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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending June 14, 2014

June 23, 2014
Photo credit: Faith Kirkland

Photo credit: Faith Kirkland

Stranjae’ Ivory

In the lab this week, I was invited to their biweekly lab meeting where one of the post-doctorate students that assist with my research topic had to present on her research findings. Her project focused on decreasing the presence and size of cancer stem cells which can lead to better cancer treatments. I observed her as she tirelessly prepared for a PowerPoint presentation in English. I knew before-hand that many foreign researchers or others involved in the science/medicine fields had to comprehend the English language. However, I gained a new found respect for their desires to learn English in order to be viewed by their colleagues as intelligent and credible in their field. Since being in Spain, there has not been one person that did not speak a little English. Many people in the lab speak to me English (though I am trying to better my Spanish) and a few have approached me solely to hear my “American” accent. It truly amazes me how I believe the educational or societal systems train their youth to be educated and skilled in English and other foreign languages.

Brianna Burlock

Brianna in Spain

Brianna in Spain

This week, I really got to see how much family means to the Spanish. My landlord’s niece and daughter came by this past weekend and I saw how comfortable everyone was with each other. There were many laughs and they even were very inviting towards me as if they had known me for years. I appreciate seeing this and being able to join my landlord’s family dinner and birthday celebrations. I also see how important family is when I heard that one of my lab teachers took off a whole week to be with her daughter after her grandchild was born. They cherish the time spent with each other and are always willing to help each other whenever necessary.

Blair Johnson

I can specifically see the differences in myself throughout my first three weeks in Berlin, Germany. My first week in Berlin I was the epitome of a tourist. I had my camera out every second taking pictures of every street sign, corner and piece of graffiti. My second week here I began experiencing bouts of homesickness but going into my third week in Berlin and my fifth week overseas I am finally beginning to find my comfort in the Berlin lifestyle.

As my weeks in Berlin continue, I look forward to the fully engulfing myself in the culture and finding my place to put down the camera and begin to enjoy and truly experience Berlin to the fullest.

Lindsay Stanford

Despite my stress at work, life in Grenoble has been really great. I have met some amazing friends from all over the world in the past month. The great thing about these friends is that they are such a great bunch of diverse people. In addition, my Spelman sister, Niwa, arrived late last week and she has really made me feel more comfortable and more at home. It’s crazy because Grenoble is growing on me and it feels like it could actually be my home. The language barrier is not that bad because I am learning more French and people are speaking more English to me. I am becoming more independent over here. I have to cook for myself, travel by myself, and rely more on myself. Also I am becoming more resourceful and learning how to budget because it is extremely expensive over here.

Faith Kirkland

Maya, Stranjae', Faith R, Faith K, Justice in Spain

Maya, Stranjae’, Faith R, Faith K, Justice in Spain

Surprisingly, we were able to find an Evangelical Baptist Church in Cordoba (something I didn’t think existed). The whole experience amazed me. From the second we came in people were very friendly. They greeted us, asked our names and about where we were from. In that church I saw more diversity than I had seen in all of Cordoba. We met a guy from Brazil, a girl from Canada, another black girl from Ohio, and there were a good amount of brown skinned people of African descent like us.  They did worship in a familiar way with drums, keyboard, base and guitar. We sang some songs I knew already in English, in Spanish. In between worship songs, people in the congregation would call out prayers out loud. The men prayed, led and worshiped, in a way I don’t often see. Because of the rarity of protestant Christians, I think their community was very supportive and close. The pastor preached for a long time and surprisingly I understood most of what he was saying.

Maya Bryant

It amazes me how something like skin tone or language can establish so many connections and new friendships. There is something about familiarity in an unfamiliar place that creates inevitable bonds.

Niwa Coleman

When I arrived, I was introduced to many PhD students, professors, and lab technicians, and I was given a computer with a desk. The lab team even helped me find a QWERY keyboard for my computer to help me feel more at home. The PhD student I am working with is very helpful and is fluent in English much like my mentor. It’s great that a lot of the students in the lab eat together in the office or go to the cafeteria together. There’s definitely a since of family within the lab, and I am glad that I am working in such a welcoming community. This week I was able to learn more about the actual research I am doing here in France and I was able to begin synthesizing my flavonoid.

Christina Pollonais

Firstly, I think the research I am doing is amazing. I am so happy I am getting to improve and develop my critical and analytical skills. As well as improve my computer skills. Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate computers. I just think they can be so confusing so why don’t we just use paper. Nevertheless, my experience with computers thus far have been great. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work or fall behind. Sometimes I tend to be very much of a perfectionist and I get very anxious that I won’t live up to the right standards. However, with this experience I am trying to take a new outlook on life and my schoolwork. I am trying to reflect on my life and the choices I have made as well as I hope after completing my research here I have a clearer picture of exactly what I want to do with my life and my future goals. I know I want to be an engineer and help save the environment but I am still trying to figure how I want to be the change in this environment.

Erin Johnson

There are about three people in my flat that do not speak any English. It works out because, around 8 or 9pm (I start cooking my dinner at 7pm and they think that is the strangest thing), everyone congregates in the kitchen to socialize, eat dinner, and prepare lunch for tomorrow. It’s like a Spanish/English class. It’s so cool hearing people from Italy, Columbia, France, England, and Germany speak their language while also trying to learn Spanish. My flat mates always make fun of my American accent. It’s funny when they try to talk like me. They are all so interested about my ethnicity. One guy said that when he first saw me, he thought I was Arabian because of my brown skin color and fine hair. Someone else asked what kind of shampoo I use. I thought it was a weird question but funny at the same time. I had to explain to them that almost everyone in America was not just one race or ethnicity. So many people are mixed with so many nationalities, especially African-Americans.

Erin and Justice downtown Madrid

Erin and Justice downtown Madrid

Justice Johnson

My second week in Cordoba, Spain has been an experience of a lifetime. Every day I am challenged intellectually, culturally, and etc. I am already starting to become accustomed and familiar with the environment that surrounds me. Accepting and becoming familiar with changes is the primary avenue to success when being in a foreign country. I have truly learned to adapt. Though when I walk around, I still can’t help but notice people intensely staring at me. For the first time in my life I realize I am foreigner. It is evident that I am foreigner, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a challenge indeed.

My second week in the cell biology laboratory at the University of Cordoba has been a great experience thus far. I already feel as though I have progressed in every area. I am more familiar with where everything is located so it makes it much easier for me to be more efficient and fast. This week the primary goal was to start my research since last week consisted of making sure I knew how to do various techniques that I will be doing for the remainder of my research.

Mekhakhem Kheperu

I want to use a method I saw in a Shanghai University paper, where the graphene and iron (III) chloride are sealed in a pipette at very low pressure and then heated up so the iron (III) chloride has no choice but to vaporize and dope the graphene. At the beginning of next week, some older lab girls will show us how the lab here in IITM makes their graphene. I’m really excited to see the real deal of what I’ve read so much about!

Faith Reid

Faith Reid in Cordoba lab

Faith Reid in Cordoba lab

Yet another activity that will be added to my weekly routine is attending a church that two other GSTEM scholars and I visited last Sunday. The majority of the population in Spain is Catholic, so there are cathedrals everywhere. But my friend and I made it a point to look online for other Christian churches in Cordoba. The one we visited, Iglesia Evangélica Bautista de Cordoba, was just what we were looking for. The congregation was friendly, the sermon was good, and the Spirit was definitely there. (We understood most of the service even though it was in Spanish!) I have a feeling it was definitely meant for us to visit. Going to church is a very important part of my life at home, so it will definitely be important to my experience here.

Asia Mosee

We prepared for our first meeting last week on Wednesday. By using a website called GBIF we were able to extract the occurrence points of 6 different types of species that could potentially invade New Zealand. We used these occurrence points to generate a map showing where there are occurrences of different species around the world. By using ArcGIS we were able to produce the maps. By using another program called Maxent, we were able to generate maps that showed us the areas in New Zealand where these invasive species could potentially survive, and if they were to come to the country, this is where they would be most likely to live. This is the data that we presented during our meeting. Next week we have a few more species to look up. When we do finally go to our first island on Friday we will be working with an eTrex GPS system. This GPS will monitor where we are and also track the occurrences of different invasive species that are already on the island. We will learn how to use the device this week

Ebone Monk

Ebone in India

Ebone in India

We seem to be making more friends. The institution is hosting an international concert series, and just about every evening after lab someone will volunteer to walk with us to the concert. After, some of the girls showed us around campus, which was really helpful because even though we have been here for a few days and we have tons of maps from the international relations office it can be a little intimidating to explore the campus alone. I really love that most of the little canteens here stay open really late, because most nights after lab I’ll head to the library. The library stays open until midnight, but I only stay there until 11:00pm but I get the late night snack bug and after the library I’ll get a snack. The campus is still awake even at that time of the night and everything including the library is right next to our hostel.

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