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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending June 22, 2012

June 25, 2012


  • It is interesting to see that people really do consider this the winter and call this type of weather cold. When it is still in the upper eighties. I am still trying to get used to the sun setting so fast and so early. Also the sun rises so early, this makes my sleeping pattern completely different than in America.


  • Overall, I felt very productive this week because of the amount of data I was able to obtain. Although some of the results were not as great as I expected, I was still very pleased at how comfortable I am becoming with the techniques and overall lab environment.
  • I was able to learn a lot from the other students in the lab. Thus, I am beginning to understand more each day about the scientific process and certain virtues that accompany scientific success. Specifically, I learned the value of patience and endurance as very important virtues essential in a scientist’s life. I was able to listen to several of the other lab students as they described their frustrations with certain techniques not working and not always experiencing the desired results. However, what I will always remember from this point forward in my science education is the undaunted determination and patience that the students demonstrated. In essence, this week was a week of growth in learning. I learned the power of observation and intent listening.
  • This week was very interesting from a cultural perspective. I began to actually listen to the other languages that were being spoken instead of just hearing them and tuning them out. Thus, I was able to notice that the Afrikaans language that is primarily spoken as a first language for most of the staff here sounds very similar to the Pennsylvanian Dutch language that is spoken in certain Amish communities in the United States. In addition, the “tsutu” language that is also spoken sounds very familiar to me because of its relation to the Creole language still spoken today in the most southern parts of Louisiana. I also realized this week not only how beneficial speaking several languages is but also how rewarding it can be to actually open up your mind to new cultural experiences. Therefore, I believe that this week began the first time in my life that I have actually opened up my eyes with a new lens in front of me. In essence, this week’s cultural experience has been a very eye-opening, yet rewarding life change.


  • Today I woke up very early (6am). All of the G-Stem students had to go back to Unidunas to start our research. I was excited for the first day even though I was tired.  We all had a great day overall going out in the lagoons and collecting specimens, listening to the lecture, and examining insects to determine their order.


  • This weeks’ lesson has been very different from the others. As I am completing my third week here in Salamanca, as a G-STEM Scholar, I am out of the touristic phase and have entered into a new phase, but I am not really sure what to call it…
  • Within lab, things have gotten progressively better, including my lab technique. Even though I have done research previously, the techniques can vary between the areas of interest. This week my mentor informed me that I was officially on my own. Even though I was initially worried, as the week progressed, I saw that I really did grasp essentially everything I needed to continue with minimal help. I felt so accomplished as I realized that even if I did not completely understand the language, I understood the science, and that is comforting.
  • Within a social aspect, this week I have become more aware of the economic crisis in Spain. In order to increase my understanding of the language, I try to watch the news every night with my roommate. As we watch, she explains to me general concepts or sentences if I don’t understand them.  She compares the status of the country to our economic downturn in 2008, explaining the soaring unemployment rates and how many people are losing everything.
  • This week I also had the opportunity to participate in FACYL- El festival del arte en Castilia y Leon, which is an art festival in the city. I had the opportunity to see, The Asteroids’ Galaxy, a group from Denmark, and Emir and the No Smoking Orchestra from Serbia. Both of these groups were very good and they even did some songs in English. The festival also featured performances from some local bands, and Salamanca’s B-Boy dance association.
  • I just figured out this week’s lesson: Adjustment and Awareness.


  • The first two weeks were filled with big adjustments and getting use to being in an entirely different environment. Week three is definitely different. This week, I feel comfortable with everything, from my job to my community. During my most challenging obstacles, I never thought I would be able to master living and working in Madrid and now, I have managed to do so.


  • The social outings in the middle of the work day presented itself again with the official going away party. This is so unusual for the United States since usually the social meal is an early dinner after the workday is over. Here, the social meal is a 2-4 hour lunch break depending on where you work and what position you hold at said place.
  • I also learned how to use an x-ray diffractometer. A diffractometer is a machine that uses very concentrated rays to measure the diffraction patterns of extremely small crystals. Once the diffraction pattern of a crystal is known then other properties of the protein can be figured out.


  • The first research experience from UNIDUNAS was on Saturday June 16th. I arrived at the site at seven in the morning and was ready to work. We were met by our mentor who explained that we would be collecting and analyzing insects. The collection of insects was used as a bioindicator of the diversity in two lagoons and one lake. I was apprehensive at first in completing the project, because I felt like it was not relevant to my research question. However I was informed that it would be best for me to incorporate lagoons and lizards in my research. This is because I will not be able to start my research on lizards until July. It is important to be open minded and open for change when it comes to research.
  • To complete the work in a descent time, the work of classifying the insects under the microscope was divided between two groups. The first group was with Erica and I, which we were given lagoon 1 (Betty) and the lake (Bobby). The second group was with Antonia and Kandyce, which included lagoon 1 (Betty) and lagoon 2 (Dolly). To classify each insect from the jars, we were given a sheet of paper that made statements involving certain characteristics of the insects. Some of the orders are hemiptera, orthoptera, coleopteran, ephemeroptera, diptera, lepidotera, and trichoptera. This is called an identification key and gives clues by the use of a chart.
  • On the cultural side of my trip I have embark on a new voyage in Brazil. I went to a placed called Bahia Street, which is a program for young women. In Brazil just like in the United States it is important to reach out to the youth. Bahia Street is for young girls who are enrolled in public schools and come from underprivileged areas. The girls take class in literature, language and hygiene. They build a bond with other young girl and begin to believe that they can go to college. These girls love being apart of this positive program, because many of them come from broken homes. Programs like these are very minute in Brazil, which means that they are one in a kind. Coming from the United States, I am grateful that young girls are encouraged to be educated and empowered. Incorporating science and culture have made this trip to Brazil a wonderful experience.


  • Although I was confused at first, it was easier for me to see the big picture of this research by the end of the day. The fact that these insects can provide information about the quality of the environment is very interesting. My original project was about the water chemistry of lagoons within the dunes, so studying these aquatic insects will definitely be critical to my research. I am anxious to discover more and continue to put the pieces of this project together.
  • Culturally, another thing that has stuck out to me is a topic that we have been discussing in class for a few days now. It is the topic of race relations here in Brazil and comparing it to that of the United States. Brazil is a tropical country with natural beauty and (seemingly) plentiful resources, but people often fail to acknowledge all of what Brazil is. After slavery was abolished in the United States, Jim Crow was enforced to further oppress newly freed blacks. During that time the “one drop of blood” rule was put in place stating that any person with one drop of black blood was considered to be black. In that case, many people of all different skin colorations were labeled “black” regardless of their specific racial backgrounds. However, slavery was abolished in Brazil much later than in the states and there was no formal document detailing who was black and who was not. Additionally, because of the influx of slaves brought into Brazil, the country was starting to become a black country, so Portuguese settlers invested money into European immigration into Brazil. Native people, Europeans immigrants, slaves and slave descendents were encouraged to mix. Therefore, there are hundreds of variations based on phenotypic features to classify a “black” person in Brazil today. It is interesting to learn and observe how Brazilians classify themselves and how many of them do not identify with simply being “black”.
  • We have had the privilege of taking trips to organizations like Bahia Street and the Steve Biko Institute to learn more about these topics. Bahia Street, in particular, is an institute that takes in young girls to teenagers to give them support that they may be lacking in their daily lives. For example, the institute provides meals, education, teaches the importance of camaraderie amongst your fellow sister and hygiene. Visiting Bahia Street was touching to me because this organization works with young Afro-Brazilian women to instill confidence within them and Spelman works to do the same thing to instill confidence with young Afro-American women. I could see myself in the faces of those young girls at Bahia Street. It made me grateful for the opportunities I have and compelled me to think of new ways to help more of my sisters internationally.


  • One thing that I enjoy about the researchers here is that they behave as one big family. I love the fact that lunchtime is 2 pm, but everyone in the lab waits until all of his or her lab-mates are ready to go eat. If one person is conducting an experiment, everyone will generally wait until they are finished working and the whole lab goes downstairs to the cafeteria as a group.  I have seen the group wait up to a half hour for someone who was finishing up an experiment. Since I have never had this type of research experience in America, I am not sure if it is the same there. Regardless, it is something that I can truly appreciate.


  • Research is a field that requires a tremendous amount of passion and dedication. This could be said for any field, of course. We hear about the need for drive and commitment almost every time we hear a successful public figure speak about their rise to power, fame or success. But this is a commitment to learning and the exploration of the universe that will affect every part of your life.
  • Not everyone can win the Nobel Prize. Not everyone can create a new theory or establish a new technique that revolutionizes the way we see the universe. But someone has to, and I assume this is why these people get up every morning, go into the small grey and white office, tap away at little black buttons on a keyboard and run the same tests again and again and again. Even though the results of their research may be something that means absolutely nothing to the greater population of the world.




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