By: Yesenia I. Velez Negrón
Crop Protection of the Faculty of Agricultural Science
University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus
Last summer I was part of the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at The Ohio State University while I was an undergraduate student from Crop Protection of the Faculty of Agricultural Science at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (UPRM) in 2019. I wanted to share my experience with others underrepresented students about a program that led me to continue graduate studies at OSU. For that summer, since I was nearing graduation, I wanted to find an opportunity to be part of an academic environment. As a Puerto Rican, Hispanic and a woman in agricultural science, I found this program as a gateway that provided me a support team. This program helps and provides underrepresented students the tools to develop research skills and critical thinking as future researchers. In this program I was able to challenge myself in a different environment, a different culture and on a different research experience. My research was focused on three soil borne pathogens (a fungus, a nematode and a bacteria) on tomato plants. The goal was finding different possible biocontrol agents from a collection of bacteria with the same genre (Pseudomonas) were tested using in vitro assays.
At OSU, the SROP students were divided into two groups. One group was in Columbus, and the group that specialized in agriculture was sent to Wooster, which was a friendly environment to work in. All the relationships that I developed with these groups provided me support to strengthen my confidence, to be more efficient with my work and to feel sure about what I was doing. I also developed a good relationship with the Wooster cohort, the lab team and my mentor.
It is very important to create and understand how relationships affect our lives, since these people are going to be our work partners in the near future. To create these types of relationships, it is important to understand that a relationship needs commitment from both ways. A tip for starting a good relationship with a group or mentor is to take a proactive approach. Remember that for a healthy relationship it is important to look at the big picture. Asking specific questions, managing your time, and trying to troubleshoot your experimental problems can make your research successful. Through this experience I learned how to improve my problem-solving skills, not only in an academic way but also in my social life. In this program I was able to challenge myself in a different environment, a different culture and on a different research experience.
My research project and group support made the experience in the SROP program feel more encouraging, and making research more fun and exciting. My advice to other underrepresented folks would be to keep some pointers in mind. First of all, remember to always take your time off because overworking is not healthy for your mind and body. However, the most important thing is to keep going, have fun in the process and never lose hope because mistakes help us to improve ourselves. Sometimes we find hard situations on the way, but we don’t lose anything trying to solve them.