SPRING 2021 - FIRE SEMESTER 2
Perspectives about Spring 2021 research training from FIRE Research Educators and Fall 2020 FIRE Semester 3 students.
Dear FIRE120 Students, I am Müge Karagöz, the research educator for FIRE Simulating Particle Detection (SPD). I, your Peer Research Mentors (PRM), and our SPD mascot, the Chameluon (not a typo, a physics joke), will be delighted to see you as a part of our 2021 team. In SPD, we delve into the magical world of experimental high energy particle physics (HEP), from its quest for fundamental answers about nature, to its complicated cutting-edge technology. We analyze simulated data of complicated detectors to be commissioned in the near future at CERN, in Switzerland. We use various data visualization tools (in C++ and Python), and collaborative coding platforms (GitHub), and many other tools that will give you the transferable skills HEP is famous for. 2020 has been challenging globally. It is fair to say that SPD has been affected by the obstacles that it presented. In 2020, I improved my lab space (even added a new chess set), only to see its door close indefinitely. I am grateful to my SPD PRMs and students who bore with me in the remote world that followed afterwards! In SPD, I incorporate HEP’s international “big experiment” concepts, such as, remote collaboration and community-building, teamwork with leadership and delegation, peer-reviewing and peer-helping, mentoring while fostering independence, and resource-sharing. This year, empowered with communication tools like Zoom and Slack, I have had regular meetings and impromptu working meetings with my students. This, and the other collaborative internet tools helped me sustain my lab’s community in the virtual research setting. I believe in continuous “learn-as-you-go” philosophy based on a solid foundation that relies on constant critical thinking and brain-storming. In SPD, we will all learn together every day we work together. Are you a curious person with stamina? Do you like to challenge your critical thinking and adaptation skills on a constantly moving target that is called “authentic research”? Then, I believe you will find SPD a fun lab to be in, whether virtually or in-person (hoping that the latter will come sooner than later). Currently, I am working on determining additional avenues SPD research can take in 2021, so please come join me and SPD PRMs as we take on new challenges! Best, M. Karagöz
Hello FIRE-120 students. I am Dr. Choi and I am the research educator the Transgenerational Brain Initiative. The projects that my students work on is focused on studying how the experiences of the parent can lead to changes in genes that are turned on or off in the offspring. To study this phenomenon of multi-generation gene regulation, we use the animal model—C. elegans. In the two semesters that the students work in my lab, they learn how to create recombinant genes that will tell us how to turn on genes in specific neurons of this simple worm. In-person work in the lab will not be possible in the spring semester given the current situation. However, I am optimistic that hands-on training that makes FIRE unlike any other science course you may take as an undergrad could resume for the 3rd semester of FIRE. Therefore, the plan for the spring semester is to work on the mastering the theory and principles of several methods of molecular biology and DNA cloning. These techniques and applications are used in nearly all biology labs and are the foundation of the definitive test to detect SARS-CoV-2. Then I hope to put your knowledge of theory into practice in the 3rd semester where you will work on creating transgenes to insert into our model worm. Students who return to be Peer Research Mentors work on more advanced projects such as creating mutant worms using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in addition to helping train the next class of FIRE-TBI students. The skills my students learn in my lab also help in other biology courses. Several were able to join other research labs on campus. I have taught this course for five years and many of the students who have graduated (including many that have gone on to grad school and medical school) have told me that their experience in FIRE was the favorite part of their undergraduate experience. I hope that I can be a memorable and interesting part of your undergraduate experience if you are up to the challenge and willing to put in the effort.
Fall 2020 FIRE Semester 3 Student Perspectives
These are quotes from Fall 2020 FIRE Semester 3 students who completed their FIRE experience through exclusively remote research. We asked them "Why should a FIRE Semester 1 student stick with FIRE even if research laboratory availability might be limited for the Spring of 2021?" and they responded:
I have learned so much from being in my stream, and though I don't plan on pursuing a career related to this stream a lot of the knowledge I have gained has been applicable outside of class (working in a summer internship--and well, understanding research for my other courses, applying to other opportunities, etc.). You don't necessarily need to be in the lab to have a meaningful and fruitful research experience.
If you have already gone through one semester, it is worth is to stick out the next 2. This will help you get ahead in your career and add something to your resume that others don’t!
There are a lot of skills you can learn even without being in the lab. This could also be a great way to prepare yourself for (hopefully) being in the lab during Fall 2021 semester - you could get more familiarity with the concepts and techniques you'll need. You could also polish your research skills and focus more on your research proposal. It was a little hard for me because I was excited about working in the lab, but I do not regret continuing on with FIRE. I was better able to have a thorough grasp on every concept we learned. Continuing on with FIRE is a good choice because you can get general education credits but you also build connections with your professors and peers and have an immersive research environment.
FIRE isn't just about the physical resources you have access to, but also about building relationships with your peers and becoming a better researcher, both of which are entirely possible remotely. Specifically with relation to COML, working in the field of computer science gives us the unique privilege to be able to conduct extremely similar research projects from the comfort and safety of our own living spaces, even with limited laboratory availability. Nevertheless, regardless of the stream you plan on joining, being able to take initiative with research as an undergraduate student is an extremely unique opportunity that you should be eager to take part in.
What many new FIRE students don't really grasp in the beginning of FIRE is that FIRE is by no means a one semester or even two semester course. The FIRE prorgam contains so many different opportunities outside of just research lab experience, although a large part. For example, completing the FIRE program is a great addition to your resume, including opportunities such the Summer fellowship, and even possibly becoming a Peer Mentor for your FIRE stream after completing the 3 semesters of the FIRE program. In addition, even while we may not perform as much lab research next spring, it'll be a great opportunity to strengthen skills such as teamwork and communication which will make working (hopefully) in the lab when it opens much more efficient and a better experience!
Even though the inability to perform laboratory techniques in-person is inconvenient, the LABSTER simulations that we did in our class as an alternative were actually very cool and pretty accurate/detailed to help the experience be more realistic. However, beyond just the laboratory experience, there are so many other positive skills and experiences you can gain in FIRE such as collaboration skills, fostering a positive and close relationships with your research educator. In addition, the bulk of the learning really comes from the work you do online such as reading through Modules on lab techniques, journal articles, listening to guest speakers, class discussions, and making progress with your research projects in your teams.
You can still learn the basics of whatever you were going to do in the lab, and form a relationship with the research educator to earn letters of recommendation.
A FIRE Semester 1 student should stick with FIRE since regardless of the current situation and limited lab space available, the FIRE allows students to learn many different content and aspects of research and other skills, and I believe it is vital to involve with FIRE prior to graduation. There are many new skills students would learn from FIRE that not other classes would teach students these skills.
FIRE is an experience that I wouldn't trade, despite limited laboratory availability for the Spring of 2021 because of the long-lasting effects. FIRE has helped me discover future career paths and shaped what I want to do in my future, and it is also something that will look great on my resume and help me with future endeavors. It is also nice to develop a strong relationship with your Research Educator, which is a unique experience because you usually only get to know your professor for 1 semester.
Conducting research online is easier than one may think especially since the timing is very flexible and group meetings can happen outside of lab hours. Overall FIRE is a really good experience that I think you should continue with regardless of the logistics of laboratory availability.
The ability to do mock experiments and learn the real protocols can build fundamental knowledge needed to work in a lab later in life. It can also enrich a student's understanding of how science is conducted and the rigors of research.