Time flies when your having fun!

Monday, 4 July 2011 00:39 by db006

I have been very busy with work, planning future trips, and enjoying current ones. The daily life here has remained fairly consistent and very enjoyable. I have continued working on my projects in lab and have become a lot more comfortable in the laboratory setting. This is my first experience of actual lab work and it is very different from labs in school. At LVC we always know what the results should be and learn the procedures, which I use now. The lab work here is very different and the outcome is not known. We are constantly attempting to do new assays that we review from other researchers and attempt to adapt them to our research. Some of these have been successful, while others have only rewarded us with experience and no positive results. I am starting this week an experiment that will hopefully be able to determine if a seed has been genetically modified. Right now we must plant the seed, wait about a week, and then test the DNA to see if the transformation has occured. We are not sure if it will work in Arabidopsis (the plant I am doing research on), but the only way to find out is to try..... Albert Einstein has a great quote, which can be found in the chemistry department @ LVC. "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

I have also taken advantage of being in Europe and visiting nearby cities with some cheap Ryanair flights. I flew to Sevilla, Spain on the way to Ibiza, Spain. I spent 2 days in Ibiza and I have never enjoyed myself more. The island was truly magical and everyone was beyond friendly. My luck on the island was also incredible. When I arrived I met some friends from Miami, that just happened to be there that same night. i had no idea how to get there and asked a couple at the bus stop. They explained where it was I had to go and that it was right by where they lived. We took the same bus and they even walked me to the hostal, since it was a bit complicated in the small back streets. All the people I met on this trip were equally friendly and willing to help.... It was amazing. I also met people from everywhere (Canada, England, Scotland, Florida, Vietnam, Russia, Virgina, and I am sure I am missing many places)

Small cove, where I spent a whole day relaxing

I had heard a lot about Ibiza and especially the night life. It definitely lived up to my expectations, but also offered a lot more than I expected. The beaches of the island and their beauty was truly breathtaking. I rented a moped and traveled the island my second day there with a guy I met in the hostal, who was from Virginia. Neither of us had any idea where we were going, so we just followed the coast and toured half the island. The beaches were all very different and it was a lot of fun. I also got to see one of my favorite DJ's my last night there DeadMau5... I had seen him a couple of times in the past and once again he did not disappoint and made my last night in Ibiza unforgetable.

First stop, with Eivissa in the background

On my way back to Santiago de Compostela I had a 22hour layover in Sevilla. I met a girl in ibiza who was on the same flight to Sevilla, stayed at the same hostal, and was also taking the same flight to Santiago the following day (CRAZY COINCIDENCE) When I landed in Sevilla I also found my friends from Miami, who I had met in Ibiza, waiting for the bus that I needed to take to get to the city. I knew they would be in Sevilla, but had no clue when and no way to contact them, since I did not have a computer (CRAZY COINCIDENCE #2) We all went out that night and enjoyed some tapas in Sevilla. The following day I did a walking tour of the city and got to see a lot of the famous landmarks, such as the torre de oro, where Columbus set sail from on his voyage to find America. My stay in Sevilla was long enough for me.... it was incredibly hot in the city and I was nowhere near a beach.


Torre de Oro (Sevilla, Spain)

Entrance to largest Cathedral in the world and the famous symbol of Sevilla

After this adventure to Ibiza and Sevilla I was very happy to be back in Santiago to rest a bit. This past week in lab has bit a lot more work than usual. I went on my trip, because the researchers with whom I am working with had a national conference to attend and I had time off from lab. They came back with a lot of ideas for future research and that means that we are all very busy now.  The workday is now from about 10am-9:30pm. This includes the 2.5 hours for lunch break, where I have just enough time to run to the park to workout, get home shower, eat, and take a nap. The nap is essential to be able to return for the second half of the day. There is only 3 weeks left of work and I am amazed at how fast it has all gone by. I have had a great time so far and I will continue to enjoy the time I have here.

Main entrance to the Biology department

I stayed in Santiago this weekend and spent some time with my floor mates and others I have met while on this trip. This upcoming weekend there is the running of the bulls in Pamplona and a outdoor music festival in a northern city of Spain. I am not sure which I will be going to yet and I actually need to look into finding transportation and which trip will be possible. Either way I know I will enjoy myself and get to have a new interesting experience to add to the collection. :)





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Life is Life

Friday, 10 June 2011 02:08 by db006

Life is Life... everywhere. I have gotten settled in nicely and have become quite comfortable living and working here. I have gotten used to the lifestyle and noticed it is not that different, just as I have seen throughout the US. I have enjoyed living in multiple cities in the US for extended periods of time (Miami,Fl. Portland,Me. Buffalo, Ny. and Annville, Pa) and these experiences have shown me the same. Now that I am living in Santiago and not just staying in the hotels and seeing the "touristy" things I see a much different picture. I see that everyone does the same thing and strives for the same thing. Happiness.

Touristy, but beautiful Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

I have  spent some time watching the simpsons, friends, and other very popular American shows while I hang out with roommates and other students. I stayed in Santiago this weekend and got to enjoy this college town and it's nightlife. Although it is much different than the average night in Anviille, Pa., it is very similar to other large college towns I have visited. Even the music showed similarities to that which is very popular in America and I am sure worldwide. There were a couple of songs in which everyone would sing and were much more Spain oriented. One of these songs even seemed to be out of Green Street Houligans, where everyoneclapped and chanted with the song. They explained that it was a "Spain thing" and was about the revolution that has occured in the country. Currently there has also been some protest about govt. spending and corrupt officials and people were camping in the plaza of the Cathedral and the main govt. building. This has also been going on in Barcelona and Madrid.

View from Cathedral steps of govt. building and ferris wheel of the fair

Although there are many similarities and life for most people are the same in all developed countries, I do see that there are many differences and from these one can learn a lot. One of these is that the family is a lot closer here and more open with each other. There was a holiday in Spain last thursday and there was a fair and festivities for about 2 weeks. They celebrate a lot more over here! Anyway, I saw a child out at the concert at 2am on a Saturday, while people are drinking right next to him (no open container law) it was a shock to me and at first I thought it was very bad parenting. But after speaking with people from here, I quickly learned that this was a great thing.  The children here are shown more from their parents and don't have to learn from random people or the internet about things which are somewhat taboo in the US.  Instead of trying to get away from homep asa I see more and more students here return home on the weekend and also have their parents come to Santiago for dinner or to spend the day together. This parenting style and family unity is one that I see as very positive.

Another great differnce is the lifestyle I mentioned in my last post and how much less stresed it seems to be. Most seem to be more laidback. They know that they will work for a while and have a break for siesta and then return to work for a bit. I think this really beats out are 9-5 life in the US, where being at work so long feels like a drag. I have found this break time is perfect for a run to the park, a quick workout, and then back to my aptartment for lunch and a quick siesta. I return to the lab and I am fresh and ready to get some things done without being stressed.

I got to see some of the old part of town during some down time. It was very interesting to see and to think about how life used to be here so long ago. The roads were made before cars and it is quite akward to see them used for that purpose. There is defintely a different feel when one is in that area and it almost feels like you go to a different world. The stone architecture and the rustic look is quite impressive. It is defintely very interesting to see the differnce of time and technology.

One of the most famous streets in the old town, with the cathedral undergoing renovations in the background.

I am definitely learning and enjoying every day I am here. The lab work has been very interesting and I have learned a lot, but I don't think anyone would be too interested in all the science/ geneticsr details. To sum it up I am working on multiple projects here, since there is a lot of down time for my plants to grow. All are gentically oriented. One being with Brachypodium and we are attempting to alteits genome in an attempt to increase its possible use for biofuels. It could one day replace corn as a source of renewable energy. Another project involves Arabidopsis and it is very complicated... I am still wrapping my head around all the small details of xylosidase, cell wall expansins, and their genetic alterations. This project has shown very good results in changing the size of specific plant structures and is one of the leading projects in the field. It is quite interesting trying experiments not as an assignment, but to see if it is even possible for it to work. Sometimes the concept seems realistic, but in practice it does not work. It is also vey rewarding to find something new. I am currently working on an experiment that will predict if a certain gene was inserted into a plant after 5 days, instead of waiting 2 weeks. This doesn't seem like much, but saves a lot of time when doing this work and can be used by others in the future to save time and be more efficient. At the end of the day advances in science come from a collection of these small additions.

This experience has been priceless already. The lab and my supervisors have been awesome and have been very helpful with everything. They also want me to make the most of this experience and travel more, even if that involves missing some days. I have planned a trip to Ibiza and Sevilla, during a time they will not be in lab. I hope to plan a trip to Portugal to visit Porto and Lisboa. I hope to visit some other Spanish cities also and continue on some more interesting adventures. I will continue to enjoy every second of it and continue to explore the life in different places. I know I will continue to see some differences and continue to see that LIFE IS GOOD!


View of some of the city from a hillside I wandered up when I was walking aroud the city during the weekend

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All work and no play is not the Spanish way.

Saturday, 28 May 2011 03:36 by db006

When I was picked up from the airport by my supervisors Elene Valdivia and Javier Sampedro, I was pleasently surprised when I was told work started at around 10am and not 8am. I showed up 5 minutes early and had to wait about 15 minutes. The lifestyle here is much more laid back and not very punctual, it took me about 15 minutes to get used to and now I love it. I was given a tour by Christina the lab technician and immediately dove right into my first assignment. I worked with another student Sofia and created a solution to infiltrate the cells of the tobacco plant. This took approximately an hour and I was then told it was time for a coffee break. WHAT??? I went downstairs to the cafeteria with Sofia and a couple other students and was amazed to see how full the cafeteria was for coffee time. We returned upstairs and used our solution to inject the previously made genes into the tobacco plant (I will save all of you the exact terminology and process of what we did). And there it was I had just transgenetically modified my first plant species in about 3 hours and had time to have coffee.


After this first assignment it was lunch/ siesta time at about 2:30 pm. I returned home and had lunch and took my daily siesta, which lasted till about 4:30. I was told to return at 5pm and once again I was the first to arrive. The afternoon was a little less eventful than the morning, but I had a chance to speak with my supervisors, whom each explained to me their projects and how I will be working with both of them on seperate projects. After being explained what I was doing I was a bit perplexed. I have studied genetics and was quite familiar with most of the concepts and lab techniques, but these projects were very specific. I spent the afternoon reading and studying to prepare myself for the rest of this internship.


Work ended today at 8:30 and I joined some of the students for the traditional tapas. Tapas are free apperizers at restaurants with the purchases of drinks. We went to 4 different restaurants and had a drink at each, while trying over 10 different traditional spanish dishes (empanadas of cod, egg tortilla, chorizo, pimientos, pork with fries, another pork with fries variation, and a spanish version of cheesecake) I was stuffed and had spent only about 5 euro. It was great to have some people that knew the right places to go. I returned home at around 12am and I now understood much better why work doesn't start until 10am. (school too)


The next couple of days I started working on my projects and preparing seeds with specific genes to be sterilized and planted. The rest of the week consisted of the same 10 am start and breaks for coffee and lunch/ siesta. On Friday I was told that I did not have to return after lunch/siesta, since I had done everything I could for the day on my project and had to wait for the seeds to germinate. I returned home and had lunch and took an extended siesta. I then woke up and went for a run, which has been my daily way to explore the city in fast forward. The only bad thing about this approach is that Santiago has many hills and some are extremely steep. I did some groceries after and made dinner at home with my floor mates.

So far I have loved the food, culture, and lifestyle which I have encountered in Spain. I already find myself thinking and counting in Spanish and can't wait to see how much I will evolve in the next 9 weeks. I am beyond excited to continue my research and my time here. I hope to plan some weekend trips around Spain and hopefully some extended trips to Portugal and Ibiza. I will also be going to see more of the city this weekend and I will try to remember to bring my camera this time. The old town area here is beautiful and the well known cathedral of Santiago is about 800 years old.

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Getting there is half the fun

Wednesday, 25 May 2011 02:41 by db006

I finally arrived in Santiago Compostela and got accomodated in my apartment with my 3 very diverse roommates (Lara=Spain, Wojtex=Poland, and Camila=Brazil). The trip here was a little lengthy and adventerous with a stop in Dusseldorf, Germany and Barcelona, Spain. I started my trip at 3:45 pm in Miami on 5/22/11 and slept the whole flight. I awoke at 7am in Dusseldorf. I spent the day walking around the city and took a boat tour on the Rhine river, which is where the city is situated. It was a short day trip in the city, but was very eye opening. Dusseldorf is very trendy and fashionable, due to many festivals. I was also surprised at the ease at which I was able to communicate with most people in Germany using English or Spanish. I would especially target younger people when I was completely lost and in need of some help. A couple of students told me how english was taught in almost all classes and almost seen as a requirement today.


I left Dusseldorf at 4:30 pm and arrived in Barcelona, Spain at 6:30. I once again slept the whole flight and was definitely experiencing some jet lag and very tired. In Barcelona I stayed at Kabul, which is a Hostel just off "The Ramblas", which is the main avenue in Barcelona. The hostel was filled with people from all over the world and was a very fun experience. We went out to Shoko a  night club that was about 5 minutes away and got to see the night life in Barcelona. Even though it was a monday night, the city was very much alive until the late hours of night/ early hours of the morning. I decided that I would go for a morning run through the city so I could see some areas I had not seen. After this I returned to checkout of the hostel and then proceeded to go to the beach. Barcelona's beach can compete with Miami beach anyday. The water was a bit cold, but then environment and the scenery were unbelieveable. I also went up the tower d'alta mar and was able to view a very picturesque city. I returned to the hostel a little sunburnt and tired once again.....luckily I had a flight in a couple hours, so I knew i could get another nap in.


After my final flight to Santiago de Compostela, Spain I was picked up from the airport by my two supervisors Elene and Javier. We got to know each other and they explained to me the different lifestyle of Spain. My favorite of these is work starts at 10ish and I was advised not to show up early, because no one will be there and it would be useless. They also take 2- 2.5 hours for lunch/siesta breaks. I anticipate that these changes will be good, but after doing groceries I can see some lifestlye changes that I won't be too fond of. I like Spanish food, but will be missing some little things that are staples in my diet, like fresh milk.


Now that I am settled I will enjoy sleeping in a bed. I will be finalizing my project tomorrow and hope to have some updates about that and the city of Santiago...Hasta pronto






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