Thursday, September 2, 2010


This was a summer of amazing opportunities and challenges. I never thought that I would be able to have the chance to go abroad in college. Since freshman year when I first plotted my academic route through college, I always thought that there would simply be no time to be able to finish college in decent time and be able to explore the world. I knew that just picking up and traveling for a summer would not necessarily be the best thing to do in the eyes of medical school admissions offices, I resigned myself to school years laden with science classes and summers chockfull of academics and science. When Leah, Cathy and company first told me about IRES, I knew this would be that chance to be able to do everything that I wanted to do. Not only was I able to work in the lab of one of the most famous developmental geneticists in the world, not only was I surrounded by brilliant scientists in the forefront of their fields, not only was I able to learn and be exposed to a lot of cool and awesome science, but I also got to live in London AND travel throughout Europe. Yup, it was pretty sweet.
Things I learned this summer:
1) I hate eggs. Don’t get me wrong, I do thoroughly enjoy an omelet, but I cannot stand electroporations. Ugh! I think over the course of the summer I electroporated close to 400 eggs. All I wanted to do was throw them out the window or cook them… I need a new animal model…
2) The science community is really, really small. Especially my field of developmental genetics. EVERYONE knows each other! When I told some of the PIs in my division that I go to Emory, they started rattling off names in a game of science geography. Turns out one of PIs collaborates occasionally with my current biochem teacher, Bill Kelly.
3) Science labs come in as many varieties as the people who populate them. As an undergraduate, I have been fortunate enough to have worked in not one, but three labs. Each one has been so completely different from the others. My first lab was small, young and highly motivated (through love of science and fear of the PI…) my second was/is also young, but there was a real sense that everyone wanted to be there, loved what they were doing and really got along well. Over the summer, my lab was fairly large and old / well established. The PI had very little to do with the day to day activities of the researchers and in general there was a very unusual hierarchy with the veteran post-docs practically playing the role of the PI. I found out that picking a lab is not just about the science, but whether you know you can work with these people for whatever amount of time.
4) America is not as amazing as I always thought it was.* (* see note (5) before freaking out!) London is a massive, cosmopolitan city with EVERYTHING and even more stuff then Atlanta and most major American cities. It has one of, if not the best, public transportation systems in the world. The tube might be super expensive, but it rocks. If the US wants to be competitive with the rest of the world, I think we (the US) need to focus on overhauling infrastructure with a greater emphasis on public transportation to help ease congestion, reduce environmental emissions and help ease movement between and within towns and cities. Beyond transportation, there are many things that just might be better overseas. There are many more wireless service providers, which leads to better service and lower prices. And I can go on…
5) America IS the best country in the world. I would never want to live anywhere else. Yes, you can do pretty much everything you can here almost anywhere else in the world, but it just does not really compare to the opportunities that the USA provides (at lease for me). Being away from home for so long has really helped me to appreciate what I have missed all summer. There is still a lot that the US can learn from Europe, but I feel that for the most part we are on the right track.
6) Being a tourist in Europe is awesome. There’s the old joke of a European in Philadelphia, waiting in line (queuing) to see the liberty bell and wondering why the Americans are making such a big fuss over a 250 year-old cracked bell. “Your history goes back 300 years; our history goes back 2500 years.” Guilty as charged.
7) The world is big, but not that big. Different countries have different cultures and traditions, but when you boil away all the ‘superfluous’ stuff, people are essentially the same. We all hopes and dreams. I feel that backpacking alone, by force exposing me to so many different people really helped me to see this. I feel that traveling alone really is an opportunity not just to experience new cultures and have fun, but is an incredible opportunity for self-growth. Many people now a days are always on the move- there is really no true down time. Even in between activities we plugged ourselves into our ipods. It’s an information overload. Sometimes you just need a seven hour train ride with a dead iPod to really just sit there and think about life and anything else without zoning out to the constant buzz of music in our ears…
8) Of course there is more, but I’ll leave it at this.
I had a great time this summer, especially when I was able to meet up with some fellow IRES students. This experience would never have been possible without IRES – thank you so much Leah, Cathy and everyone else who allowed all of us to have this fantastic summer! Thank you so much!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

tiger woods ^ us golf open

all this week and last week i've been doing more trials for the experiment i started two weeks ago... i changed the concentration of ouabain in a few of the experiments as well to see if the effect was any different.. this week i also learned how to hand make glass electrodes.. by using a capillary tube and pulling each side apart over a flame so the ends that were pulled apart would come to a point and then i had to cut and bend the electrode so it was in the proper orientation to make electrical recordings...

this past weekend i went to mykonos.. it was AMAZING.. i love greece.. it's such a fun place to travel to... i had the chance to actually go to the beach and swim in the ocean which i love doing during the summer months...i stayed on the beach all day.. one of the beaches i went to had a bar/restaurant right next to it that started playing loud fun dance music at the night.. everyone started dancing most of the people still in their beach gear...i went into the town.. walked around.. did some shopping, watched the sunset, and ate some delicious greek food :) .. and finally, one of the days my dad and i decided to explore the island more and just drove around got out of our car took pictures and enjoyed the scenery... I am really tired after the trip though.. all my traveling has really worn me out!

i've had some really great experiences and have had a great summer! i'm so glad i've been given this opportunity!

and some pictures for your enjoyment of greece and the us golf open above :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

London pictures :)

Windsor castle and part of incredible doll house
Queen play :)

parliament, notting hill, market, tourist freaking out over a squirell, changing of the guard, really cool cars, London bridge, telephone booth :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The end is near

I've been meaning to post for a long time, and now it's my last week in Germany! I'm excited to start junior year at Emory, but I'll really miss this place and the people here. The past few weeks I've just been spending time exploring in and around Goettingen. Here's a picture of a shooting club parade that lasted the whole day last weekend.We hiked up to the top of the Bismarkturm and you can see all of Goettingen behind us in the picture! This is Courtney, another fellow RISE student who's been doing research at the university physics department.We also went on a crazy adventure to visit all the graves of famous physicists. We saw Planck, Max Born, Max von Laue and the genius mathematician Gauss to name a few. The city cemetery has a corner just for Nobel laureates! Here's Max Planck... and you can't really see it on the picture, but he has the Planck constant inscribed on it at the bottom. I also went to the Goettingen Botonical Gardens, and it's quite nice actually. This is Ada, another intern at the University.
And not to forget, giant water lilies! Well, you can't see the flowers here, but these leaves can hold up to weights of 150 kilos!
So, my time in Germany is nearly up... and I'm going to miss so many things about this place that it's not wise to start listing them. However, I AM EXCITED TO BE BACK AT EMORY AGAIN! :)

p.s. I was at a restaurant on Friday night, and I saw Keanu Reeves! He walked past our table (we were sitting outside) with a flock of photographers clicking away like crazy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

wow how the time has flown!

<-Edinburgh castle


<- hairy cow



more highlands

above are a bunch of pictures of my time in edinburgh with my family last weekend... there are so many more i want to post i had such a good time! i loved seeing my family and i really liked edinburgh! i have more pictures of london from this past weekend i will post later as well!
so in edinburgh my family was there for part of the big arts festival..for the jazz festival... the first day i met my family after work on friday for dinner at this trendy restaurant with great food! after we went to our first gig... and then to another pub after which had music and dancing... the next day we took a 12 hour bus ride to the highlands of scotland and lockness- soo beautiful! it was pretty rainy though but as our tour guide told us it's liquid sunshine! he was the most hysterical tour guide - a true scotsman! he told us some great stories about scottish history! although the group we were with on the bus wasn't too fun..the next day we saw edinburgh castle and the gardens.. both were soo beautiful as well .. and we also went to go see a palace... at night we went to another amazing restaurant and i tried hagas for the first time! although i don't know if it really counts because it was inside this mushrum sauce for steak... and we went to another gig.... the next morning i woke up really early to go back to st.andrews.. on tuesday my family came to st.andrews to visit on the most beautiful day yet! i was soo happy! during my lunch break i showed them around a bit...
last week i was doing experiments on my own because my advisor was at another conference... i was able to set up and make recordings on my own! i now kind of have my own little project testing how ouabain affects skin impulse... i did the same experiment a few times with tadpoles at two different stages in developent... i haven't seen any chance in the length of the skin impulse or the amplitude but i am continuing to do that this week..
in london this past weekend we did lots of things as well! my favorites were parliment.. it was so cool to see how the english government works and it was amazing how beautiful the building was! there was also such a vast difference between how the building was decorated for the two houses, house of commons and the house of lords... i also loved the play we got to see we will rock you which included all of queens music... we had really great seats... and windsor castle... edinburgh and windsor castle are probably my favorites.. i have been to way too many castles at this point haha! i liked winsor alot because it isn't just ruins but is an actual castle that people still live in and is fully decorated... i enjoyed some really nice meals in london as well!
looking forward to going to greece this week! and then going back to atlanta next weekend - so scary! time really has flown by! haven't even begun to think about school!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Housing Woes

When someone says that they “live at their lab,” what does that mean? Generally they are attempting to convey the amount of excessive time they spend surrounded by falcon tubes, pipettes, dangerous chemicals and empty champagne bottles. When I say it, I actually mean it. About three days ago I wheeled my suitcase into lab and was greeted by the questioning looks of my peers. I was homeless…
… But don’t fret, this is a happy story! How did this all come about?
Originally when planning accommodations for the summer, my PI told me that under no circumstances should subject myself to the misery of zone 4 London. (Note: London is broken into different public transportation zones, with each zone radiating from central London (zone 1).) The NIMR happens to be in an affluent suburban-esque area of London called Mill Hill. It would be a fantastic place to settle down with a family etc etc, but for any young person hoping to have some semblance of a life, zone 4 is not the place to be. So, taking my PI’s advice, I found accommodations in a University College of London (UCL) dormitory. The only thing is that in my infinite wisdom, I did not book my entire summer stay there, thinking that after a little while I would be able to find another, cheaper place to move into or I could just extend my stay. At first, that is just what I did – I extended my stay once, but when I tried to do it another time around, I found out, to my horror, that the dorm was fully booked! I had no place to live. For some odd reason this just didn’t bother me all that much; things always have a tendency to fall into place. So, four days before I had to vacate my room, I began to search for accommodations…
The NIMR, besides for being a creepy building used as the exterior of Arkham Asylum, is really a mini-science campus. Beyond the imposing fences and walls, beyond the 24 hour security shack lays a vast property known as the NIMR. I only recently discovered that the incineration bags are incinerated on site on what seems to be a 24 hour incinerator. The billowing smoke always leaves me slightly unnerved, but anyways… In between the incinerator building and the main building, down a hill with big open fields on both sides lays the cottages. I just moved into the Springfield Cottage… Don’t be fooled by the quaint name. It’s a real hole. The house reminded me of a stereotypical off-campus frat house, minus empty alcohol containers everywhere. My room was formerly occupied by a female; I know this not because I met her, but by the layer of hair covering the floor as well as the few belongings she decided to leave and not take back to China with her (I found out her nationality from random newspaper clippings, and old package and other things left lying around). I am so glad I am only here for two weeks… Did I mention the shower doesn’t work? They are supposed to fix it tomorrow… On the upside, my commute to lab has been drastically reduced; it now only takes me 2.5 minutes opposed to 60 minutes… No reading the Metro on the tube anymore…
Did I mention I stayed in a hostel for my first week in lab because the UCL dorm wasn’t open yet? That was also a blast…

Amsterdam... is stuck in my head

Shapiro and I were in the magnificent city of Amsterdam last weekend. The sights, the sounds, the smells! Nothing like it in the world everybody. Of all things, it was the bicycle culture that struck me most. They are more dangerous than cars because they won't stop if you get in their way. They come from nowhere too, I can't tell you how many times Alex saved my life when crossing the street. Though, the fun and practicality has inspired me to buy a used bike or build my own when I get back to Emory. No more parking passes or Cliff shuttles, I'm gonna be free riding.

The oocyctes haven't been any better than before. I'm hoping for a miracle this week because there is absolutely no reason for their lack of RNA expression. In the meantime though I've made agarose-cushioned electrodes. Electrodes are what we stick in to the oocytes to inject current. However, oocytes are relatively large for electrophys experiments, so they need more current injected in a faster period of time. To do this we make the electrode hole bigger, but that results in the liquid leaking from the electrode. The solution is sticking a bit of 1% agarose gel in the tip to block liquid flow, but allow current and ion flow. An ingenious method in one of the oocyte papers that's out there. Below is a visual of the kind of setup I'm using.

Prague this weekend, Atlanta the next. There's this Undergraduate Research Matching Grant program at Emory that my PI just applied to. They pay you dollar for dollar what your lab gives you (if anything), a great deal. I can send you the email I got if you're interested. The deadline for Fall 2010 funding was Aug 1st, but maybe you can see if the deadline was extended and there are still awards for the spring.

Amsterdam - Peter Bjorn & John

Thursday, July 29, 2010


So after the hustle and bustle that is air travel, I finally got home at around 2 in the morning. Ah America, how I've missed thee. Yeah, I was just across the border; but I am very glad to be back.

One small rant: airports need free WiFi. Paying for it is like paying for radio waves. It's ridiculous. If I become a frequent traveler, I will definitely invest in an iPhone or a Blackberry.

One small story: So I took a cab to the airport, and halfway through the trip I realize I didn't have any cash on me. ensure that the driver didn't kick me out and leave me stranded, I waited till we got to the airport to tell him, "Oh by the way, I don't have cash; so if I leave my baggage here, can I go to an ATM and cash for you?" Pretty sure, he contemplated leaving with my luggage, but I tipped him well for his troubles.

Anyway, this is the end of my IRES travels. *tear* I had loads of fun and learned lots of things, and I will never forget this experience.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hasta luego, mi Buenos Aires querido

I finished up everything in lab, my bags are packed, and now I'm waiting to hand over my keys and take a cab to the airport. I'm passing the time by organizing my rambling thoughts into a blog entry.

I've been reflecting a lot on my time here, and I've realized that in a lot of ways, I arranged my experience this summer as a sort of test for myself. There were two questions in particular that I wanted to answer. Firstly, am I capable of traveling to a foreign country that speaks a language in which I am only somewhat proficient, having an apartment and living on my own for the first time, and adapting to a completely new culture almost entirely independently? And secondly, when I eliminate many other distractions from my life and focus on research as a (more than) full-time job, even taking myself out of my research "comfort zone" and into a new environment with new people and new techniques, do I still love it, and do I still know that this is what I want to do with my life? The answers to these questions are, respectively: absolutely, and an overwhelming YES! Not only have I survived on my own here, but I've truly thrived. As Austin mentioned in one of his last posts, this experience has given me a tremendous amount of personal growth and made me much more confident in myself. I settled in immediately, and I've felt perfectly at home in Buenos Aires since my second day. I've definitely learned that I can be very adaptable, adventurous, assertive, and self-sufficient in new situations. As for the second question, I've fallen even more in love with research throughout my stay here, and although I felt sure that research was the path for me even before I came, I now know absolutely, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this is where I want my life to go. In fact, it's going to be hard for me to cut back to being a part-time researcher in order to be a full-time student in the fall. My desire to complete MD/PhD training has been reaffirmed as well, as I've spent a lot of time talking with my peers and superiors here about the need for a constant push towards medical applications in our research. All in all, I learned a lot of fascinating information and research skills that will be very useful as I progress through my training. I also strengthened my ability to think like a real scientist, and I got some really awesome results, of which I am quite proud. I can't wait to share them with all of the IRES people and everybody in my Emory lab!

Apart from my time spent in the laboratory, I've become very fond of the city in general. Here is a list, in no particular order, of the things I will miss most when I leave:
1. Not wearing a watch and not having any portable time-telling device, and not caring, because deadlines are never set in stone and nothing starts on time anyway.
2. Going to fancy restaurants for delicious meals, and paying no more than $6US.
3. Seeing all of the locals out diligently mopping the sidewalk with soap and water in the morning on my way to work. It never fails to puzzle me and make me smile.
4. The very friendly head security guard at the lab institute who greeted me every day, in spite of the creepy way that he winked at me as I was leaving each night.
5. Introducing myself as Raquel because I receive blank stares when I say Rachel, and nobody can pronounce it anyway.
6. Yerba Mate (traditional herbal drink).
7. Living in a place where almost every single sentence begins with the word "Che" (as in Che Guevara, famous Argentine revolutionary). After trying to pinpoint an exact meaning of the word for several months, I've determined that it can take on practically any meaning. Most commonly, it seems to be used as "hey you" or just "listen to me because I'm about to say something."
8. Entering or exiting a room and customarily greeting every person with a single kiss on the right cheek, whether I know them or not.
9. Constant subway entertainment in the way of skilled (or painfully unskilled) performers and people selling useless items, and astonishment at the number of locals who eagerly purchase such useless items.
10. Alfajores. No US cookie will ever be the same.
11. Learning new Spanish expressions from my lab mates every day (often colloquialisms or vulgar expressions that my Spanish courses failed to teach me), and then being teased relentlessly for saying "¡ay ay ay!" when my experiments go wrong, because cursing in Spanish just doesn't come naturally to me.
12. Tango.
13. Medialunas (like miniature croissants, but sweeter, eaten for the third meal of the day with café or mate).
14. Oocytes. They drive me crazy, but I love them all the same.
15. Feeling like I could run laps around groups of people as they dawdle down the street, because nobody is ever in a hurry.
16. Using decimal points in place of commas and commas in place of decimal points when writing numbers. Also, writing the date as day-month-year instead of month-day-year. Those habits are going to be tough to break.
17. All of the wonderful people I worked with in lab.
18. Laughing to myself at locals who dress in multiple heavy coats, mittens, scarves, and hats, completely bundled up with only their eyes showing, when it's really not that cold.

The list could go on and on...

This has been the experience of a lifetime. Thanks so much IRES for making it possible!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

since the experiment i have been doing the last two weeks hasn't been all that successful I've started doing more electrophysiology with my P.I. which is exciting because i know what i am doing mostly.. it gives me the chance to apply what i know from my lab back at home... we have been varying the time between episodes of swimming to see if it changes the lengths of the episodes of swimming and then we've been applying ouabain which blocks Na+/K+ pumps and then washing the ouabain off to see how the lengths of the episodes change... by varying the time between episodes we can also see how stimulating the animal during afterhyperpolarization affects how much the animal swims amplitude of swimming etc... this experiment also coincides with the new experiments the same grad student is doing in my was the first time i attempted doing this experiment all by myself.. was almost successful today! ... since i know how to do all the necessary measurements to analyze the data I've been analyzing the data by myself for each experiment though :)

the golf open last weekend was so surreal! i don't watch golf often, but just to be on the actual course with all the famous golfers was great! also this past week/ weekend the group of friends I've been getting closer with here has had several bbqs at their flats and one at the beach... such yummy food! i miss bbqs! two of my friends from Emory are here visiting as well which is exciting!! and my family is coming this weekend and staying for awhile in Edinburgh for the big arts festival and to see all the sites in Scotland and ill be traveling with them to London and Greece during the next two weekends! soo excited to stay in a nice hotel and be able to go out to really nice restaurants!

reading all the last few posts has made me want to come home! i've been kind of homesick even though i've been out and about a lot and having a lot of fun! but i think it'll be better when i see my family this weekend! and it'll definitely be bitter sweet when i have to go back to the states!

till next time! cheers!


... How I miss thee.

I cannot believe that so many of us are already finishing up! I still have three weeks left at my lab. Reading the other posts, I have mixed reactions. On one hand, I cannot wait to get back to the best country in the world (as this trip has clearly shown me!) and on the other I don't want to return to the "real" world. Either way, when my time comes to return, it will be bittersweet.

A few weeks ago when Silvana (my supervisor) found me a freezer box, I completely ignored the scribbles of the box's previous owners. That is until the other day when my PCR wasn't quite ready to start to set up that I looked closer at the box. Written on the side of the box was "Tamara." Rewind. Back at Emory, Tamara is my P.I., and she also happened to have spent some time as a post-doc in this particular British lab, and it was she who helped me get in touch with my P.I. here. By pure coincidence I am using the same box my US P.I. used at least ten+ years ago! Who would've thought?!?

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's almost over?!

Hello world, I'm back; and I can't believe it's almost over :( I depart for the States in two days! My experience in Montreal truly has been fun, exciting, and...well...educational. Perhaps that sounds like a PBS ad. Oh well. Anyway, the reason for my delay in an update is that ever since I got back from my trip to Nova Scotia (around 3 weeks ago), I have been working nonstop in the lab more or less.

My experiment is time sensitive, and it just so happens that during the my last few weeks in Montreal is when the mice have completed consuming their food that contains rapamycin, which means most of the behavioral tests must be completed within this short window of opportunity. Shortly after I arrived in Montreal from my trip, I completed two pilot experiments to tweak a protocol intended for object recognition but would be used as a spatial memory task. After receiving promising results with the improved protocol, I decided to use it for the first batch of mice that completed eating the rapamycin food. Unfortunately, the results I received with this batch were disappointing. From the data, it doesn't appear that the consumption of rapamycin in aged mice has an effect on spatial memory as measured by my test. There are more grounded spatial memory tasks, like Morris Water Maze, that will be performed by the post doc for which I work after I leave Montreal. I am also doing contextual fear conditioning tests with these mice; but due to time constraints and blinding, I will not be the one scoring those videos. I hope the data from that test is more promising!

Tomorrow will officially be my last day in lab, and I will be finishing up one object recognition task, scoring some videos, and tying up some loose ends with my PI. I shall miss the lab and Montreal!

Anyway, aside from research, my trip to Nova Scotia was amazing! It's been over a decade since I had seen my cousins, aunt and uncle, who live in Halifax; and it was really good to catch up with them and see their new house in the countryside. I won't go into the nitty gritty, but I can tell you that going to somewhere as peaceful as Nova Scotia is a nice break from the city life in Montreal. I definitely have missed riding in the car and just seeing the beautiful scenery. Below are a few pictures from my trip!

Here's a shot from Acadia University, my Dad's alma mater. The university is in this really petite town that has like two pubs and a lot of inns/bed and breakfasts. It seems like a great place lol Kidding aside, it really is a cute little town; and it felt great to physically experience

This is a picture from Halifax, which is probably Nova Scotia's largest city. The restaurant pictured is called the Wooden Monkey and is apparently serves good vegetarian food. Allegedly, it's also Ellen Page's (Juno) favorite restaurant in town.

I was in Halifax for Canada Day, and it really is amazing to see people wearing red and white everywhere. The picture above show some volunteers who learned classic/old British military stances.

Nova Scotia i also home to the International Tattoo, which is a rather long military-acrobat show. But at the same time, it really showed how much respect people show Canadian soldiers and armed forces.

My flight back to Montreal was at 6 am, which meant I had to leave my Aunt's house by 4 am. Here's the resulting sunrise :)

Science and travels

Ireland most certainly has to be one of the best countries in the world, not to mention one of the shortest international flights I have ever took (45 minutes!). Of course this is coming from a traveling college student, which in this case can make all the difference. Almost every tourist in Dublin can be described as young backpackers looking for a good time. Of course there was that old adorable couple, the annoying family with an infant in a stroller screaming its lungs out and of course there are those families with the parents and older siblings passing their Guinness to the thirteen –year-old-wannabe-badass-little-brother. I could not have thought of a better city in all of Europe for the IRES UK crowd to meet up in.
Ireland, is a cold, rainy, cloudy city, but the people more than made up for these shortcomings. The vibrant city and always happy people made up for the miserable weather. Dublin was almost like a dream. Met up with awesome people (IRES, wooO!), met awesome people (Austrians, Australians etc. etc.), the Guinness was the best I’ve ever had and even the rain made me wanna’ sing. Even the Irish seals love life!
Returning to London from this fantastic weekend was a rather depressing experience. Britain is so dark and gloomy with none of the pluses of the Irish people. Too bad.
Returning to the lab after a weekend of absolute amazing-ness was an absolute letdown. None of my electroporation experiments are working; my shRNA (short hairpin RNA – specific type of siRNA) transfection experiments are not working; my RT-PCRs of our GDF8 construct are not working… This is rather depressing. The one good thing is that we have an absolute awesome and hilarious Irish(wo)man in the lab who constantly amuses me with her expert command of obscure swear words. The one thing keeping me going (besides for the bleak possibility of getting results) was my next weekend… To Madrid!
One of my Spanish colleagues just got married last weekend, so half of the lab flew to Spain for the wedding, including my PI and my supervisor. At the insistence of my lab, I decided to take a long weekend trip to Madrid. Backpacking/hostelling is one of the best and most fun ways to travel. I have met so many amazing and interesting people, expanding my horizons and learning more about myself. There is no other time that there are so many young people willing to meet other people as there is in the traveling ‘scene.’ Madrid was no exception, and I think that the quality of the hostel itself is directly correlated to the fun travelers have (the worse the hostels’ facilities, the better the time- gives everyone something to bond about!).

And so it goes. After Madrid, I returned to lab with pretty much the same results at written earlier; disappointment, heartbreak and failure. I know I will eventually get awesome results! Hopefully…..

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Final Days

The last couple of weeks have been very eventful! Last Monday the whole lab went out to lunch for my going away party, even though I'm not leaving until the middle of this week. Since the laboratories in the institute are all mixed together, and members of my lab are split between five rooms on three floors, it's pretty rare to get everybody together at once, so it was great to have the whole group together that day for lunch. Then on Wednesday morning I gave lab seminar to my PI, the senior scientist, and all of the post-docs and graduate students. I was incredibly nervous, but luckily I got to give the seminar in English, so that helped a little bit. I gave an introduction and then showed them all of the work that I've done in the past ten weeks and the conclusions I've drawn from my results. I think the presentation went really well, and I got a lot of positive feedback. In fact, shortly after my presentation my PI actually suggested that I make a poster for the Sociedad Argentina de Investigación en Neurociencias (Argentina Society for Neuroscience) international conference, which will take place in Córdoba, Argentina in October. I had to run this idea by the Chilean collaborator who synthesized the compounds I've been using to make sure that he's willing to let me release the structures of the compounds, and he agreed. So in the next few weeks I will be working on an abstract and making a poster for the conference! I think my results show some really neat and important information, so I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to share them with the scientific world. The entire lab goes to this conference in Córdoba every year, so my PI assured me that if I am not able to attend, somebody will be able to present on my behalf. However, it just so happens that the conference is scheduled to take place during the weekend of Emory's fall break, so I think the universe is giving me signs that I have to find a way to get back here and go to the conference. It looks like I can get a little more Howard Hughes money through Emory, and since living expenses here are cheaper than I had anticipated, I've saved a small portion of my summer stipend as well. So, assuming that my abstract and poster are accepted and all of the other details work themselves out, there's a good chance I'll be coming back in October!

My Emory music theory professor of the last two years studies Tango in Buenos Aires every summer, and I finally got to meet up with her on Friday night. Dr. Wendland, a few of her friends and I went to Teatro Colón to see Mozart's Don Giovanni. The theater is supposedly one of the best in the world, as well as one of the oldest in South America, and it just re-opened in May after being closed for refurbishment since 2006. The venue, atmosphere, and performance were all absolutely exquisite. My photos from the outside didn't turn out very well, so this one is taken from Google:
There are seven levels on the inside, all decorated ornately with golden ornaments and chandeliers.
Here's a picture of Dr. Wendland and me in the front lobby after the show:

I'm leaving on Wednesday evening, so I'm planning to finish up everything in the lab in the next two days. Unfortunately, my oocytes haven't been cooperating for the past four weeks, and although my results are fine as they are, I would really, really like to increase my repetitions for two of my experimental conditions. This means that I'm literally putting all of my eggs in tomorrow's basket (terrible pun intended). I got to do the operation last week (which was awesome, by the way), and we selected one of our best frogs, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping the oocytes will work. As a testament to my nerdishness, I've openly admitted that seeing as tomorrow is my birthday, the only gift I want is for my oocytes to cooperate.

I'll try to update one last time before I leave!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Goodbye Aberdeen HELLO EUROPE

Well Ires, my time in Aberdeen has ended. It was really an unbelievable experience. After first arriving, I was so afraid of everything, even venturing out to simply find the University. Now, I feel like an incredibly new person. Not only have I learned loads of information about a subject I was always afraid of, but I gained an unimaginable amount of confidence in myself. No longer will I fear venturing into a new city, in a new country, with no friends! And the things I've learned! Just because I am a young undergrad doesn't mean I can't tackle scientific questions that puzzle even some of the most experienced scientists! Of all the things to be excited about when returning to Emory, I can honestly say that research is what I am looking forward to most, which is something I never imagined would happen even at the beginning of the summer. I met a ton of great scientists and learned so so so much! It was truly a life changing experience.

My family came to visit for my final week in Scotland. First we went to Edinburgh and toured the city. Although it's a nice city, it was very touristy and my family is really into the outdoors. Here are some pictures of my twin and I in the streets of Edinburgh:

And here is a picture of us with the fabled pierced lady!

After Edinburgh, my family and I traveled to Aberdeen so I could finish work. I had my final night out in Aberdeen and eventually we left to take on the Scottish Highlands. Here are a few pictured of some castles, the Isle of Skye and the Caringorms:

It was an amazing experience. Next, I'm going to London, Lisbon and then Paris. I'll be in touch! I hope everyone else is doing well!