Reflections on Summer Research and Future Possibilities

This post was written by Katelyn McCabe.

For the longest time, I have had an inner struggle with what I want to do with my life (I call it my “I don’t want to be an adult college crisis”). I know I want to work with small animals and go to veterinary school, but do I want to practice medicine in a clinical setting? Or do I want to get my PhD and do research? When do I want to leave to do this? Am I ready? Since I am approaching my senior year, I know all of these questions should be answered, but I still don’t know.

This summer, I took on research in the Staab lab because I need a) the experience, and b) a senior capstone project, but also because I wanted to see if I would like the research angle that I have been contemplating. I have done research in the Psychology department at McDaniel before this (I used to be a double major and then got over that dream real quick when I found out that I would have to do 2 capstones) but research for the Biology department would be (and has been) very different. I have worked in a veterinary hospital for three years and I love it, but would I like research better? I figured this might make my decision about what I want to do with my life, or give me some direction at the very least..

So far, I have loved the aspect of research. All of the scientific paper reading, while definitely not my favorite part of the job, really expands your knowledge quickly. It’s like a puzzle that you need to put together, with different researchers finding the answer to different parts of the question, and I need to fit them all together and then formulate a question from that. With the actual data collecting, I enjoy what I am researching and like answering a question that no one has thought of yet, or answering a question from a different perspective. Plus, staining is pretty fun, especially when you’re answering questions about something that seems so small, like larvae, but so significant in the world of development! While data collection can be slow and trying at times, or frustrating when you don’t get the answer that you think you’re going to get, the final AHA! moment is so rewarding! Or the feeling when you first discover something really interesting coupled with the feeling of accomplishment.

A ventral (bottom) view of a baby Molly fish.

A ventral (bottom) view of a baby Molly fish.

As I am wrapping up my experiments for the summer, I have continued to compare research with clinical practice, and I am still undecided about where I want to go. I love helping animals and seeing the appreciation from their owners when something goes well, but seeing the death of pets is exhausting. I have learned from my job that it is not all puppies and kittens, which is an amazing lesson to learn. However, I have also learned from research that it isn’t always smooth sailing, just like with clinical practice, so there are pros and cons to both practices and I haven’t decided what pros are for me yet. I am continuing research into the semester, so this will add more experience for me. Plus my first conference will definitely be telltale- I have to be able to get through public talks to do research!

I guess my overall message here is

1)   if you’re a college senior and still freaking out about your life, don’t sweat it. You aren’t alone, believe me.

2)   researching and delving into different areas that interest you may be the key to what you’re looking for.

3)   research is exhausting, but so fun and rewarding and I wouldn’t change how I spent my first seven weeks of the summer!

Thank you to my research group, the Biology department, and especially Dr. Staab for putting up with me and my craziness/obsession with my Poecilia larvae this summer. I couldn’t have done this or made decisions without everyone! Hopefully this Fall is just as fun and exciting!

 

 

 

Staab Lab Rap

The past several weeks of summer research have been an incredible experience for me with the Bio. Department of McDaniel.  I feel like my words are not adequate to express my thanks and gratitude for having been welcomed into this phenomenal group.  So, in lieu of my babbling, I’m going to leave you all with a rap that I wrote for Dr. Staab in honor of one of the key inspirational figures in her life: Jay – Z.  This rap, entitled “Lab Girls,” is a parody of Jay-Z’s song “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…).”  If you would like, look up the lyrics on your own – I’m not going to post them here.  [Note: any drink mentioned below is referring to sparkling cider!]  I hope that you get as much of a kick out of this as I did!

 

Lab Girls (And the Winner is…)

First of all I wanna thank Dr. Staab

She’s the teacher, the most important job.

Thanks to science, and to all the noble fish

McDaniel College for holding all the cash

The Bio Department who taught us life in the lab

The first pub worker with whom we had a clash

And the awesome girls in the lab today.

 

Oh what a feeling I’m feeling life

Thanks for the people who gave us aim

For the research projects that are getting us in the game.

Faulty data will stop our buffoonery.

Oh, and thanks for rapping all the fishes’ eulogies

Thanks to all those who became our friends

For sure, it’s paying off dividends

Yeah, thanks to all the digressors

[-- SQUIRREL!! --]

But most importantly, thanks to you: our professor.

 

The Lab Girls in the building tonight

Oh what a feeling, I’m feeling life

You don’t even gotta bring your data out

We the lab girls of the year, drinks is on the house

Look at how we’re geeking, we gettin’ this down.

You don’t even gotta bring your data out

We the lab girls of the year, drinks is on the house.

 

Put yo’ hands up baby, we just hit a score

Pick any fish in the sea, pick a shore

Take what the scientists figured, then figure more

Cause the primary lit. ain’t yet gotten to the core.

Pick a time, let’s pick apart some data sets

Pick a weekend for placing your bets

’Cause we’ve got some staining coming up

We don’t know what these slides are gonna show

So grab a microscope, let’s check the results

Scope it out and take some pics

They’re beautiful baby, these gems are sick.

Get a label and a box,

Posters and powerpoints to make all day

And then papers to write… oh yay

Don’t forget those lab notebooks – gotta record the process, see

’Cause we’re on our way to SICB, dig me?

 

The Lab Girls in the building tonight

Oh what a feeling, I’m feeling life

You don’t even gotta bring your data out

We the lab girls of the year, drinks is on the house

Look at how we’re geeking, we’re gettin’ this down.

You don’t even gotta bring your data out

We the lab girls of the year, drinks is on the house.

 

HBQ, Verhoff-Van Gieson’s

We got the methods and we got the reasons

Chemical analysis and histological stains

Periodic acid-Schiff and Dane’s.

Now this kinda talk is reserved only for bosses

So double-check your stats, we ain’t taking no losses.

Slide boxes, graphs, and endless reading

Let’s have a toast because we are succeeding.

So first things first,

Get out those beakers,

On three, cheers, and shout “Eureka!”

 

The Lab Girls in the building tonight

Oh what a feeling, I’m feeling life

You don’t even gotta bring your data out

We the lab girls of the year, drinks is on the house

Look at how we’re geeking, we’re gettin’ this down.

You don’t even gotta bring your data out

We the lab girls of the year, drinks is on the house.

 

Sweet, now, let’s ride it out

We’ll be back in the fall without a doubt.

This is superhero music right here, baby

American Gangsta, Jay-Z, the Real Slim Shady

Taking flight

Here we go

Reaching new heights

Ow ow, baby!