Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last Presentations

Today in class we had our last formal presentations. Our assignment was to do a company comparison. The two companies that I decided to do were Amazon and eBay. Going into this project, I assumed that Amazon would overall be better and more transparent than eBay. As I started to do more and more research, I found out that I couldn't be more wrong. Amazon is probably one of the most nontransparent companies out there. They don't disclose any of their information to the public except for their annual report which is required. eBay on the other hand began to publish a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Report in 2013 and they have kept publishing it each year. In their report they reflect on their work in the environment and being good community members. What really surprised me about eBay's CSR Report was that they disclosed their carbon footprint and they shared that it was getting bigger but they also showed some of their goals towards reducing it. 

We didn't get to finish all of the presentations in the morning so we had to finish them all after lunch. Before lunch, we got discussion questions for the second book that we were supposed to read called Strategies for Sustainability. I was sort of getting sentimental because this could potentially be our last lunch assignment but at the same time, I won't miss having to do them. After we ate lunch, we went back to class to finish the presentations. When we finished them, Aleen gave us instructions on our final assignment. We were to start a green blog and post five different times on something that we learned in this class. I was really excited about this assignment because at this point, I consider myself as a blogging expert so I knew that this assignment would come easy to me. 

We finished the afternoon off by having our book discussion outside. Since we finished early, we were let go early. I started on my blog right when I got back to my dorm because at 6:30 PM, I was going to go to the Creative Writing Presentation to support Jimmy. His creative writing class were presenting some of their work and me, Dani, Alexa, Vicky, and Alie decided that we would go support them. I was really surprised at how talented all of the students were. I do wish that there had been a presentation at the start of the class and one at the end so we could sort of watch the evolution of the students' written works. I ended my evening by having a super blogging marathon in my dorm room while my roommate studied for her BioTech final.

Movie Day!!!!

Waking up today knowing that we don't have to do anything in class was a great feeling and I really enjoyed it. After I got ready I went down to the dining hall and ate eggs, sausage, and fruit. I sat with Lila until she went back to her room to try and do more of her report before class. When I got to class the professor and TA had popcorn for us to eat during our movie. The movie we watched is called Contagion and it's about how an unknown disease spread around fast. The things in the movie was basically the same things we did in the lab. It was my second time watching and I actually appreciated it more than the first time I saw it.

The movie was all we did in class. Then we had time to work on our reports and projects after class but I chose to go back to the dorms and do mine. I still haven't finished my second report but I'm getting there. I really enjoyed the movie though.

I left class at 11:30, went to lunch and ate mac & cheese, greens, and fruit, and then went to the west lounge with Maddie and Amodhya. After a while we moved to Halperin lounge to work because there were people in there who were supposed to have a meeting in there. I have been in Halperin lounge since then trying to finish this work before I go to bed and that's how I'm going to end my night.

Yesterday Was the Past, Today Are the Presentations

Almost another day has passed. The time to spend as much time in the city and with classmates has begun.

We started the day off with presentations. April and I went first. We talked about one of the most popular cosmetic procedures presently being used in the U.S., hyaluronic acid fillers. These are polymers found in the joint and eye fluids, soft connective tissues, cartilage, and skin tissue of all living organisms. These are injected in aged skin that has become dry and brittle due to a decreased production of hyaluronic acids, which act as a "water reservoir" in the skin. We talked about the time and money behind these procedures, how the fillers are made, the differences between different fillers, and more.

I think we did pretty well. We could have been better had we had more time to work on the presentation, but people seemed interested in the topic. We were also able to answer all the questions, much to my relief.

We listened to other presentations on topics such as HeLa cells, biofuels, prion disease, oncolytic adenovirus and reovirus, and the debate on stem cells. I learned a lot from my classmates; I liked the oral presentations, though I personally don't often enjoy public speaking. I was glad to hear from our TAs that everyone in the class received great grades!

We went straight into our discussions. We first talked about what we found was good and bad about the course, and what improvements they could possibly make (like suggest a book or assign reading material before the session starts so that people who haven't previously taken an advanced biology class wouldn't be lost). We talked about how awesome our TAs are, especially compared to those in other classes, and how much we'll miss working in the lab (no more pipetting! No!). We told them how much lab primers, which are like study guides of the lab protocol quizzes, are so helpful! We also told them how nice not having lab protocol quizzes would be, but of course they dismissed that idea.

After discussing the course, we moved on to our reading assignments about animal biotechnology and the possibilities in that field. Soon after, we were dismissed to go to lunch.

I decided to get lunch from a food truck. Kaitlyn, April, and I split a white pesto pizza and garlic fries, which were both delicious. We sat on a lawn and enjoyed the sunshine among the clusters of people enjoying their lunch break.
Garlic fries
Pesto pizza
Oven-baked pizzas made fresh

After lunch Dr. Schonbaum gave us a lecture about biomarkers for disease detection. The information was extremely interesting (it really was!), but this past week of late nights has taken its toll on our class. One of my classmates even has a bruise from pinching herself awake.

We stretched, ate chocolate, and walked around until the start of our review for our second exam tomorrow. I can't believe our last review was more than a week ago. Based on how much I've learned, it feels like it's been so much longer, but at the same time it feels like barely any time has passed!

Once review finished, I walked back to the dorms with April, Kaitlyn, Olivia, and Anna. At the dorms, I checked my emails and started doing some work until to my surprise, it was already 5:50 PM!

I grabbed dinner and walked to the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore with the cohort and Alie. We listened to Jimmy present his paper for his final project. He was so good!! We're all so proud of him!!!

Now, after going to Study Break (tonight Jill's prepared confetti cupcakes--she remembered that my birthday's this Saturday!), I'm studying for tomorrow's exam. I'm both excited and sad for our last day tomorrow. I hope it's a great last day.
Confetti cupcakes!

Last Three Days of Class

I woke up at 8 AM and went to breakfast to eat eggs and fruit. Then I went to class we started in the classroom again to do our last lecture. The lecture was about different types of vaccines and immunodominance. I learned the the disease Ebola is spread through bats to monkeys to humans. Vaccines work because they stimulate the development and saves lives. The types of vaccines we talked about were passive immunization, live attenuated, inactivated, sub-unit vaccines, toxins (bacteria only), and DNA vaccines. Live attenuated vaccines  inject the subject with a live pathogen which has been previously rendered non-pathogenic. In immunodominance not all antigens elicit an immune response.

After the lecture, which was about an hour and a half, we went to the lab to do a  simulating project on a website and then had extra time to try and finish our lab reports. The professor let us out early so that some of us could go get the $1 milkshakes, which is cool, but she only did it because we were barely doing anything. I went to lunch and wasn't able to get one because I went and worked on my report which is still not finished but I'm getting there.

When we got back we had to finish the simulating project if we didn't finish already. I finished and then worked on my report. After class I went straight to my room to try and finish the report and got more done but still didn't finish. Then I went to dinner at 6 PM and ate Sloppy Joe and fries with some fruit on the side. After dinner I went back to my room and started doing more of the report and ended the night with the report. The next day we will be watching a movie called Contagion and Friday we will be presn=enting our posters about the diseases we researched.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Already Feeling Sentimental

We had class presentations today. Students presented topics ranging from bioweaponry to 3D bioprinting. It was a nice, enjoyable way for us all to learn more about a topic while supporting our classmates.

Tomorrow I'll be presenting with my partner, April! We'll talk about hyaluronic acid fillers. 

After presentations, we moved on to finishing our lab. Sadly, it was the last lab of the program!!! I didn't want to throw away my white lab coat, but they made us for cleanliness reasons. I was sad they had us work entirely with computers instead of pipette or do anything hands-on for our very last lab.

Kaitlyn and I and our lab partners went out to Einstein Bagels to get Dollar Milkshakes one last time. I decided to go for mint, though I usually hate mint ice cream, and it was the best milkshake I've had so far! 

There are only two days left to this program!!! Where has the time gone? It feels like I've just gotten here. We all admit that while this class was challenging (and at times confusing), we'll miss the experience of it. I've certainly met interesting people here. Our class is unfortunately only getting close as the end day approaches.

We all crowded around the ol' pipettes and took pictures. I'm feeling really sentimental about leaving this behind (and it's not even the last day yet!).
Left to right: Lulu, me, April, Demi

After the picture-taking, we went back to the classroom for Dr. Schonbaum's lecture about animal biotechnology. It was really interesting, as usual. We learned about EnviroPig, finfish and shellfish (AquAdvantage salmon), and covered embryonic stem cells (he lectured on more topics; these are just some I found really interesting). I finally felt the effects of last night's long night hit me--I suddenly got extremely tired.
Left to right: Andy and Wister

Left to right: Matthew and Ed

After the walk to the dorms after class, I took a nap and woke up an hour later to start the extra credit project with Kaitlyn and April. They're letting us, as a class, make a music video about a biology topic (we were just starting one of the takes). It'll be fun, I can tell!). We're planning on doing the Cup Song DNA parody Kaitlyn wrote.

After dinner, which we had afterwards, April and I worked on our presentation, readings, and homework. I can't wait for tomorrow!

Looking Forward into the Future

The 2nd walk.
Today in class we didn't do a lot. After our journal hour, Achy gave us an assignment that was about thinking where we want to be at in the future. Then, Achy explained the rules. We weren't able to talk to no one, take a thirty minute walk or go to a quiet place, don’t worry about the time, and really think about where we wanted to be in the future. After the thirty minute we needed to go back to class. Achy excused us. I went to South Campus Residence Hall building where my room is located. I didn't go to my room. Instead, I went to the ninth floor because I like to see beautiful views when I am thinking. I stayed there admiring the view, thinking what I wanted my life to be in the future. I didn't know how long I stayed, but it did really help me think about my future.  I went back to class. When I got there, I started typing. Then Achy interrupted us, to tell her when we are done with the assignment, she would give us instructions on what to do next. When I was done with the assignment, I went up to her to tell her for the instructions. Then, Achy told me to walk S. Ellis to 56th and come back. When I came back she gave me another assignment and it was to describe an old person I saw.
Far View

I went to go get lunch at the Dining Hall. After I finished eating, I went to my room to work on the assignment of describing an old person. I also took a quick nap. When I woke up from my nap, I started walking to class. I got to my class and we started to workshop on the personal stories. Nobody read the others people revision so Achy decided to finish class. That was our homework; we needed to read my classmates personal stories. Tomorrow we will workshop on them.

Then, I went to my room and kept on working on my assignment of describing an old person. I finished, but then I needed to revise Karen story and write about what works on her story and what didn't work. I remembered that I need to email my personal story too. I took a quick look at it to see if I wanted to change or add anything before I send it to Achy.  After that, I started working on a new assignment of what my grade should be for my class. This was an assignment that Achy left us on Tuesday. We need to turn it in tomorrow because on Friday we going to have a
Near View
discussion about the grades.

Later on, I needed to meet with Pamela. Today Pamela was so generous to bring me a brownie and it was really good. Pamela made me read the assignment of what my grade should be. Then she pointed out the things I had wrong. I needed to correct it. She started giving me ideas of what should I look for a college and what I needed to do to prepare myself for college.

I started walking to the Dining Hall to go get dinner. When I was done eating, I went to my room and started reading my classmates personal stories. When I finished reading two of the stories I started to correct my assignment of what my grade should be. While I was working on the assignment, I was asking the questions that Pamela had asked me when I was with her. Then, I just kept on reading my classmates stories.

Last Field Trip

We went on our last field trip today to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. We were going to spend most of our day there sightseeing and getting a presentation on their sustainable efforts from Patty Shanahan and we were going to get a second presentation from the vice president of sustainability, Arthur Gibson, at Baxter.

The bus ride to get to the garden was about an hour and thirty minutes. When we got there, we were dropped off at the entrance and from there we went to our presentation room to drop off our stuff. We got there in the morning and our presentation wasn't scheduled until after noon. This gave us about an hour and a half to roam around the park. My professor Aleen showed us some of her favorite attractions, the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. After she showed them to us, we were given free time and we were allowed to go wherever we wanted within the garden.
Barbara, Me, Rebecca, and Beatrice
I walked around with Sarah, Beatrice, Esin, Barbara, and Rebecca. We let our noses lead us to where we were going. The garden was very huge and we didn't feel like walking around all of it so we observed a section of the pond. There were so many beautiful flowers and plants in the garden. The different smells were really intoxicating but you had to be careful that you didn't walk around a place that had fresh fertilizer placed. After we were done exploring, we went back to the presentation room and we quickly ate our lunch there before Patty came to talk to us. Most of what she shared with us was the sustainability operations that have been implemented and some ones that are set to be complete in the next few months. A big one that has been accomplished is that their Science Center has been certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold.

Before our presentation from Baxter, we went to the Science Center to see some of the labs and to get a glimpse of the roof top garden. My favorite part of the lab was the side that Aleen affectionately nicknamed 'the dead and dirt side.' There we saw a lot of dead insects and plants that were preserved. When we were done in the science buildings Arthur Gibson came to talk to us about the sustainability efforts at Baxter. Baxter is a health care company that focuses on treating hemophilia, kidney disease, immune disorders and other chronic and acute medical conditions. What Arthur had the time to share with us was the company's commitment to the environment and he also showed us the different LEED Gold buildings that they ran.

The bus ride back home was a big torture. We had to drop off Aleen in the city because she was teaching a class that evening. On our way back to campus, we were hit with a lot of traffic and to make things even worse, a tow vehicle decided to hit us a little bit on the side. When our bus driver made sure that the bus and the rest of us were OK, we got back on course for the university. It took us about two hours to get back on campus and I had to rush dinner because I had to finish my company comparison assignment.

Finishing up the Final Paper

Today in class, instead of having a lecture based off of a chapter in the textbook, like usual, our discussion was based off of the interesting article from the New York Times we read last night. One aspect of the article we focused on was an experiment about the perceptions about mental illness, and how different perceptions can change how people with mental illnesses are treated. The method of the experiment was that participants were introduced to someone with a mental illness (an actor in the study). The actor would either tell the participant that their mental illness was due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, or tell them that their mental illness was a result of something that happened in their childhood. Then the participant would teach the actor to press some buttons in a certain pattern. If the actor did not press the buttons in the right order, the participants were told to give the actor a small electrical shock, which could vary in strength. It was found that if the participants were told the story about how the mental illness was caused by a chemical imbalance, they were harsher with the strength of the shocks they gave. Participants who were told the mental illness was the result of something that occurred in childhood were more likely to be sympathetic. After discussing why this was in class, I thought that when someone says it is because of the chemistry in their brain, it becomes part of them that cannot be separated. Then it becomes part of their identity, and it is hard to think of them as separate from their illness. When someone described their mental illness as being due to something that happened in their childhood, it is as if the cause of the mental illness was an outside force, and it maybe evoked sympathy from the participants.

We also discussed how it is a very Western, American in particular, idea, that when something goes wrong in someone's life, it is their own responsibility, and that they should work hard to lift themselves back up. It goes along with the idea of independence that is very valued in America. In other cultures, mental illness was thought of in more spiritual terms. In certain cultures, people with mental illnesses are kept in the social group, and they have religious rituals they believe will help the ill person's spirit. The discussion was very interesting, and I participated a lot in the discussion.

 I surprised myself in this course by talking a lot in class, because normally in academic situations I am not very verbal. I think because the class was so small, it was easier to speak in front of everyone. Also, I didn't know these people before these three weeks, so it was easy not to worry about what they would think of what I had to say. After this long discussion, Amanda the TA, did a short lecture on the importance of being objective in observations rather than subjective. For example, we cannot say in our notes, "The boy was happy." Instead we have to write, "The boy was laughing and smiling." We can never assume about one's emotions because you cannot get into somebodies mind and know their emotions. You can only see their actions and hear their words. We did a couple of exercises with this, practicing changes notes from subjective to objective.

 A few minutes later, we were excused for lunch. I went to the Grounds of Being cafe again. I got a tandoori chicken sandwich and cucumber sparkling water. On my lunch break, I went to the bookstore to buy some postcards to write to friends back home. Back in class, we were taught how to write the very first thing in a psychology paper, the abstract. It is basically an overview of the whole paper, but very summarized. It is only supposed to be about 250 words. I finished that in class and then went on making corrections on the rest of my paper. We were told that on the last day of class, we had to make a twenty minute power point presentation with our group. Tomorrow we will work on that. We were dismissed from class at 2:30. I went back to the dorms for a bit to work on my paper. After a about an hour and a half I went to the gym for an hour and a half as well. I walked back to dinner, where I ate with Dani and April, her project partner. Later Oyin joined us. She had just arrived back on campus because she had a field trip and there was traffic on the way back from the city. I went to my room to finish my homework and blog. 

Learning About "Drugs 'n Money"

Today was another busy, busy day. We had a guest lecturer visit us today, Dr. Stephen Kron. He told us about "Drugs 'n Money" (that's literally what the title was). He's the Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology here at UChicago.

He talked about the Hype Cycle of Innovation (which he said would be good to remember for the rest of our lives), the development and selling of drugs and how much money goes to that, biologic drugs (such as insulin), the Orphan Drug Act, off-target effects, and how much money goes into cancer treatment per month ($10,000 to $20,000).

There were so many things I found interesting in his lecture. One piece of information he told us was that the FDA is payed by drug companies!!! How is that possible?! Dr. Kron compared it to a defender in court paying for his own judge.

I also found drug repurposing or repositioning interesting. This is something companies do when they make a drug for a certain target but find it has a side effect that would be more beneficial (read: find a side effect that works better than the drug's intended use, which will increase their profits). I understand why they'd do that. If I spent a billion dollars in developing a drug, I'd want to make as much money as possible, too.

Dr. Kron ended his lecture by asking us to choose one of four options of what we think we should do in the state of our medicine business. He left us with this question: Should we eliminate medicine as a business?

Our class has been discussing it ever since. I'll write  more about it once I'm sure of my argument (we might have an assignment on our opinion). I love how everyone in the class was so involved in the discussions that followed! Though there was a lot of economics that were being discussed, I still enjoyed our discussions.

After discussing, we went to the lab to count the number of plaques that formed on our tryptone soft agar plate and calculated the class averages. I went to lunch with classmates and other students.

We went back to class, discussed the question Dr. Kron asked us, and discussed the two articles we had to read the other night, "Superweeds" and "Transgenics: a New Breed of Crops." We talked about GMOs and the stigma they have with consumers, gene guns (guns that have gold nanopellets coated with DNA. This was one way people used to incorporate DNA into genomes), the EPSPS gene (tolerates herbicide resistance), TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases), amd ZFNs (zinc-finger nucleases that introduce single-nucleotide changes that make new traits). 

I really liked the "Superweeds" assignment. The article talked about superweeds, weeds that have become resistant to one of the major weed killers, glyphosate. Glyphosate actually "attacks anything green," but the crops that farmers want to keep, like corn, cotton, and soybeans are glyphosate-resistant. However, now that weeds have become resistant, people are scrambling to find another way to go about planting. The article stated that we, humans, are the cause for the weeds' resistance. Like antibiotics, we abused fertilizers and pesticides so much that in this case, the weeds have become immune. The article also stated that, like antibiotics, if we had used more than just one herbicide, we wouldn't be in our situation. 

Though the "Superweeds" article was interesting, it was so depressing! It talked about how there's a new species of superweeds at the rate of one species per year. There was also a part that speculated if this is "a reminder of the futility of attempting to outrun evolution". It's sad because, though we thought we were improving and developing from these plants, it led to us reverting back to our old-fashioned ways of farming. In fact, a quote at the end of the article wondered if there was even a benefit or use to all that we've been doing when conventional methods have proven to be better. Will we go back to our old ways? I highly doubt it.

Lastly, I found the fact that one of the only solutions the article proposed was to use two herbicides together, though they later on list the things wrong with these herbicides. They're considered more toxic and persistent, and one of them, dicamba, has a tendency to drift and settle in neighboring farms (and cause damage). It just seems like we can't win sometimes.

After class was dismissed, I went to the library, did some research for my paper, and headed home to take a nap. I woke up, did some of my research paper, ate dinner, and finished my research paper.

Two things I've learned in the past few hours: 1.)  Chicago sunrises are pretty (yes, I just watched the sun rise). 2.) Friends keep you sane in college (or just life in general)!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Report Finally Finished

This morning I woke up at 8 AM got ready and then went to get a quick breakfast because I was going to be late to class. By the time I got down to the dining hall it was 8:30 AM. For breakfast I just had pastries and some coffee. I know, it's surprising that I'm drinking coffee but I only had 4 hours of sleep because I had to finish my lab report before the deadline at 3 PM. I didn't have that much left but still had to finish it and ended up finishing it by the end of class.

I got to class right on time and my class was walking to the classroom when I got there. In class we had to wait for the tech guy to come and bring our teacher another keyboard because someone took it from the classroom. That took only 10 minutes so even if I came late, I wouldn't have missed anything. One of my classmates, Jeng, came in late while we were waiting to get another keyboard and our professor made a joke about Jeng taking it and he was so confused on what she was talking about. He didn't get it until another classmate named Max told him that we were waiting on the keyboard to be brought to the class.

When we got to the lecture, Dr. Fineschi talked about activated and inactivated immune cells. I learned that active immune cells cause damage and that activation occurs when other surface receptors change with antigens. After the lecture we went to the lab and finished the HIV testing experiment. Then we had extra time left in class so we were let out early to go to lunch. While I waited for the dining hall to open at 11:30 AM I went to the fifth floor lounge to try and finish most of my report that I had left. Then I went down for lunch at 12 PM and ate meatloaf, fries, and mashed potatoes. I ate with Lila and then she went to go work more on her report because she had more work to do than me. After I finished I went to class and this time we started in the lab. In the second part of the lab we finished the recording of the results fr our enterotubes. We also left early since we finished early.

When I got back to the dorms I worked with two of my classmates with the next lab report that we had to do after I had finished doing citations for the other report. I only got to do half of the report but I have until Thursday to finish it so I have time to do it. At 6 PM I went to dinner and had fries, fruit, and chicken nuggets. I sat with Alexa and Oyin for the majority of the time and then Dani came to eat a little before we all left. I ended the night in my room and took a shower before I went to bed.

Working on my Personal Essay

Today in class we continued doing our open critics about each other personal stories. My class has very creative minds. Evan story was about species racing in the galaxy, Shannon story was about Russians and I really liked her story because she made the story more vivid with sensory details. I also liked that she use Russians words making it more descriptive.  Lisa story was about a teenager girl who is in love with her best friend that is a girl. Her best friends found about her crush on her, she rejected her, cusses her out. The girl also doesn't like her nationality, Chinese. Her parents have a restaurant; she hates the place and her parents.

I found out that doing revision on story is very hard because you have to pay close attention to the text and what is the meaning/purpose of the story. While doing a revision you have to ask yourself, what are his strengths, what are his weaknesses, what can make this story a better story, is the pacing of the story good, is he giving out too much or to little information to the reader, is he being descriptive enough, does the POV makes sense and etc… There’s a lot of question you need to ask to yourself while doing a revision.

Then Achy let us out to take a big break from revision because our minds were tired. I went to get lunch at the Dining Hall. After I was done eating, I went to my room to work on my opposite of me story because it was due today at four in the afternoon.  I was almost done, but I needed to go to class already. When I got to class we started doing the three of the story that we had left to revise.  We were all completely tired. The critics didn't go as good as in the morning, I think we all tired and forgot about the stories that we didn't have any opinions to give. When we were done with the rest of the stories, Achy gave us the following work that we have for the rest of the week. First, is for the people who had their stories workshop today have 24 hours to turn it in. The reviewers need to write a summary about the story that they had to review. Pick a three minutes reading to present on Thursday. Write about what your grade should be for the class. We also did the evaluation on the class online, if you don’t do that you won’t be able to see your grade until September 23.

After that I came to my room to finish working on my opposite story. When I was done with the story, I emailed it to Achy. Then, I started working on my personal story. I did a strategy that worked for me. It was that I copy and paste two paragraphs from the story and focus on those two paragraphs first, that’s how I kept working on my story.

I needed to go meet up with Pamela at the International House. We talked about my day in class and how I felt being the center of attention for the critics. I really liked it, I mean is not that bad I appreciate everyone who gave me a comment about my story because is my last week and I want to make this story the best as possible as I could. She also went through the sentences assignment that she left me last night. I was impressed that I didn't have a lot of errors, only three of them. That made me feel comfortable about myself that I am soaking everything that she had taught me. I only need to keep on practicing every day to get use to the past tense verbs, regular and irregular.  Pamela also gave me a sheets of papers that would help me developed my vocabulary. That was one of the first thing I asked from her. Today I didn't have a lot of time to work on it, but if I do have the chance tomorrow I will.

I went to dinner at the Dining Hall where I saw Alexa, Oyin, and Vicky. Alexa, Vicky and I were talking about that we only have three more day and we go back home. Oyin asked if we were going to see each other again when we back home. Joking around, I told her that I had enough of her these past four weeks. But, she knew that I was just playing around with her. I didn't have a lot of time to hang around with them because I needed to keep working on personal story. 

I stayed in my room the whole time, until I was done with my personal essay and went to sleep.

Final Presentation Preparation

Today was just like every other day here at at UChicago, I woke up, got breakfast and then I went to class. We discussed annual reports that companies disclose yearly. We compared them to sustainability reports and we found that annual reports are mainly for anybody who is looking to invest in a company while the sustainability report is for the stakeholders. Diving into our further knowledge of sustainability reports, we were introduced to another form today. An Integrated Report, <IR>, communicates how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects lead to the creation of value over the short, medium and long term. In other words, Integrated Reporting attempts to show the connection between a company's annual report, and its sustainability report.

Before we went for lunch, my professor gave us a assignment that I thought was very enjoyable. She divided us into groups and we were each given a million dollars to invest in any green company that we want. With our new knowledge on annual reports and stocks, we were to decide on which company we wanted, and we were to report back and share the stock price and how many shares we would invest in. I chose to invest in Ormat Technologies, which is the world leader in the geothermal power plant sector, and in Enel Green Power, which is a jack of all trades renewable energy company because they provide solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal energy.

My professor, Aleen, gave us a lot of time to do this assignment but she didn't anticipate that we would finish early and we did so we got to have an extra long lunch today. When we came back from lunch, we reported back on the companies that we wanted to invest in and we moved on to the afternoon lecture. Aleen introduced CERES, SASB, and ISO. These groups either provide a framework for sustainability reporting or they advocate for sustainability leadership. The point of all of this is that there are so many different sustainability reports available that cover a wide spectrum of topics, that it is hard for some companies to choose which standard to report by. 

After our afternoon lecture, as a final group assignment, we were split up again and each group had a different task that they had to accomplish. My group had to think of a new sustainable beef standard and we were to draft an email and send it to the women from McDonalds who came to talk to us yesterday. We discovered that McDonalds already goes by a beef sustainability standard which was very sound to us. We decided that we would add some suggestions to those standards. When we were done drafting the letter, we shared it with the class and sent it to the two women.

We ended class by going over our company comparison assignment. We are to pick two companies and do research on them and compare their sustainability and triple bottom line practices. I originally wanted to choose Google and Yahoo but both companies don't have a tangible product which would have given me difficulty. I changed my topic to Amazon and eBay. When class was over, I went to my dorm room to take a nap before dinner. I woke up and I ate dinner with a few friends and then I spent the rest of my night working on the comparison. 

Neural Development and Mental Illness

Today was like Monday to me, since I did not have class yesterday. I was unsure of what today's class was going to be on, but Cassie told us as we all arrived that today would be spent doing a lecture on neural development, and then for the second half of the day, we would work some more on our results and discussion. Before we started our lecture though, we went over our second quiz of the course. I did better on this one than on the first quiz. I got an A, so that's good, but there is still one more quiz to study for. Since there are only three more days of class and on Friday we will be celebrating our last day and presenting our projects. That means that the quiz is either tomorrow or Thursday. Cassie said that the class improved as a whole which is good. She offered a fourth quiz so that each quiz would be worth less, but I chose to stick with just the three quizzes.

After going over the quiz, we began our lecture on neural development. It was different from most lectures because it was more about biology and scientific. Usually we learn more about theories and ideas, not concrete facts. We went over the neuron, dendrites, axons, and other details. What always surprises me when I hear it, even though I have heard it numerous times is the fact that a neuron, a single cell, can go down a portion of the length of your spine. She said that when she studied giant squids, they had neurons the length of a table going down their tentacles. It is strange to think about because when one usually thinks of cells, they think of the smallest building block of life, something completely unseen by the naked eye.

 Then we learned about white matter, or glia. Glia makes up the myelin sheath. This is what covers the axon and allows for electrical signals to be sent much quicker. When something goes wrong with the myelin sheath, serious problems will result. For example, multiple sclerosis, or MS, occurs when the myelin sheath is attacked by the immune system. Usually the cells that attack the myelin sheath do not even enter the brain, but when something goes wrong and they do, the myelin sheath can be attacked. Schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, have also been found to have connections with what is happening to the myelin sheath.  

We also learned about a device called the TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Basically what this device does is it sends strong magnetic waves into someone’s brain, and messes with the electrical connections happening in the brain. We saw a short clip of someone with a TMS on a certain part of their brain, and all of a sudden not being able to pronounce anything. They knew what they were trying to say, but it was very difficult to understand them. As soon as the TMS was taken away, they were able to speak normally again. There was a case where the TMS was used as a therapy for severe depression as a last resort. The people that used the TMS had already gone to therapists and taken medications, which all did not work. After multiple weeks of this TMS therapy, about one third of the people getting the therapy showed big signs of improvement. While we discussed this in class, many, including myself, were worried about how safe the TMS is. Could this have any dangerous side effects? It is temporarily changing the electricity in your brain, so could this have long term changes too? There is no concrete evidence, but Cassie said that in the depression case, the benefits were probably worth more than unknown consequences. She did say earlier though, that if she were given the chance to participate in a study involving the TMS she would decline because of not knowing what the side effects could be. 

 We went over the different lobes of the brain, synaptogenesis, neurogenesis, synaptic pruning, and myelination. It was a lot of vocabulary and I have a feeling that this material will be on the next quiz. After a dense lecture, we broke for lunch at about 11:30, giving us a little extra time if we were to be back at one o’clock. 

 I was getting a little tired of the dining hall food, so I went to a small café in the basement of the theology building. It was called Grounds of Being. What is cool about this café is that they have lunch options for not too expensive from all of the nearby restaurants. The first time I went there I got yellow curry. Today I god a roasted eggplant sandwich and a lavender flavored sparkling water. After I ate and read for about an hour, I went back to my class, which was only about a five minute walk.

 I got there early so I just started working on my results and discussion, which is what we were going to do for the rest of class anyway. Writing the discussion part was definitely a challenge because everything you write you have to be able to back up with your data. I couldn’t even make the simplest assumptions about the participants emotions, without my discussion becoming too opinion based. I got through it, and before I knew it, it was three o’clock and we were free to return to the dorms.

When I went back to the dorms, I worked some more on my results and discussions before turning them in for Cassie’s revisions. By that time it was about six, and I went to dinner with Oyin, where we saw Victoria and Jimmy. Later Dani stopped by too, but she was in a rush because she had a project to complete. After dinner, I went back to my room so I could start on my reading for tomorrow’s class.

The reading was an article from the New York Times called the Americanization of Mental Illness. This was the first reading in the class that I could stay very engaged in, and I think it is because although it dealt with the subject of psychology, it was not using psych terms that I did not understand and it was written for a more general population. It discussed how before globalization, different cultures over different time periods used to have different mental ailments. It describes how mental illness all over the world has become westernized and how now it is thought of as diseases and illnesses in biological terms rather than spiritual problems. An interesting story it told was about how in Hong Kong, anorexia was described by some girls who had it as they did not eat and they felt their stomachs were always bloated. There was almost never anything said about the fear of being fat, which more how anorexia is thought of in western cultures.  After a girl died from anorexia and the media got to it, they took the western definition of anorexia, and so because of the exposure, the definition shifted, and a doctor reported seeing more cases of anorexia, and more often a phobia of being fat being described. It was very interesting to read about how different cultures looked at mental illnesses, and how that is changing now because of Americanization and globalization. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Learning About Plant Biotechnology

Because students can either put $20 towards printing on their card or go to the library to put a more reasonable amount of money on it (reasonable for me, at least. I only have a week left here!), I left the dorms early this morning to go to Crerar, the scientific library. Halfway there, I realized I had my money in my other bag! I speed walked back to the dorms and to the library, and thankfully made it to class with a minute to spare.

Despite my unlucky start, the rest of the day was pretty good. I presented a Biotech in the News article before the lecture today. It was about the very recent sequencing of African rice, which has drought-resistant properties, and wild South American tomato, which has genes linked to drought-resistance, fruit development, and ripening. The South American tomato is already being interbred with the common tomato to develop tomatoes scientists hope are tastier and more stress-resistant. The sequencing of these genes will lead to the green revolution the article talked of: the creation crops requiring less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. My article was actually a great segue to the lecture, which was about the methods, applications, health, and environmental concerns of plant biotechnology.

Seedless watermelon, a polyploidy plant
We talked about past agricultural techniques such as cross breeding (did you know popcorn has been eaten for 6,000 years?) and artificial selection, polyploidy plants that have a higher amount of chromosome sets than normal (like seedless watermelon), plant transgenesis (the direct transfer of genes to plants), the agricultural revolution currently happening that involves the engineering of drought-, cold-, and salt-resistant plants, among other modifications. Dr. Schonbaum discussed the methods using in plant transgenesis like cloning (like the leaf fragment technique, chloroplast engineering, antisense technology, and use of gene guns), and the vaccines, genetic pesticides, and herbicide resistance this field could result in.

After class, we went to the lab, where we neutralized E. coli by infecting it with the bacteriophage T4. It was a fast lab; the whole class finished in less than an hour.

As usual, lunch was spent at the Dining Commons. Once in class an hour later, we discussed our two reading assignments, “Intoxicated on Independence: Is Domestically Produced Ethanol Worth the Cost?” and “Biofuels.” The discussion was a lot of fun. We talked about our stance on the environment and what we think will force people to realize that things must be done. Some people, like me, believe that every little scrap of paper or bottle recycled does in fact make a difference, while there are those in the class that think that one bottle does nothing to stop the environmental effects other people are doing on Earth.

At around 2:30 PM I went to the Crerar library to work on the PowerPoint I’ll be presenting with April on Thursday. We were so productive! I have to admit that the enormous computer screens that let you see multiple windows on at once were greatly helpful. The chairs are also really comfortable! The computer lab is now one of my favorite places on campus.
One beautiful, beautiful computer
One of the best chairs you'll ever sit in

April left the library early, so I went to the bookstore to relax after finishing my work. I browsed through books, clothes, and stuffed “cells” before making my way back to the dorms.
So cute!

My evening, as usual, was a mixture of eating, talking, and working with other people. I learn more and more each day I spend here—not only about my class, but about myself and how to manage time and when to socialize. This trip is an eye-opener in many ways. 

Lectures, Lab reports, and Labs

I woke at 6:50 before my alarm went off realizing that I still had to finish my lab report that is due tomorrow. I got the minority of it done which was the harder part of the report and then got ready to leave for quick breakfast Oyin and then class. I had eggs and cantaloupe with grapes for breakfast. I tried to get to class early so I could have time to do some more of my report before class started.

In class we did a lecture and Dr. Fineschi let us have an hour and a half to do more of our lab reports. When it was about 30 minutes left of class we did a lab on HIV testing. After the lab we went to lunch and I had beans with cheese and then went to my dorm to work more on the report but barely got anything done because it's a long report to do. When I got to class we started in the lab to finish the lab from before lunch. On the second part of the lab my partner messed up and did the procedure backwards so we have to use someone else's data. When class was over I stayed for a while to do some more of my report which I did not get that much done. This report is usually 15 pages long but ours doesn't have to be that long.

I have been working on this report from this morning until now so hopefully I can finish before it's due. I am wide awake from drinking caffeine so I don't think me being tired would be in the picture tonight. Wish me even more luck on this report!!! :-)

Presentation Day

I woke up this morning at about 6:45 AM. My alarm was supposed to go off an hour later but for some reason, my body decided to wake up before my alarm went off. I didn't want to get up right then so I laid in bed reading Game of Thrones until I decided to get ready for the day. 

I rushed my breakfast this morning because I wanted to get to class early so that I could review some stuff for my presentation. It wasn't necessary for me to rush because when I got to class, the door was locked and we couldn't get in. My professor went to find the keys but the set that she was given didn't work either. One of the other students went on the hunt for a set of keys that worked. My class is right next to the American Law and Litigation kids so we killed time by making jokes about suing the school for locking us out.

When the doors were finally unlocked, we went inside and we started on our BRICs presentation. We partnered up and we had to research a country. The objective was to answer questions on if they were sustainable and how much the government is supporting sustainable infrastructure. Me and my partner Barbara decided to take South Africa and Mexico and compare their sustainability efforts. This time when I was presenting, I paid more attention to what I was saying and I noticed whenever I would say 'like' and I tried to catch myself and use a different word. I think I did a good job because I counted only a few instances that I said the word. I feel like our presentation went great and our teacher even said that our, "research and examples around government-supported renewable programs was particularly strong."

After everyone in the class gave their presentations, we were given discussion questions on Enough is Enough that we could look at over lunch and we were going to have a discussion about it when we came back from lunch. After lunch, two ladies, Victoria Zimmerman and Rachel Sherman, who worked for McDonalds in sustainable supply chain department came and talked to us. They talked about McDonald's shared value in that they take both the company and the people's interest into account when they are running their company. One thing that the ladies said really surprised me. They said that within the company, 60% of the people who are c level executives have worked in a McDonalds restaurant and it is seen as a badge of honor.
Class Outside
We ended the afternoon portion of our class by having a discussion on Enough is Enough in one of the courtyards in our building. It was a really nice day because it wasn't too hot and it wasn't too cold. This made it very enjoyable to finish our class outside. After class was over, I went to my dorm room to start reading our second book Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto but I accidentally fell asleep. Luckily Alexa woke me up and reminded me that I needed to eat dinner. After eating dinner, I spent the rest of my night reading the book before deciding to call it a night.

The New Strategy

Today in class we talked about our personal story.  We were going to do a revision on them, but Achy tried a new strategy that no one in the class expected. The new strategy was that we need to revise one of our classmate stories, on top of that we have to review another story from a different classmates. Then, we needed to present it to the class, do an open critic about it. Achy was not going to talk in the critic as much, it was only us, the class. She gave us the names of which story we needed to revise and to review. Then, she let us go at 10 AM and come back at 11:15 AM. I had to revise Nina story that was about two astronauts stuck in a planet and they had built this time machine that would send them back home. The story I need to review and take notes for tomorrow is Karen story.

When, I was on my way to class, I found Liwen one of my classmates. She’s from California too. We were talking about how her revision went, she was nervous because she was going to be the first one to do the presentation. On the other hand, she told me that it was good so she can just get it over with. She’s a very smart girl; her writing is so incredible that I get jealous of her. She has also told that her school, Monta Vista High School students push themselves to do well and be better.

In the past she has told me that her school is in ranked number 13th within California. Many immigrant kids go there because their parents know that Monta Vista is a great school, parents want the best for their children. I asked her if the teachers push the students to give the best they have. I was surprised on her answer when she told me no that the students push themselves to do the best. I asked her why and she gave the answer that applies to me, students push themselves because they see their parents struggling and they want to become someone in life so later on they can give back to their parents. That day I knew that she and I had a lot of similarities.

I had to present today too, I was a bit nervous but I knew that I shouldn't be. I think I did good in my presentation, but that’s one of my goal when I go back to California to not get nervous when I’m the center of attention. I need to practice on that more.
Evan (No hat on) and Robert posing.

I got more close to Evan and Robert; they are cool guys and funny guys to be around. One thing that we have in common is that we all three like horror movies.

The entrance to International House
Later on, I met with Pamela. We did a review on the simple past tense verbs worksheets, regular and irregular. One new thing that I learned that almost no one have ever corrected me on is on my verbs hurt and cost. They never change they stay the same in the past tense. I always used to say hurt-ed and cost-ed adding the –ed at the end and now I found out that I was mispronouncing it, good thing that every day you learn new things.

We also did a new exercise that I really like, it made me feel more comfortable and relax. The exercise was to walk around in the backyard, have a conversation with each other back and forth, she would ask me question about the work I have to do today and I will respond her with an answer. For example, if I was writing instructions of how to make a sandwich, then she would ask me, what would be your first step and I would give her my answer that would be put mayonnaise on the bread first. While we were walking around I was recording, so I can go back and listen it again. We also worked on a worksheet that she gave me of all the irregular verbs. I need to remember about fifteen words each day, to prove that I have been working on them she will quiz me while we walk around the backyard. I really like that because it clears my mind, I’m not stressing on getting the right answer and I think it helps me remember the words more quickly. Pamela Lavigne (I misspelled her name in one of my blogs and she told me if I could correct it) gave me homework and I need to do sentences using the irregular verbs.

When I came back to my room I started working on the sentences. Then, Alexa text me to meet them at Jonnatta Lounge to talk about how class went, Dani and Oyin were there too. I stayed there working on my homework.

A Day Off

Today, because I did not have class, I was able to sleep in a little. I woke up at nine anyway because I had work to do for my class. I stopped at my group mate Isabella's room so we could work on our group study paper together. I had good timing I guess because as I was knocking on her door, she told me that she had to return the iPad that we had used to record the participants. I took it out of the tech bar at the library at about 12:30 on Friday, but we had to return it this morning by eleven. We had to rush to the library to return the iPad, but we ended up making it on time. After going to the library and returning, we spent some time in the lounges working on the results and discussion portion of our final paper. 

Since we had gotten up later, it wasn't long before lunch time. I had not eaten breakfast because I wanted to sleep a little longer, so I was very hungry. I had lunch with Dani and Oyin. They both got out of class late, so they got to go back later to. 

After lunch I returned to the lounges to work on my paper some more. After about an hour, I felt I needed a break from just sitting, looking at a screen, so I went to the gym for a while. I stayed for about an hour and a quarter and then I started to walk back to the dorms. It was about 5:15 at this point, so dinner was starting. I changed my clothes, and then went down to dinner with Dani, Oyin, Katelyn, Victoria, and Nisha. I just met Nisha a few days ago. She is taking two undergraduate courses, so she has a lot of work. Victoria left dinner early because she had lab reports to do for tomorrow, so the rest of us left a little later. We went back to a lounge to finish up our homework and blog. 

Tomorrow in class we will be going back to a more regular class structure. For the last couple of classes, we had just been focusing on gathering data and doing our studies with participants, but now that all the data has been gathered. Tomorrow we will be discussion the brain, the mind and consciousness. There is also a slight chance that there will be a few more participants in the afternoon, but it is even more unlikely that they will fit our demographic. I would guess that if we did not have any participants to test, we would just continue to work on our results and discussion, which is due tomorrow at 7 PM.

 We only have four more days in class, which feels so strange because it seems as if we have not even been in the program very long. I  think part of the reason the program felt like it went by so quick is because the class was so packed with content, and we had a final project to work on that started from day one. I hope the last few days of class go as smoothly as the rest of the class went. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Workload

This morning I woke up at 8:30 AM to go to breakfast with Oyin, Dani, and Alexa. Thanks to Oyin I got to eat because if I didn't eat I would be hungry until dinner which would have been bad. I'm glad she got me up and told me to go eat with them. At breakfast I ate cream of wheat, eggs, and waffles covered in syrup. After breakfast I went back to bed until 10:30 AM and left to go to my class at 11 AM so that I could get help on my lab report. The TA didn't come until 12 PM because her commute there was bad and the bus she takes didn't come for about an hour.

I thought that it was kind of helpful to actually start on the report but I didn't get that much out of it. The professor was there while the TA wasn't and she gave me information that helped to start the report. I stayed at the class until 2:30 PM and missed lunch. (So glad I ate breakfast, Thanks Oyin) When I went back to my room and started to work on my report more but still haven't finished it. I have a two reports due on Tuesday and one on Thursday plus a poster that's due on Friday.

For me not to have work for the first two weeks is bad because it would have been better to do these reports the first and second week. If I had these reports assigned to me a week ahead it would have been better because I would have more time to do them instead of cramming them in one week.Even though I have a workload to do, I'm still having fun. I decided that every time I stop working I will do ten push-ups.

I am ending the night by working hard and finishing these assignments. Even though I have a lot of work to do, I will make sure that it is done even if I have to stay up late. Hopefully I finish it on time and be done with everything. Wish me luck!!!

Time Management is Everything

Oyin woke me up at 8:30 AM this morning to eat breakfast. It was a great breakfast, which I think might have been due to the new summer program that arrived today. I had waffles with syrup, potatoes, bagel with cream cheese, fruit, and turkey bacon (read: carbs on carbs on carbs). Afterwards, I went to the Crerar library with Oyin and worked on my book report on embryonic stem cells. We stayed there for about six hours straight! We worked so hard we missed lunch.
Spent 6 hours working at one of these cubicles with Oyin

I was so proud once I finished my book report. The walk back to South Campus was much welcome—it helped me stretch out my numb limbs.

I did what any person working on four hours of sleep would do—I took a nap. The college students I’ve met on alumni dinners are right, naps have become my best friend.

Oyin woke me up at around 5:30 to get dinner. Since we skipped lunch, dinner was much needed. I had a salad, fries, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, fruit, and tea. I went back to my room, edited my book report, found a biotechnology article (that I’ll present tomorrow in class) about scientists recently sequencing African rice and an inedible wild South American tomato. African rice is more drought resistant than Asian rice, and the South American tomato has genes linked to dehydration resistance, fruit development, and ripening. Sequencing of the South American tomato is already being used to improve the common tomato through interbreeding, and may help breed tastier, more stress-tolerant tomatoes.
Oryza glaberrima, or African rice

After finishing that, I went out of my room for study break (we had homemade pizzas! They were so good) and ended up studying with other people. We stayed in the Halperin lounge and did our work. I was able to get some reading material done early! Staying at UChicago really is improving my time-management skills. I’m glad I got a lot of work done today; I’ll be able to have more time to relax or study later on this week.
Halperin lounge
 I took a study break after finishing the reading assignment. After finishing this blog, I’m done for the day! I might even have time to watch a movie or have a full seven hours’ worth of sleep! What I learned today: Time management is everything! It all pays off in the end.