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.