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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

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Student blogs


Tokyo, Japan
Research Apprenticeship in Biological Sciences (RABS)
Summer College 2007
Hi everyone! My name is Koyuki Nakamura and I'm 17 years old. I was born in Japan and I currently live in Tokyo, but my Japanese is mediocre at best because I've spent most of my life in the United States. I love everything related to biology ... well, with the exception of dissection. I can't stand cutting things open, even if the object is a vegetable. I might be able to stand it for five minutes only for the sake of science. Biology aside, one of my favorite hobbies is scuba diving. I've been on diving trips only in Baja California and Guam so far, but it is absolutely amazing and hilarious (the hilarious part depends on who you go with). I will be attending the RABS program at Cornell this year and will be working with Dr. Sondermann's lab. As an aspiring researcher, I am excited, no, ecstatic, about the lab work that is waiting for me at Cornell.

It's only the third day of lab work and I'm already tired. I have to pull out everything I know from my biology classes to understand the concepts of what I'm working on. I'm really excited about today because my mentor, Dr. Sondermann, and the graduate student that I'm working with invited me to see Cornell's particle accelerator shoot a crystal at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. I was also invited to drop by at the Ornithology laboratory on Saturday for a poster party. I initially felt like I was being babysat by my graduate student, but now that I'm starting to become more comfortable with the lab techniques and meetings, well, I don't see the other graduate students as the "babysitters" anymore. I don't have that much free time because I'm constantly working in the Vet Lab. I'll have to leave this entry for now because I have to go check a possible TOCA-1 crystal we found yesterday. Busy, busy. Until next time...

While everyone else had a holiday on the fourth of July, I was toiling at the lab and the synchrotron. I didn't mind even though I had to walk in the rain (the buses weren't running) and my only source of lunch that day was the vending machines (the cafeteria wasn't open). It was exciting because I was able to find more crystallized TOCA -1 proteins. The people at my lab tell me that finding crystals shouldn't be easy, and we're all confused as to why I encounter so many. The only disappointment is that the crystals I find never defract.

I'll stop boring you with lab details. I'll be going to my second breakfast meeting tomorrow with the joint collaboration labs. I hope I understand more than last time because I felt extremely stupid at last Friday's meeting. It was like listening to a foreign language; you can catch some words but you're lost when you try to understand them in context. It was interesting, but I had a migraine afterwards from trying too hard to make sense of what the people were saying.

The activities here are great, and I wish I could find enough time to go to all of them. My favorite one so far is capture the flag, though casino night was also awesome. At casino night, I started with only ten white chips (worth 1each) and had around 30 blue chips (worth 10), 10 red chips (worth 5), and 6 white chips later on. Of course, I lost it all in the end when I became too greedy at roulette. That's life. Well, now I have to go to Culture night to eat some yummy food, so see ya!

Well, I had planned to work on my research paper today (Saturday), but there were so many other fun things going on that I thought "Oh, forget this." I went to Pyramid Mall to see Harry Potter with some friends, and we went bowling after we got back at around 7:00. Today was one of those rare days that I didn't have anything to do with lab work.

The halls have become emptier because the three week students have left. They will be filled by new students tomorrow. I can't wait to get to know the new residents at the root beer float meeting on Monday (I don't know what I'm looking forward to more; the floats or the new people). Of course, I can always make root beer floats at Appel Commons. I will miss having dessert for every meal every day once I leave Cornell.

I won't have much free time tomorrow as I will have to work at the lab from 2:00. I don't mind, though; I'm actually looking forward to it since I'll be able to see some results. It's time for me to go to bed, so good night.

It has been raining quite a bit recently, and because of that I now have new motivation to walk/run faster to my lab. I'm usually fastest after a rain-shower because I'll be screaming and running from all the slugs and worms that litter the path. I'm finding it difficult to arrange free time in my schedule because of an extensive research paper we have to write. I've never written anything so complicated before. It's amazing that my stay at Cornell is coming to an end. I'm constantly meeting and befriending new people and I always feel that I still have another 6 weeks left; until I see my calendar. I wish I could stay here longer. Well, it's 10:53 and I wouldn't want to be documented for checking in late. I'm off!

For a change of pace, I went to Corning's Museum of Glass today. I accidentally made my group wait for 30 minutes after departure because I thought we were departing at 4:00, not 3:00. I was amazed that the RCAs were able to find me at all. My favorite activity so far is bowling. My friends and I go after dinner on the weekdays and play for two to three games. It's surprising how little you know about adding numbers; it took us a while to manually add the scores at Helen Newman lanes.

I'm impatient for Monday when I go back to my lab again because we got our first positive results on our experiment last Friday. I keep feeling that there isn't enough time for me to do everything I want to do; every day I learn about new experimental protocols and procedures that sound interesting to do. The deadline of my final project is coming up soon, and I will have to try to make people understand why the crystal structure of a protein can be important. Trust me, I initially had some difficulty understanding that one.

Now that I look back on my first few weeks at Cornell, I realize just how much more I have learned about my lab's work. If someone had told me about sorting nexins and diffraction space groups before, I would be utterly confused. However, sorting nexins and diffraction patterns make up most of my conversation at the lab now. It will be fun confusing my parents and friends with lab words when they ask me, "So how was your summer?"

After taking photos and hugging goodbye to the people in my lab on the last day working at Cornell, I briskly hurried off because I knew that if I didn't leave then, I never would. I tried to tell myself that it was possible that this wouldn't be the last time I would ever see them again. After I arrived at my dorm, I realized that I had been so caught up in saying "bye" that I had forgotten to give back my keys to my professor. Well, so it wasn't the last time I would ever see them again. The grad student I had been working with over the summer was nice enough to pick up the keys, and as I said my final goodbye, I felt confident that I would have a smooth trip home.

Well, here's a repeat story. After taking photos and hugging goodbye to my friends on the last day at Cornell, I briskly hurried off because I knew that if I didn't leave then, I never would. After I arrived at the apartment my mom had rented for the summer, I realized that I had been so caught up in saying "bye" that I had forgotten my bag, my purse, my camera, and most important, my Harry Potter book. I freaked. I contacted everyone I knew who was still at Cornell, and after much distress, I finally found out that one of my friends who goes to the same school I go to had my belongings safely with her. I'm so glad I met some awesome friends during my stay. A sound scolding from my parents for being irresponsible made me wish I was still at Cornell having fun and being independent.

A week later, I received an email from my professor saying that I left my RABS diploma in the lab office. I don't know why I can be incredibly responsible and organized when I'm at school/college but irresponsible and disorganized when school/college ends.

Summer at Cornell has been the most amazing experience I have ever had. I loved how I wasn't treated as "some highschooler" when I was working in the lab, and practically everyone in the RABS program told me that they may have their names published in a scientific paper. I might be lucky enough to have my name in Cell (so my grad student has told me). Another surprise during the program was that my professor offered to write a letter of recommendation to help me get into college. It was a generous offer, and one that I hadn't expected.

My stay at Cornell wouldn't have been as great without friends. Because the RABS students have their own schedule according to their experiments, it has been difficult to meet up with people at first. By the end of the six weeks, however, I got to know many different people; so many that I would wave "hi" to every third person whenever I visited the cafeteria. My friends made it possible for me to actually spend time having stupid fun instead of being shut up in my lab experimenting or shut up in my dorm writing. I'm grateful for everything they've done.

The one thing I will miss the most will be the excitement of obtaining results. I know it sounds nerdy, but nothing has ever made me tense up with anticipation like the work I did in the lab. Sometimes you can't suppress the involuntary yell of "YES!" when a difficult procedure works perfectly. I can't wait until I go to college.