Life as an intern

Before I came to University of Santa Barbara, I expected to be miserable and have to endure the ridiculous amount of work every day. However, my experience as a summer intern is actually very delightful. First day I showed up, the staff threw us a warm welcome party on the beautiful Goleta beach, and my lab mentor took me on a tour to the beautiful campus of UCSB. I have been to many universities, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, and University of Chicago etc. I have to say that UCSB is by far the most beautiful campus I have ever been to.

Another great experience about the summer internship is the seminars and GRIT talks. I have sited in three of those events. Every single one of them expands my horizon. In Professor David Valentine’s talk about ocean exploration, I learnt that there are large quantities of barrels, which contains toxic chemical DDT, are currently sitting on the ocean floor of our beautiful California coast. Those barrels are also leaking toxic chemical substance as I am writing this post now. When my girlfriend and I are having sushi dinner this weekend, I will certainly bring up this “exciting” news.

In lab, I really enjoy working on my project, which is to make tiny gel particles. By doing experiments on making different sizes of particles, I learnt how to use fluorescent microscope and measure length of the particles with imageJ. I was also trained on lab safety, which I surprisingly found it very interesting. The best part about lab safety is that one can never be too safe. Lab safety should not be taken lightly. Working in lab really is a unique experience for me. I now appreciate the grinding undergrad classes, which I will be taking for the next two years. To understand materials and pay attention in classroom definitely makes huge impact in term of performance and efficiency.

My experience with INSET

Over the past several weeks I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people in the Palmstrom Lab. I have learned a lot in this small amount of time. I learned much about the theory of electricity and magnetism, but more importantly I have seen first hand that science isn’t only about reading something online or in a book. Science, and the experiments necessary to test new theories, involves a lot of hands on work. At least half of the time I spent in the lab was dedicated to turning wrenches or working in the machine shop; one quarter of the time was conducting experiments; finally, the last  quarter of the time was spent making reports and powerpoints on the results of the experiments. It’s hard to say which part I liked most, but if I had to choose, I really liked working in the machine shop. Probably because I have never worked in a machine shop before, so it was really exciting learning how to operate the equipment.

I also got the chance to do a lot of networking on campus. Since I am transferring to UCSB in the fall, it will be nice to already know my way around campus and recognize some familiar faces. We had a dinner with the faculty night where we were able to meet instructors from the science and engineering departments and also a separate night where we had dinner with people from the technology industry around Santa Barbara. It was great to get the chance to talk to people who have been down the same path that I am travelling now.

I had a really great time this summer. I’m glad that I took the chance to get out of my comfort zone and apply for this internship. This experience will be far more memorable than if I had just taken classes this summer. I hope that all the people I met this summer have the chance to read this post, so they will know how much I appreciate this opportunity to work with them. I would especially like to thank my mentor Tony McFadden, my principle investigator Chris Palmstrom, as well as the rest of the guys in the lab.

Progress and the road to success

The reality of my research this summer is that it often moved in small and incremental steps and sometimes even dead ends. When I started this summer I think I was under the impression that things would run seamlessly into another and that perhaps their was always some plan to negotiate problems, although, it fortunately wasn’t so. We time and time again encountered problems whether it be from making droplets in our device or just trying to get our cells to survive. It was a learning experience in multiple ways. It was an opportunity for me to understand mechanical systems and biology to extent I never have before as well as learning to move from scientific problems into possible solutions. What I really enjoyed this summer were those moments. The moments when things are not really understood and it requires you to ask questions on things you may never have, and in doing so you better understood what you were looking at and it became much more sophisticated.

In the past I’ve seen many military members who decide to leave the service often to get out with ambition to return or begin a college education. However, all to often it’s ambition that slowly wears thin. Whether it may be from financial issues, family constraints, or injuries or illnesses received during their enlistment. My internship this summer has personally allowed me to view education from the side of those who have succeeded in their fields and have taken their education to the top. This experience provided me with strengthened skills in presentation delivery, scientific understandings, and ultimately a view of success from those whom it has materialized.

From community college to the UC vantage point

As a community college student spending my summer here at UCSB I have been afforded the opportunity to have a broadened view of the possibilities that exist beyond undergraduate studies, and the questions that lie on the precipice of scientific research.

My focus thus far has been assisting Sarah Grundeen, a PHD student in the electrical and computer engineering department, her research involves tracking electrical signals in neural tissue in a unique way. Our aim is to map electrical signaling among neurons in a three-dimensional fashion which utilizes a multi-electrode array capable of reading those signals from left to right as well as top to bottom. This is especially important because these signals are the language by which neurons communicate, and it largely remains a mystery. Many past research projects have revolved around the use of two-dimensional surfaces for tracking signals. However, neurons like everything else in our bodies are not limited to this kind of 2D restriction, so this process allows us to gain an insight that resembles their unadulterated environment.

Participating in a research program here at UCSB really allows you to determine whether going into a graduate program is something you would enjoy, as it’s not for everyone. It has personally allowed me a better view of the trade offs that lie between industry and graduate studies. I would highly recommend anyone who has an inkling of curiosity of what happens in a research lab or what scientific improvements or progression is being made at your local campus to go ahead and get involved as quickly as you can.

My First Internship!

Naturally, I am a little bit intimidated. I mean, who wouldn’t be? After three long years of community college, I’m going to the big leagues. A research lab at a world class university, filled with graduate students who are the cream of the crop. This is my chance to show them what I’ve got and I don’t want to blow it! All these doubts and insecurities keep running through my mind. I just hope that I will be good enough.

Fast forward to my first day on the job and wouldn’t you know it…everybody is really nice! They treat me with respect and talk to me as if I am their equal. What was I even worried about in the first place? That is not to say that everything is easy. I am assigned tasks that are challenging, but manageable. I am talking about real hands on science. You definitely won’t be getting anyone’s coffee.

As I look back on my first few weeks of INSET, I can’t believe how time has flown by. I am pleased to report that I have not broken a single thing (yet). I love the fact that I am given enough independence to make mistakes and learn from them. That is what science is all about. If you ever have the opportunity to be an intern, I say go for it. Don’t be scared. The people you meet will more than likely be just like you.