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Scholar Highlights for Week Ending July 26

August 4, 2014
Stranjae', Faith R., Justice, Faith K., in Spain

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

Brianna Burlock

Morocco this weekend was quite an experience! I learned that I had high expectations about what I expected before I went to Morocco and some of them were met but others were not. I took the train to a city in southern Spain. I heard so much English around me; the most I had heard since I’ve been in Granada. I was completely shocked to find out that all of the English-speakers I encountered went to schools in Georgia. How coincidental! But I was even more shocked when I found out that two of the girls went to the two high schools I attended in Georgia. It was so weird finding that out but it was cool to catch up and have a good English conversation (something I lack on the day-to-day basis in Granada). Some of the other girls from Spelman’s GSTEM program and I took a ferry to Morocco from a cute little beach city on the coast of Spain. I expected the ferry to be smaller than it was. The ferry even had room for cars! It was a great trip to Morocco. We had a long day ahead of us because once we got off the ferry, we were going nonstop.

Faith Reid

Faith R., in Cordoba lab

Faith R., in Cordoba lab

The stress I felt last week was definitely not from having too little data. In fact, I was more stressed because I had so much data to analyze. I created two graphs for every experiment we ran. On top of these approximately 30 graphs, I needed to include the characterization data from the XPS machine. As I began compiling the data I knew that I could not put all of these results in my presentation (although I included quite a lot). One interesting thing about research is that you can do a lot of work and collect a lot of data, but when you present your results to others you have to know how to consolidate the information. I was very grateful that V sat down with me to plan out every slide of my presentation. This allowed me to see what information I needed to include in the presentation, and what I could leave out. This eliminated some of my stress because I had clear instructions on what I was expected to speak about.

Kayla Davie

I am putting the finishing touches on my paper tonight. We just finished all the research yesterday because Dr. Owens still had to run some of the knots that still had unknown crossing numbers through Maple and Mathematica programs. His program was able to find about 65 of the slicing numbers for 11 crossing knots. I still am checking all my results for accuracy but, as of now, my research was successful in finding the slicing numbers for 414 11 crossing knots (out of a total of 552). At first, I was disappointed that I had not found the slicing numbers of all the knots but Dr. Owens explained that he was not expecting me to be able to do that. The information I did find is very useful to mathematicians who wish to create programs to evaluate knots further because they can see all of the methods I used to test the knots that were unsuccessful. This will let them know which knot invariants to not spend too much time and gives future researchers a starting place for finishing finding the slicing numbers of 11 crossing knots. If I keep in contact with my professor, I might be the person to find the rest of these slicing numbers!

Mekhakhem Kheperu

The nanomaterial I have been working to synthesize is graphene oxide laced with Fe3O4. Last week I created the graphite oxide by taking natural flake graphite and oxygenating it by using a series of strong oxidizing agents. This week I mixed that graphite oxide with iron (II) and (III) chloride in a series of steps designed to interlace the graphite oxide with Fe3O4. All I have left of this part is to wash and dry the graphene – based material. For the rest of my time here, I plan to characterize (microscopically bounce lasers off the graphene structure and clock the resulting photon scatter) the materials I have made. I also have the goal of finishing my lab report while I am here so that I can get feedback from my mentor, Professor Sundara, as well as a few of the PhD students.

Blair in Germany

Blair in Germany

Blair Johnson

As I have around half a week left in Berlin, Germany, I am taking the time to fully internalize all that I have learned here and how I can use this information back in the United States. I am very thankful to be given this opportunity and cannot wait to continue my path of research when I return back to the United States and to Spelman College. I have maintained a continual relationship with my research mentor from Spelman College, Dr. Tiffany Oliver, during my time here and I am excited for all that she has in store for the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters.

Moriah Wallace

There comes a time in life when one is grateful for the experiences that he or she has had, but is ready to move ahead and learn new things; this is one of those times. Never in my life did I think I would have the opportunity to go abroad let alone do research abroad. The abroad experience is like no other. Inside and outside the lab, life lessons made themselves evident. There was something that could be learned in everything that I did. This week I learned the biggest lesson anyone could learn: don’t limit yourself. I thought that week five was a test of what I could do, but the last week in Scotland showed me that there can always be a time more trying than the present.

Alexis Sykes

It was an honor to be at the apartheid museum the day after Mandela Day to pay our respect followed by the bike ride through Soweto. Two years after being released from prison, Mandela dedicated a large monument to the young students who lost their life protesting the teaching of Afrikaans in schools as a form of oppression. June 16th is known as youth day in South Africa but it resonated with me because we celebrate it as Juneteenth in my hometown. Soweto or the southwestern township started off as temporary housing that turn into a long-term self-sustaining city. The bike ride through Soweto included a brief history as we made stops along the route and a chance to interact with the people we passed including a stop to taste their traditional African beer.

Brezana in South Africa

Brezana in South Africa

Brezanna Cross

This is my second to last week here in South Africa and I am happy to say I spent it in Johannesburg. Saturday we left at like four in the morning on our way to “Joburg”. When we arrived there we went directly to the Apartheid Museum. There we were able to see the Mandela Exhibition that was there because Friday was Mandela Day. So Happy Mandela Day! Before we saw the exhibition we first entered through entrances that were separated by Non-Whites and Whites, I had a non-white ticket and in my entrance I saw all the identifications for the citizens who were black or coloured. They referred to this as the dummy passes. After the hall of dummy passes the whites and non-whites entrances combined into a long walk way of life size photos of people that led to a short exhibit that told the stories of the people and their foreparents that experienced the apartheid. The people varied from white, black, indian, coloured, and even asian. Then we finally made it to the Mandela exhibit. There were photos and videos of him from even when he was a young man.


Meigan Bryant

Our final day was spent at Kruger National park. There, we took a safari and saw monkeys, elephants, giraffes, and even rhinos in their natural habitat. The experience was amazing and was definitely something I will never forget. When I returned to Cape Town I contacted my mentor and scheduled to pick up my surveys. When I got them back I was pleased to see more parents volunteered than I anticipated and most had an extensive knowledge of their child’s donors. Some parents were their child’s donors, which made my analysis even better. I’m so excited that I have made such a huge breakthrough in my research and look forward to completing my final week here in this beautiful city.

Niwa Coleman

It is customary in French culture to bring in cakes and sweets to an office to celebrate a special event in your life. On Thursday evening we had a small party in the lab to celebrate one of the professors was moving on, the lab technicians birthday, and the end of the other undergraduate student’s internship. Because of this we had an abundance of sweets, desserts, ect. to enjoy. The following day, that Friday, was my last day in lab. As a token of my appreciation for them welcoming me into the lab, I wanted to bring an American dish for all my lab mates to enjoy. One would think this task would be fairly easy, due to the fact that there are plenty of American dishes to prepare, but to my surprise, it wasn’t. My two main limiting factors where that:

  1. The same supplies weren’t offered in French grocery stores
  2. I did not have an oven in my apartment

Just by these two simple facts, almost all traditional American snacks were impossible; however, one idea still remained: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. Even though peanut butter is not common in grocery stores, I was able to borrow some that was brought over from America from the other interns. Thursday night I made about 10 PB&J sandwiches and cut them diagonally into fours for my lab. Around 3pm on Friday I served them to my lab, and it was a huge success. They absolutely loved the simple sandwiches! Everyone in the lab kept asking me how to make it and where they could buy peanut butter.

Kayla Echols

Kayla E., in Scotland

Kayla E., in Scotland

I had a very interesting conversation with Dr. B regarding the difference between math research and other scientific researches. It began with the discussion of what a proper mathematics abstract should look like. In mathematics an abstract is fairly short and to the point. It should tell the reader exactly what the paper is about. Details should come in the paper. This varies greatly from the half a page abstract that I am required to have. He went on to tell me how he and my other two supervisors went out of their way to make sure that I get a very accurate view of what it means to do mathematics research.

Christina Pollonais

It is almost time to say goodbye and it feels so bitter sweet. I am so happy to be going home to my mom, dad and sisters but I at the same time I am so sad to be leaving some of these great people that I have met while here in New Zealand. This week we continued writing our papers and yes it may seem as though wow why am I spending so much time writing these papers but at the same point in time one should remember that this paper entails a lot of intricate details. Nonetheless I hope to complete my paper by the end of next week. This week also took our final field trip with our mentor. We visited the Mataia where we tracked the Kiwi birds of New Zealand using a Sirtrack system. These Kiwi birds are considered endangered species. This Mataia site serves as a sanctuary for the birds in which they can inhabit and no hunters can cause any harm to them. This site is approximately 5 acres wide. Each bird at has a tracking device attached to them that way people can monitor their movement and ensure they haven’t left the Mataia homestead.

Justice Johnson

This week was extremely productive in the laboratory, as my aim was get the remaining of the proteins in the cytoskeleton as this relates to adipogenesis. I was able to successful visualize each of these proteins with my western blots, and had the results I needed. Also, I was able to complete my oil red staining for 3T3-L1 cells on different days of differentiation. I will be going to the microscope to take pictures next week for my project. I really can’t believe my research project is complete, and I am amazed at how much I have learned. I am beyond blessed.

Keira in South Africa

Keira in South Africa

Keira Williams

Once we arrived in Soweto, we were served a lunch of braai, which is basically our equivalent to barbequed meats. Braai has come to be one of my favorite meals here in South Africa. After lunch, we went on a bike tour of the township. I thought that the bike tour was a fun and interesting alternative to the usual walking tour. Many of us had not ridden a bike in several years and initially found ourselves struggling to take off on the bikes. Nevertheless, once the tour got started it turned out to be very fun and informative. We biked to various different spots such as the house that Nelson Mandela stayed in while in Soweto, and then stopped to hear additional information from our tour guide. After the bike tour, we joined some of the Sowetans in a musical circle of drums. We were each given a drum and had to follow the beat of the lead drummer. We all enjoyed delving into their culture in this way. Once we were done drumming we all gathered by the fire for dinner and listened to a mixture of American and South African music while mingling with the people of Soweto. This was the first time that we were able to relax and talk as a group, which made this a very enjoyable evening. Furthermore, once again the food was immaculate and a helped make a perfect ending to the day.

Ebone Monk

We have about one and a half weeks left in India, and I am so sad. I am really going to miss this place. Sure, it is not like the States but have truly enjoyed my time here. Last Sunday, Mekha and I went to temple and then to one of the nearby malls. At the mall, we decided it would be interesting to go to the snow simulation room. I never imagined one of the adventures during my trip to India would be playing in man-made snow. I am not sure what encouraged us to want to pay to see snow when we see it in the States all the time. Next week I will begin packing and completing some of the paper work required to leave. Sir has asked Mekha and I to give a short presentation on the work that we have completed. We have also started to put many of the pieces of our papers together, and after completing the characterization of each material we can finalize our papers. Everyone is starting to realize that we leaving soon, and many people have invited us out for good-bye dinners or meals at their homes.

Jade Warfield

I found out that for Mandela day (July 18th, which is also his birthday) South Africa does 67 minutes of service to commemorate the 67 years of his life that he gave toward the fight for humanity and equal rights in South Africa. I found it very heart warming that the people of South Africa really respect Nelson Mandela and the efforts he put into the betterment of South Africa as a whole.

Faith K., in Spain

Faith K., in Spain

Faith Kirkland

In the lab on Thursday I learned how to measure the activity of the enzyme citrate synthase. We used a spectrophotometer that gave us line graphs of the increasing reaction. I used the slope of these lines to calculate the amount of mitochondria present in my samples. This was possible because citrate synthase is produced in the kreb cycle on the matrix of the mitochondria. We would mix the different solutions for the reaction and then put my sample in at a warm temperature and with mixing by a small magnet.

Asia Mosee

I cannot believe that I only have one more week in New Zealand. I am currently writing this journal entry from Queenstown, New Zealand. It is beautiful here. Our hotel is near huge mountains with snow on the top. Sometimes I look out at the view and I think, “is this real?”. The lake is a crystal blue color that looks clean enough to drink it. We heard that it gets its color due to the fact that there used to be a glacier here.

This week we not only worked on our papers but we also went to another site. The Kiwi bird is an endangered species in New Zealand. There are many people taking precautions to try and save this bird. We went to a site called Mataia. A family purchased 5 acres of land so it could be a sanctuary for the kiwi. Before the Kiwi’s were released a tracker was placed on them in order to maintain each birds location. The purpose was to examine how much of a range, and which type of habitat the kiwi is most suitable to live in. By using an antenna attached to a sirtracker we were able to locate the birds location. These locations could then be placed into ArcGIS and we could use the occurrences to determine the kiwi birds suitability. This will help conservationist continue to find sanctuaries for the bird and ultimately save the species.


Christeva in South Africa

Christeva in South Africa

Christeva Smith

After the bike tour we came back to the camp and had the opportunity to participate in a wonderful drum circle and dance with some of the local people. It was amazing. After dancing for a few hours we ate a delicious dinner and went to bed. I turned in early. It had been a very long day. The next day we traveled to Nelspruit which is about five hours outside of Johannesburg. That is where we stayed for the next five days. Over the next five days we completed our community service and hospital rotations. I was a part of the group that completed the community service aspect first. We were transported to a special needs school there in Nelspruit. Upon arrival we anticipated working with the children, however unfortunately, due to a planned strike by the transport service providers the students were not able to get to school.

Bianca Campbell

Kruger National Park and zip lining at Sky Trails was an amazing experience. Kruger National Park is a Safari like experience where many African bread animals live in their natural habitats. We got there at five o clock in the morning and searched for animals until about six o clock at night. The main goal when going to Kruger National Park is seeing the big five, which consists of the buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant, and rhino. We got the chance to see all five animals and other animals such as the giraffe, baboons, hyenas etc. Never have I been that close to a wild animal before and it was AMAZING! We ended up staying in little huts that were big enough to only fit two twin size beds in them. Surrounding our living area were animals, mostly monkeys, which were everywhere Sky Trails is a zip lining area located over a vast area of forests and consisted of nine different zip lining trails which made it the longest zip lining trail in South Africa!

Alexandria Sutton

Overall, I am very pleased with the research I was able to do this summer and the fact that I was able to see how research is done in England. I found that there are many similarities between how the labs run in England and how they run in the U.S., and this may be at least partially due to the fact that my supervisor was American. However, in general I feel that it is pretty similar. Something that I had to learn how to do this summer was to work in a setting where there are students working on higher degrees in the same lab. Trying to gauge what questions were appropriate to ask and when it was appropriate to ask them was, especially with the cultural difference, challenging, but I am glad that I was able to do it.

Faith R., Justice, and Strajae' in Cordoba, Spain

Faith R., Justice, and Strajae’ in Cordoba, Spain

Stranjae’ Ivory

Once in Morocco after a 45 minute ferry ride, I heard the calls to prayer which is a common practice in Morocco during Ramadan. I became very culturally aware and was ready to explore the city of Tangier. I was greeted by our tour guide who was phenomenal. He shared with us his ability so speak several languages. Since Tangier is a tourist city and has been involved in the coexistence of many other cultures, many of the people could speak English, Spanish, German, etc.. Personally, I did not know what language to speak in. As soon as I arrived, many referred to me as “sister” which at first was flattering, but as the day progressed I noticed some used “sister” to get my attention to make purchases. However, people identifying me as Oprah and Michelle Obama are always flattering. By way of a tour bus we toured the many royal palaces, old town, ruins from ancient history, and different religious quarters (Jewish, Christian, etc..) in Morocco.


Lindsay Stanford

On Thursday we had a closing ceremony where we all came together to reflect on our experience in France and the GIANT program. At this closing ceremony they had an award ceremony for the best overall presentations. In my head I had already picked out the likely candidates to win without suspecting me at all. To my surprise, I was chosen as the best presenter. I was completely shocked when they called my name.   After the award ceremony I ran to my lab to let them know the good news. They were all really impressed. My lab director asked me for a copy of the award so that she could hang it up in the lab. My mentor was just completely satisfied. He pulled me aside and told me that he was very proud of my efforts in the lab and the results of my presentation. I felt amazing. I ran home to call my mom to let her know what I had accomplished. She was so happy that she called the entire family. It may not have seemed like such a big deal to others but to me, a young black woman from Stone Mountain, Ga, it meant everything.

Erin Johnson

Erin in Spain

Erin in Spain

This week has been one adventurous week! We finally made our trip to Morocco and, as promised, I have a lot to tell! Entering the markets was like entering another world. We were ambushed with people shoving items and good into your face. Eventually we learned that ignoring them was the best way to move about the markets. Of course they knew we were Americans, so, everything they offered was overpriced. “My sister, 15 euros!” I would never pay 15 euros for a small ring. Bargaining was tricky because you wanted to get down to the lowest prices but you also didn’t want them to think that what they were selling was worthless. I bought Moroccan oil for my mom, my sister a Hamsa necklace, and my dad some spices. Overall, the trip was an amazing experience.


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