Chase Steele, Senior, Biology Pre-Medicine
Chase Steele, Senior, Biology Pre-Medicine:
What do you research?
I research cancer immunotherapy, in which, instead of using drugs or chemotherapy to fight the cancer, we try to jump-start the immune system with a special vaccine.
How do you conduct your research?
We have a lab over in the biology building here at Kent where we grow cancer cells. Depending on the type of experiment we want to run, we put those cancer cells into specific plates, and we add different immune system samples and non-chemotherapeutic drugs. From there, we have multiple different machines we can choose to use.
How do you think you have grown as a student and/or as a professional as a result of research? What would you tell a friend who would like to become involved in research?
One of the obvious results is that research has helped me to become a better communicator. I have done a poster presentation and a Three Minute Thesis, in which I received first place and second place respectively. These have really helped because I have had professors as well as other people who are not in the sciences come up to me and ask me about my research. I have learned how to communicate to both a diverse audience and the people in my lab, where I have to be very precise with what I am saying. Conveying results and asking questions very clearly is definitely something that I grew into over time. Another way I think I have grown is in regards to my critical-thinking skills. In the beginning, I was always told what I would be doing, and I was given the bare minimum since that was all I could understand. As time has gone on, now I am thinking more deeply on why certain aspects work like they do, why cells could be responding a certain way as a result of something specific, that sort of thing. Overall, I have become a better thinker and a better scientist because I have seen things work and fail, and I have to figure out why.
To a friend on the fringe of research, I would say, “Look around you. Everything you see exists because someone researched it in some capacity.” Whether it be a TV, your phone, a door to a room, or the paint on the walls, everything exists because of research, and you have a place in that. You have to find the place where you are most passionate but, regardless of your discipline, research is important. For pre-med, there needs to better treatments to help improve the quality of life. It comes down to seeing the need and seeing that the need is literally everywhere.
What are the benefits of undergraduate research? What are the commitments involved in undergraduate research?
One of the obvious benefits is the resume boost, which makes you a more diverse applicant to any job or program that you want to pursue after undergraduate. Additionally, I have found that research has had a cyclical, uplifting effect on my studies, where what I learn in lab helps me understand what I learn in class and vice versa. Research makes lessons that were just head knowledge more hands-on, and it makes you a better student all-around.
Regarding commitments, you get out of research what you put into it. In addition to the time commitment, it is also about your ability to ask a good question and show in ways other than just showing up that you care about what you are doing and that you want to learn. As soon as your professors and graduate students sense that resolve in you, they will be eager to teach you. The level of enthusiasm and the desire you bring to the table will vastly impact your experience.