• Phyllis Oduor

Reflection on my SURF experience


Hi everyone. It has been a while since I posted my last blog. I am editing this blog from my dorm room at Amherst College. I moved in a few days ago and it has been wonderful reconnecting with this lovely campus. I will provide some updates on what happened in the virtual Trapani lab in the last three weeks of SURF and some lessons that I picked in the process.


SURF provided an incredible opportunity to learn more about research and bioethics. I worked in the Trapani lab as I mentioned in my introduction post. It was great to explore zebrafish research during these unprecedented times. My research focus was on understanding the role of the lateral line in startle responses; a question that has been addressed in different ways by previous students at the Trapani lab. I realized how incredible and essential this structure is to the life of a fish--more like its sixth sense. An in-depth presentation on this topic will be posted on the ACStem website. Be on the lookout! I consider the skills I gained such as collaboration, analyzing research papers, and self-discipline priceless. The experience affirmed my interest in science and I hope to do more research in the future.


In the Trapani lab, we had weekly meetings that brought life to the research. Learning how everyone in the lab was navigating these uncertain times while being there for our families and friends was important. It was during these meetings that we were reminded of how issues such as the BLM movement and new regulations such as ICE decisions affected our lab members. We also got to discuss recent research papers which I had no clue navigating before I worked with SURF.


I spent a lot of time reading the senior thesis which made me appreciate the work seniors put in to produce their invaluable work. Rana Barghout ‘20 and Ana Verma ’20, who were part of the Trapani lab, joined one of our lab meetings this summer. Their experiences in navigating the abrupt changes due to Covid-19 was motivating. It made me appreciate their hard work and efforts. I also appreciate their incredible findings that have driven the Trapani lab towards future directions.


Outside lab work, I was able to join the Henrietta Lacks book discussion club where we shared our thoughts on some themes that came up in the book. This was a great opportunity to analyze the Biography of a black lady whose cells (HeLa) brought a great breakthrough in science. Through the discussions, I was enlightened on issues such as racism in the medical sector and bioethics. I realized how consent is a crucial part of research. It gave me a new approach to research, bioethics, and race.


SURF was an amazing platform to learn more about science research and connect with the Amherst community. I definitely recommend the program to incoming freshmen and sophomores as they navigate their careers at Amherst. You get to learn a lot about concepts that are interesting to you while you decide what you want for your career.


That is all from me. Feel free to contact me with questions at (poduor23@amherst.edu). I hope you have an amazing fall semester, whether on campus or remotely. We are in this together.


Before I sign out, I want to remind YOU that YOU are amazing and YOU are enough.


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