Monday, April 26, 2010

Montreal, Mice, and Memories

This whole blogging thing is going to take some getting used to, but hey there's a start for everything! I'm pretty excited to put up great pictures of food, places, and (censored but) interesting things.

I will be a rising senior at Emory, studying Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. I currently work with Dr. Robert Hampton in the Laboratory of Comparative Primate Cognition on projects that concern learning and memory in rhesus monkeys. I hope to do an honors thesis next year and head to graduate school after my time at Emory has ended. Apart from research, I head an organization that teaches public speaking to middle school students in my hometown in South Carolina.

I will be heading to Montreal, Canada, very soon (mid-May); and I will be studying potential improvements in learning and memory in aged mice with Drs. Sonenberg and Khoutorsky. The project seems to be ideal for me, since it combines my knowledge in behavioral research with my desire to learn a lot more about the molecular and cellular bases of behavior. I'm actually looking to see if McGill could be a place for graduate school. We shall see! :)

Right now, I'm really excited to finalize where I'll be staying which will hopefully be really close to this huge park between University of Montreal and McGill; and I'm really looking forward to exploring downtown Montreal.

To more posts!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Plans for a fantastic (and nonexistent) summer

It's hard to believe that in two weeks I'll be half way done with college, and in a little over three weeks I'll be touching down in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the summer of a lifetime!  Actually, I need to clarify that statement, because when I say summer, I really mean winter.  You can call me crazy, but it's true: I'm sacrificing my true summer experience by spending May-July in the Southern Hemisphere.  I've encountered a few perplexed looks when I've explained this decision to several of my peers.  But really now, let's examine the issue in a little more depth.  I'll be doing groundbreaking research with some of today's top scientists, living in one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, visiting waterfalls, deserts, and glaciers on weekends, dancing and playing tango music on my violin, and eating dulce de leche on a daily basis.  And to top it all off, the tab will be picked up by my good buddy Howard Hughes.  Still scoffing at my decision to skip out on sweltering heat and humidity in favor of a moderate Buenos Aires winter climate?  Right, I didn't think so.

Now, for a bit of background information.  I'm a Biology and Music double major from the great state of Oregon (that's or-uh-gun, NOT or-ee-gone), and my life basically revolves around science and violin.  I absolutely love research, and I'm planning to enter a combined MD/PhD program after graduating from Emory College.  I work in a neuroscience/pharmacology laboratory at Emory, and this summer I'll be working in a Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory studying the molecular physiology of the auditory system - a perfect match for my combined interests in molecular biology and music.  I already know that this will be one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I'm just counting down the days until I head south on May 15th! 

Y chromosomes and sports cars

When I told one of my professors that I was going to be spending the summer in the lab of Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge, he gave me a surprised look and said, “do you know who he is??!?” With a big grin on my face, I answered, that yes, I do know who he is, and yes, I do know that he is, and that he is kind of a big deal, at least when it comes to sex determination within developmental genetics. Dr. Robin Lovell-Badge is one of the leading researchers focusing on the SRY (sex determining region of the Y chromosome) gene and its molecular/genetic pathway. This research is shedding light on how the Y chromosome works to contribute towards ‘maleness.’ I can’t wait to get there and be part of a lab that has done such amazing research and has contributed so much towards genetics.
The science is pretty awesome… But did I mention the lab is in London? Details… I can’t wait to finish up finals (and MCAT) and finally to (hopefully!) fly to Europe and begin my adventures. I originally wanted to start at the lab that week, but they wanted me to start June 7th…. So…. I will be flying out the day after I take the MCAT on May 23rd to London, and then catching a connecting flight to Prague where I will slowly make my way back to London in time to start at lab on the 7th. I have a general itinerary for this adventure, but I figured I would be spontaneous for once in my life and go wherever the “wild winds of fortune” shall carry me.
Other random tidbits… Dr. Lovell-Badge drives a purple Lotus Elise (which is a ridiculous sports car), which in my mind is quite far from what the stereotypical scientist is rolling in… I like to joke that its no coincidence that one of the leading researchers in the world on the gene that codes for maleness is also driving around in a loud, fast and flashy sports car… I’m hoping to that ill be able to get a ride… Boys will be boys… :-D

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sweet! (+Brisbane)

I am officially a blogger. I always wondered what bloggers did slash what they looked like sitting away there typing away at their computers. Carrie Bradshaw anyone? Anyways....back to summer '10! Woo!! I am SO PUMPED! I leave for Brisbane in less than 3 weeks and it is surreal!
A little about myself. I am a junior in the college from Spokane, WA(yes, WA state): NBB/Linguistics double major. I have loved my time at Emory and am excitied to see what Australia will bring. One minor issue, thus far, all I know about my research is that I'm looking at pediatric PTSD and am not quite sure exactly what else I am doing. It is quite hard to get in contact with a PI who happens to be exactly sleeping when I am awake and vice versa. Hmm skyping this summer will turn out to be an interesting scheduling experience. But Robyne has been definite in establishing a concrete plan once I arrive.
My research here at Emory has involved working with boys with callous-unemotional traits to see what predictors of psychopathy we can detect early on. In particular, I am interested in looking at the physiological variance responses in these boys.
So I have 4 papers due tomorrow and should probably go work on them so more..will post later! :D

From the dirrty South to the dirrty North (or...Aberdeen)

That's right folks! I am going to Aberdeen! I really can't wait to go. I have been abroad many times in my day, but often I go with my Dad (who knows German, and claimed once to know Italian while we were in Italy, but I know now he was fibbing!) and the rest of my family (My older brother knows German and a bit of Swahili). BUT NOW I AM GOING ALONE! World, are you ready for Austin in his pure, unadulterated form? Well have to see.

I do have some initial travel woes. I emailed some folks at the University of Aberdeen and they gave me the rates for one of the dorms I could stay at. Let me put it this way: not happenin'. 66 FREAKING USD per night! HOLY SCOTCH WHISKEY! Let's just say I will be exploring other housing options, which will be an absolute joy. I am going to book a week in a hostel right when I get there, and then search throughout the city for a place. We'll see how it goes. To be perfectly honest, I LOVE breaking my comfort zone. In fact, when looking for a lab earlier this summer, I talked to fellow IRES participant about possibly working in a lab in Dhaka, Bangladesh. That participant, Nabiha, told me SHE felt unsafe in that city (she is from Bangladesh sorta), and strongly recommended that I not go, but boy did I want to! It's probably for the best (knowing me) that I am going to a 'safe' EU country. But this hiccup with housing only makes me more adventurous! AND ADVENTURE IS TO BE HAD!

I can't wait to meet Dr. Jaspars. Over email, everyone seems so friendly! And although I read all of their emails with an American accent sounding in my head, sometimes I treat myself and read their emails out-loud in a Scottish accent (adding little giggles and hearty laughs here and there. WHAT FUN!).

But of course, I really can't wait to learn from Dr. Jaspars. Drug discovery, what he does in his lab, is something I am considering eventually doing as a career. It seems like an incredibly interesting and rewarding process. I can't wait to step into lab on my first day and just marvel at the eloquence of the science going on around me. And being able to apply what I learn in a foreign country to my research at Emory... WOAH! How COOL IS THAT! WORLD COLLABORATION HI-YA!

It's going to be a great trip. For fun, spur-of-the-moment updates about my trip, follow me on twitter!

Oh PS!!! Back in high school I was really into photography. So, for instance, that picture on my twitter I took while I was in Africa, so expect more like them on this blog!

St. Andrews here I come!

So.. I just added myself to the IRES blog, immediately started looking around, and got really excited! I am really looking forward to posting about my adventures, and hearing about everyone elses! I decided I will probably be checking this blog way to much. It might turn into my new facebook haha. It also made me realize how soon we all are leaving! To be honest, I am still a little bit nervous about going to a new country where I will not know many people, but I have only been reassured. While meeting with my PI last week, someone who he is friends with from another lab came into his office and when he saw me there he immediately asked me about Scotland, expressed he was just there, and started telling me about it. Furthermore, at the NBB research fair, my friend came up to me and we started taking about St. Andrews. I expressed to her that I was nervous I wasn't going to know anyone. Since she went abroad to the University, she said don't worry Keith (my PI abroad) is so relaxed, warm, and friendly. I had the chance to meet him when he came to Emory and got that impression as well. Additionally, I have also heard from multiple people that his lab is really fun. Hopefully they will invite me out! In addition, she mentioned she would see if any of her friends would be there this summer. She also told me how cool the buildings are at St. Andrews, " they are just like in Harry Potter, there are all these secret hallways and random stairwells. The room where the frogs are kept is by one of the stairwells and just looks like a closet, but then you open it up and it's this huge room of frogs!" Finally, she told me that she would be going to do research there next year, and wants to stay in the building I will be rooming in. She told me it was in a great location. Since I will be living is a dorm like building, I hope to make friends with others who are living there as well. In addition, in many of our IRES meetings faculty have only expressed how great St. Andrews is. These and other cumulative experiences have only encouraged me. My family and friends will also be visiting me which I am excited about! I will also probably be traveling down to England one or two weekends to visit my friends who are studying abroad there, and might end up traveling elsewhere other weekends to visit friends. I have realized that once I get there, get all settled in, and get into the swing of things I will really love it. I just might decide to work there again after I graduate! Finally, not only am I excited about going out, meeting people, and exploring a part of Europe I would have not otherwise have been exposed to, but I am also excited about the science! My lab went out to lunch this week. During lunch, they were asking me about my life and plans this summer. During our conversation, my PI said to me "so do you have a break before you're off to Scotland?" I replied that I would be studying for my MCAT until the end of May, but my birthday was in the beginning of June before I leave. He replied "do you ever take a break to relax - you have such a great work ethic." My response was well I am going abroad this summer. He gave me a look expressing the fact that I would be working. So my response was, "well I know I'll be working." I realized that I don't really consider working in a lab "work." I really do love the science.. yes I'm a nerd too haha. This is especially true if you work in a lab where you just really enjoy the people you are working with. I believe this will be the case this summer, especially because of all the things I have heard, and the fact that St. Andrews is known for their neuroscience program which Keith helped to develop. The lab I will be working in is fairly small, and I recognize that my PI will be there and remain involved like my lab here at Emory. Although, I will (hopefully) working on secondary applications for med school during my time there. Ok, so I've started rambling, so I am going to stop haha. I didn't realize how easy it would be to post! looking forward to this summer! more to come...

Ich komme, Deutschland!

YES. I am SO ready to be in Deutschland this summer to do some exciting physics, meet some cool people and broaden my perspective on life!

I will be in a small college town in central Germany by the name of Goettingen (and I shall find a way to add umlauts to this blog) for 10 whole weeks. It's rather exciting because it's one of their most famous universities and has a mind-boggling legacy when it comes to physics/scientific research (Heisenberg, Dirac, Planck...they all went there.... ridiculous).

As you can most probably tell, I'm most excited about the science... and yes, I am proud to admit that I am a nerd. haha. I'm going to the Max Planck Institute and it's like a dream come true because they've been responsible for some of the most ground-breaking research to come out of Europe in recent times. I really wanted to go to Germany for the summer because I think they have a unique way of working and dealing with science, which i've come to admire. Hopefully, I'll be able to see firsthand what that is actually like and learn from the experience.

Okay, I still have things that need to be done before I can get this party started.. so I should get those things done ASAP. But, I can assure you that you'll enjoy reading my blog this summer... because I know I'll have a ball writing it. :)

Bis spaeter! (I really need umlauts. lol)

In with the new

The 2010 section of the IRES blog is inevitably going to be out of control. We have people going to 4 of the 7 continents, there's bound to be quite a mix of experiences and cultures and whatnot on this blog. I'm headed to Manchester, the hailing ground of the Rolling Stones, to my surprise. I'm leaving in a month from today and staying for almost three months. I'd like to set up a base in Manchester and adapt to and understand the surroundings in a fuller way than I'm used to. For that reason, I want to limit my weekend trips to Amsterdam, Dublin, and either Germany or Switzerland. Also France. This is almost the hardest part of this entire endeavor.

I had planned on meeting up with my mentor after I flew in and found my hostel, but he simply said the lab was going to pick me up at the airport. A friendly gesture that I forgotten even existed, and one I hope to extend to my friends here in Atlanta next year. It's something that never occurred to me and I find its obviousness dumbfounding. Of course I would want to pick up my friend from the airport.

I'll be working on characterizing genetic variants of the cellular sodium ion channel and observing drosophila fruit fly dissections and intra/extracellular recordings.

Old Trafford football stadium at night