Exposures to Omnipresent Science

We were all probably told in one of our intro courses that science is all around us. As I’m studying here right now, this is observably true: the light illuminating my desk is produced from excited electrons returning back to the ground state; molecules vibrating together at very high speeds make my wooden desk solid; and actin-myosin interactions in my fingers allow me to type quickly and in an agile manner. Biology, chemistry and physics are omnipotent in nature because they create matter and sustain life. But they also form the basis for non-natural, man made technologies, cosmetics and appliances. Thus, as a senior now, involved in research, and getting more exposure to applications of learned concepts, I am beginning to see how science is not only around us, but is a powerful application and solution can be applied to society progressively.

Dr. Chalfie and me at my poster

My most recent exposure to a wide range of scientific hot-topics was last month at the “SACNAS” National Conference. I had the opportunity to travel to San Antonio, TX for a four exciting, stimulating, and deeply memorable days! Our group of Gauchos attending really made the most of this experience by networking, seeking mentorship, engaging with other students and researchers, and presenting award-winning posters. The workshops involved many different topics in science – I really enjoyed learning about heart vessel angiogenesis as a potential therapy for Coronary Heart Disease at a developmental biology session, and an interesting round table discussion mediated by an SDSU faculty. But we learned many other interesting ideas ranging from materials science to drug development to applying to Grad schools too. I had the great opportunity of meeting with one of the pioneers of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), Dr. Marty Chalfie, also a Nobel Laureate, and as my project involved C. elegans (the model organism in his lab), and GFP, it was even more exciting to meet him! Though the days were filled 8AM-10PM with workshops, lectures, and presentations, we still managed to peruse the nice surrounding area at the Alamo and Riverwalk, as shown in the pictures on the other blog posts. Presenting for the first time at this National conference with nearly 4,000 attendees was an amazing experience from which I learned so much!

Prof Goldstein giving a MCDB Departmental Seminar

Another recent memorable experience that showed me the power of science occurred last week. I had the honor of hosting Professor Larry Goldstein of UCSD Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, as part of the Beckman Seminar course. We invited Dr. Goldstein, a well-respected neurobiologist studying the causes of Alzheimer’s disease using stem cells, as a guest speaker for our “Science for the Common Good” course. Dr. Goldstein was a strong advocate for stem cell research during the ban years, and often was consulted by the government for his opinions. Given his experience with basic science and initiative for its application to society and the common good, he was not only a very interesting speaker for our class, but also a welcomed presenter in the MCDB departmental seminar series. Arranging the departmental and course seminars and various faculty meetings took organization, time and many email messages, but everything came about smoothly. I also had great guidance and help from Dr. Foltz and Dr. Lubin, who are seasoned at organizing such events. For two days, our small group of undergraduates in the class, was able to have in depth, stimulating and thought-provoking conversations with Dr. Goldstein about topics including stem cell controversy, academia vs. industry, university science education thoughts, and healthcare. It was another amazing opportunity allowing me to appreciate the intricacies within academia (collaborations with other labs, busy faculty schedules) and the importance of undergraduate research.

As I continue to work in the lab, I am energized by these exposures and interactions. Science has the potential to change the world progressively by its application to society. And this potential begins to see its fruition through basic research in labs similar to the Rothman lab I am in, and many others around UCSB. The skills I’ve gained in creatively thinking, presenting confidently, and understanding results have exceeded my expectations about research experiences, and I am excited to keep experimenting throughout the year.