When I was presenting my research at the Stony Brook URECA symposium, I realized how much I have grown after performing one year of research in the lab. URECA added to the overall experience because it gave me the chance to communicate my work and my interests. That I was able to successfully explain concepts to my audience made me realize that I did know what I was talking about and that I wasn’t just mixing chemicals in the fume hood to make a product. I never imagined I would accomplish so much in the laboratory, let alone even have the opportunity to perform research as an undergraduate. I have benefited greatly by spending my junior year practically applying the theories I had only learned about in class or read in journal articles.
While I enjoyed the organic chemistry laboratory course I had taken for my major, I doubted that I would be successful in performing research because I was always concerned that my synthesized product did not meet the desired standards for quality (“purity”) and quantity (“yield”). These standards were the two most important factors that determined a student’s success in the laboratory course. They are, in fact, two critical aspects of synthesizing compounds. If a company were to produce and sell these compounds, it would have to ensure that the compounds meet the established criteria. I was hesitant to apply for research for this reason, because I didn’t think I would be able to handle the pressure to be perfect.
Yet, here I am, researching in a medicinal chemistry lab. Sure, the processes can be challenging. Reactions take time, and sometimes I have to put in long hours. Sometimes, even after all that effort, I have to redo the procedure because the product was not pure enough or the yield was too low to use in the next step.
Despite the setbacks I have faced, I have felt proud on many more occasions because I was able to understand what I was doing and why I was running the reactions under specific conditions. What may not have made sense to me in the classroom began to connect in my mind. When I did face a setback, I could determine how to correct it when I repeated the reaction.
When I began to work in the lab, I was overwhelmed by the chemical structures and conditions; I was mainly concerned that I would confuse myself and not know what to do. I realized, though, that while I continue to set up new reactions in the lab, I am actually practicing the same few fundamentals over and over. I am fine-tuning those skills and am continually working towards improving my technique.
I have recognized the change in my confidence about my research during the time that I have spent in the laboratory. I have had several occasions to present my research and have very proudly done so. I volunteered to participate in a research panel organized by the Stony Brook University Neuroscience Axis for local high school students, and I have also prepared a poster for the URECA Research Symposium.
My progress in performing and communicating research is a motivation for me to continue to pursue research for my senior year. I now have a better understanding of the reaction conditions and the applications of the compounds that I synthesize. I have not only gained knowledge by working in the lab, but I have also become more confident in my ability to synthesize and purify compounds. I look forward to making more progress in the laboratory and inspiring others to do the same.