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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending June 27, 2014

July 1, 2014
Photo credit: Jade Warfield

Photo credit: Jade Warfield

Stranjae’ Ivory

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to just chill out as a group of students traveled to Morocco and my host sister was visiting family in a nearby city. In the midst of my relaxing weekend of watching movies and resting, I managed to witness history for the city of Cordoba’s soccer team and the annual Corpus Christi celebration. Last Sunday, thanks to a last minute goal in play-off, Cordoba’s soccer team won promotion back into Spain’s elite division, La Liga, after a 42 year absence. My room is situated at the front of the house where I get current events of the city based on the many voices and sounds I hear. This evening there seemed to be never ending chanting and excitement in the people’s voices.

Alexis in South Africa

Alexis in South Africa

Alexis Sykes

The culture tour began officially Saturday morning after a welcome dinner Friday night with authentic South African food and music at the Langa Township. Langa is recognized as the first township in Cape Town and aside from the noticeable poverty there is a rich history there of an unbroken people. The people were so welcoming and quite used to the tours so the children were willing to take pictures and take us to their homes. It was sad to see how small and unequipped the living spaces were when the Township is literally ten minutes away from the nice suburban area our house is in. The township reminded me of the projects or ghettos of many big cities but of course slightly worse considering South Africa as a whole is still a third world country. The community seemed close knit with everyone taking care of one another and self-sufficient as far as the clinic, church, shops, school, and sports program all functioning within the Township.

Brianna Burlock

On Monday, I was able to meet my mentor Dr. Juan Arratia. My mentors in Granada and I met up with Dr. Arratia for lunch at a nice restaurant downtown and I was unexpectedly invited to go with Dr. Arratia to visit the Alhambra. Although I didn’t have all of my possessions from the lab (because I was expecting to return after lunch), I couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit such a place with my mentor. I had a most wonderful time to say the least. We took many beautiful pictures and I saw the beauty in the history of Granada, Spain. Dr. Arratia’s love for history was extended me as he told me all about the Muslim influence in Granada. Dr. Arratia and I also talked about future opportunities in science and study abroad in general. Learning more about each other allowed us both to start a relationship that can be extended beyond my experience here in Spain.

Blair Johnson

The Berlin Tegel Airport is constructed as a humungous circle. Each gate in the airport had its own security line to eliminate any unnecessary drama. This was definitely an idea that would be useful to bring back to the states. After landing, I was instructed to find the train and take it to Leuven. I was very proud of myself as I easily found my way and took the 13 minute ride to see my friend.

Meigan in South Africa

Meigan in South Africa

Meigan Bryant

I must admit, I always believed that Robin Island was just a tiny prison where Nelson Mandela spent majority of his sentence. I had no idea that it also served as dumping ground for critically ill patients, a colony for those escaping the government and now a home to small colony of South African citizens. While exploring the island I imagined all the different types of people who called this place home and how their experience, specifically the medical aspect, might have been unique. While walking on a tour of the prison led by a former inmate one comment he made piqued my interest. “ All of us prisoners may be different colors, but we all have the same heart.” I know the prisoner didn’t mean this in a literal manner but for me this made my research topic apparent.

Lindsay Stanford

I have become immersed in the “football” culture. My life has become focused on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in the recent weeks. This is mainly because the French energy makes it so much fun to watch the games. Almost every night my fellow interns and I try to watch a good match. Although I have played soccer before I would have never guessed that I would be so interested in the games. In talking to one of my colleagues, who is from Ecuador, I learned that being a “football” player is actually a pretty big deal for smaller countries. He explained to me that in most small countries, such as Ecuador, the little kids look up to the “football” players like they are heroes. He said that this is the case because anyone can play soccer and it gives children the hope that they can do something with their lives. Becoming a “football” player is the highest form of achievement back in his country and I found this very interesting. This made me sit back and reflect on the idea of Americans idolizing sports icons in the same manner.

Niwa in Grenoble

Niwa in Grenoble

Niwa Coleman

I am very excited for this weekend because I have a few trips planned. Tomorrow I will be taking the train to Lyon to explore. We don’t have an itinerary yet, but I figured my friends and I could hop on and off the train and get into anything we find interesting. I will be there until 6pm that night and from Lyon I will be taking another train to Paris to visit a family friend. I am very excited for this trip this weekend because it will be my first time in Paris.

Moriah Wallace

I have never realized being abroad would be such an I –opening experience. “I –opening” is used rather than “eye-opening” because I (myself, Moriah) am opening up my heart, my mind, and my entire being to the possibilities of life known and unknown. I am allowing myself to be redeemed from the myopic views of my American past and putting my best foot forward to make that happen. This internship has already prepared me with more than work experience. In my future occupation and last year of school I know I will succeed because I took this quote “Even in my failure I will push forward ,looking ahead in the possibilities and not at my current situation ”, and I have made it my own.

Kayla D. and Moriah in Scotland

Kayla D. and Moriah in Scotland

Kayla Davie

Research has been going very well. I love my professor Dr. Brendan Owens. I have no experience in topology and especially not in knot theory, however, he has been very patient and makes sure to work with me everyday so that I fully understand the research I am doing. I have to use a website that was created by a professor at Indiana University. The site tells almost every property you would need to know about knots. I found out that Dr. Owens actually knows that professor! I have also been learning how to use Kirby Calculator to manually find properties about knots that are not as widely known, which is the whole point of my research. It is not easy to get the hang of but I am getting the hang of it.

Kayla Echols

This past week I have met with my supervisor, Uli, for approximately an hour every day. He has purposefully made a point to give me little direction. By this I do not mean that he is unhelpful. He has been very helpful and is a great teacher. Uli has expressed that in mathematics research you do not always know where you are going and the path you choose may lead you to a conclusion that you never intended to explore. I appreciate that he has gone out of his way to make sure my experience is similar to that of a first year Ph.D. student.

My racial experience in Glasgow, or the lack thereof, has encouraged me to reflect on how I self-identify. I am not special because I am black or because I am a woman. Don’t misunderstand, it is because of the history of my people and the intersectional experiences that I have encountered that make me who I am, but my ancestors aren’t great because they were black. They are an amazing people who happen to be black. If we want others to look at us as human first we must also look at ourselves in the same light. I cannot change what others think of me without first changing how I see myself.

Erin Johnson

Erin in Madrid lab

Erin in Madrid lab

This week, I have been in the lab for longer hours. Each Tuesday, someone presents their research and what they have done so far. Next Tuesday is my turn. I don’t really have any results, at least not enough to come to some kind of conclusion. I am only explaining the hypothesis and procedure of my research. I am trying to determine if the phosphotases in Arabidopsis PP2A-C are involved in the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of PIN2, which are essential for establishing the auxin gradients that guide many aspects of plant development.

Christeva Smith

The next morning, after breakfast, we had an early start toward ostrich farm. The ostrich farm was exactly what I expected it to be but fun none the less. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, which I found to be a common trait among all of our tour guides here in South Africa, and he had a few fun interactive activities for us to engage in with the ostriches such as kissing, feeding and riding them. Yes people did in fact ride the ostriches. We also had the opportunity to stand on their eggs which are incredibly strong. After the ostrich farm we set out toward the local Rastafarian community. There we had a brief history lesson of the Rastafarian lifestyle and history and a jam session which was extended because of the rain.

Mekhakhem Kheperu

I am working in the Nanotechnology Lab in Chennai, India. While I’m here, my job is to, first, learn as much as I can about nanotechnology, graphene synthesis and characterization, and the equipment used to make nanoscale materials. Specifically, I’m here to create graphene materials, sheets of carbon atoms, interlaced with iron. This allows tenability of the properties of the material. Ebone and I have been reading scientific papers on the topic since we got here, which has helped us to figure out the terminology of the field, and the different techniques and challenges in graphene synthesis. This week, we met with Dr. Ravi, our mentor from Spelman College, who is responsible for giving us this opportunity.

Jade Warfield

Yay! Today we discussed our research project, and all the logistics that go with it, more details to come on that but there is definitely progress being made. I’m pretty sure I want my focus on research to be maternal and fetal health with a deeper look at the toxicology aspect of it, but a more concrete idea will be given later on this week.

Faith Reid

Visiting Morocco is something I can barely explain. Not only did all of our plans to travel work out with no mishaps or dangerous encounters, but I really enjoyed myself. I had pictured the street full of crowds with people surrounding tourists trying to sell items and reach into their pockets. But to my surprise I did not see this side of the country. Our tour seems like it was the best off all the ones offered around Tanger, Morocco. Our guide didn’t take us to all of the normal tourist sites of the city. Instead, we had a panoramic ride through the city center and royal neighborhoods. We were able to see the beach from our ride and even the hillside. Following the ride, we rode camels and ate a traditional meal. Even as we walked to visit stores, I did not feel too uncomfortable as people approached us trying to sell us little camels, scarves, drums, and even a pack of gum. Although people were persistent, they were not so pushy that I felt like I had to do anything more than keep saying no and shaking my head. Also, to my knowledge, no one even tried to touch my purse. (This may be due to the fact that I had my purse under my sweater just to be safe.) Furthermore, when we got to the hotel, arrangements had been made so that Faith, Maya, and I could all sleep in the same room. Although this just skims the surface of our experience, I hope it gives a glimpse of how surprisingly smooth this trip went. This does not speak to all the moments of awe and beauty I experienced, but it does explain how my nervous anticipations were significantly dispelled.

Brezana Cross

Keira and Brezana in South Africa

Keira and Brezana in South Africa

This is the end of a full week here in South Africa and we have done so much and I’m completely drained. Saturday we went to the oldest township in Cape Town, Langa. In Langa we walked around the community and learned a pit about their way of life. At the time of our your was a funeral and I asked about the funeral ceremonies here is South Africa specifically in the black communities and was told that they most likely lasted a minimum of four hours and the entire gatherings outside of the service could last all day. The same is common in black communities in the states, well from my experience of the services I’ve attended. Then our your guide told me that there is a part after the service where food is served to those attending the funeral and in the event of no food being served the grieving family would be seen as “strange, off or just rude”. This is yet another similarity.

Keira Williams

Within this past week the group and I have done almost more activities than I can name. To begin, we toured three different townships including a black, colored, and Rastafarian township. They all differed greatly from the way the people looked to the foods they eat, to

Keira in South Africa

Keira in South Africa

the music they listen to. I especially found it interesting to see that all of the Rastafarians are vegetarians. Although I am not a vegetarian I found the meal we were served, which consisted of rice beans and vegetables, to be quite delicious. I also took note that our host and cook was offended when people gave him back an unfinished plate of food. He told them that you aren’t full or finished until the plate is completely clean. Another difference that I noticed while in the Black Township is that the children were excited to say hello to and play with the white students in our group, but wanted nothing to do with the students of color in our group. Some children even went as far as giving us dirty looks. We all however just assumed it was due to their culture and being excited by seeing people, the whites, that looked so different from them. Nevertheless, all of the people in the townships were proud of their culture and excited to share their way of life with us as we visited. They made us feel as if we were not strangers, but a welcome part into their home.

Ebone Monk

Tuesday was a fun day! Dr. Ravi came to visit us in the lab and then he took us to one of the canteens on the campus to have a little brunch and discuss some of the things that we will be doing in the lab, and our Indian adventures thus far. We spent a good two and half hours recounting some of the events that have taking place since arriving to India. Moreover, and most likely the most important thing that took place was the concise discussion on our end goal in the terms of scientific research. We are going to focus on the getting the specifics for the Hydrogen Exfoliation method of the lab, because we want to be able to replicate the method in the States (at Spelman). We want to learn the methods of this lab so well that we will be able to duplicate the process at Spelman and compare it with the technique used in the states with the method that we have learned here at IITM.

Alexandria in England

Alexandria in England

Alexandria Sutton

On Wednesday, I first attended a seminar given by my supervisor, Dr. Cobb. The topic of the seminar was: Gene Regulation by miRNAs. Therefore, during this roughly hour and a half long seminar, I took notes about various things regarding gene regulation and miRNA. After the seminar, I headed to the lab where I retrieve my PCR tubes from the previous day from the machine. I then prepared another 1% agarose gel to re-do the experiment. After gel electrophoresis was conducted, I viewed the gel under UV light and, once again, did not see any bands. This time I pipette the corrected amounts, so my supervisor supposed that it might be the DNA template we were using that was the problem. After research, while I was waiting on the bus to go home, a homeless-looking man asked me if I had 1.50 pounds to give him to buy a beer. I told him that I did not have any cash. He walked away, and then another guy standing at the bus stop said, “At least he was honest.” I thought that was interesting, since in the U.S. people don’t usually ask for beer money, they will just ask for money or ask for money for food.

Maya Bryant

May in Cordoba lab

May in Cordoba lab

Ahhh. Where do I start? Visiting Tangier, Morocco would be an experience that I will never forget. It was a little complicated to get there because we had to spend a night in Tarifa, Spain the day before and the day after the excursion, but the trip was well worth it. Tarifa is a very beautiful city on the tip of southern Spain. It is known for its lovely beach, which has high winds excellent for kite surfing. From the beach in Tarifa, you can see the mountains of Africa! It’s crazy how close it is, yet they are two completely different countries. Even if it is just the tip of northern Africa every Black girl has dreamt of visiting Africa at least once in their lives, I’ve always had big dreams of visiting the continent of my ancestors myself. I assumed that most of the Moroccan people wouldn’t treat me any differently than the other tourist. Instead, it seemed as if the Moroccans were more welcoming towards myself and the other Spelmanites than the European tourist. “Hello sister!” people would say as we toured around the beautiful city. (I even got a couple “Ooh La La’s).

Justice in Cordoba lab

Justice in Cordoba lab

Justice Johnson

Everyday I am truly thankful for my host mother. She literally goes over and beyond for us by cooking fantastic Spanish meals, cleaning, washing clothes, making sure all our needs are met and etc. I am really happy with my decision to stay with a host family, as I previously thought it was a bit costly. It is certainly been worth every penny. I couldn’t even imagine being completely alone when faced with difficult circumstances, and it is extremely beneficial to know someone is looking out for you.

Every week I seem to be getting more independent, and having to ask fewer questions from PHD and Master students. Although, questions are valued by all the students in the lab, and they correct me when and if they notice I am doing something wrong. This has been such an amazing learning experience, as I’ve already gained so much information within a little amount of time. I am excited for next week as my experiment consists of me doing two western blots and Immunocytochemistry.

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