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!!