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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending July 5, 2014

July 14, 2014

Mekhakhem Kheperu

This week, Ebone and I have chosen which material we will be able to fabricate, we’ve fine-tuned our procedure, and we’ve observed the making of graphite (bulk sheets of carbon) and graphite oxide (heavily oxygenated graphite). We are now focusing on the materials we intend to use and the mechanism (why we take each step) of the procedure. Personally, I am working on taking the procedure I have and scaling it up. One of the challenges in any science field is to go from small scale manufacturing to large scale production. I am synthesizing iron oxide nanoparticles sprinkled on graphite oxide sheets. I have a certain amount I want to make, but in doing this, I’m trying not to have to repeat the procedure ten and twelve times. Instead, I’d rather adjust the time and quantity ratios to be more time efficient. I’ll see how that goes.

Stranjae’ Ivory

This week’s research taught me some things about myself. On a great note, I designed my first PCR plate with no help from my team. I developed the placement of samples and primers on a PCR plate and made the measurements necessary to fill the wells. Based on the number of reactions involved with each primer, I determined the proper volumes needed for the SYBR mix, forward and reverse primers, water, and DNA samples. The main thing I realized yesterday after not receiving the best results from a PCR I ran earlier that day is that I take results of my experiments personal. I become a little upset and critical about myself and what I may have done to not receive the best results. Knowing I followed the protocol correctly and formulated the correct measurements for all samples, I knew I did everything in my power for my first PCR with Breast Cancer samples to yield great results with the commonly used primers, RASSF1A M/U. However, I was reminded by the PhD student that good and bad results can tell a story and all data is good data. All bad results do not always reflect the researcher and in my case we postulate there may have been an issue with the sample(s).

Moriah Wallace

Moriah in Scotland

Moriah in Scotland

The simplest things from the American environment attract non-citizens’ attention. When taking a drink from a previously frozen water bottle, I was stopped and asked by a co-worker “Why are you drinking that? Won’t you get sick?” I looked at her then the water bottle with a puzzled look on my face. Moments later I had the complete story of why she asked me that question. Needless to say, the environment she grew up in was different than mine; they never drank ice water. From that small conversation sparked a big conversation about the differences in our cultural environments. I found out that in her country bread is never served hot, skinny is not considered beautiful and the grading system has 5 levels of A’s a student can obtain. She and I left that day more knowledge about each other’s countries general practices and beliefs. In order to make the world and its people burgeon to their full potential, one must become knowledgeable about the small things his or her neighbor encounters on a daily basis.

Niwa Coleman

Instead of staying in the dorm, I decided to walk around this new side of Paris. While walking I passed a movie theatre and a young couple approached me. They ended up having an extra movie ticket that they couldn’t use because it was about to expire so they gave it to me. I was ecstatic about this even though the films were all in French. After all the confusion and disappointment with the train I was happy to finally have some good luck. I ended up watching Magnificent starring Angelina Jolie, and even though I do not speak French I was able to understand the story plot. I actually feel that I improved my understanding of French by watching the movie. After, I went back to the hostel got some sleep and caught the correct train to arrive in Grenoble

Brianna in Spain

Brianna in Spain

Brianna Burlock

In the lab this week, I had my first complete running of my entire experiment solo. The ultimate goal of my project is to look at the functional analysis of regulatory (B10) B cells. In completing this goal, preliminary experiments must take place. These experiments are very long and arduous since I am dealing with live cells for all of the experiments. During my first run, I made many mistakes that I took note of, but one mistake in particular extended my projected 10-hour workday to a 13-hour workday. Although I made some mistakes, I was proud of the many things that I did right. I knew it was my first time and that the experiment wouldn’t be perfect. The other researchers who taught me and helped me in the lab thus far confirmed my own thoughts. They insisted that making mistakes is normal and that everyone makes them, including them. I was relieved that they accepted making mistakes as a part of the learning process. When I worked in the lab back in the United States, I felt that my professor would get irritated with me if I mess up. I was afraid to make a mistake even though deep down, I knew it was a part of the process.

Blair Johnson

This past weekend I was able to attend the 2014 RISE DAAD Scholars Meeting in Heidelberg, Germany. 300+ students from the UK, Canada and the United States gathered from their respective living arrangements in Germany to meet in Heidelberg for a weekend of research talks, German occupation fairs and thankfully a lot of fun. Out of the 300+ students that were present at the conference there were a total of 5 students who looked to at least be somewhat of African descent. I was proud to represent the AUC along with a student from Morehouse College. I truly enjoy and appreciate being put into these types of situations where I am given the opportunity to enlighten others about the rich tradition and intelligence within the African American culture. I find this especially important when in an international setting where for some they have never been around multiple educated Black Americans.

Meigan Bryant

This week we started our summer internships and class. I did not expect it to be as time consuming as it was, but I learned so much this week that every experience was worth being a little tired. My first internship was at the retreat community hospital. This hospital was located in a large township in Cape Town and lacked the basic necessities. Just walking in to the small facility I could tell that it was nothing like the hospitals at home. There were at least 400 people in the waiting room at 8 am waiting to have their number called so a doctor could see them. I asked if this was a normal and the head nurse responded “this is a good day.” After receiving a tour of the small facility I decided to spend my first day in the trauma center. I was surprised that the tiny room had only 2 beds minimal supplies and little to no equipment. Although the lack of supplies was jarring the even scarier part was that there was only 1 doctor who was working the trauma center and seeing patients at the same time. According to the hospital staff there aren’t many doctors in any department of the hospital and they rely on nurses to perform majority of the medical duties. During my time in the trauma center I learned that the medical laws are much more lax than in the United States.

Meigan and Alexis in South Africa

Meigan and Alexis in South Africa

Alexis Sykes

My favorite quote from class is “prevention is better than a cure”, which to me means if more people were educated on how to protect themselves from disease we would not have depend on a cure to save lives. The goal of the public healthcare system is to provide quality health services and the best way to ensure the people remain healthy is to promote health education. In addition to our public heath course we also complete 4 hours of community service everyday before going to class at one of three locations. The first location is a public hospital and home for the elderly, the second a children’s hospital, and the third a health promotion organization that goes to various communities to teach. The class has been split into three groups and each week we will be placed at a different site.

Lindsay Stanford

This week in the lab I learned how to make live movies of my bacteria cells. The microscope we used was very high tech and I was extremely afraid to operate it. I thought that if I touched it then the microscope would break so I just watched my mentor this time around. He said that next time I should be able to try my hand at it. In addition to learning about the live imagining microscope I also began to learn about editing images and videos of cells using ImageJ software. ImageJ is a nice tool used in microscopy to make the images taken more receptive and pleasing to the human eye. So far I have learned how to correct bleaching, brightness, size, and drifting in the movies that we have retrieved. I am currently editing videos and images for my upcoming oral presentations.

Kayla Davie

I have been doing a lot more work on my research without needing to be guided as much by my professor. It gets a little overwhelming at times but I always feel proud when I figure something out on my own and am able to bring new results when I meet with my professor. I have also noticed that my professor trusts me to do my work on my own more as well, and while I still have to actively work on my research daily, there are days when he does not require me to meet with him because he knows I will stay on top of my assignments. I have gotten through more than half of the knots I will be analyzing for my research and what used to take me hours to complete, I can now complete in an hour. I have seen growth in myself as a student and a researcher because I am no longer afraid to ask questions and have learned to answer my own questions without having to email my professor and wait for a response. I am really happy that my professor was patient with me because even though I did not understand everything at first, I have the potential and am not afraid to work hard.

Kayla in Scotland

Kayla in Scotland

Kayla Echols

On the weekend I took a trip to visit Glengoyne Distillery in Dumgoyne, a section of the highlands. Everything was so beautiful and green. The aroma was intoxication. It smelt of the sweetest honey. Glengoyne Distillery has been producing a single malt whiskey for over 200 years. Their commitment to not rushing the aging process is what sets them apart. All of their whiskey is aged for at least 10 years. They also boast a collection of whiskeys that have been aged for over 35 years. As you can imagine, it is quite expensive. There was a bottle of whiskey that cost over £2500 that is about $4300! Throughout the tour I learned about the process of making whiskey and how to tell its age and strength based on the colour of single malt. Also, a single malt whiskey is one that is made all in one place rather than a combination of whiskeys from different distilleries. I thought it was interesting that the distillery bought their barley locally but their aging barrels came from Italian wineries. It was apparent that all the tour guides took pride in their work. From their traditional Scottish dress, impressive knowledge of the whiskey making processes, to their jokes about American whiskey, it was clear that their business was so much more than making an alcoholic beverage. It is a part of their culture that they take pride in. Following the conclusion of the tour, we took a short walk to a pub in the mountains. Hikers and whiskey tasters all set outside on picnic tables enjoying milkshakes and chips.

Christina Pollonais

Our research on Alien Nation is finally complete. This week we successfully completed all of our ArcGIS maps for each species. Completing this work was quite a relief. I felt so proud that I had completed all the maps properly and that I could truly say that I, Christina Pollonais completed field research on invasive species in New Zealand. Nevertheless, though all the technical data and results were finished I still have to complete my paper and this upcoming week will include this phase. I am very eager to begin this phase because in this assessment I feel as though I will not only get to describe my research on paper but my mentor Glenn will also be able to gain further insight into my intellectual thought towards our topic as well as I will really get to test all the knowledge I have gained thus far throughout this experience. In my opinion, it is one thing to execute the field work and computer programming but the most interesting part is the way in which a researcher allows his writing to be expressed. This is because no matter how interesting and important your research may be to humanity, if one can’t grasp the attention of its audience and readers you have truly failed to ensure your research becomes an important topic of discussion or most importantly you fail to create an important motif for society to change.

Erin in Madrid lab

Erin in Madrid lab

Erin Johnson

This has probably been the most exciting summer I have ever had. I have learned and experienced so much about research and the Spanish culture. I am beginning to understand what it feels like to be a global citizen. My social, political, and economical perspectives are being expanded. They are no longer confined just to the country I live in and because of this, I am navigating through life with a holistic understanding and appreciation of the world. I am already planning my next global adventure in the summer of 2015! Dr. Arratia spoke to me about research abroad opportunities with Fulbright and has been very helpful in giving advice and emailing information, encouraging his students to engage in more global experiences.

Christeva Smith

In addition to our hospital rotations we have class. The class is focused on public health and up until this point we have been exploring the South African healthcare system in reference to the differences between its public and private sectors. Since the Red Cross Hospital is a public facility that was the extent of my experience however on Friday we had the opportunity to tour a private hospital and speak with their staff. It was like night and day. The private facilities were updated and slow paced while the public facility was noticeably older and overcrowded which was a true testament to vast misappropriations of funds within the healthcare system. This week was certainly a learning experience and gave me a solid foundation on which I could build my research.

Jade Warfield

Jade in South Africa

Jade in South Africa

Today I went shark cage diving it was amazing! We woke up at 4:30 to get the beach that was two hours away right when the sun rose and the sharks woke up. After breakfast we put on our safety gear and got on the boat. We then drove out about four miles out from the shore to a spot right by a place called Dyer Island. This particular island is unique to sharks because it is where the largest gathering of seals live in the world, hence a plethora of food supply for the great white sharks. The boat captain then stopped the boat and dropped the anchor; the water was really choppy as it was a windy day, this cause the boat to shake rather vigorously, which was rather scary, but I went through with it nonetheless. As I put on my wet suit the shipmate began to throw the fish mixture or chum in the water to attract the sharks, within 2 minutes there were three shark swimming around the boat I was in shock, I couldn’t believe my eyes! But that wasn’t the best part, it was then my turn to get into the cage, I was a little nervous at first, but once I got in it was breathe taking, literally because we had to go underwater every time the shark came by so that the shark wouldn’t feel challenged by us. It was awesome!

Faith Reid

Mishaps. I have had my fair share of mishaps while here in Spain. I am not going to call these incidents problems or troubles or anything like that because they are really no more common here than they for a student living in the US. The difference is when you are abroad and your phone stops working, or you make a reservation online that turns out to be a scam, or your lab equipment stops working it feels like a much bigger ordeal than when you are at home. All of these mishaps have happened to me within the last couple of weeks. But before I explain them, I want to say that although they did frustrate me they have not ruined my experience or even significantly affected it in a negative way. I would actually say that they have done the opposite. In a positive way, these mishaps have allowed me to step outside of my “worrying comfort zone”. (I will admit that hindsight is 20/20, so during these situations I did not feel like anything positive was happening. But I did try to stay calmer than I usually would be!) A few days ago some of my GSTEM sisters and I were discussing how traveling abroad helps you learn to deal with the unexpected. That is exactly what these mishaps have done. Even though I have learned this lesson before, it never gets old.

Faith Kirkland

This week has been uneventful and challenging. I haven’t gotten much sleep and continue to work a lot in the lab. Some of the cultural differences here have been weighing on me in a tiresome way. Our host mother thinks it is rude for us to speak English to one another, especially with company like the Ukrainian women. It is hard because it is natural for us to speak to one another in our native language and we are always surrounded by conversation we can’t understand or contribute to.

Another example is that in their culture it is not rude for them to completely ignore us at the lunch table. Many times, from the first day, we have not had a word spoken towards us in Spanish or English, even by people we talk to in the lab. Many times I have tried to insert myself into conversation, but it is a lot of work and sometimes disappointing. Also, I have never been introduced to most of the people in the other labs. Even when I talk to people, they don’t state their name. I don’t believe that the people are not nice. They are just as nice as people at home; friendliness just is not as much of a cultural standard for them. One on one getting to know them they are extremely kind.

Brezana in South Africa

Brezana in South Africa

Brezana Cross

We officially started class and rotations in different sectors of health care. Monday I started at the primary level care at a local clinic hospital called Retreat. Here we chose what sector we wanted to observe in and I chose the maternity ward and there I got to observe a baby being born and the technology used even though they are not as fortunate to be afforded an actual sonogram scanner or even a doctor on site.

Asia Mosee

This weekend Christina and I went on our first journey together. We went to Coromandel. We arrived at night in a small bus with Coromandel adventures written on the side. The town was quite small and quiet. It reminded me of something that one would see in a western. The town had a population of about 1400 people. It was a beautiful town because mountains surrounded it and a river flowed in the middle of it. In the morning we hopped back on a bus and went to cathedral cove and the hot water beach. The bus driver was very nice and knowledgeable about the land. He showed us where all of the farmers lived and we saw so many cows and sheep. The land was so green and healthy.

Keira Williams

To wrap up our week we toured the Egoli Township, which is where we will all be doing community service. I was shocked by the state that the people live in. There was no plumbing, running water or toilet in the homes, or electricity. Many of the animals looked sick and neglected and the some of the people walled barefoot through the dirt and grime. Despite this condition of living, the children ran laughed and played through the shacks without a single worry. I believe that seeing how happy the people were despite the condition they were living in humbled us all and showed us how to be content with what we have without always wanting more. On another note, after talking with one of our mentors we decided that the interviews etc that we will be doing for our research projects will be done in the Egoli township. Within the next week or so we will be beginning to set up and conduct our interviews which I am very excited about.

Ebone Monk

Ebone in India

Ebone in India

Last Sunday was one of the best days I have had in India! A fun day in Pondicherry with M and T, my new self-proclaimed sister and brother! I wanted to go to Pondicherry for the longest time. It was one of the places we discussed in the G-STEM workshop and Mekha mentioned going as well. However, it was somewhat overwhelming to make travel arrangements alone. So, I explained my predicament to Aunty R, and of course she had a solution. The first issue that we ran into was transportation, but Aunty R had a solution, she called her brother in law who drives a taxi. So, one issue resolved. The next problem that occurred was because Mekha cancelled the initial Sunday that we planned to go. There was no way my family was going to let me go to Pondicherry alone, and I know that it wouldn’t be the wisest decision to travel alone and Mekha still wanted to go. So, I called up Aunty R at 5:00 am to explain the cancellation and through broken English she explained that I would not have to travel alone because she insisted that her two eldest children would travel with me, and that we could reschedule for next Sunday. Everything was arranged for next Sunday and even if Mekha cancelled I would still have two travel buddies. However, next Sunday arrived and Mekha was up at the crack of dawn ready to travel with M, T, and I.

Bianca Campbell

In Douglas Murray Frail Care Center I spent two days and interacted with the different patients. In this facility we observed the nursing aids more than doing hands on things. We later found out that the facility is ran off mainly donations for the community and minimal funding from the state. Sister Alexander, the head nurse, explained to us that the facility could barely afford to provide a decent food choice for their residents. This frail care center is the one of the only places that care for the elderly in the poor communities. The likelihood of an elderly patient being able to be admitted in the frail care center is very unlikely because the staff is overworked with sixty-six elderly patients currently living there.

Maya Bryant

This week in the lab was somewhat rigorous. It wasn’t more work than what I used to, but we basically did the same experiment over and over all week long. I got so used to doing the experiment; near the end of the week I knew the protocol to make the agarose gel by memory. It was very aggravating because each time we got different results. We had to go back and try to decide what went wrong in the experiment each time, only to discover that the protocol called for a concentration of peroxide that was ten times stronger than the one that we were using. You can’t believe everything you read, and this is definitely true when it comes to science. Finally today we got everything worked out and got the results that we were looking for. Working in STEM requires people to not only have great learning capabilities, but also requires a lot of patients and strategy.

Alexandria in England

Alexandria in England

Alexandria Sutton

This week I have had many great experiences. On Saturday, I was able to go to Wimbledon and see a match, which was incredible, as I am a huge tennis fan. My Sunday was also exciting, as I was able to spend the day at Oxford, as well as see my G-STEM mentor, Dr. Kimberly Jackson, and research mentor, Dr. Marisela Mancia and have dinner with them. Oxford was particularly exciting, because many of the world’s great scientists made revolutionary discoveries there. I was amazed to see on one of the buildings a plaque that read, “In a house on this site between 1655 and 1668 lived Robert Boyle. Here he discovered Boyle’s Law and made experiments with an AIR PUMP designed by his assistant Robert Hooke, Inventor, Scientist and Architect who made a MICROSCOPE and thereby first identified the LIVING CELL.” I could not believe that I was actually walking by buildings where such important scientific discoveries were made.

Justice Johnson

Every week in Cordoba, Spain brings upon a different experience. These differences include: cultural differences, people, food, language, atmosphere, and research. Everyday I am reminded of how extremely different Spain is from the U.S. It is almost as if everything is the opposite, and my mind has reversed. From being greeted with kisses instead of hugs, or having to covert the temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius, to working out and realizing the machines measure distance in Kilometers instead of miles. The list goes on of the numerous differences, as I have made distinct modifications to the life I was accustomed to. Being in a different Country truly feels as if I am in a different World.









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