As I have grown as a student in each of my classes, it is apparent to me that there is one way for the world to continue to advance – and that way is research. In order for research to happen and be successful, it is important to have many people involved, who all think in different ways.
During my first year at Hope, I was involved in the Day 1 Phage Discovery Research Program. This is an opportunity for first year students to immerse themselves in research right away when starting at Hope College. In this program, I was able to search for phages, or viruses that infect bacteria, and attempt to isolate and characterize the phage I found. In this process I learned many skills that I knew would be useful in my future career and life in general. Through this program, I knew that research was something I wanted to continue during my time at Hope because of the valuable skills I was developing, such as communication skills, determination and perseverance, critical thinking and problem-solving, and collaboration with other students.
After my year of Phage research, I had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and present my research with my mentor at a conference. Through this experience, I learned how to put together a research poster, and how to clearly communicate my research to others. I spoke with other students and faculty from all over the country. I also was able to present this research at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research at Hope College in the spring, where I learned how to present to community members who had no knowledge regarding my topic of interest. From both of these experiences, I learned how to clearly communicate my research to people who had limited understanding of science to those who are very specialized in my topic. This is important because communication skills are essential in every aspect of life, and these are two examples of how research at Hope has caused me to develop great communication.
Near the end of my year of Phage research, I contacted a professor at Hope who was looking for another student in her research lab. I was very interested, as I was learning the many benefits of research, and I really enjoy the process of researching. Everything worked out, and I started researching for her at the beginning of my second year. When I began researching for her, another student and I were assigned a new project. I was super excited to get a new project different from what the other students in her lab were working on. Little did I know the first step to this project was to purify the particular protein, and the protein has been very tricky to work with. We have tried a few different methods, all with little to no success. It is very common to fail during research, which is ultimately the way you learn what is going well and what isn’t in order to make the project better and to continue getting closer to success. In life, it is really important to be able to handle failure well, because it will happen to everybody. Will you become defeated and quit the task at hand, or pick yourself up and try again? The latter is the harder choice, but the better option, and the process of research will teach you that. Determination and perseverance are necessary characteristics to being successful in the research lab, and those skills are applicable to anything in life as well.
Getting involved in research was one of the best decisions I have made thus far at Hope College. Through this process I have learned how to effectively communicate with a variety of people, persevere through failure in the lab, critical think and problem-solve, and work independently, but still collaborate with my mentor and other students in my lab. I would highly recommend getting involved in research at Hope College, especially since we are top in the nation for undergraduate research. Hope gives undergraduate students great opportunities to research, whereas many undergraduate students at other institutions do not receive these opportunities, another benefit of Hope College.