Over this past summer, I participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at Johns Hopkins University Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT). I was placed in Douglas Robinson’s laboratory under the mentorship of Vasudha Srivastava in the School of Medicine. I worked on the preliminary studies necessary to determine the molecular mechanisms of regulation within the cell’s mechanosensory system.
It was one of the best experiences of my life; I thoroughly enjoyed every day of it. Dr. Robinson and his lab members were extremely welcoming, supportive, and resourceful throughout the entire ten weeks and even after the program ended. I was able to gain substantial research experience and develop relationships with the people in the lab. At the end of the program, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to present the work I had done at the 2013 Council on Undergraduate Research Conference of Research Experiences for Undergraduates Student Scholarship (CUR CREUSS) in Arlington, VA.
The CUR CREUSS was another great experience. I was able to meet students who participated in REU programs at institutions from all across the country as well as the faculty members involved in the REU programs. Each student participated in three, 30-minute poster sessions, and we were asked questions about our work and overall experience during the summer.
We were also able to attend a faculty poster session during which each faculty member presented the work he or she is currently involved in. I loved having the opportunity to talk about my experience and to learn of others’ experiences doing research. There was a very diverse group of studies among the students and faculty in a variety of fields, such as: chemistry, engineering, life sciences, mathematical sciences, geosciences, psychology, social sciences, and materials research. The conference also provided “Breakout Sessions” in which National Science Foundation (NSF) members presented on the importance of research, good conduct, graduate school, careers, research funding, and a variety of other topics. These sessions were very informative and useful. I attended the “Applying for Graduate School Support from NSF” and “Incorporating Your Research Experiences into Applications for Post-Baccalaureate Fellowships and Nationally Competitive Awards” sessions. Overall, this experience allowed me to further develop my presentation skills, gain exposure to other fields of study, network, and learn of all the resources provided by the NSF.
One last piece of information from the CUR CREUSS that I feel the need to share with other undergraduate students is of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. It provides three years of financial support to graduate students and, if awarded, makes the student more competitive when applying to graduate programs. It is a great opportunity that I was not aware of until attending the conference.
My experiences from the INBT REU program and CREUSS have lead me to believe that it should be mandatory for students interested in research careers to participate in extracurricular research programs. I gained information and experience that are essential in choosing a career and developing as a scientist and as a person. I believe the most important aspects of each were the exposure to different fields of study and the information on the different resources and opportunities available to undergraduates. I will always be grateful for these opportunities provided by the INBT faculty and staff and Dr. Robinson’s lab.
Shantel Angstadt is in her senior year at Elizabethtown College studying biochemistry and was an REU intern at Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology for the summer of 2013.