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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending July 27, 2012

July 30, 2012

KaNesha:

  • This week was the busiest week for me since I have been here. However, I would also describe this week as the most productive. I noticed that I have become more confident in conducting the techniques that I have learned since the beginning of my experience. In addition, I feel as if I have been allowed the opportunity to grow as a scientist with the advantage of being able to step outside of my comfort zone and adjusting to a new environment.
  •  I have noticed that the lab here has started to feel like a second home. The lab members have all become well adjusted to my presence and are very open to my thoughts, questions, and ideas. I can greatly appreciate the satisfaction that has come along with the knowledge that my own critical thought and input is respected and even challenged to go deeper. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here so far.
  • I am very excited about the next two weeks that I have been allowed to stay here and enjoy. In essence, my scientific experience here in South Africa has been a dream come true and the experience of a lifetime. I never would have contemplated the simple thought of being so blessed to have been given such a great opportunity to enhance my future science career, extend my global horizons, and enhance the geography of my mind.
  • My cultural experience this week was very eye-opening and rewarding. I realized for the first time in my life that my purpose in life goes so much more beyond what I could have ever imagined. I was able to realize all of this during this week in particular because I had the chance to realize how truly fortunate and blessed I am to be able to give back once I return to the United States. I am determined now more than ever to start the process of starting an organization/mentoring group to promote the pursuit of a research career in the high schools.
  • After reading the local newspaper here, I realized that the minority populations here in South Africa have to fight an even tougher fight to close the gap that socioeconomic statuses have caused than the minority populations back in the United States. Therefore, I know that it is imperative that I do my part to help close the gap that currently exists in my own homeland in that regard starting now. In addition, I have also learned how to appreciate the value of humility and staying cognizant of who I am, where I come from, and where I am going in life.
  • Being here during the month of July, Mandela’s month, I have had the chance to be motivated by the undaunted sense of awareness and appreciation that this environment promotes. In essence, this experience has taught me value, purpose, and appreciation in various forms that have motivated me to want to promote change when I return home to the United States.

Kendra:

  • So many times can I recall the ending of an presentation or class where the instructor or person speaking utters those two famous words : “In Conclusion.” This week was my “In Conclusion” moment. I knew that this was coming to an end but I honestly didn’t realize so until these past 7 days.
  • In conclusion… That phrase sounds so final. In conclusion… by why does it have to be? I am aware of my leaving shortly, but I still have so many great things ahead of me.  Being able to have this experience has shown me how blessed that I am and I know in the future I will be back. That part, I have no question about!

Jenine:

  • Today is the culmination of week 8 and my Spanish adventure is coming to an end. When I reflect on my adventure, I realize just how valuable this growing experience was towards both my personal and professional growth. Because this week is the culmination of the journey, it could have easily been filled with tears , somber feelings and sadness. However, this week was just the opposite. While I am quite saddened by my departure from a city and a home that I have grown to love, my appreciation for this experience out weights my sadness; it all is simply just the end of the a greater beginning. This experience as whole was simply invaluable and priceless. Each experience along my journey was both challenging and rewarding. My journey was also enlightening and most definitely thought provoking. Perhaps instead of being vague, I should describe the pivotal events of this week that have brought me to this conclusion; first starting with the laboratory.
  • The atmosphere within the CSIC-CAR  institute has always been relaxed, yet productive, but this week the lab felt different. This week was filled with so much anticipation and anxiousness. Wednesday was set to be the day in which I presented all of my hard work to my mentor.  Initially, I was concerned about presenting the information in the most accurate and professional manner, but moments before I began to present I had an enlightening moment. I realized that I wasn’t nervous about the presentation, but perhaps because I realized that this presentation will just be one chapter in the body work that I will accumulate as an environmental engineer; The thought alone that this presentation on alternative energy can be the start to an innovative energy revolution that would make huge impact on the earth. This moment wasn’t a presentation, but the start of a major progression on the environmental community. Working as an undergraduate researcher alongside post-docs and masters students, has allowed me to see just how unique and valuable this research experience was to me. These past two months I have not just had the chance to challenge my knowledge, skill and ability by beginning to master advanced material, but I have also made large steps to change the environmental movement of the world. After finishing my presentation, and having a final discussion with my mentor, because of my excellent work , passion and dedication to this innovative research, he invited me to return next summer and to even consider pursuing my doctorate degree at the institution.  This was simply amazing and so unexpected, but definitely greatly appreciated.
  • As I spend my final days in Madrid, I plan to continue to absorb my experience and continue to enjoy the culture of Madrid. I leave here knowing that I have grown tremendously, that I have learned immensely and that I have blossomed beautifully. I also leave here believing that I have made an impact on Spain, but knowing that perhaps Spain has made a greater impact on me. I would like to thank the G-STEM faculty and staff, Spelman College, NSF, Dr. Galvao, Dr. Arratia and finally Dr. Domingo for making my experience possible.
  • This experience was the first brick placed on my road to success, and my 2012 Madrid journey was just the end of a GREATER Beginning.

Olivia:

  • This was my final full week in the lab and I was given a human protein to crystallize but so far, I have not gotten any conclusive results. In a matter of 2 months I had become pretty proficient at creating crystals something I had been told many times took a tiny bit of science but mostly luck. I am pretty sure that crystals will grow after I leave but I won’t even get to see them. Although I still am unsure as to whether or not research will be my choice for the future, I can understand how people would choose this. There is something about creating an experiment and waiting impatiently for it to show results that are usable that has me wanting to stay in Madrid just a little bit longer to see what will happen next if anything. I want to be a part of the next step when the problems are figured out and the methods are perfected. I suppose the biggest drawback about my whole lab experience has been the final report and official lab book typing. My supervisor, made an incredibly good point about the importance of typing and officiating my results and observations that without typed proof of your results, you technically haven’t done anything. That would mean that the last 2 months of fighting the time difference, doing tedious experiments, struggling with Spanish and learning would have been for nothing. I suppose these weekly journal entries that just seemed terribly pointless to me are for the same reason: without written proof of my growth and learning I can’t prove it to anyone but myself.
  • Research has been interesting, a little fun, suspenseful and incredibly frustrating. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than having spent 5 hours on setting up and perfectly executing an experiment to trip and fling the smaller than tiny samples everywhere. There has never been anything driving me to simultaneously give up and keep going than mistakes and failed experiments. I wanted to give up out of sheer exhaustion and frustration but reminding myself continually that I wanted to accomplish something and only had a very short time left kept me going. Although not quite as adrenaline-rush-inducing as scoring a goal, a successful experiment was exciting enough to act as motivation. I liked being “the lucky one” who grew crystals on their first try. I liked that there was a hierarchy but everyone treated me as their equal. It took me weeks to figure out that more than half of the people I work with half doctorates because everyone insists that you call them by their first name. Like my direct supervisor, who has her Ph.D. but I would have never known until she sent me an email and her email signature that Ph.D. I have grown to appreciate and greatly look forward to 2-hour lunch breaks that include coffee breaks and social time. I prefer Spain’s laid back atmosphere to America’s extremely fast-paced one.
  • Since my research experience has come to an end, I would offer the advice to write everything down and I do mean everything. Every detail, number, excessive information, because it is much better to have more than you need at the end than to realize that you have gaping holes in your information that you didn’t even realize were necessary. I found that there were details that were mentioned in passing that I had to search for this week while typing my report. I would recommend talking to your lab mates and being sure that you speak their language because you spending 10 minutes trying to decipher the protocol instead of actually implementing the protocol began to add up in time lost. I didn’t find the protocols very different than what I had been previously exposed to but I felt like I was reading hieroglyphs when the protocols were in Spanish. Being the new person in the lab and the youngest meant that I was often running around completing tasks that would appear magically done to those who weren’t me. I felt like the lab materials fairy. If there was an empty stock solution bottle, box of materials, or media jar left empty I would appear, usually after everyone else had gone home since it would have to supplement my daily lab activities, and refill them. I am actually going to miss being the “lucky one” and the lab materials fairy.

Kymber:

  • As I finished up my final week in the lab, I have gone through a range of emotions. I think the most prominent one may be contentment. I don’t want to express the notion that I did not enjoy myself during my stay here. That is not at all the case. However, it honestly did become quite taxing to be here by myself. Though I worked around that and did not let it stifle my trip for long, the longing to be around those who are familiar and things that are comfortable to me was still lingering.
  • I believe that this program has truly tested my maturity and character. Prior to my travels I did not fully take into account the fact that I would be away for so long. I realized that it would be for two months, and I knew that this could be considered a long time. However, in imagining how I would fare out here I did not factor in the fact that I did not speak the language and the implications that would have on my overall experience here. I just did not know that it would be so hard. I thought that I would be able to make it by, as people come to America not knowing English all the time. I expected to have picked up the language after about my first month. This by no means happened, even after I made an exchange with a Spanish student here. Thinking I would come in and jump right into the language was naïve thinking with my lack of a background in the language. But through this adversity, I made sure to remain resilient and resolute, knowing my purpose for being here and refusing to retreat just because of this minor setback. I still enjoyed my stay in Granada to the fullest, and I wouldn’t give it back for anything in the world.
  • The next emotion I have been experiencing is slight sadness. I have gotten to know and love all of the workers in my lab, as well as my mentor and his wife, who became a sort of second mentor to me. I appreciate the impact that they all had on my life, and I will miss them dearly.
  • But my excitement about completing the program and coming home is probably comparable to that which I experienced before coming here. Before I was excited about the unknown, and now I am excited for many reasons, but mainly because of the familiarity.

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