help of my mentors, I aspire to publish my findings in the near future and advance this project to its clinical stages. Furthermore, I hope to take on new projects that will allow me to explore different facets of research. Beyond the scope of research, I also look forward to applying the skills I’ve cultivated this summer, such as patience, effective collaboration, and critical thinking, to other aspects of my life. My advice for anyone nervous about embarking on their research journey: although the learning curve is steep, the lessons and skills you take away are invaluable. 

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