My First Independent Research Experience

Xerox Engineering Research Fellow Program 

The University of Rochester is famously known as a top-tier research university in the nation—that means that all professors at Rochester conduct research in their specific field. Ever since I came here, I’ve been looking for a chance to get involved in scientific research. Finally, this summer, I had the chance to conduct independent research on breast cancer imaging in Professor Regine Choe’s lab at the Medical Center. This was thanks to the Xerox Engineering Research Fellow Program, offered by the David T. Kearns Center here at Rochester.

Back in the spring semester of my sophomore year, I was notified that I had been accepted into the Xerox Engineering Research Fellow Program as a summer research fellow, and I was extremely excited! Not only I was accepted into my first-choice lab (Professor Choe’s medical optics lab, as a research assistant), but I would also be receiving a stipend, free summer housing, declining money for food, and a free GRE class to prepare for graduate school. What a wonderful opportunity for me to explore my interest in science! I couldn’t wait summer to come.

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Professor Choe’s lab members

 

I’ve never conducted independent research before; in fact, I wasn’t too sure about the process of scientific research. During the summer, I learned there isn’t a “yes” or “no” answer to a research topic. The entire research process proves or disproves a proposed topic through various experiments. It can take months or even years to prove a proposal and to publish a paper in a scientific journal.

This summer, I conducted individual research on the optimization of NIRFAST parameters for breast cancer imaging with diffuse optical tomography. I worked on the improvement of breast cancer image reconstruction. I also aided the design of a non-invasive imaging probe for Diffuse Optical Spectroscopy (DOS) and Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy (DCS), assisted clinical studies measurement, attended weekly lab meetings, and prepared presentation slides. By the end of the program, I condensed all of my findings and data into a poster and a final report and presented my research results to others during the final poster session.

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Final poster presentation

 

Besides conducting forty hours of research every week in the lab and attending a weekly GRE prep class, David T. Kearns Center staff also organized bi-weekly professional development workshops for us. Topics included scientific research honesty, presentation communication, graduate school applications, etc. During the last week of the program, all the fellows were also invited to eat ice cream and hang out at Lake Ontario Beach Park and watch a free movie in the movie theater.

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Enjoying Abbott’s frozen custard with my friends at Lake Ontario Beach Park

 

Thanks to the Xerox Corporation, the David T. Kearns Center, and Choe’s lab, I had a meaningful summer full of hard work and fun. I not only learned a lot about medical optics and research processes, but I also decided to pursue an advanced degree in the future.

About the author

Sophie Zhang

I'm a member of Class of 2017 majoring in electrical and computer engineering and minoring in biomedical engineering. I'm originally from Chongqing, China, but I spent my junior and senior year of high school in Concord, New Hampshire. I am a campus tour guide, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega community service Fraternity and a contributing writer at Campus Times. I will also become a freshmen Resident Advisor and a senior interviewer next year. I am excited to meet all of you, Class of 2020 and 2021 in person!!!

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