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.