Saturday, June 30, 2012

Boston Stroll

Excitement was in the air!
Last night, or should I say this morning, I could hear birds chirping outside my dorm as I finally got to bed. There was some doubt as to whether I would be able to get up this morning in time for the Summer@Brown Boston trip. Since the meeting point was right outside the Grad Centers, it didn't take too much trouble to make it. As we waited in the crowded line of students to board the buses, I thought about what we might do once in Boston. After being handed maps, I saw that it was impossible to plan—the area was too huge. I think it’s great how Brown provides these opportunities for its students to go out and expand their experiences with the outside world during their time here.

Sprawling Boston

At Boston it felt even hotter than in Providence, but that might have just been me. We started out by exploring the bustling Quincy Market and its surrounding stores. It was filled with interesting vendors and multi-talented street-performers. We learned a bit of history about the city by listening in on a couple of tours following the ‘Freedom Trail’, which traces through some historical sites from colonial times. I think that Boston has its own unique feel, with a mix of historical buildings among skyscrapers.


I soon found out why Boston is called ”America’s Walking City”. Most of the streets seemed desolate with close to no cars on the road. Pretty much everyone walks to get to the various attractions around the city. Scattered throughout the city there are also numerous little ‘parks’ which people can enjoy. Looking at the map, these places include Quincy market, the Paul Revere Mall, New England Aquarium, Newbury Street, and so on. Cambridge, the area encompassing Harvard and MIT was also on the map. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to most of these sites during our time there, but it was a great time nonetheless. I spent the day touring downtown Boston and exploring from place to place with David and some friends.
New England Aquarium

I had a fun time sightseeing in Boston. Overall, I thought it was a beautiful city with its classic yet modern atmosphere, abundance of small parks, and clear water. The only thing that bothered us was the winding streets that split in different directions and were confusing to navigate.
Streets of Boston: no cars!
One of several mini-forests in downtown Boston
Square by Quincy Market

Getting back from another eventful day I really started to feel the fatigue building up inside me, and decided to retire to my dorm and rest up. Tomorrow will be a day to catch up on sleep, and to finish the class assignments in preparation for the last week of class.

I'm Shipping Up to Boston

Today we went to Boston! I was really excited to get to explore the city again, since it had been about five years since I last went to Boston. After a semi-rushed shower, I boarded bus number two (of ten!) and was able to catch up on a lost hour of sleep during the hour and a half trip. Just as we had in Newport, we headed straight for breakfast, stopping at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

A nice healthy breakfast later (a donut and Oreo Coolatta are healthy right?), we wandered around near Quincy Market, a building I definitely remembered from the last time I had been in Boston. I was searching every store and stand I could find to get a funny anti-Yankee shirt for my little sister, but none of them were nearly clever enough, so I settled on an amazing Celtics-related gift instead (I would say what it is but I don't want to ruin the surprise on the off chance that she finally reads more than just the title of one of my blogs.

After about an hour of wandering through the market, we decided we wanted to actually do something in Boston, and our friend who lives just 20 minutes away from Boston suggested we check out the New England Aquarium. I would have been willing to go pretty much anywhere as long as they had air conditioning, but actually getting to see something while cooling off sounded fantastic. Not everyone wanted to see the aquarium however, so only Emily, Sean (our friend from near Boston), Chrissy (a friend who happens to go to Carondelet in the Bay Area), and I headed into the aquarium.

Immediately we were greeted with a blast of cold air, and I knew that even if there was but one fish in the entire aquarium, I would enjoy myself thanks to the temperature. Surprisingly, there did happen to be more than one fish, and I had a great time; from walking on a spiral ramp around a beautiful cylindrical tank filed with stingrays, turtles, and massive mystery fish; to watching some of the aquarium employees work with fur seals, to seeing a massive group of penguins being fed, and the surprising amount of fights between penguins that followed. Three and a half hours quickly passed in this aquarium, and soon it was time to head back to the bus. I loved spending time in Boston and unwinding, and am ready to take a huge chunk out of my group project tomorrow.
A trainer and the gigantic fur seal he's working with.
A turtle in the tank located at the center of the aquarium.

Part of This World

After a few weeks of Nick talking about how much he loved Boston, and how it was so much fun, I was really hyped to finally go. I was not disappointed. In fact, I really really enjoyed myself the whole day. We woke up this morning a little bit later than last Saturday, and were in line by 8:15 AM. We hopped on the bus, and about an hour later, we were in Boston. 

One thing that I love about where we're staying is that we're so close to so many other states. Because California is so huge, and the East Bay is very west coast, driving for an hour could get us to the Jellybelly factory in Fairfield, not another state! Small states are almost a concept that's difficult for me to process. I have friends who live in New Jersey, and commute to New York whenever they feel like it. Going out of state for me would mean a month of planning, a week of packing, and loads of parental permission. 

Today, Boston could be described using two words: beautiful and HOT. Even at 11 AM, the temperature was high and only climbing. After getting my obligatory sneezes out of the way, we found a Dunkin' Donuts. This trip has been the first time I've ever been to a Dunkin', which is a staple for every East Coast kid I've met. Stomachs full with the late breakfast, we wandered around for about an hour before deciding to go to the aquarium. Hands down the best decision of the day. I've always been an aquarium person, so I was overjoyed that we were going to be able to go to the New England Aquarium. The building is huge, with floor after floor climbing over wach other. At any point, you could look down, over the staircases' bannister, and see directly into the penguin's habitat. We got to see a sea lion training, as well as the penguins being fed, which was adorable, if you discount the bloody fish and smell. 

Sanitarily washing our hands, we then went out to lunch in Quincy's Market. A long strip full of vendors, it's similar to Emeryville's Public Market, but offered a different variety of cuisines. At home, Mexican, Chinese, and burgers are really common; in Boston, an abundance of Greek, New English, and Italian stole the show. Even in the eateries, the differences between the coasts is always evident.

Exploring the Unknown

Willy Wonka's secret supply in Boston; me and my giant jaw breaker
Remember a few blogs back where I said I couldn't find any candy shops in Providence? Well, whatever you can't find in Providence, you can find in Boston. Especially a whole shop that is dedicated to selling mass amounts of candy and ice cream cones with enlarged cones and three scoops of ice cream. The only thing that I'm wondering right now, is why I never came here as a child. Probably because I'd be screaming at every corner out of shock. 

I woke up all prepared and ready to get to Boston. The only thing that I didn't have prior to my trip were plans. I had no idea where to go or what to do there. All I knew was that I just had to get out of my dorm and explore the east coast more, since I would be leaving in less than seven days. I met with Tayler and Kelly outside of the Ratty for breakfast. Sadly, the Ratty is closed on weekends. So instead of walking all the way towards the other side of campus to get to the V-Dubb, we decided to buy some donuts and coffee at Starbucks. 

Quincy Market
I dozed off during the hour long drive from Providence to Boston, but woke up with more energy to explore. We started off slow, but slowly progressed. Kelly and Tayler went with their friends, and Ying and I went with ours. We walked through the bustling Quincy Market, filled with a million food stores. We ended up on the other side of Quincy, where the sun cooked us up with its UV rays. Without any sense of direction, we decided to follow the Boston "Freedom Trail" (which was a red line on the sidewalk). After a while, the trail disappeared and the line was cut off. 

Hand-made plush toys
Our group of ten split up at the H&M store and went our own separate ways. Marisa, Avery, Ying, and I decided to walk to the infamous aquarium of Boston. After spinning in a various amount of circles, we finally reached the wharves of Boston. Tickets to the aquarium were $24 which were a little over the price range for the others. Instead, we walked back to the food trucks and the business tents by the aquarium. We passed by an amazing plush toy shop where all the plush toys were hand-made by this one woman. Her husband would draw the designs out, and she would sew them together. After lunch back at Quincy Market, Ying and I decided to go exploring on our own. We actually attempted to go to Paul Revere's Mall and see what it was all about, but it was impossible to find. We ended up going along the wharves and back. There were also a lot of street performers at Boston including a Navy singing group, break-dancers, acrobats, jugglers, and even a guy who dressed as a Roman solider who gave fortunes for a dollar. 

Boston was an amazing place to visit on a perfect, sunny weekend day. Looking back, Boston had a bit of a San Francisco vibe. There were polite people and rude people. There were crowded areas and empty sidewalks. Some places were filled with shops while others were unoccupied. Both Boston and San Francisco have their own diverse sections in the small space of the map they fill in. Boston just felt to lively and energetic; the kind of places I like to spend my weekends at. They were more shops than you can count and more street performers than you can take pictures of. One of the things I would want to go back to do is  to go to the aquarium. Although I wasn't able to explore all of Boston, I still had an amazing time trying new things and going to new places. 

Sightseeing in Boston

In summary, I think one of the most important lessons that I've learned here during my time in the east is not to be afraid of the unknown. It takes a lot of guts to try new things, like testing my independence in a college setting. At the same time, we learn to solve problems that are thrown at us by ourselves. Sure, people can help by giving you that extra push along the way, but it's really up to you whether or not you're willing to do it. Like many others have said: I am given a choice. I can choose to sit in my dorm all day ,watching old TV shows and maybe go over to CVS to buy some chips to make the movie more entertaining. Or, I can choose to hop onto that bus to Boston and explore places that I may never come back to. Everywhere I go, I always tell myself, "How often am I really going to come here?" and it reminds me to make good use of my time. This might sound a little bit conceited, but I am grateful for the extra push that the Ivy League Connection has given me. At the same time though, I am glad that I made the choice this morning to get off my bed and to hop onto that bus to Boston. 

The Fantastic Four: Ying-An, Me, Marisa, and Avery (That's not a statue behind us. It's a person)

Here's to New Experiences

After much anticipation, today we finally got to go to Boston. David, Kelly, and I woke up early to eat breakfast at the Ratty. Unfortunately, it is closed on weekends so instead we headed to Starbucks and waited in a long line because apparently, everyone had the same idea. When we got back it was time for us to begin boarding buses. Kelly and I boarded bus five along with a group of girls who are in her class. They were all really nice and welcoming to me. They are all from different parts of the United States, like Texas, New Jersey, and Illinois. After the long ride we finally made it to Boston where the temperature was steadily rising.

Quincy Market
The first thing we did was walk to Faneuil Hall Marketplace which was one of the first places merchants were able to come together and sell their goods (like supermarkets) in colonial times. Inside, there were a ton of different food stalls and even though I wasn't hungry yet, my eyes said otherwise. We then continued to walk around the surrounding area of the marketplace and checked out all of the different shops nearby. At 12 we ate lunch after scoring a table which is nearly impossible in such a busy place. 

After eating, we walked to the "T" train station and headed to Newbury Street. When buying the ticket I had a few technically difficulties but a nice Boston native was able to help me and send me on my way. The trains in Boston are fairly similar to BART with minor differences. To me personally, the train in Boston is a lot nosier and less stable because of the continuous turns throughout the tunnel.

Eventually we reached our destination and began exploring the land of Newbury. The streets were lined with store after store. There were so many different little stores and even major chains that it was hard to decide where to go in our two hour window. It was a very interesting shopping with these girls. Many of them are from affluent backgrounds so the high prices didn't seem to tip the off. Things they thought were a "good deal", was an arm and a leg to me. I didn't mind though and I enjoyed the  imaginary shopping in my head.

After tons of shopping and tons of breaks because of the sourcing sun, it was time to head back to the "T" and make our way to bus number five. The train back was really crowded but we all made it back safe and sound. Once we boarded our bus, it was a straight shoot to Providence.

I had a great time in Boston today. And while originally I believed that I didn't want to live in Boston because there was too much congestion, today gave me a new prospective on the city. It is definitely something I will have to consider when searching for colleges. But for now, I will continue to enjoy the rest of my stay at Brown. 

A Challenge a Day...

During our time here at Brown, we’ve met, faced, and overcome many challenges. 

(To be continued...)

I’m really having the time of my life here. On a more melancholic note, today marks the end of our second week. After seeing the one and two weekers packing their bags for departure, I realized that in one week, that will be us. Sadly we have so little time left in this place that I now call home, but I am excited nonetheless to face whatever new challenges I may meet in the third and last week here at Brown University.

Tomorrow is the Summer@Brown sponsored trip to Boston. Since I missed out on the Newport trip last week, I'll be greatly looking forward this to excursion to do some sightseeing outside Providence.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thursday In a Nutshell

To continue my recap of the past few days, Thursday was less eventful, but interesting nonetheless.

After leaving our DNA to incubate for 24 hours, I was itching to continue the lab. We did all of that today, plus lab 12. First we followed the procedure for purifying the DNA, then for its precipitation by adding ethanol. DNA becomes visible pretty quickly in ethanol because of its properties, so my heart skipped a beat when I thought it wasn’t going to appear, and that all my effort had been to waste. I breathed a huge sigh of relief watching the small, white, wispy strands of my genetic molecule float up to the top of the solution—also meaning that it wasn’t contaminated with protein!

Finally completing the purification process, we ran a small sample of our DNA through a spectrophotometer to test its concentration (purity), obtaining a 260/280 ratio. This is the ratio of DNA to any protein remaining in the sample. Any ratio above 1.6 means the DNA is pure enough to be used in the lab (cut by restriction enzymes, etc.). I'm happy to report that my sample came through with a ratio of over 1.9.
Jody emphasized the powerful asset of knowing how to purify DNA for someone to work in a lab. I’m really glad that I’m have this chance to get used to the flow of working in a bio lab and learning a lot of necessary skills for being in a laboratory environment. I can really see myself doing scientific research in a lab in the future, and it’s something that I want to pursue. What strikes me about our school district is that we don’t really help students prepare for working in an actual lab. I know that when I first came I was confused. Of course, with these new-found privileges comes responsibility. In that way, we are seen and treated as adults here, something that would probably never happen back home. At my high school, we always waited on the teacher to give instructions and guide us through every step, but here, we work at our own paces and make our own judgment calls. Of course, I make many blunders along the way, but it is all part of the learning process. Maybe there’s some way to bring back these crucial skills I’ve learned to the students at my school…

Afterwards, I spent most of the rest of the day studying the class's central paper on epigenetics to prepare for the next day's discussion.

Challenge Accepted by Team Swarles Barkley

Today we finished all of the major topics of our Macoreconomics course, and I'm looking forward to a fun final week of class, especially our Monday class in the computer lab of the science library, where we will run all sorts of economic simulations. We wrapped up the new material we would be learning (the last week will be review for the test) with sections on foreign exchange rates, and monetary policies the Federal Reserve can use to adjust those exchange rates. We reviewed the previous homework for an hour with our TA Desi after the class teased her about Rafael Nadal's early exit from Wimbledon (at our teacher's request) and I was pleasantly surprised to say that yet again I understood a considerable portion of the homework. 

I headed off to the gym for a couple of hours, so I only received my mom's text at 3:00 telling me that they had sent me a package that I could pick up today. I assumed I would have at least a couple of hours to figure out where the package was and then go back and pick it up, so I nonchalantly wandered around campus for around a half hour before running into a friend that had picked up a package a few days earlier, and who was willing to lead me to the right building. After going to the original office where my package supposedly was, I was sent upstairs, then across a hall, until at 3:58, I was told by the third person I had been sent to that I was supposed to head over to a building fifteen minutes away, and which closed in two. After I explained that I had perishable food (cake pops (or balls of cake covered in chocolate and placed on a stick) baked by a little sister whose sole goal in life was for me to get those cake pops (I may have exaggerated the truth a little bit here, I think that ranks about third on her all-time goals list), they gave me the phone number of the mail service, and told me that if I ran (in sandals) I might be able to make it. Unfortunately, I had no idea where that building was, but luckily I convinced a friend to help navigate for me while I begged the man at the mail services center to stay open for a few more minutes (don't worry, I switched navigators so I wouldn't have to go to three wrong places before I even found out where I was supposed to go). Thanks to the most intense power-walking sandals have ever seen before, I was able to make it to the mail services at 4:02, and found my box fairly quickly. I rushed back to the dorm, eager to open the package, because while I did know that the box would contain cake pops, I was curious as to how my sister would incorporate Brown into them, which she said she did. The box of 30 brown, bear-shaped cake pops shown below looked amazing, and tasted even better. I looked at my clock and saw that I would have to rush to make it to our meeting with Mrs. Kaplan
We met with Mrs. Kaplan to discuss how our classes and experiences have been and headed over to Rick's Roadhouse, home of the "wings from hell." We had met there once before, and after each having one of those wings, Tayler, Ying-An, and I each thought we could handle the six wings required to earn a place on the wall of fame. Naturally, we decided that if we ever had the chance, we would head down to Rick's Roadhouse with the sole intent of attempting the wings from hell challenge. When we learned that Mrs. Kaplan wanted to meet with us today, we decided now was as good a day as any to kill off at least half of our taste buds. 
While I'd rather not recount what it felt like during and for an hour after taking on this wings challenge, as my temperature goes up around ten degrees just thinking about it, I would like to share that Tayler, Ying-An, and I all were able to finish the wings, with help from our support groups. Each of us happened to sit next to one of the three ILCers smart enough not to attempt the challenge, and Emily and I made up the self-named Team Swarley. After our accomplishment, we took a group photo to be placed up on the wall of fame in the future, the side-angle of which is shown below. 
Today was a very successful day overall, and I am ecstatic to head over to Boston with Summer@Brown tomorrow!

Friday Night Delights

We concluded the second week of class today. Even while microfuging our ligated DNA I felt pangs of dismay, realizing that next week was our last. I'm surprised at how easily I've become attached

It wouldn't be enough to call my relationship with the place and the people unforgettable. My study group and I are inseparable; we play pickup games of frisbee, work out and eat our meals together, and have our own giant table at the Sharpe Refractory. Tonight, we watched the Lorax under the big projector in Salomon Hall. In other words, we do a lot more than studying.

To the great relief of the class, our instructor Jody and TA Colby are great explainers. We went over the essentials of the Central Paper from last night, and discussing the figures really demystified the mind-boggling research results. They were patient as we tried to wrap our heads around protein isoforms in alternative splicing.

I'm so used to the promotion of independent learning here, but it was definitely helpful when Jody pointed out elements we hadn't picked up on before. She's been such a great facilitator, that it's barely noticeable when Jody catalyzes our thought process analysis of ligated plasmid possibilities, again based on electrophoresis. Although we perform different labs every day, we've established routines when it comes down to lab basics.

After dinner, David, Tayler, and I finally checked out Federal Hill by trolley. Its heralders were right, food was everywhere. Music and fresh aromas filled Atwells Avenue, and the atmosphere of banners, eateries, tri-colored striped fire hydrants, was brimming with Italian influence. I savored perhaps the most palatable, mouthwateringly melt-in-your-mouth pastry ever at Pastiche.

The Speed of Time

Beautiful sunset on Federal Hill later in the evening
It's hard to believe that two weeks flew by without warning. I woke up prepared to start yet another day at the amazing Brown University. Halfway through class, I realized I didn't have much time left to do what I wanted to do. This weekend would be my last chance to go all out and explore Providence's people and places to its fullest. Monday would be homework cramming, homework is due Tuesday, there is no class on Wednesday, Macroeconomic test is on Thursday, and my last day would be Friday. Some people are glad that they'll finally be able to get back to your soft, non-dorm beds and pillows. I, on the other hand, have gotten accustomed to these problems. My dorm has become my room, the dorm bed has become my own bed, and the keys to my room have become the keys to my house. I can't possibly believe that time passes so fast, especially when you are truly enjoying yourself. I guess for me, I really enjoyed myself, because the two weeks felt like two days. 

The amazing Nicholas Coleman (caught him
during his lecture)
Today, we became introduced to world trade, how currency is effected from demand and supply, and a short explanation about the Phillips curve (how theoretically, the unemployment rate has a negative relation with inflation). It was some really interesting stuff, especially when Professor Coleman (once again) related it to real life applications. He used "false examples" by comparing different currencies and making situations for us to look at. For example, we talked about how the euro is losing its value compared to the Singaporean dollar. To solve this problem, you would need to sell more euros and buy Singaporean dollars, causing the demand for euros to increase. It's so great when we use examples so we can get a feel for what we're trying to get at with these new terms, and also to help us relate them back with our daily lives. For world trade, we talked about how when a country's currency is lower, their goods cost less, making the demand for their goods increase. For example, China's currency is relatively "low" and labor is too. This way, when people are importing Chinese goods, they don't need to pay as much. And since people would never resist missing out on a bargain, they buy the cheaper goods more often. 

I ate lunch at the V-Dubb with Avery and Noah. We finished our meal of french fries, burgers, rice, chicken, and a bowl of ice cream, and headed down to the Rock where we started our project. The Macroeconomics project is basically a PowerPoint presentation of an economic topic of our choice. Our group (Avery, Noah, Sai, and I) decided to do our project on the euro crisis in Greece. It's a really great hands-on project for us to do online research and to get our opinions across. I was so surprised when I looked at the articles where they talked about aggregate supply/demand, and deficit and inflation. I had actually understood the terms and what the articles were talking about! This further proves that Introduction to Macroeconomics has truly educated me on the economy. In summary, we outlined our presentation for our project, completed a few slides, and figured out a way to make our presentation last 10-15 minutes within the two hours we spent at the Rock. 

Our competitors (from left to right): Nick Shebek, Ying-An Wang, and Tayler Ward

From competitors to champions
I ate out at Rick's Roadhouse for dinner with the rest of the guys. Nick, Tayler, and Ying wanted to challenge themselves by eating the "Wings from Hell". Supposedly, they are the hottest wings in all of Providence, and if you finish all six pieces, you get your picture put up on the Wall of Fame. All three of them sped past the wings, like they were nothing. It was only 15 minutes later when the aftermath finally hit them and they started feeling their tongues again. Nonetheless, it's very clear that we have champions from WCCUSD; whether or not they're champions in school, or of spicy chicken wings. 

Guess who got dessert on Federal Hill
After dinner, Ms. Kaplan dropped us back outside of our dorms and we had to decide what to do for the rest of the evening. Kelly suggested we walk on Thayer Street and look around. By the time she got bored, she suggested we take the public transit to Federal Hill (where Providence Prime was) and walk around there instead. It was about 5 minutes away on the bus, and the walk around killed about half an hour. Federal Hill is packed with fancy Italian restaurants, bustling couples hand in hand, and crimson red Porches lying on the streets. It was definitely a great place to go for an evening stroll at. It's great to know that there is another side to Providence that still hasn't been explored yet. This feeling only makes me feel more motivated to explore Providence more during my last week here. 

Photo Collage of attractions on Federal Hill
I ended the night watching "The Lorax" in Soloman Hall with Kelly and Tayler. It was a great way to end my evening. Tomorrow, we'll be heading to Boston. I'm so excited and sad that this will be my last weekend here in Brown. I intend to live it up to the fullest, and keep my eyes open for the unexpected. If there's anything that you can always find in the east coast, it's got to be unexpected surprises. 

Mission Accomplished

As today marked the final class of the second week, our cohort and Mrs. Kaplan all decided to coordinate a meeting to talk about our experiences so far. We returned to Rick's Roadhouse, mostly to discuss our classes, but also partly because of the 'WINGS FROM HELL.' After eating one during our last trip (I may or may not have cried...), I decided to sit this one out with Kelly and David. Brave souls Tayler, Ying-An, and Nick all chose to willingly put themselves through copious amounts of pain, all to get on the wall of fame. Honestly, just sitting next to Nick was painful for my taste buds, but I tried to help as best as I could by taking lots of embarrassing photos. Incredibly, however, all three challengers proved that Cali taste buds could handle whatever Rhode Island could throw at them. This theme of overcoming obstacles has been reoccurring during this whole trip, both academically and socially.  

I'm overjoyed that Summer@Brown provides trips on the weekends; tomorrow, I'll be going to Boston! After already having gone to Newport with them, I know that I can expect a lot of freedom, with only a time to return limiting what I can do. Having been born and raised on the West Coast, a lot of the East Coast's famous cities and sites are hidden beneath a shroud of my ignorance. It's disappointing to me that, even with internet and cable TV on my side, I still don't know what some of the main attractions of Boston are. On the bright side, I've become friends with someone who lives right outside the city, so we'll have our very own tour guide to show us around.

When I checked in with my RA tonight, I was asked for a 'nag and brag.' Or, in other words, what's something that's bringing you down, and what's something that making you happy. My brag was easy: at home, my parents just got a new bed, so they moved their old queen sized Tempur-Pedic into my room. I had more trouble with my nag. I'm honestly so happy here that finding fault with my experience seems dishonest. Then in an illuminating moment, I realized that next week is the last week of class. A little more than one week, and I'll be home, napping in my comfy bed, and sorely missing the rock-hard dorm mattresses. 

Your Future, Your Hands

We have completed another week of class here at Brown U. In today's class we covered our last two new concepts, Foreign Exchange and the Philip's Curve. We've already made it through everything we needed to cover in order to do well on our final. Next week will consist of computer lab, a day of topics of our choice, a day off, the final, and then our final presentations. We are nearing the end of our trip and it's actually a frightening notion. After all the planning and countless hours of effort and support put  in by everyone who made it possible for me to be here, its almost over.

The Smiles of Champions
On a happier note, after class I took a quick nap before walking the streets of Thayer with Kelly and checking out the interesting street vendors. After a couple of hours we met up with our cohort and headed to Rick's Roadhouse. We had been here before but this time it was different. Nick, Ying, and I decided to officially take the challenge of devouring some of the spiciest wings ever. With six wings on our plate and a cup full of milk we readily took the challenge and all completed it with flying colors. After cheers and lots of pictures, I really felt accomplished. Not because I had just crushed the challenge but because the whole experience reminded me of my time with the ILC. Challenge after challenge I have readily accepted. And each time, I pe to the best of my abilities and succeeded. From taking the first steps to joining the ILC, to forcing myself to branch out and meet new people at Brown. This has all been a challenge and a journey that I am thrilled to be apart of.

After all the incitement, I headed over to Salomon Hall to participate in one of Brown's scheduled activities. Tonight's activity was a movie night. Originally the movie was Sherlock Holmes but at the last minute they changed the movie to The Lorax which I did not mind at all. The Lorax is about a town where everything is fake and plastic. The main character sets out on a journey to bring trees back to his home. On his way he runs in to challenges but he keeps going. Eventually he is successful and the movie ends with a quote about taking initiative.

I found it pretty interesting that the movie we watched related so much to what I have been learning during my time on the East Coast. Life isn't just about skating by. If you want something you have to go for it. I owe a lot of the lessons I've learned to the ILC because it has taught me to strive for the best. Everything in life is up to you, and you have to be willing to take the chances.

Tomorrow we head off to Boston for another day of exploring and fun with the wonderful people I've met at Summer@Brown and I absolutely cannot wait.

New Test Subject--Myself!

The last few days have blown past. While trying to balance my work and sleep schedules, I was faced with 'writer's block', leaving me hard-pressed to blog these past days, and I apologize. I will post a blog for every day that I have missed, recapping the events each day, starting with Wednesday:

The Ratty!
Surprisingly, I did not have any trouble at all waking up bright and early Wednesday morning, probably in anticipation for getting blood drawn. Standing in line at Health Services, most people were pretty worried. Colby further assured us by comparing the needle to an ice pick. Although I’ve had blood drawn countless times, I became increasingly worried as I heard stories about people getting pricked two, more than three times unsuccessfully. My fears were soon realized in when the nurse I had could not locate the veins in my arm. Even after she found two, both of them rolled—after I had been pricked. She finally decided on one in my left hand, which much to my relief drew blood. It didn’t help much that the nurse allowed the needle to do a 360 inside my hand while it was in the vein. I deposited my little 6 mL vial of blood and left quickly after the near painful experience. We had a break before class reconvened at 10 AM, and I went and had breakfast for the first time at the Sharpe Refectory (aka the Ratty), the other dining hall on campus. I have to say, I prefer the Ratty greatly over the V-Dub for almost everything.  It’s a lot more spacious, there’s more variety and quality in the food, and there are even TVs!

Back in the lab, our blood vials were centrifuged in order to separate the different components in blood. When we got them back they had been divided into three distinct layers: plasma, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Plasma, the thick top layer of clear liquid was 90% water and carries different chemicals including nutrients and wastes, and the dark red bottom layer was the red blood cells. The very thin middle layer was the white blood cells, resting lightly on the red blood layer. Our goal was to carefully extract these cells, the only component with DNA.

My Centrifuged Blood
It felt strange on many levels to work with my own blood, a part of me. I was took extra care to be cautious while I was working with it. After all, when else am I going to have the chance to analyze my own DNA? Through the Extraction procedure, we attempted to get as much DNA out of our cells while avoiding/filtering out other molecules. Following the long protocol listed in our manuals, I tried to contemplate each step and its purpose.
At the same time separate from the experiment, we held a blood typing for the inquisitive. Instead of using the blood we had already had, we drew it fresh from our fingers. We used anti-A, anti-B, and anti-Rh solutions to actually test the blood. Even though I already know my blood type (at least I think so), it was just part of the fun we have in the lab. My type is O-, which is supposedly the rarest and is the universal donor (it can be given to anybody), but in turn, I can only receive O- blood.
Most of the curriculum in DNA/Biotech at Brown is lab-oriented, and the material we learn from outside are just to supplement the techniques we do in class. The lab work we do is a lot more in-depth and engaging in comparison to what I did at ECHS. I remember that in AP Biology, it felt like we did the labs just going through the motions, with no real purpose and not being able to experience firsthand the things that we read about in textbooks. Sometimes when an experiment was blown, we used the book’s results as a model. Therefore, I never felt like I really connected with the material or it ignited my passion for the subject. I can definitely speak differently about my experiences here at Brown.
On a side note, the labs seem to be getting more rigorous and every day we are doing more and more at the same time. This Wednesday also marked the halfway point of our stay at Brown, but it feels like we barely got here. The next day we were scheduled to continue working on our own DNA, as well as lab 12, which I made sure to read beforehand.

Playing Catch-Up

June has been a month of graduations for my family!  My youngest brother graduated from St. Helena Catholic School (8th grade), another brother graduated from Vintage High School, and I graduated from CSU, East Bay with my Master’s Degree  in Educational Leadership! I finally completed and submitted my inquiry portfolio (145 pages!) along with my leadership reflection (another 19 pages), so I now have some time to catch up on blogging.  I am part of the Brown Cohort II: Women and Leadership.  We have a great group of girls preparing to depart for Brown University next week.  I have had the opportunity to meet with the girls and their parents on several occasions.  Our first meeting was a casual, informal potluck where we all got to know each other a bit better.  The atmosphere of the potluck was laid-back, cordial, and sociable.  I engaged in pleasant conversations with parents, students, and chaperones while enjoying an assortment of delicious foods brought by each participant. 

Me with my fiancĂ©, Marcus Sams, at my Commencement Ceremony 

I was enormously impressed by the Ivy League Connection student participants at the Pinole City Council meeting.  I was especially struck by the speaking abilities, maturity, depth and caliber of each student.  We truly have an amazing group of young people who are passionate about their educations and extremely articulate and confident.     

We met with all of the ILCers and parents at the May School Board Meeting.  Here we introduced each ILC program and their students.  After introducing the students, chaperones, and schools, the sponsors were acknowledged and thanked for their continued support.  Lastly, we took our group photo- which turned out very well, if I do say so myself!

The Brown dinner was a momentous event hosted at the critically acclaimed Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco.  This was a large, formal affair.  Here I had the opportunity to meet the students from the other Brown cohort as well as Brown alumni and our generous donors.  I was seated between two charming gentlemen, one the owner of a publishing company in Kensington and the other an architect.  We feasted on a superb three-course meal while enjoying engaging and stimulating conversations.  The architect actually built a portion of St. Helena High School, which is where I had my first teaching assignment.  I am originally from Napa, and St. Helena is in the Napa Valley, so naturally the topic of Napa brought up anecdotes of wine tasting excursions and favorite locations.  The owner of the publishing company is U.C. Berkeley alum with a degree in English and is the father of five daughters around my age.  I, too, have a degree in English as well as Dramatic Art.  Coincidentally, I also have seven brothers and sisters, so I am not a stranger to the concept of a large family!   We enjoyed delightful exchanges regarding literature, theatre, and family.  The conversation flowed as freely as the wine and led to a wonderful evening out.  I was touched by the generosity of our donors and the poise and charisma of each student participant.

My final encounter with the ILCers took place at our orientation.  Here we went over final logistics, packing lists, loaner items, ILC protocols, rules, procedures, and expectations for the upcoming trips.  The meeting was efficient and served its purpose of orienting all participants for what lies ahead.  I am now preparing to embark on our adventures on the East Coast with the amazing and talented students of the WCCUSD.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brown Battle Scars

I badly needed a break from "The Central Paper." Albeit fascinating in its findings, this eighteen page treatise on nature versus nature (i.e. the epigenetic implications from methylation studies of the GCP gene expression altered the environmental trigger of maternal care, translated into elevated HRA stress response in abused suicide victims) gave the class headaches.

Our job was to analyze the figures, interpret the data based on the experimental findings, and draw conclusions about the experiment's design. Jody has emphasized that she doesn't expect us to pick up and immediately comprehend a professional research paper of this level. On the other had, this practice will play a part in our final presentation next Friday. I've provided a preview of the thrill ahead of us.

The day couldn't be all work and no play. As newbies to the fun field of Frisbee (as of yesterday) our study group inevitably was challenged to duel this morning. The black-clad Ninjas faced off against Brown grads led by our class TA, Colby. It amazes me how an aspiring cardiologist headed to med school at Tufts would be interested in spending time tossing Frisbee with high school kids. We, of course, got more than we bargained for. 

"Collegiate Ultimate" as Colby calls it, gets intense. I dove several feet in the air and landed on a biochemistry major's legs to save a pass, double-teamed and intercepted a guy who works at the Brown card office, got totaled by a flying frisbee straight in the face, and now wear my bruised nose of a battle scar proudly.

Nothing bonds people like sweat and blood. I might be having too much fun at Brown. It's true that I find myself connecting with these brilliant teenagers from across the world. Regardless of our backgrounds, private versus public institution, socioeconomic conditions, or life obstacles, I also find myself just as able to compete with them (despite being from a district many deem disadvantaged, I'm the only student in our class get to a Calculus BC class by junior year) as able to play Frisbee and have a good time with them. Our incredible differences and diversity are things to celebrate, while the environment at Brown brings us together.

As serious about winning as we are about glucocorticoid gene expression.

We Are the Future

Coming to Brown has made me realize a lot of things. Little sayings that I had heard so many times that they had almost lost meaning are actually becoming accurate. "Your generation is the future" is one that I've been hearing for years. Only recently have I realized that this is reality! Sitting in class today, we were discussing the healthcare bill that just passed. For starters, I'm still overjoyed to be learning in an arena where politically aware conversation can even occur, nevertheless to have people who are actually intrigued by the topic to be speaking about it. In my high school classes, even if we are talking about current events, there's usually one general viewpoint that most everyone agrees with. Of course, there's also that one guy who argues just to argue, but thankfully my macro class is lacking one of them. In any case, it was a wake-up call for me, to realize that in a couple years, I'll be voting on issues that are relevant and significant. A few years after that, people my age will be running for office. I know that there is only a small percentage of a chance that I'll know anyone who's running or elected into any kind of office, but there is someone who is my age right now, a part of my generation, who grew up watching the same TV as me, who is going to president someday. And to be honest, if I do know that person, I'll know them from here. Brown University is full of people who are extremely bright and ambitious.

I've met people here who have been preparing for college applications from the time they were in 4th grade. In 4th grade, I was more concerned that my stuffed animals were lonely. However, I've always considered myself as reasonably smart; I took APs, honors classes, and scored well on the SAT. When I'm amidst a couple hundred students that I'll be competing against to get into top tier schools, though, I can't help but feel deficient. As much as I love ECHS, and am so grateful for all of the amazing teachers I've had, the simple fact is that students who spend near $30,000 dollars on school per year have gotten a better education than I have. A lot of fundamental algebra and english is simply missing from my repertoire; this comes back quite often to trip me up in higher level classes. I don't mean to complain, I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything in the world, but I just wish that I could have it all.

Introduction to Reality

I wish waking up was one of my natural talents, but it isn't. I put my alarm on snooze for the first time since I've been at Brown. My hours of sleep are slowly getting to me. I dashed down the stairs with my books in my hand and met up with Avery, Piper, and William under the stop sign. We got to the dining hall, but I decided to sit with Tayler for breakfast instead. We walked into the empty class ten minutes earlier. Today, we talked about the different types of money/currency and how the bank system works in terms of loaning and investing. 

My favorite part in Macroeconomics class is always when we relate the lessons to real life applications. Today, we talked about the risks of Obama's health care plan, why it had to go through the Supreme Court, and what economists were worried about if the plan would be passed. (It passed, obviously.) Two important terms to understand are adverse selection (how only people who really get into situations need insurance) and moral hazard (how people act after they get their insurance). With Obama's new health care plan, everyone gets to have health care, which solves the adverse selection problem, because now, you get health care whether or not you really desire it. Since everyone would have health insurance, more people would be paying, and the fee would cut down into smaller portions. On the contrary, it raises the moral hazard rate, because now, more people might act badly since they have insurance to cover them. One example Professor Coleman used was buying speeding ticket insurance, where the insurance company will pay for your speeding tickets for a monthly fee. In terms of adverse selection, only people who speed a lot would need to buy speeding ticket insurance. However, once people get speeding insurance, they might (statistically) feel protected enough to speed even more than usual because they know that their insurance would cover it. 

These lessons give us more of a reason why we study these courses. A lot of students always say things like "Why are we learning about triangles? We're never going to need to use this in life." or "What's so important about science? I'm not even going to be a scientist." Students aren't able to relate so much of the stuff they learn in school to real life applications so they feel that an education is a "waste of their time". With Professor Coleman, this is never a problem. Once a term is related to a real life application, you'll always remember it, and start using it in your daily routine. I can't deny the fact that I sometimes use the idea of supply and demand unintentionally. It's true that you won't be calculating the area of a triangle anytime soon in life, but one day, you might want to be a painter and you might need to know how much paint you can fill your board with. It's true that science might not be your career path, but science is all around us. Knowledge of gravity, the rain cycle, and our how we are able to breathe are things that we take for granted all the time. How many people have actually learned how rain is produced outside of school? This is one of the more important aspects in an education, and it's something that I can experience in my "Introduction to Macroeconomics" class. This is what sets this class apart from my classes in high school. 

Blog party!
I spent the rest of the day finishing up my homework with Nick, Emily, and Tayler at the Rockefeller Library. Ying-An tagged along with us so he could get a head start on his work as well. I left the library around 3 PM and headed back to my dorm. I took a few minutes of rest and decided to call up my friend Avery so we could finish the rest of the homework together. We lost track of time trying to figure out the AP Macroeconomics question in the end, and missed dinner. So instead, we walked towards the aroma of the food trucks and got Korean BBQ for dinner instead. I ended the night with some good food, good weather, and with my good, old, and reliable blogging group. I couldn't ask for a more amazing day. Tomorrow will be Friday, and then my last week at Brown will begin. I don't think I'm ready to leave yet...

Book Worm

My day consisted of studying, studying, and more studying (with a couple of food breaks in-between). In class we covered a few more topics including politics and the now passed "Obama Care". We spent a good portion of the class talking about current events going on in the world like the upcoming US elections. My favorite moments in the class are when our instructor gets so enthralled in what he is talking about that you can't help but get excited too. Often in public schools that is lost because many teachers can't just teach, they have to babysit too, so its an amazing feeling when this actually happens. After a day of lecturing with our instructor, us ILCers headed off to the Rock for a few hours to finish our homework that is due this Friday. Every study session we have I thoroughly enjoy it. Not only are we reviewing the material but we are actually understanding it. I think it is a whole different experience when you have your peers helping you on the course work rather than just your instructor. So for the duration of my stay at Brown I will definitely continue to make use of our study sessions.

Study Session at The Rock
Afterwards I headed back to my dorm to get a head start on my group project which is due on the last day of class, July 6th (my how time flies). I will be presenting the introduction of our project so it needs to good. I think it will be really interesting to see the presentations of all of the groups projects. Each group chose a topic that was important to them. At the end we have to choose a side and explain why our group stuck with this side. It'll be very interesting to hear which sides everyone ends up deciding with.

Next came dinner at the Ratty with Ying and a quick group meeting to discuss my class project. I then went back to room and continued to hit the books and absorb as much material as my brain could handle before heading over to David's to study some more.

Throughout my time with the ILC I have learned so much in such a short period of time. From touring the various colleges, to meeting the fantastic people, this whole experience has been a whirlwind. Everyday when I wake up I still can't believe this has happened. I still remember Don coming to my school to talk to a room full of students who were just as excited about this program as I was. And before I knew it I was getting an email that said I had made it to the interview. This whole experience has opened my eyes to amazing opportunities that are right in front of me. I am immensely grateful to the Ivy League Connection for granting me this opportunity to see just what my future can hold.

And He Banks It In

Just as usual, I woke up, showered, brushed my teeth, ate and headed off to class, where we learned about banks. I have been completely immersed in my morning routine for what feels like months, and still can't get over the fact that I will be leaving Brown just a week and a day from now. These have been a fun and productive couple of weeks, and I can't wait to finish this course strong, absorbing everything I can about Macroeconomics and college life. While I have learned a lot about everything I expected to learn about, from the economy to everything I could about different colleges and the application process, I have learned way more about myself than I had expected to.
Last year, when I had the privilege of going to Cornell thanks to the Ivy League Connection, I was so in awe of the alien world that was a college campus, that I got pretty caught up in the course (which isn't really a bad thing, enjoying classes tends to be useful) and before I had time to think about what was really happening and how I felt about the whole experience, it was already over. I know I never truly had a chance to appreciate that opportunity, because when I was asked to write a reflective blog about how the experience changed me, I completely drew a blank for a few days. I ended up realizing that I had matured and was more self-sufficient, but I didn't understand myself any better after the trip, which was my only regret about my time with the program. This year, I was determined to stop and smell the roses, and see if I could grow as a person during my time on the East Coast. While there hasn't been a major change, I finally think I have a better feel for understanding which colleges would be a good fit for me and which colleges wouldn't, and I've also surprised myself with my new found ability to (somewhat) learn in groups.
I have always been able to work with groups, for group projects and the like, but when it comes to actually understanding the course material, I always preferred reading through a textbook myself if I didn't understand a teacher's initial lesson on the subject. With a course like Macroeconomics, a subject I knew nothing about, that strategy probably wouldn't have worked too well for me, so I was relieved when I learned that the Macro ILCers were meeting at the Rock to try to figure out the homework. I was always used to these sorts of homework sessions ending up with varying individuals actually understanding the problem, and having to explain it to everyone else, only to not understand the next problem and have to rely on someone else to explain it to them. While this is useful as far as finishing a homework assignment goes, it isn't too helpful in the actually understanding the material side, since regurgitating what your friend told you isn't quite the same as knowing what you're talking about. I was pleasantly surprised to learn at our first session that when everyone has a decent grasp on the concepts, we could all bounce ideas about how to solve the problem off of each other, and when we finally figured out a problem, it was because we, not one person, had figured out the problem. It was great getting to see that everyone could learn in a group, and that has been immensely helpful in getting me through Macroeconomics so far. 
While I still don't have a full-blown checklist for what I want or don't want in a school, I now understand what people mean when they say the get the "feeling" that a college is right for them. I got the feeling as soon as I stepped on MIT's campus, which is a bit unfortunate since it seems all but impossible to get into. I thoroughly enjoyed Dartmouth and Yale, and had a better idea of what schools would be a good fit for me, because even if they weren't my absolute dream school, I could picture myself being successful at those colleges. I didn't much like Wesleyan due to size, and I am surprised to say that I can't quite see myself at Brown. I expected to love Brown, and don't get me wrong it's a gorgeous campus and a great school, but I have sort of a reverse "feeling" whenever I picture myself going here. I don't dislike Brown, but I feel like I could talk myself into wanting to attend this university, only to realize on the first day that it wasn't the right school for me. I am so relieved that it is possible for me to start to distinguish between the schools I will fit in at and those I won't, and am grateful to the ILC for giving me this opportunity to learn both inside the classroom and out. 

Student Study Groups

I have spent the last couple of days reading over many of the Brownie blogs. Like Don mentioned a few days ago, insert more pictures of you guys and what your doing. It make the blogs more interesting. The one thing that I have noticed is your use of study groups. This is a very good habit to develop early. It is essential in college to use study groups to digest the amount of information you are expected to aquire and retain. I hope you bring this practice back with you for next year.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bloody Wednesday

This was not a day for the squeamish. Convening bright and early at 8 AM in Health Services, our class was on edge for the big blood draw. Besides a few somersaulting stomachs among us, it was no big deal, as I distracted myself by discussing California with the sweet old woman probing a needle into my arm for blood cells. She complemented me on my large, healthy veins gushing like Mt. Vesuvius, while I felt sorry for many of my girlfriends who suffered multiple pricks from unsuccessful withdrawals as the nurses struggled to find their veins.

Afterwards, I came out giggling at the weird warmth of the test tube of my own blood. My friend jokingly pondered about drinking hers. Luckily, we returned to the lab soon enough and began the protocols for isolating our cells, and eventually extracting the DNA. Seeing the wispy, translucent strands- the fruits of our early morning labors and battle scars and tourniquet marks- was the ultimate highlight. These are the things we read about in textbooks; I never expected to be actually performing it nor the mind-boggling fun I'm having.

From a single expression of curiosity, we embarked on an impromptu blood-typing adventure! In the lab against the hall with a back drop of a dissection team working on cat cadavers, we were provided anti-A, anti-B, and anti-Rh solutions to test with the blood we could squeeze out of our finger with a mechanized pricker. Honestly, I was more testy about the tiny pricker than the nurse's needles. My initial nerves calmed after the paper cut of a prick, and next thing, I was on to cutting the fingers of other girls too rattled to self-inflict.

The ILC Brownies met up for an afternoon tour of John Brown's house. Brown, an interesting character, wealthy merchant/slave trader, and Patriot whose esteem for George Washington seeps into home decor, tenured as treasurer of Rhode Island College (before it became Brown University) for two decades. While the local historical society largely restored the house to the 18th century version of opulence (quite different from the gaudy glitz of The Breakers of the Gilded Age),  its interesting mix of anachronisms appeal to history buffs and students of architecture or design. More importantly, we learned about Providence's distinguished founding and colonial history.

I think it's really awesome how Brown brings prominent experts from a variety of fields as speakers available to summer college audiences. Our study group decided to attend one of the lectures tonight on career paths to science, and we were excited walking together to Salomon Hall from dinner. Disappointed to discover it cancel, we opted for an intensely fun game of Ultimate Frisbee until dark, when we retreated to the dorms to dissect the Central Paper and play Apples to Apples.

History in the Making

The day began with another day of our fabulous Macroeconomics course with our professor Nick Coleman. Today we continued yesterday's topic on Aggregate Demand and Supply. It is a lot clearer to me than before but I will definitely have to go through the chapter again to make sure I got everything. We also went over "The Multiplier" concept. This is the concept that when you have money a portion of that money is saved and the rest is spent and ends up in some one else's hands and so on.

After class and lunch, we met up with Ms. Kaplan to go on a tour of the nearby John Brown house. John Brown was the self-proclaimed "Cleverest Boy in Providence Town" in the 1700s. He was a merchant and adventurer and had the first mansion in Providence. He was very prominent in the slave trade industry even though his brother, Moses, opposed it. He was also elected treasurer of Rhode Island College now known as Brown University (Although the school was not named for him but his nephew). We started out the tour watching a video about the history of the house and it's three owners, which is amazing seeing that it was constructed in 1786. The Rhode Island Historical Society has since restored the house to its original design in the 1700s. In almost every room there we mannequins dressed in the exact clothing that belonged to the family members who the mannequins represented. All of the rooms had antique furniture in them dating back to that time period. And while there were parts of the house that had been renovated by the 2 other owners, for the most part it was a pretty accurate representation of what John Brown came home to.

For me personally, touring this house was a great experience. History is my favorite subject so getting to see how some one from so long ago and who was a very prominent person in his community lived was really amazing. It was really interesting to see the architecture and paintings from the time period in the home. I really enjoyed the museum.

At 7 o'clock it was time for us Macroeconomics students to head over to Smitty-B. Since we will be missing class on July 4th, we have to make up for lost time. Nick Coleman thought it would be fun for us to watch a movie on economics. After a quick vote last week our class decided on Moneyball staring Brad Pitt. Although it isn't exactly related to economics, our instructor approved. Once everyone had arrived we sat back and enjoyed our much anticipated movie night.

Today marked the 8th day in our Macroeconomics class which means we are over half way through with our class. I've learned so much already in this short amount of time. Not just in the classroom, but out side of it also from the friends I've made and the experiences I've had. Even though I never want it to end, I can't wait to see what each new day holds in store.