So this week we decided to do the opposite of a major struggle and blog about our favorite highlight of being in STEM. Mine is the first time I was published in a scientific journal.
What many people may not know is that while you're conducting research of any kind, the goal is to write about it and publish those findings - so that's one of the goals to reach with your work in graduate school. Publishing your work means that what you're looking at is valuable and adds something new to the field. While I was at Pitt, I had the opportunity to do research in Tara Meyer's group. She's a polymer chemist (which is completely different than mass spect) and I was paired with a senior graduate student, Mike, during my time there. Our job was to take different polymers and figure out their similarities and differences - long, very technical story short.
My undergraduate research journey was a lot of fun (and hard work) and I made sure I learned a lot doing it. Mike and I really worked on things together, he helped me learn new techniques, I analyzed data by myself, and everything else that comes with doing a research project. I was in the group for a year and a half and even started my own project with a technique I ended up teaching Mike before I graduated. I put enough work in to be an author on one of Mike's papers! (The picture is the title piece of the article)
Side note: If you're thinking about undergraduate research, you really want to make sure you're being trained to be independent in the lab, in both skill and thinking. Be upfront with the group you have the opportunity to work for and let them know you're there to work and get something out of it. No graduate student will turn down a student ready to learn and work. It's what I learned with, and watching, Mike that I use now with my own undergrads. I want them to have as fulfilling an experience that I had when I was in their shoes.
Back to the story:
My research advisor always told me, "She who gets the data, gets the credit," and seeing my name on an article from work I did in UNDERGRAD was so exciting. I literally screamed when I got the email that it was out. It's really hard getting published as an undergrad because normally your schedule is crazy and you can't devote a lot of time to research, but this is hands down my favorite accomplishment thus far. This is a visible representation of all the long hours in the lab, experiments not working, and tons of data that had to be analyzed. This makes it worth it for me.
I'm a chemist because I love being in the lab, but research is definitely super frustrating - especiallyyyyy in grad school - but knowing you're doing something cool enough that people want to publish and read is priceless.
Being in STEM is as much about the lows as it is the highs and we wanted to make sure we gave you guys a transparent look into it, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you all have any questions about publishing articles, my polymer research, undergrad research or research in grad school in general, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be sure to answer it!
See you next week!
- The Chemist