Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ABRCMS: Then and Now

I've been to the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) three times now, twice as an undergrad and once (so far) as a graduate student and I think this might be my last (maybe). 

The ABRCMS is a conference devoted to the leadership training of minority students. It is largely focused on encouraging higher learning, i.e. graduate school, medical school or something akin to those two. 
The first time I went to ABRCMS (2008, Florida), I had just started my Junior year in college, I was still undecided on graduate school or medical school, but I knew it would be one or the other. Also, I had just started independent study the summer before and gave a poster presentation of the lab's work. Again, being a junior, I found ABRCMS very appealing. It was in-fact the first large conference I had been to and seeing so many other students (that looked like me) interested in biology and research was amazing to me. ABRCMS promoted minority students involvement in research not just by talking about it, but most importantly, by providing the resources for it. ABRCMS held events such as exhibits, where representatives from several universities, companies and government agencies, came and talked to students about opportunities available to students in their respective organizations. These opportunities ranged from summer internships, graduate training, fellowships, scholarships and/or jobs.

I found out about the importance of summer internships through ABRCMS and went ahead and apply (in the following months) for internships for the summer of my Junior year. I ended up at Harvard for a summer as a result.

Cabot House

Inside Annenberg Hall

In the beginning of my Senior year, I found myself going to ABRCMS (2009, Arizona) again, this time also presenting, with more experience and a dire need to gather information on my graduate schools of interest. I ended up attending as much of the seminars and events I felt were applicable to me and attended as many exhibits as I wanted to and then some. I was interested in knowing the criteria for admission into many of the school on "my list", so I bombarded exhibitors with questions about their various programs and departments, numbers of rotations required, stipend amounts, GRE scores, letters of name it.

Is it just me or is that cactus really rude ;)

My focused was changed a-bit from the previous year but ABRCMS still met my needs and still applied to me very much.

In the beginning of my 3rd year as a graduate student, I got the opportunity to go to ABRCMS once more (this past November 2012, California). Again, I still presented my research, but this time many of the seminars and events weren't as applicable to me as in the past, nor was I interested in the exhibits as much. I was afraid this might happen, so I had volunteered to be a graduate student exhibitor for my program. Having passed through these stages before, I was able to tell the students about my experiences and tell how everything ended up. It was slightly weird being on the other side of the ring and talking to undergrads about my program and requirements needed to get in the program. Even more weird was the fact that most of these students were so much bigger and taller than I am that I bet they didn't think I was an exhibitor until I opened my mouth. 

Although, I thought ABRCMS is changed, it hasn't. I have definitely changed. I am sure that ABRCMS works for a Junior or Senior seeking that internship and wanting to go to graduate school or medical school as beautifully as it worked for me few years back. At first, I was a little piqued that ABRCMS did not "appeal" to me as it once did, but then I realized that ABRCMS mission and beliefs are what helped me get to where I am today and it works at the level where it is need the most. 

There are events, seminars, and exhibits that might appeal to someone like me (an inbetweener, a gradschooler) but they are outnumbered by the undergrad events. If I do go to ABRCMS again, (and I'm not completely adverse to it) I would definitely prefer to be a volunteer exhibitor (as I was this year) as opposed to just another graduate student who might find ABRCMS less appealing than it use to be. 

And that is ok.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf
in San Francisco, California
eat, walk, see the floating restaurant, 
buy some trinkets, shop, 
ride the Powell-Hyde cable cars, 
go to Ghirardelli Square
act like a tourist and take loads of photos, 
go to/or take photos of Fisherman's Grotto, 
Pompei's Grotto and Alioto's, eat more seafood,
try the Dungeness crab and clam chowder,
watch the time skip by

Realize how late it is getting and say goodbye to Fisherman's Wharf.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preparing for the Qualifying Exam

It is true. Passing the qualifying exam is no easy feat. The process of studying for the exam is more daunting and challenging than the two hours spent taking the exam itself. So, how do you reduce stress and maximize your studying potential while preparing for the Quals?

I have 10 suggestions based on MY personal experience to share with you.

1. Start thinking early
2. Select your committee members (more info? click here)
3. Have a "pre-exam meeting" with your committee members (more info? click here)
4. Read foundational materials in your field
5. Build your study around your thesis (if your exam is thesis-focused)
6. Read articles, then, read them again
7. Prepare an outline for the written AND oral exam
8. Practice, practice practice
9. Give yourself a break every now and then
10. Take your exam

Breathe deeply, introduce yourself and start. It helps if you include a biography slide because spending the first minute or so giving them your academic background makes it easier to transition into your presentation.

Good Luck!

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Mom's Visit and Martha's Vineyard in the Fall.

Iya ni wura iye biye
Ti a kole fo wo ra....

My mom has always wanted to visit me. But between my schedule and hers, it never happened...until a month and a half ago.

Let me step back a bit. I have never been away from my mom for an extended period of time. I've always been home. When my younger brother went off to boarding school and my older siblings went off to university, and my dad came to the U.S., I went to school that's a stone throw away from my house. In those days, when it was just the two of us, we would eat dinner early and watch TV or read or talk.

Even when I got into college, I went from home, every day for 4.5 years. So when I started applying for graduate school, I knew I will finally be leaving NY and home. So did my mom. She kept planning to come visit me where ever I ended up. I was in Providence for a year and we made plans for her to come for a weekend but it just never happened.

So now when she brought it up again, I decided to be proactive and buy her tickets. That way she had an incentive to come over. It worked! And what better place to take my mom than Martha's Vineyard. I live 10mins from this lovely island and the ferry ride is not expensive. So, why not?

She saw what I do as a graduate student for the first time (trust me, seeing is not the same as hearing about it, unless you're equally in the field). She marveled at the quiet streets of Woods Hole, she dubbed Water street "downtown" because it was the only "busy" street in the area.

When we got to Martha's Vineyard, we walked around the "gingerbread" houses in Oak Bluffs and took a bus ride around Vineyard Haven. We had coffee in one of the local shops (well, my mom had tea) and shared a bagel. She fussed about how the weather is too cold for me and I reminded her that it is no colder than NY. She counter argued that the high winds makes it colder and I had to concede. She was right, the wind factor on the Cape can make it feel colder than other New England areas.

There were a few lighthouses around that we could have gone to but most were closed and the threatening weather didn't encourage us walking up to any of them.

It was starting to drizzle on the way back and the weather got colder. But it was overall a fun trip. I was very glad my mom came to visit and I was glad she enjoyed her visit as much as I did. 

When we got back home, I prepared a nice, warm dish of eba and efo riro. Yum, you can never have too much "Naija" food.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shoreline in Mountain View For a Day.

Buildings of companies like Yahoo, Canon, Juniper Network, Motorola, Rambus, NASA Ames Research Center, e.t.c were the sightings that awaited me when I took the light rail to Mountain View in California. I wanted to go to Mountain View to visit the Shoreline Park and Trail. However, on getting there, I realized that Mountain View is a  distinct extension of the Silicon Valley. What do I mean by this? I mean that many of the high-tech companies were right in Mountain View, and very close to the Shoreline Trail. 

Companies like Microsoft:

23andMe (a genetic testing company for health, disease and ancestry):

and Google:

Also right in Mountain View is the Computer History Museum, a museum aimed at preserving the history of the information age. I saw the oldest computer I'll probably ever see when I walked in to ask for directions to the Shoreline Park and Trail.


Like I mentioned prior, the main reason I wanted to go to Mountain View was to see the hills in ShoreLine and to hike on the trail. On getting to the park, I realized one thing. It was vast!

There are very specific fauna like owls and other birds I couldn't quite place at the Park and they must be protected too, as you can see from the barrier created to keep the birds  away from wandering me...;)

It was a chilly day (in California? yeah, I know). It was fun to walk on the trails, it was also long and tiresome. I eventually stopped taking pictures and focused on walking. I walked a major part of the trail connecting Stevens Creek Trail to the San Francisco Bay Trail. There's not much to write about walking on a trail, so enjoy the next series of pictures describing my walk till I got to the edge of the San Francisco Bay Trail.

And this for me was the end of my walk. I simply walked ahead towards the buildings in the far right in the picture above and walked out of the Park. I was glad I went to the Park as I learned a lot, not only about my endurance level (or lack thereof), but also about ecosystems and land management. Did you know the Park used to be a dumping site? 

I'm really terrible at taking pictures of myself. haha :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Ride on the CalTrain from San Jose to San Francisco

*So, it turns out I am going to do this backwards. That is, start from the end of my trip to California and end at the beginning. I might throw a dash of other activities in between as well. Let's see how crazy my creativity gets. Should be interesting.*

While on the CalTrain going from San Jose to San Francisco, I wrote "what I saw" at each train stop.  I wanted to see and (try to) walk on the Golden Gate Bridge. So on my last day in California, because my plane doesn't leave till late at night, I decided to go spend a few hours in San Francisco.

On getting on the train, I realize my camera was deep inside my bag, and I wanted to write as well, so I tripled up my iPod Touch as a camera, a nifty notebook and music player. The pictures look grimy, but I like how they describe (as is) the different stops along the ride to San Francisco.

Gritty graffitti in Lawrence. A reminder of South Bronx. Clothes hanging in the backyard. Blazing sun in the dusty afternoon.

 Quiet recluse in  Palo Alto. A reminder that Silicon Valley extends into Palo Alto in the form of Facebook, HP and others. A rich merging of academia, technology and business. Oh look, there goes Mountain View in the distance.

 Mountains reared their heads in San Carlos. A taste of what's to come. Pretty buildings, concrete pavements. The warmth of the sun seeped in through the train windows.

Houses on Hills in Belmont. A wealthy name like Belmont should reside on a Hill like a lonely magnate. Walls? Fences? Haven't you heard of Robert Frost and Mending Walls? "Something there is that doesn't love a wall."

 South San Francisco: brown expanded hills, power lines and colored houses. South San Francisco looks like a painting. The train riding alongside hills, humming in a low rumble, nature acting as a backdrop before veering downward into a tunnel.

 Bay Shore with white houses nested in a brown hill crowned with spiky power lines and blue skies like a hovering mother.

Trying to write what I saw was an awesome activity and before I knew it, I was in downtown San Francisco. When I got off the train, this #30 MUNI bus took me from the Caltrain depot, right into the heart of China Town, past the raggedy road of Lombard street (not the "crookedest street" section), Fishermans Wharf, then I changed on to the #28 MUNI bus which goes through Presidio and made its last stop a few distance off the Golden Gate bridge.

The Golden Gate is an experience of its own, which I will go into in another post. ; ). But because I'm such a tease....Enjoy this little snippet....

The ride to San Francisco was definitely engaging and inspiring.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

University of Ibadan Zoological Garden

Way back in May while I was in Nigeria, my family and I went to visit my sister and her husband.  They live in Ibadan, about 2hrs drive from Lagos (congested Lagos-Ibadan express way traffic factored in).  If the traffic was any worse than that, we might have been on the road a few more hours.

My sister and her husband had just gotten married and they both attend the University of Ibadan. While there, they prepared amala and ewedu soup with goat meat. Yum! 

Because eating such a heavy meal in the afternoon can make you drowsy, we decided to go to the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden and stroll around. 

The temperature was high but offset by the cool breeze through the garden. There were lots of people at the zoo, especially school kids on excursions. Ah, I remember those days of excursions. Once a semester, a class would go on an excursion with two or more teachers acting as chaperones. The trips are usually outdoors like Olumo Rock but sometimes there are indoor trips too, like a trip to the NTA or Coca cola company... but I digress.

Although the zoo itself is ok, there were stories told that the zoological garden we see now is just a relic of its glorious past. We were told the zoo used to be a major tourist attraction, with primates, snakes lions, and other animals. Poor funding and lack of maintenance were cited as reason for the slow but certain dilapidation.

I have never been to the zoo "in its glorious days", so to me the zoo do not look too bad. In fact, I actually liked it. I did get to see the birds (like owls, and others), primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons and monkeys), lions, ostriches, giraffes, crocodiles, turtles, and many more. The garden sections were also very pretty.  The only animals i did not see were elephants (someone said they took them away recently) and snakes (they had an exhibits of snakes but I did not want to pay to see them, I was told there were different types of snakes there).  

But to those who had been there before, it is not as it was. At least, that's what I heard people say.

My little niece, who really enjoys the outdoors wanted a closer look at the donkey. So I obliged and carried her closer, much to her mother's consternation who thinks the donkey might get volatile and project hot spittle our way. hehe

We saw a giraffe named Ajoke. Ajoke in Yoruba means "someone who is pampered". But in English, it could also be a play on words for "a joke". I wonder if the giraffe is truly pampered or just a spectacle for people's amusement. Either way, it will live up to its name.

Incredibly lazy lions these were. About 15mins before we got to the lions, we heard them across the garden, roaring and roaming around. But by the time we got there, these lions were sleeping, yawning or just gazing. Someone told us they had just been fed few minutes before. Meh, just our luck.

When we came out of the garden, we decided to take a group photo. We used my camera, yay. My brother took this picture. 

This was one of the last trips we took in Nigeria. Now I miss Nigeria. A lot.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Busyness and Fall (Autumn) season

*Incase you wonder why I have random pictures showing houses and trees, read to the end. ;-)

On Busyness:
I've been so busy that I wasn't aware of the month of October creeping by. I thought September was busy enough but October proved me wrong. I've noticed that the busiest time of the academic year for me is always Fall. First, it's the start of a new academic year and there's always something to fill out and sign up for. Also, the days get shorter and I realize before I'm done with an experiment, it's dark out, whereas in Summer, it's still bright till 8:00pm or even later. 

Second, conference season is usually in the Fall and so time is allocated to gathering data for presentations and travels. In October, I had to finish up a few small projects in the lab, prepare a presentation poster and attend two conferences. Although, there were times  work got cramped and I was afraid I won't get everything I needed on time, things fell into place nicely.

I have to say, it's alway slightly jarring to realize that the cordial, simple routine that my life falls into changes to accommodate the seasons. Not complaining though. 

On Autumn:
On the other hand, when the season changes, there are a few things that starts to become more prominent. First is the "personality" of Autumn (for lack of a better word). For some, it represents melancholy because Summer is over. But for me, it's more of a phlegmatic personality. If I think of Autumn as a person, I would describe her by saying; "she's lost her sunny, summery disposition but hasn't quite gained the frigid, frosty persona." Which means I get to enjoy a season that's never stifling (like Summer) or frosty (like Winter).  There is something about the beginning of Fall that's just relaxing. The sun is not as glaring, nor is it so humid. It's that nonchalant kind of pleasant, where it's neither hot nor cold. It's just right. That's why I have these pictures here, to appreciate Autumn, just as it nears its end this time of year.  

Autumn is incredibly beautiful. The trees give up their greenness for an array of colorful adornment. There's also Indian summers in the Fall, which is very prominent if you live by the water.

Did you noticed the progression of colorful autumn in the pictures? Even on the grasses, you see fading greenness and blurry brown creeping up at the edges. 

I wrote this one-stanza poem while staring at these two trees in North Carolina, I had to take a picture of them (see pic below).

The trees have transformed
into a burst of brilliant colors
red, green, gold and brown
rustling in the waking wind

Fall is most fashionable.