By: Kelsey Woodruff
Kelsey Woodruff is a junior at Ball State. She is majoring in Biochemistry and Premedical Preparation with minors in Biology and French. While at Ball State, Kelsey has been a teaching assistant, research fellow, and executive board member of Cardinal Kitchen. She is also currently participating in the Honors College Diversity Project and she plans to start her third year of peer mentoring this fall.
My fellowship involves work in the Rubenstein Lab in the Department of Biology. Broadly, our lab studies protein quality control in the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast). Throughout my fellowship, I have been working to understand the roles of different genes in the cellular response to an antifungal drug called anisomycin.
I was working in my lab before I had an undergraduate fellowship. Honors fellowships were always something that I knew existed, but I was never quite sure what the process of applying or what doing the fellowship work would look like. Dr. Rubenstein, my research mentor, approached me initially with the idea of applying. I was hesitant at first, mainly because the process was unfamiliar, but it seemed straightforward enough, and after a few rounds of revision, I submitted the application. I am currently working on my third semester funded by an Honors undergraduate fellowship. Having an undergraduate fellowship has provided me the opportunity to branch out and explore scientific questions in a greater capacity than I had previously. It has also given me the chance to gain experience in presenting and communicating results, and I would strongly recommend that all Honors College students take advantage of this resource.
My favorite part of my fellowship is the people that I get to work with in the lab. Working in a lab has given me a strong sense of community that I feel many STEM students lack. Participating in research has also given me an opportunity to pursue novel questions with unknown answers. It is much more exciting than doing a standard “cookbook” lab in my courses. Of course, with that excitement often comes challenge. Many times, I found that the previously unknown answers to my questions were not the ones that I wanted. These felt like huge setbacks! Ultimately, I think facing these challenges early on has helped me grow both academically and personally.
The frustrating truth about research is that most hypotheses are not supported. What I had trouble understanding was that an unsupported hypothesis does not equate to an unsuccessful scientist. The initial setbacks I faced during the beginning of my project somewhat soured my attitude towards research. I felt that the results of my experiments were a reflection on my quality of work. Obviously, this was not the case, and a bulk of the personal growth I have had over the course of my fellowship has been learning to be patient both with my research and with myself. I won’t pretend that I never made a mistake over the course of my project. I have made several, but now, I try to not catastrophize. Being able to dedicate time to this growth through my undergraduate fellowship has not only given me a really cool project to tell everyone about, but it has allotted me a degree of growth that will be beneficial in every aspect of life going forward.
If I could give one piece of advice to someone considering a fellowship, I would tell them to just go for it. Find a professor who has the resources to help you, and just dive in. I understand the feelings of fear or nervousness about not knowing the outcome, but having an undergraduate fellowship is such a unique and valuable experience that it would be a major disservice to yourself if fear was the factor holding you back.