Friday, July 18, 2014

UChicago Alumni Dinner

Our lecture today was very in-depth, as usual. Dr. Bhasin had a lot of new information to tell us about recombinant technology and DNA cloning. She lectured and expounded on cDNA and genomic libraries, blue-white screening, and vectors, among other things.

Her lecture was, as usual, challenging. After a while she had us all get up and stretch or do jumping jacks so we’d feel energized (which worked).

Oh, labs. After the first day struggling with the microscopes, I thought I would end up hating labs, but I surprisingly really enjoy them. The pre-lab quizzes are definitely something else, though. I read the lab protocol, but I’m still not sure how I did on that quiz. I have to admit, though, that pre-lab quizzes do help in understanding the labs (so I guess they’re worth it).
April in lab

Before our actual lab started, Dr. Bhasin had a talk with us about the lecture portion of the class. Apparently Danny (one of our TAs) talked to multiple students and found out that most of us think the lectures go too fast. Dr. Bhasin had whoever thinks her lectures were fast-paced raise their hand and almost all hands went up! She agreed to go slower and told us not to be shy in voicing our questions—she wants to help us learn as much as we can in this class, she said.

I like how encouraging Dr. Bhasin is, but it’s intimidating to ask questions in a room with smart students who most likely already know the answer. I also think that everyone in the class (and also the program) are used to being the “smart kids” at our schools, so speaking up in class and running the risk of being the “stupid kid” is a difficult transition (not that speaking up makes anyone “stupid”). I wonder how tomorrow’s lecture will be like.

Today we were able to do gel electrophoresis! Though some people in my class have already done it before, it was my first time, so I found it exciting (and also slightly nerve-racking—I didn’t want to mess up everyone else’s gel).

First, April and I prepped our plasmid. We isolated the DNA of the E. coli through alkali lysis—we added lysis buffer and neutralization buffer, then spun the tube in the centrifuge (also my first time and also very cool). After adding the low salt elution buffer, running the centrifuge, and calculating the purity of our isolated plasmid DNA through Nanodrop, we were free to get lunch, empanadillas at a food truck.

Afterwards, we finally were able to do gel electrophoresis. I pipetted our plasmid into the gel, and it turned out well! When we looked at the results later, Dr. Bhasin commented on how April and I did well. I’m glad we’re not so clueless anymore.

Finally, our cohort was able to go to the alumni dinner. We met Eric, Leilani, Lily, and Teddy students at UChicago), as well as Troy and Peter, UChicago admissions officers.

They all told us about their many extracurricular activities (anything you’re interested in, they have), the traditions they hold (like Scav, a scavenger hunt people take seriously—there have been miming, bootstrap-inventing, jellyfish-wearing, and baby teeth-mailing involved), the food (like the desserts and fourth meal option they have [which would be great to have now too] as well as the food trucks), and great places to visit in Chicago (like Hyde Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Park).

They also told us about their experiences with the professors we now have. Eric told me how he had Dr. Bhasin for biology and that she was good and encouraging, but mentioned that in his experience, her tests can include anything she’s even very briefly commented on. I don’t know if her tests are like that during the summer sessions, but Eric (after seeing my horrified expression, no doubt) assured me that I’ll be fine. I hope so—my first exam is this Monday!

They told us why they chose and now love UChicago, too. Leilani said she visited and fell in love with the people, place, and sense of community. She said that she loves the different kinds of extracurricular activities she can do, how UChicago is so close to a great city, and how the houses in the dorms really gives everyone a second home and sense of community.

Eric, Teddy, and Leilani told us how they found that sense of community within their house. You see, at UChicago you’re put into a dorm that’s split into different “houses” (or communities of people). After speaking with alumni from the dinner in SF all those weeks ago and talking to students and alumni now, I’ve found out that your housemates are and will stay your best friends.

Teddy and Eric told us about house rivalries, how much they love the school, funny stories about their experience at UChicago so far (Eric was once completely buried in snow), house traditions (wearing ugly Christmas sweaters), house events (Lily’s watched Wicked, Phantom, Yo-Yo Ma, and other shows with her house), and really nice people they’ve met at UChicago (people in the Dining Commons who saved Leilani peanut butter ice cream, etc.).

The night passed by really quickly. It had to be one of the—if not the—best dinner I’ve attended. I’ve noticed how the people we’ve met at UChicago are slightly more charismatic and relaxed than the majority of other students and alumni we’ve met. It was such a fun dinner. I can already tell how fun and quirky (as Elspeth and others at our first dinner said) people at UChicago must be.
Literally one of the best coconut cream pies I've ever had

I asked Peter and Troy if the college courses I’ve taken at CCC will be credited, and they said there’s definitely a good chance they’ll be credited, though it depends on our professors.

I am considering applying to this school, though I don’t know how I feel about their Common Core program requiring students to take certain classes for the first two years of their college career.
Back on campus after the dinner

I’ll end by sharing two pieces of advice Leilani gave me: 1, show admissions officers your personality! In the end, without your personality shining through your essay, you’re just numbers and grades, and 2, don’t worry about moving from California to the Midwest! Don’t let anyone make you think moving to the Midwest from California is a bad idea.
They gave us UChicago gear! Thank you so much!

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