As a freshman, I could not wait to get to Austin- I would leave my small East Coast town to make new friends and study at one of the nation’s best universities. Even though I looked forward to new faces and studies, I still felt uneasy about the high school- college transition, and this started before stepping foot on campus. I was worried about the workload and the rigorous coursework I would face the next four years and wondered how I would do it. This is when I decided to sign up for FRI. I wanted to take initiative in my learning and get involved with an organization that would make the big university environment feel smaller.
When FRI started in the spring semester, the DIY lab took every new student under its wing to make sure we would succeed in the lab. In the DIY lab, we learned extensive notebook keeping, which became a habit that helped me organize my notes for my other classes. Another thing I am grateful about the DIY community is that all of the students are more than willing to take a break from their projects to help troubleshoot the work of their classmates. Since I had never worked in a lab before, my lab mates were patient and helpful in teaching me the techniques I would need. This is the strength of our community and I think I can honestly speak for my labmates when I say, we look forward to coming into the lab every week.
One of the best things about DIY is that we are able to make our own schedule for lab hours. Like adding a class, the extra hours challenges your time management skills, but you quickly get a hang of things. This is especially true during weeks that I had an exam because I was able to skip an hour of lab that week and make it up the following week without falling behind.
Although flexible lab time makes DIY easier, I struggled when it came to our coding projects. In the beginning, I dreaded the coding assignment as soon as I received the notification from Canvas. It took a lot of Codecademy practice and outside readings to get my projects to work properly. I remember sitting in the PCL when the final coding assignment was posted and I thought, “Well, better start before I have to focus on finals.” I knew this project was going to take quite a few hours but when I finished it that same night, I could not believe it. I was shocked that everything came together so smoothly. Coding was never a language I wanted to learn nor did I think I would ever effectively grasp, but there I was. I may not have loved coding websites, but they were definitely worth the time.
I looked forward to picking up a student’s research project that could truly make an impact in the world. This was important to me in choosing a stream because I wanted to make a difference in the community. In one of the projects we did first semester, we tested the water in Waller Creek and found that the bacteria in it proved to be a health risk and submitted our results to the City of Austin. This truly gave me a sense of accomplishment.
Whether my confidence was bolstered from the support of the DIY Diagnostics community or the experience I gained as the semester progressed, I am positive that this stream has made me grow both as a student and a person. I joined FRI because I wanted to be apart of a group, learn, and impact the community and DIY has done just that.