Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Exploring the beautiful, historic city of Oxford

              As I took the "Airline" coach bus from London Heathrow airport to the Park and Ride at Thornhill after a long 11 hour direct flight from D/FW International airport, the lyrics of the song "What a Wonderful World" come to mind: all I saw was luscious green forest and blue skies. Driving on the left side of the road was a bit like entering an alternate universe-it just seemed so strange! I was too tired from the flight to think about that, as it was about 1pm GMT, around 7a.m. CST. A family friend from Oxford was nice enough to come pick me up from the airport and help me move in. Luckily, my roommate was still there (she had said earlier that she may not be) to show me around the house. After moving in to my cozy room and dropping off my luggage, we went on to City Centre to buy a bus pass and a SIM card for my phone as well as some other necessities. We had dinner at  her home before heading back to my place. It was wonderful to get such a warm welcome before starting in the lab.
                The sound of a bicycle riding down Acacia Avenue, the roar of a Smart Car turning the narrow corner of Verbena Way, and the scurrying of the neighbor's cat are the sounds of Greater Leys.  I live in a residential area at the edge of Oxford, a little further from the main area. I take the 12 bus to get to the City Centre.  Wanting to allow time to get a little lost, I left early around 7:30a.m. for my first day and was at the lab around 8:30 (only had to ask for directions twice!).  On the walk to the lab, I saw some landmark Oxford sites such as the Sheldonian theatre and the Radcliffe Library.
                The first lab member I met was Christy, a very sweet girl who helped me apply for a University card (the equivalent of the Emory Card) as well as Wireless login. The other lab members came in around 10a.m. and headed straight for coffee and tea (a European tradition in the mornings, it seems.) I soon learned everyone's names and had a feel of the lab. After tea and a morning snack, everyone goes off and works on their projects, attending to participants or working on publications-it was interesting to see the difference in work environment. It was quite quiet for a while until lunch around 12:30pm. I occupied myself reading research articles and even participating in a few experiments! The lab members all headed upstairs to Darwin's cafeteria for lunch-it was really convenient that everything is in one place! After lunch I finally met my host PI, Professor Spence to talk about my project. Since the proposed project seems to require a bit of programming knowledge, I spent the next few days observing the others' projects to see which one interested me the most.  On Tuesday, I even got to hear about a project in Spanish, as about half the lab is from Spain and Latin America. The other half is Italian, which I also have been hearing bits and pieces of (not really understanding much though!). It was a eventful, but quiet week: my computer overheated on Wednesday and wouldn't start up (for now using the departmental spare computer) and my phone number was blocked until Thursday because of some technical issues. The people in the lab were super nice and allowed me to use their computers in the meantime. The weather also proved to be as bipolar as Atlanta, as it got pretty cold (7C) on Thursday and Friday and was warm again over the weekend (17C).
             As I hadn't yet recovered from the jet lag, I caught up on sleep over  the weekend. On Saturday, I ventured to City Centre to go on a walking tour. I hadn't had the chance to really go around Oxford, and the tour highlighted much of the history as we went through the heart of Oxford. We started at Trinity College, which is one of the oldest colleges. Then we moved on to the heart of Oxford: the Bridge of Sighs and the Bodleian Library, where some scenes from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" were filmed. We even got to witness one of the college traditions: splashing buckets of water on students who had just finished their exams at Exeter College. This reminded me of senior splash day at Greenhill!
           After the tour ended a grabbed some lunch in the Claredon Shopping Centre and took a little tour of my own back to the heart of Oxford. I saw the Radcliffe Camera and even climbed the tower to see the city from above! It was quite the spectacular view. Being the nerd that I am, I stopped by the Museum of the History of Science and toured around there for a bit. It has several cool scientific instruments and artifacts.As an NBB major, I particularly liked the Brain exhibit. It was only 4pm, but I still had so much to see! I went back to High Street to see some of the colleges there and get a feel for the city. I went by the Botanical Gardens to "stop and smell the roses" and saw Magdalen college on my way, where C.S. Lewis studied. I toured around the city a bit more to see some more colleges before heading home for the day.
            Sunday morning started off another eventful day of city sightseeing. I started the day off by boarding the "City Sightseeing Oxford" bus, which offered plenty of historical information and a unique view of sites, as I sat on the top level of the two tier open-top bus. It highlighted the last tower of the Castle and several of the 39 colleges of the University of Oxford. I learned about how everything at Oxford happens 5 minutes late because of some odd time difference--it explained so much! I grabbed a quick lunch and entered the wonder that is the Covered Market. There, I saw what must be the world's most extensive milkshakes menu at Moo Moo's and a fancy Cake Shop that has everything you will ever want from a cake. The warm weather enticed me to some ice cream at Thorton's. I enjoyed the bus tour so much that I went on it again! Before heading home, I stopped  by the Ashmolean Museum, Britain's oldest art museum and version of the MOMA. It had so much to see that the one hour I spent was not enough! Learning about artistic movements around the world was the perfect way to end my weekend!

Bridge of Sighs

Bodelian Library-where some scenes from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire were filmed"

the view from the tower

The heart of Oxford-the Radcliffe Camera

moo moo's menu-so many options!

Ashmolean Museum

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hi from Aarhus, Denmark

So I have been here a little less than a week. It took forever to get here. First I flew to Toronto and then flew to Copenhagen which I think was better than flying with no stops as I don’t think I would have been able to survive on the plane for that long. Then once I got to Copenhagen I took a three hour train ride to Aarhus.  My PI was nice enough to pick me up from the train station and show me where the University was and drop me off at the dorm I’m staying at.

The weather here is so nice for the summer it’s only 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes 30 mins to walk to work from where I live so it is a really nice walk especially since everyone in Denmark rides a bike or walks. The sidewalks are nice in that half of it is for pedestrians and half of it is for bicycles. The traffic lights are awesome too and that unlike the U.S., before the light is about to turn green again, it goes red yellow green so you know when the light is about to turn green. Also the lights at the crosswalk beep and when it’s your sides turn to cross it starts beeping faster which is kind of nerve racking as you feel really rushed to cross the street.

Everyone in the lab is really great. I am working with my PI, a post doc and two PhD students but Con Amore (which is the center on autobiographical memory research, which my lab is a part of) is made up of a lot of different labs that all collaborate together. The lab has a whole floor of the psychology building at Aarhus University. It’s very different from my lab at Emory where everyone, the PHD students, the lab coordinators and the research assistants are all in one big room so we all work alongside one another and talk and joke with each other throughout the day while at Con Amore everyone has an office. I have a computer and a desk and I will be posting pictures shorty. What is nice that even though everyone is separated, they all eat lunch together which is really nice as I am used to people just eating at their desks.    
I haven’t been told exactly what I will be doing but I have been going to a lot of meetings and watched the studies when the participants have come in.

I met all thirteen other people I was living with Friday night. They have a communal dinner once a week that everyone chips in money for. Then we hung out after dinner and played a game called Kubb (Kings).

The Pieces used can be seen below:
competition game

And the set up looks like this:

You can go to this link to learn about the game:  http://www.kubbgames.com/kubb-game-rules-i-16.html

I live right next to a shopping center and I finally went grocery shopping Saturday. What most students go to is a placed called NETTO and it’s a discount store so they have everything from clothes to food to other things though it is much smaller than the super markets in the U.S. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it was going to be. The most expensive thing I bought wasn’t even meat, it was the cereal. Maybe that’s because I bought an American brand. Also a lot different that the U.S is that you have to buy shopping bags, they don’t give you as many plastic bags as you want and they don’t even bag your stuff for you, you have to do that yourself.

Monday is a holiday, yayay, so I have a three day weekend! It is Whit Monday or Monday of the Holy Spirit.      

Sunday, May 19, 2013


My name is Melanie and I am a junior studying neuroscience/music (before you look at me like o___O I am merely doing what I love and loving what I do) here at Emory U.

I have been working in the Wei/Yu lab in the department of neurology/anesthesiology for the past 3 years, working on pharmacological treatments of ischemic stroke.

I have been hoping to go to France ever since my freshman year at Emory, and I love working in the lab so IRES was the perfect program for me!

This summer, I will be looking at another aspect of brain injury (including stroke) in terms of changes to the blood brain barrier, using many similar techniques I am familiar with, like immunohistochemistry and some that I am working on, like western blotting.

My flight leaves Atlanta in ~13 hours so I have been packing frantically for the past couple of hours. Not an easy feat, but I am finally done! 

I figure I can always sleep on the plane and during my layovers in Chicago and London, right?

I just came back from gift-shopping for my French comrades at World of Coke today (I hope it's popular and I am all set and so excited for tomorrow! Bon voyage to all and guess I'll see you on the other side =)

-Mellow Melanie