Every single one of my classes has included experimental design in one way or another. Ask a question, do background research, construct a hypothesis, test with an experiment, analyze results, and draw a conclusion, report results, if the hypothesis is true or false you can choose to redo the experiment.
Even before I started my first class I had the amazing opportunity to dive into science through my LIFESTEM scholar bridge at Hull Springs. We got to sample chlorophyll levels on a boat and it was so intriguing because I have never gotten to do real research collection. We later created a final presentation later that fall. This presentation utilized an experimental design, but as in every experiment, there are pitfalls. We were not able to get enough samples to really ensure statistical significance and we were in a motorized boat which can affect the levels as well. The results of the project were “the more chlorophyll created within the environment indicates increased levels of phytoplankton and in turn, creates more algal blooms which negatively impact the environment causing dead zones and possible toxic algal blooms that may harm humans and the ecosystems. Chlorophyll levels are higher in greater water depths.” From this, I think the most important step to drawing a valid conclusion is the initial step: researching to understand what previous research has already found and then building from gaps.
Then in my first biology class where we learned the basics of biology, we got to perform a hands-on project to go and sample bacteria in the several fountains on the Longwood campus. We sampled water through sterile practices and put them on the Petri dishes to culture. From there we constructed graphs and tables to be able to conclude that the Ruffner fountain had the largest-sized colonies due to the number of people swimming in the fountain as part of Longwoods tradition. For this experiment, I think the most imperative step was being able to go out as a group and collect the data ourselves. It really gave me a sense of pride and confidence to perform experiments. For this group project in particular I would have changed how we arranged our discussion pages because it was very hard to follow what was actually an important finding from the study. In every project I do now I make sure to make the presentation forward and very easy to follow. I think that being able to understand and portray information to an audience is as important as doing the experiment itself.
Then in my junior year, my experimental design became more advanced as I could conclude novel approaches to treat autoimmune diseases. This was very interesting and different from what I have done before. This class really pushes my creative ability to draw from primary literature and combine it with my lecture knowledge to eventually propose a totally different approach to the treatment of vitiligo. This project really reinforced that you should never be afraid to ask a professor for help when you are stuck. For this project, constructing a good hypothesis was the most important step because it allowed me to be able to convince my audience that this approach was more effective than current treatments. My presentation was supported by primary data and also showed the flaws in current treatments. Without experiment design, my major would be completely unstructured and frankly useless. Experimental design helps ensure quality work and consistency. This then leads to a strong conclusion that can be convincing to all audiences.