Friday, July 18, 2014


Salvador Giving His Presentation
Today was our first Friday of the program and, to say the least, I was really happy to see this day. One of my class mates, Salvador, gave us a presentation on an invention of his which involves reworking disposable diapers to make them more sustainable. Disposable diapers are one of the top contributors to waste landfill and this is because diapers are made of mostly petrolatum derived materials like super absorbent polymers that make the diapers more absorbent. Salvador's idea was to replace this super absorbent polymer with sugar cane bagasse. He tested out this strategy and it worked really well. I think that his idea is incredible and that it has the potential to make a huge difference environmentally. I also think that it is really mind blowing that somebody my age could accomplish something like that.
Working With My Partner Ziang

The rest of the morning went by really fast as we reviewed topics that we learned over the week and we looked a little bit ahead. We had our lunch assignment which was to do a power point on the life cycle analysis of different products, my partner and I had to do it on a computer. Once we got those done, we presented them for the class. This took more time than our professor thought it would so we moved our book discussion to Monday and we watched a movie in class instead. The movie was called Carbon Nation and it was about the different ways that communities are coming up with different ways to solve the carbon emission problems and reduce the ecological footprint. What really stuck out to me was that a Richmond, California community member was getting the word out about solar panels in his town and he stared an organization where homes could get solar panels and they would be installed by people who lived in Richmond, creating jobs for them. I was surprised to see that something like this was available and especially since it is so close to home.
Movie Time
After we watched the movie, we were let out of class. My professor decided to let us enjoy our weekend so she didn't give us any assignments. I was really thankful for this because my first week of class felt really long and hectic as I tried to balance school work with fun time. When I got back to my dorm room after class, the first thing that I did was take a nap. I felt like if I didn't take that nap, I would have crashed sometime later in the day. After my nap, I went to dinner with my cohort and we decided to have a light night so we just watched movies and ate pizza together. We decided that tomorrow afternoon, we would go into the city and explore Chicago.

Dinner with Chicago Alumni

I am now somewhat getting used to my early morning schedule. I woke up a little later this morning since now I know how long it takes me to do everything. I headed down for breakfast, which I ate with Catherine, Eugenia, and Cookie, all girls from my psychology class. We all walked together psychology class together and prepared our materials for the class. Yesterday, Cassie had told us that today’s class would be a little easier than previous classes because we would be looking at many videos instead of just lectures.

Today for the first half of class extensively reviewing the textbook readings we had done the night before. The chapter focused on the physical and cognitive development in infancy. Babies learn in all different ways. Sometimes they learn by watching what adults and caregivers around them do actions, which they then try to copy. This is called imitation, and it does not always happen immediately. An infant or child can keep an observed action in their brains for days or weeks before they actually even try and do it for themselves. Another kind of learning babies do is called conditioning. This is where every time a baby does something there is a reaction. Eventually the baby comes to expect this reaction, or conditioned to expect it. An example of this would be if every time a baby drops a spoon off of its feeding table, it hears a clatter. Eventually these two will associate in the child’s mind and the child will expect a clatter the next time it drops a spoon. We went over concepts like this for the first half of class to really make sure these ideas were set in our minds.

We broke for lunch, which unfortunately, was not as long as our lunch yesterday. I ate lunch with the same people I ate breakfast with, but I also met up with Victoria, who sat with us. We didn’t get to stay long before having to head back to class. To start out the second half of class, Cassie started out with a difficult question to discuss. Do young infants think? At first I thought, “Yes, of course”, and apparently so did every one of my peers. When we took a poll, all sixteen of the students said that babies did think. The professor and TA both said no. We had very different definitions of thinking. It was described as conscious and rational judgment. This really changed how I thought about the question, because if it made me question if babies thought consciously. Eventually my arguments ended up supporting the idea that babies do not judge consciously and rationally until much, much later in their development. I thought about the fact that all the information that we have about babies thinking and learning is coming from an outside stimuli. This then made me wonder, if no information was being shown to them or processed, would they be able to form a conscious though on their own? I thought no. Cassie then told us that this question is not one that can be or has been answered. We then watched multiple videos on how babies learn and the different methods they use. After the videos we did some more group planning for our final project.

After class, I thought I would have to hurry to the dorms and change for the dinner, but it turned out that we planned to go a little later than expected. At first I was going to take a nap, but Victoria asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with her and I was up for it. When we got to the gym she wanted to play some pick-up basketball games, and I wanted to do some cardio, so we agreed to meet up at the entrance at a certain time and then leave. The gym is really nice, and hopefully over the weekend I will be able to go a couple more times before the new week starts and I am busy again.
On our way to dinner, we saw a tap dancer with an onlooker. The kid was also trying to tap dance, an example of imitation

The dinner we had was at Capitol Grille in Downtown Chicago. The students and admissions officers arrived shortly after us. Peter and Troy were the admissions officers and I talked mostly to them since I was sitting near them. The students were Eric, Lily, Leilani, and Teddy. Troy, one of the admissions officers who traveled out to California said he remembered that one person from ECHS was going to U Chicago, who I quickly figured out was Simon Cohen. He also talked about his experience at U Chicago and how he first thought he was interested in history, but was then later inspired by his professors to take an interest in economics. This dinner was different than the others since we already had much more of an idea of what U Chicago is like before the dinner.
The food was delicious out. Since the grille specialized in steaks, I decided to order the filet mignon with wild mushrooms and onions. It was absolutely delicious, but also extremely filling. For desert I chose a flourless espresso cake. It definitely kept me awake to finish my homework when we got back to the dorms from the restaurant. 

Tomorrow is Friday and I cannot wait to start my first weekend here at U Chicago.

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!

Class Presentation and UChicago Alumni Dinner

Today in my sustainability class, we had to give presentations on key findings from the State of Green Business Report. My topic was direct vs. supply chain impact. The whole idea behind it was that it would be more beneficial for companies to compare the environmental impacts made directly or in their supply chains to see where they could make the most change in aspects like their environmental impact and innovation. Once we heard all of the presentations, we then broke up into groups and came up with our top five key findings which we believed was the most relevant to supporting 3BL adoption and "making the cause" for change.

Once we were done with that, we logged online to listen to a supply chain webinar. It didn't really go in the direction that our teacher wanted it to go in so we stopped that and we changed gears. After this, we went back to go over what GRI's (Global Reporting Initiatives) are. They are basically ways is the most widely used sustainability reporting framework and  its core goals include mainstreaming of disclosure on environmental, social, and governance stuff. As a little treat for us, my professor assigned us in to different sectors and we were to go over their GRI guidelines and see if they were sustainable or not. I had media and my partner. We had to do the assignment quickly because I had to leave soon for the UChicago alumni dinner.

Once I finished my assignment, I want up to my dorm and changed then I grabbed Dani from her room and we both headed outside to wait for our car to take us to the restaurant. When we all arrived, we got in the cab and we were dropped off at the Omni so we could meet up with Alie and walk to the restaurant. It has been almost a week since we've seen Alie and talking on the phone isn't the same as a face to face interaction. When we saw her we all attacked her with a hug and started rambling about how our classes have been like and what we have been going through academic wise. After we got each other caught up, we walked a few blocks over to our restaurant, The Capitol Grille.

In our dinner, we had two admission officers from and four admissions interns from UChicago join us. I talked mostly with the three admissions interns, Leilani, Teddy, and Eric, because I sat closest to them. All three of them are going into their second year at UChicago and they all have in common that they moved from a place that wasn't so accustomed to snow and the cold. Teddy and Leilani are both from Southern California while Eric is from the middle of Arizona. They all shared their experiences with their first winters here in Chicago. Teddy and Eric both advised that it would be smart to invest in a good durable winter coat and that even if the price looks scary, it's worth it because you'll get a lot of use out of them. Teddy shared that on his first day of UChicago he wore flip flops to school and he hasn't seen them ever since.

Eric was able to explain what dorm life was like to me and it is done Harry Potter style where there are houses within each dorms and everyone gets sorted into a house and that is where you live for the year. The people living in the dorms are picked by random so that there is a diverse number of people living together. Every different house has activities that they do together as a way to bond together and it all ranges from going out together to eat or hosting unique parties. A tradition that is done here at UChicago that I wasn't aware of is a Scav Hunt which is a really big scavenger hunt that is played by a lot op people here on campus. The items on the list are all unusual and crazy including, miming in the middle of a metro, playing the bass for a professor all day, and building a nuclear reactor on campus. They got shutdown by the FBI just in case anyone was wondering. 
Group Picture
What I really got out of the dinner tonight was how the people at UChicago are like. I really enjoyed talking to Leilani, Teddy, and Eric. I felt like was able to connect with them easily and I didn't have to force myself to talk to them, it came naturally. I haven't really had the chance to really get to know any UChicago students like I did tonight so i don't really have a sense of what the school community is like. Our guests tonight were able to help me have a positive view on what the overall community is like here at UChicago.