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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending June 21, 2014

June 26, 2014
Christeva, Alexis, Meigan, Keira, Jade, Brezana, Bianca in South Africa

Christeva, Alexis, Meigan, Keira, Jade, Brezana, Bianca in South Africa

Bianca Campbell

The Campus of the University of Cape Town is extremely beautiful! I found out that it is ranked the third best looking campus in the world!  The view of Table Mountain is amazing in any direction that is possible to view it while on campus.  Overall, the people in Cape Town, South Africa are extremely friendly and informative, and I liked the group of students that I would be taking my exciting journey with for the next six weeks.

Stranjae’ Ivory

Congratulations to me, I have successfully lived in Cordoba, Spain for three weeks now. I reflect and think that these past three weeks have all provided something different. First, I was excited and felt like I was in a dream. Second week, reality set in and I found myself overwhelmed, frustrated, and forced out of my comfort zone. Last, weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Malaga, Spain which is notorious for its beautiful beaches and atmosphere.

Moriah Wallace

In my adolescent years I did not think traveling abroad was an option. From various lessons in grade school, I knew about the 7 continents and about 4 oceans but traveling to and through them was a distant thought. Many people state and truly believe that kids don’t want to do different things because they are not exposed to them. On the contrary, I didn’t want to go abroad because I saw no meaning in it. I was under the assumption that everything and everyplace was the same. Even though many places share similarities, I have grown to realize that there are cultural and academic differences. Daily I find differences small and large that make me think about life in the U.S. I think about what could be changed to strengthens American Households and more specifically, African American Households. Now I long to travel all the time and keep experiencing the rich culture of different places.

Moriah and Kayla D in Scotland

Moriah and Kayla D in Scotland

Kayla Davie

Scotland is currently a member of the United Kingdom but I am lucky enough to be here during the midst of a very big political issue: the referendum. This September, Scottish residents will vote on whether or not they will remain a part of the United Kingdom or break apart as a separate nation. I talked to so many people about it and it is amazing to hear the different opinions. The thought of breaking away from the United Kingdom gives people hope for Scotland and possibility for their nation to grow and become fully responsible for both its governing and money (currently Scotland has a restricted Parliament with certain responsibilities but not others). Others hate the idea and think Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom and simply fight to improve the way things are.

Kayla Echols

As of today I have been breathing Scottish air for eight days. It feels more like three weeks. My flight landed in Edinburgh, the regions capital. For two days I explored the city with a group of fourteen students from all over the United States. As to be expected, we were just as different from one another and the Scottish people with whom we wished to learn from and about. Before my arrival, I assumed that there would not be much of a culture shock. The United States, in essence, works very similarly to the United Kingdoms. I definitely underestimated the culture differences. Though the national language is English, it is sometime hard to understand the many different accents that I have encountered. Also a lot of words are used here that we do not use in the states. Attempting to correctly pronounce words can be very frustrating. The language is the same but very different at the same time. It is also worth noting that everything I thought I knew about Scotland was based on a short trip I took to London. This could not be further from the truth.

Alexis Sykes

When I arrived in Cape Town I was so happy that I finally made it and when I walked out of baggage claim I saw the IES sign and some familiar faces. Now I was able to tell who was on my flight and who was a part of another program. I even saw a few Spelmanites and everyone had the same sentiments, equally tired and glad to be there at the same time. I started chatting with everyone and made friends immediately so when we got to our rooms and assigned roommates at the house it was beginning to feel like one big family. The house we are staying at called Manor, is pretty much like a hotel and quite luxury aside from the lack of heat so it was pretty cold. I really wish I packed more winter clothing because I definitely underestimated Africa’s southern climate!

Brianna Burlock

Brianna in Granada lab

Brianna in Granada lab

In the lab, I did the beginning protocols of my project by myself. I extracted the spleen from the rat and obtained the cells. I counted the cells and stained them with antibodies for the FACSCalibur cytometer. I was able to understand the software and also some of the FlowJo software. I know that using these instruments are important when looking at cells and can be used in many different areas of cellular biology. I enjoy working with those in my lab. They are all very helpful and also show that they care about my understanding of the lab procedures.

Blair Johnson

Blair in Germany

Blair in Germany

This past weekend, I was able to visit the Sacsenhausen Concentration Camp about forty-five minutes from Berlin. This was such an incredible experience. Being there truly made me realize how blessed I was to be alive in this generation. I was able to view the area in which thousands were killed due to injustice. I was able to get a glimpse of everyday life as an imprisoned individual inside of the concentration camp. Individuals in barracks of around 300 were forced to get ready in a minimum of forty minutes every day and would often get trampled by other prisoners in the daily routine. They were given unnatural jobs such as testing shoes for soldiers by carrying around 60 pounds while running around the concentration camp multiple times. They were rarely even given shoes that correlated to their true shoe size so individuals often gained horrible feet injuries. During the tour, you were also given a glimpse on life outside of the concentration camp. The soldiers tried as hard as possible to keep what was happening inside Sacsenhausen a secret.

Meigan Bryant

When I arrived in Cape Town I expected to see poverty but not to the extent that I experienced. While driving from the airport the effects of the apartheid were prevalent. On one side of the freeway was a township and on the other big beautiful homes. The next day I learned that the townships offered more than what appeared. When they told us we would be touring a township my initial thought was, was this safe and why are treating this like an amusement attraction. However, during the tour I realized that the assumptions I made about the township and its people were completely wrong. While in the township of Langa, I learned that I shared more similarities with the people of Lange than I thought. I also learned that even though these people were forced into the township against their will, they are not bitter, angry, or mean. They have figured out ways to thrive within the community and help others within the community thrive as well. The people of Langa taught me about humility, innovation, and love.

Keira Williams

Despite some of the more unpleasant things that I experienced the first day or so that I was out of the US, an experience that I will always remember is the restaurant that the IES Abroad personnel took us to for dinner. This restaurant owned by a woman from the Langa Township had amazing food that ranged from potatoes, which we are more familiar with, to a corn dish wrapped in eggplant that I had never seen or tasted before. I sincerely enjoyed all of the food and especially the band that played music as we ate. Also, once we were all finished eating, the woman told us the story of how her restaurant came to be and her husband taught us a dance of his culture and allowed us to try playing some of the instruments along with his band. Everyone joined in on the experience and I believe that this gave us a true taste of the kindness and richness of the South African Culture.

Niwa Coleman

Niwa in Grenoble lab

Niwa in Grenoble lab

This week was a pretty busy week in the lab. I was able to finish my first synthesis which will be tested for the purity next week. This week was also the French American Workshop, so I was only in the lab on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. During the week, I created my scientific poster and my slide. The purpose of the poster was to introduce ourselves in a CV/Resume form. There was a lot of confusion amongst the researchers to what was expected from the poster. Some of the students thought it was supposed to be a resume poster, where others thought it was supposed to be a past poster. For the one researcher one slide part of the oral presentation, I decided to do something creative and create a spoken word poem to introduce myself. I was very nervous preforming in front of a big crowd because I do not do that much public speaking. However, I was able to fully memorize the poem, and everyone was very impressed by my stage performance.


Brezana Cross

The weather here in Cape Town is actually warmer than expected. It is still somewhat chilly, but surprisingly tolerable. Everything is beautiful here, on our way to the University of Cape Town this morning we saw Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak. The streets are full of a melting pot of people and there is even a boy’s preparatory school down the street and we walked past them this morning with their little uniforms on. They were so adorable! So basically at orientation we were briefed on safety tips and just basic common practices that we use at school when we are around and about in the West End. It was still procedures so I understood and I tried not to complain much, being that we are in a totally different country millions of miles away. The campus of the University of Cape Town is beautiful as well might I add and is actually ranked number 3 in the world. Kind of cool, huh?


Christina Pollonais

This week we fully got more immersed into our research. We will be conducting 3 different projects using ARCGIS mapping program. Our first project involves the species distribution of several different species vulnerable to coming to New Zealand and seeking habitat as invasive species in the near future. Now if you didn’t know I am letting you know now that New Zealand is very strict about the island’s biosecurity, therefore they try by every means possible to ensure that new species and plants do not enter the island. When entering the island if you are carrying anything out of the ordinary or unpleasant, such as boots with mud on it from a different place which can carry seeds and such you can be fined up to $400 New Zealand dollars. Thus our first research project will be very useful and attributable to the Ministry of Conservation.

Erin in Spain

Erin in Spain

Erin Johnson

My research is finally coming along. The first two weeks, I was only reading, learning how to do different protocols, and getting use to the lab. Now that my seeds have come in, I am ready to officially start my project. We have inserted our PIN2-GFP and PIN2-GUS into our plants and are now growing them invitro. I’ve spent most of my time cleaning and sterilizing my seeds and placing them into pitri dishes. This is probably the most important part, so, I was very cautious to not do anything to contaminate my plants.

Christeva Smith

I just arrived in here in Cape Town and it is absolutely beautiful. Although the trip here was long it was well worth the wait. We have only just begun to settle in and meet one another but I can tell that this will be an enjoyable and life changing experience. I was a little surprised at the recent accounts of weather that I have heard from speaking to some native South Africans. It is winter in this region now so I expected it to be a bit cold but there has actually been snow on the ground. That’s right snow, in South Africa. That makes me a little nervous because I did not pack for that kind of weather. Perhaps I will be able to purchase some more suitable clothing in the weeks to come.

Mekhakhem Kheperu

Now that we know the campus fairly well (enough to not get lost at least), we’ve begun venturing off every now and then to find a mall, or a theater. We went to Express Avenue Mall, which is about 20 minutes away from campus, by auto rickshaw (like a go cart type of cart, but closed). It was huge and clearly the place to be for young Indian preteens, teens, and young adults. When we got back to campus, my friends told me about a mall about 5 minutes away that was even bigger, called Phoenix Market city. After a dusty, sweaty half hour trying to find our way there we arrived to an enormous mall outlet. It had every store I could imagine in it, with a chandelier and diamond encrusted luxury movie theater. At this mall, we got Hennas! My first!

Jade Warfield

This is truly a blessing, I am so grateful for this experience I still really can’t believe that I’m here in Cape Town it seems so much like America, well besides the people driving on the other side of the road, and the steering wheel on the other side of the vehicle, and the military time, the measuring system, and the massive mountains and beaches within 5 miles of each other. The many many people that look like me in so many different fields here is so empowering. We’ve already experience the poverty slightly, and it is quite sad yet so real. On a happier not our living space is great and the fact that we have consistent Wi-Fi is very appreciated.

Faith Reid

So far my travel advice includes the following:

1. Travel in groups when possible (Spelman 3, 4, 5 rule)

2. Know the name and address, if possible, of your destination

3. Make sure your phone is charged (google maps is very useful!)

4. Know how to read the bus routes in the country you are visiting (you want to be sure you catch the line going in the direction you want)

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

6. Patience over panic

Faith R, Faith K, and Maya in Spain

Faith R, Faith K, and Maya in Spain

Faith Kirkland

I can’t believe that it is already the third week of my experience in Spain. The end of this week will mark 1/3 of the way through the trip. At the same time, I feel like 9 weeks is a very long time. I have been more homesick this week. Sometimes I get tired of all of the Spanish and being out of my comfort zone all of the time. I am starting to understand the main ideas of lunch conversation when I pay attention. I’ve made even more friends from the different labs at lunch. At this point in my experience, the best advice I could give to a future G-STEM scholar would be to expect an amazing experience but be prepared for it to take time. I would tell them to keep an open mind to new things and experiences and expect to be pushed out of their comfort zone. Also I would say that there will be misunderstandings and difficulties in communication because of language or cultural barriers. Pushing past these barriers in communication is very rewarding because you learn so many new things about different types of thought and ways of life.

Asia Mosee

On Thursday and Friday we went to Rotoroa and Tiri Tiri islands. We went to Rotoroa for one of the research projects that a professor at the institution was doing. We are assisting in gathering data for her. When we arrived to Rotoroa at about 10:00 we walked about two hours to get to the site where the research was being conducted. The purpose was to see if there was a relationship between the lichen (a type of fungus) on the lava rocks and seagull nests. We used a device called an eTrex that allowed us to mark the coordinate points of each nest so that we could input the data into GIS. We walked on the lava rocks for about an hour or so finding all of the bird nests.

Lindsay presenting in Grenoble

Lindsay presenting in Grenoble

Lindsay Stanford

On Thursday and Friday I participated in the French American Workshop which took place here in Grenoble at the GIANT Minatec campus. The French American Workshop is a gathering of French and American students, researchers, professors, and industry representatives. During the two days I was able to network with research professionals, learn more about other international fellowships and research opportunities, and sit in on several interesting talks about innovations science. At the French American Workshop I was able to present a poster and a slide about my past and current research experiences, my technical and professional skills, and my future plans along with my fellow interns. I found that many people were very interested in my past research and my future plans of becoming a physician scientist. Many people did not understand why I wanted a dual degree instead of just choosing one or the other. After being provided an explanation, these same individuals were convinced that pursuing a MD/PhD is a brilliant idea.

Ebone Monk

Everything in the lab is going as expected. During the beginning of the week we were able to see how the lab makes graphite oxide, and that was pretty exciting to finally see how to make something that we have been reading so many papers about and finally got to start doing some hands-on experimental things. This week focused on how to go from Graphite to Graphite Oxide via Hummers Method.

Each time we leave the campus, I am reminded of the extreme contrast in India, the contrast between those who have money, power, and access and those who do not. I am forced to engage with the realities of the world, to think about human problems. Many of the problems include the social and political realm, problems that address the rights of people, and the wrongs of those in power. When I think critically about the current situation and what I have seen in India, I am reminded of the Colonial Era and it’s negative residues that have marked India with tremendous problems that are definitely due to a history of domination, a history of economic exploitation, a history of artificial boarders instituted by colonial powers, and a plethora of other remnants that reflect a troubling past.

Alexandria Sutton

On my third day in London, we finally got to tour the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), where I will be doing my research. It took about 35 minutes to reach the College by bus. The facilities are very nice, and my mentor seemed very nice and helpful as well. My mentor is actually American, which is interesting, so we talked about some of the differences between the U.S. and England. We sat through a lab safety orientation, met the faculty, and then we were free to explore Camden, which is where the Royal Veterinary College is located. It was nice to explore yet another part of London. On our way back to where we stay, we decided to go grocery shopping. I was shocked by how high the prices were, especially for things like vegetables and meats, in the grocery store. We had passed through an outdoor market, which had had affordable prices, but I thought that the grocery store would have cheaper prices (that is how it usually is in the U.S.). Well, the prices in the grocery store were actually considerably more expensive, and I learned that I should get most of my fresh fruits and vegetables from markets.

Maya Bryant

Maya in Cordoba lab

Maya in Cordoba lab

The lab work is effortless in comparison to learning the material and applying the information towards the results. All of the protocols were given to me in Spanish, so I have to translate everything by myself. Reading and comprehending the protocols is simple, the hard part is translating them in English. The format and structure in Spanish sentences are almost opposite in comparison to English. Some things in Spanish makes since, but the same exact sentence or phrase in English makes absolutely no sense. This process is not only helping me get familiarized with science related words in Spanish, but is also training my brain to think in two different languages. I do feel like I am more comfortable than I have ever been here when it comes to speaking Spanish. In the United States, I used to be very shy to speak with my family and friends in Spanish. Although I still have a long way to go in order to be fluent in Spanish, but speaking the language is becoming a new normal for me.

Justice Johnson

All the Spelman girls in G-stem that were in different parts of Spain met in Malaga for a day at the beach! The other girls from G-stem, and I took the bus from Cordoba, Spain to Malaga. The bus was more cost friendly, and it was only a two-hour bus ride to Malaga from Cordoba. Once we arrived at the bus station, I at lunch while waiting on the other girls in G-Stem to arrive. We waited for Erin who was coming from Madrid, and Brianna who was coming from Granada. After their arrival, we were all officially ready and eager for a day at the beach. This was a very enjoyable experience, as it was nice to relax, and Malaga’s beach is extremely beautiful. Additionally, we were all able to converse about our experiences inside and outside the lab comparing the similarities and differences. It was also interesting to learn about Madrid and Granada, and the little cultural differences that could be made even within different regions in Spain. We all relaxed by the beach enjoying the view and amazing scenery that surrounded us. It was truly a memorable moment to connect with my Spelman sisters as we enjoyed the beach.




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