I did not join in research at ACU until my senior year. Although I do wish I had gotten involved sooner, I am glad to have gained what experience I did and know that I will carry what I have learned here into my future endeavors. It was also great to apply what I have learned in my classes here to actual hands-on experience. This allowed me to take the concepts I had learned about and turn it into something real.
In fall 2016, I joined with two others to begin work with sequencing the Cytochrome B (CytB) gene from Thomasomys specimens collected by Dr. Lee in Ecuador just the summer before. One member of the group had much more experience than me or the other member and served as a leader to both of us. In spring 2017, though, my group changed and I began working jointly with a team sequencing the RAG1 gene from the same specimens as I have been working with. They were definitely helpful to me as much as they were able to be, but this semester I have had to work more on my own and develop my independence. This was somewhat terrifying as I had no one to fall back on if I made a mistake, but also liberating as I became more able to rely on my own knowledge and skills. Most weeks I was performing either a PCR or a gel electrophoresis, but I also performed one or two other tasks, including cleaning the DNA samples.
I also got to experience the Texas Academy of Sciences conference this spring. The RAG1 team and I presented a poster together, which allowed us all to practice our presentation skills and also to learn more about the research project itself. It was especially enlightening to see the research going on at other universities. I was able to connect every oral presentation I attended and every poster I looked at to something I have learned over the past years here at ACU, which was an amazing feeling.
Overall, my experience of biology research over the past two semesters has been very positive and has taught me several skills which will be useful to me in the future. Among the most valuable lessons I picked up here, though, are working with a team as well as the importance of independence and self-reliance. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in research here.