Friday, May 30, 2014

Blog 9

Saturday and Sunday:
After talking to the other students during the week, I learned that most of the students go into the lab at some point on Saturdays, but do not go in on Sundays. Since USTC is still in the middle of a semester, many of the students spend their weekends in the lab or library getting work done. One friend from said that she is studying a lot for finals in a few weeks because she has 7 finals! I thought it was difficult to study for 5.
On Saturday morning I went on a run at the track near my house. After lunch, I went to the lab to do some work before I went to USTC’s Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra with Lee Kang Qi. It has been nice getting to know Lee Kang Qi because she is also an undergraduate in her junior year. We met because she also works in Professor Xu’s lab. Before the concert we went out to dinner at a restaurant that serves noodles and rouga mo. This food was definitely my favorite so far! So many people I have met think that I won’t like spicy food because I am from the United States. I did not know that Americans have this reputation, but I absolutely love spicy food! It was nice to have some on Saturday night.

Above is a photo of Lee Kang Qi and me from the orchestra concert

This is a photo of a small group performance of USTC’s Traditional Chinese Music Orchestra:
Though it was a very interesting experience to go to this concert, I did not like the music much. I thought the music would be more relaxing, but there was one instrument that made an extremely high pitched noise. It was not the soothing music I had envisioned.
On Sunday my big accomplishment was finding the grocery store by myself! I decided to get to know the area outside of the school gates better, so I went on a long walk. From my trips with other people, I knew there are a lot of shops near the school and I was hoping to stumble upon one. Luckily I did! It was about a half hour walk, but I made it all the way to the supermarket that I went to with He Yutong last weekend. There were a couple of groceries that I needed to get, along with a gift for Jiaqi’s birthday on Tuesday! By the time I got back to campus, I met up with Lei Fan for dinner. We ate on campus and went back to the lab until we had to leave to get seats for Jiaqi’s choir concert. I enjoyed talking to Lei Fan about the music we listen to. I had him listen to some of my favorite country songs and he let me listen to his favorite music.
There were a lot of students that attended this performance, and the choir did an excellent job! Unfortunately, there was no air conditioning in the room the concert was held, so I was very happy to get in the fresh air when the concert was over! This concert was a great end to my third week in Hefei!
Above is a photo of the USTC choir performance
This is a photo that another student took last week, but it is a good photo of a lot of the people from the lab!

Blog 8

Thursday and Friday:

Thursday began with the weekly meeting for the lab group. I am happy that I did not have to present today, but I will be presenting next week on my progress in the lab! This meeting usually lasts all morning, so by the time it was done, I had to scoot out to make it to lunch.
For lunch on Thursday I had the opportunity to meet another American student, Sarah, studying at USTC! It was so interesting to exchange stories and hear about how she began studying at USTC. Sarah has been in China for about 4 years and will be here for another 2 before going back to America. It was so nice to talk to someone who can relate to all of the awkward, funny, unusual, and difficult experiences of traveling abroad to China. I am hoping that I can get lunch with her again sometime soon! Below is a photo of Sarah and me. It is very blurry, but it was the best one that we were able to get!

On Friday morning I finished up my presentation and started to learn more about SolidWorks. I am hoping that I can learn to use SolidWorks so that I do not need help from other students to create the model of the eye. After lunch I had my presentation. There were about 20 other students and staff at the meeting, and overall it went pretty well! It seemed difficult to get more group participation, but afterwards I was told that I need to give the students more time to think about the answer to the questions. I need to keep in mind that the questions I am asking may be more difficult for people when English is their second language. I also need to work on talking slowly during my presentation. Next week I will be giving a presentation on chapters 5 and 6.
One thing I learned on Friday that I found very interesting is that I have been on average spending between 5 and 6 yuan per meal at USTC. This is less than 1 dollar in American money. My freshman year at OSU we used blocks that were worth 5 or 6 dollars for each block. I think it is crazy that I could get about 6 meals in China for the same amount I could get 1 back in America.
After dinner a friend from the lab, Li Yang, and I went to a yoga class! I was so excited that he invited me to go with him so that I can go on my own in the future. When we got to the class, Li Yang made me go to the very front of the class so that I could see the teacher. I was hoping I could stay in the back, because I am not very good at yoga and I am horrible at balancing. I felt uncomfortable in the front of the class because I was about a foot taller than all the girls around me. I also couldn’t understand the teacher, so I was always the last one to catch on to the new move. This yoga class was very different than the ones I have been to back at home because the skills were much more advanced, and the teacher would walk around and push your body into the right position. At times I thought it was difficult not to laugh because I felt so out of place. I think that next time I go I will try to take a spot in the back of the classroom. When class was over, I went home to shower and watch a movie!
On Friday another student in the lab, Mu Kai, was wearing an OSU basketball shirt!




Blog 7

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday:
I began this week by finishing off the protocol I have been working on for my drug encapsulation project. I found that it was difficult to write because I don’t yet know what equipment I have access to yet. To get a better understanding of how I should proceed with my projects, I talked to Dr. Sing. He will be advising me on my work after Professor Xu goes back to OSU at the end of the month. Dr. Sing explained to me that the next step in my project should be to get in the lab for some hands on experience. I made plans to shadow another student, Yuan Shuai, in the lab on Tuesday so that I could get a better understanding of where everything is.
On Monday afternoon, Shen Shuwei and I went to the lab that has 3D printers so that we could print off an object that is about the same dimensions as a human eye. We printed off 3 models that have different thicknesses so that we could determine if the 3D printer could print layers as thin as we want them. The photo below shows the SolidWorks drawing of what we printed.

Printing all three models required 15 hours to complete.
On Tuesday morning I shadowed Yuan Shuai for his experiment. He encapsulated curcurmin in a PLGA microsphere. It was so beneficial for me to get into the lab and see where everything is. I am hoping to do my own experiment later on this week. The first time I try the experiment on my own I will need Yuan Shuai there to make sure I am doing the right thing. We have planned to try again on Friday! Before I can try to encapsulate Avastin, I need to build my skills with encapsulating other drugs. Avastin is much more expensive than curcurmin, so I will be practicing with curcurmin. Eventually I will need to build my own micro/nanosphere fabrication setup. Until then, Yuan Shaui is letting me use the set up that he built. For dinner on Tuesday night, Dr. Sing was kind enough to take all of the students in my lab out to a nice dinner. I really enjoy these kinds of dinners because I can try so many different dishes in one meal. Back in the United States everyone orders and eats their own meal. I have noticed that in China people share multiple entrees when at a restaurant. I love the change and I am hoping I can eat like this more when I go back to the United States as well! Below are a couple of photos of our dinner.
There was some trouble getting a good photo with everyone in it!

The far left in the photo above is Jiaqi. She has helped me out so much on my trip by showing me around and translating for me! This photo also shows Dr. Sing, his wife, and his adorable daughter!
After dinner we had to go back to the lab because there was a large group meeting. The meeting lasted a couple of hours. We didn’t get out until about 10:30 p.m. and other students had to stay later!
On Wednesday I devoted my time to preparing for my presentation on Friday. This week I will be presenting on paragraph structure and writing an introduction. This presentation was more difficult to create because the examples are much longer than they were for chapters 1 and 2. My goal for this presentation is to make it more interactive with the members of the lab. I am hoping I can get some good participation!
In the afternoon, Shen Shuwei brought me the 3D printed eye models. Below are 2 photos of the preliminary eye model:


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Blog 6

Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday was a very busy and fun day! USTC held an event in which students and families could tour the school. Many USTC students gave science and technology demonstrations and presentations. The students from the lab all met up with Professor Xu at 9:00am and began touring the other facilities. Most of the other people around on this day were middle school and high school students, but for our group it was an opportunity to build relationships with other researchers at the school. Below are a couple of photos from our visits.

In this photo, the two students are competing to get the ball to the other person’s side. By focusing on the ball, the headset will detect brain activity and cause the ball to move towards the competitor’s side.

This is a photo of me playing the game. Unfortunately I played twice and I lost both times!
Above is a photo of the members of the lab singing the alma mater of USTC!

After a long day traveling around the campus Ms. Zhang, a woman who works in the lab, treated me and 4 other students to Pizza Hut for dinner! It was so nice to have some American food. Especially the desert! 

On Sunday I went on a run in the morning, and I went shopping with a couple of other girls in the afternoon. We went to the supermarket to buy some groceries. It was so nice of these girls to take me because I am unable to run simple errands by myself. Afterwards, we went to dinner. This was my first experience eating hot pot. We had a blast and we spent about 2 hours at dinner! Overall, I had a great second week in HeFei and I am excited to see what the next week has in store!

Above is a photo from the hot pot dinner on Sunday night!

Blog 5

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday:

Wednesday started off great because I was finally able to figure out how to get breakfast in the guesthouse! The first few days here, I ate the little food that I had brought from home, but eventually I needed to figure out how to get the breakfast that is provided. On Tuesday I attempted to figure out how the system works, but I was unsuccessful. The woman serving breakfast in the morning doesn’t speak English, so communication was difficult when she was talking to me in Chinese and I was speaking to her in English. Neither of us understood what the other was saying. Eventually, I gave up and decided to try again another day. On Wednesday I went down stairs, but when I was faced with the same problem a nice man came up to me and the lady serving breakfast and translated what we were saying. It turns out that I need to stop at the front desk to get a pass for breakfast every morning. I am so glad I have finally figured it out! On Wednesday I began working more on creating a PowerPoint presentation for the first two chapters in the book, Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers by Mimi Zeiger. In the afternoon, Jiaqi took me to USTC’s English Learning Center to meet some other native English-speaking people. I did not think this was necessary because I have been communicating pretty well with the other students in the lab, but I went anyway because I know that having another English speaking contact is a good thing for me. Professor Xu and the other students in the lab have gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and I have been so appreciative of all their efforts! When we reached the English Center, we learned that we are unable get the contact information of the faculty. Instead, Jiaqi and I waited in front of the office for one of the teachers to walk by so that I could stop them to talk. The only American teacher I saw walk in was an older man named George. After talking about it, Jiaqi and I decided that we felt uncomfortable stopping people to find new English-speaking friends, so we went back to the lab.

            On Thursday I woke up early for the microencapsulation group meeting. During this meeting most of the students give a brief description of what they have been working on in the past week. There are 3 students chosen to give a detailed presentation of their work for the 2 weeks prior. This meeting lasted all morning, and was difficult for me to understand. Though many of the slides were in English, there was a lot of discussion throughout the presentation that was all in Chinese. After this meeting the group went to lunch. Instead of getting rice and veggies like I normally do, I decided to get noodles instead. The way lunch and dinner are set up I am generally able to point to the dishes I want, and scan my card to pay for them. I am so lucky that this process doesn’t require me to speak, because that would make getting food a more difficult process. Unfortunately, getting noodles required more communication with the individual working the station. I again was faced with the situation where I was speaking to someone in English who didn’t understand the language. I tried to motion what I wanted on the noodles, but when the people around me started laughing, I took my food and tried to find the other people from my lab. The other individuals were saving us seats, and I had a lot of trouble finding them. When I finally did, I was walking between tables to get to my seat and I spilled my food all over the floor. Unfortunately, the embarrassment did not end there because it is much more difficult to eat noodles with chopsticks than it is to eat rice. After taking a lot of pointers on how to eat my food, I finally figured out a method that worked for me. Overall, it was a humbling lunch experience.  After lunch I finished up my PowerPoint presentation for Friday! 

On Friday I spent my morning working on a BBS post. BBS is a forum for all the students to give short updates on what they have been working on. Since I had done a lot of reading throughout the week, I had a lot to update the other students about. I went to lunch with the lab and afterwards went home to rest before going back to the lab. Unlike students in the United States, Chinese students generally take a nap after lunch until about 2:00pm. I have not gotten used to this difference yet, and usually go back to the lab much earlier than the other students. I also leave much earlier than the other students do at night. Some people will stay in the lab until around 10:00pm. At around 2:30pm, I had my presentation about word choice and sentence structure when writing research papers. I think this book is very interesting because it has shown me how many mistakes I make in my writing. There are a couple of students in the lab who plan to study abroad in the United States and need to take the TOEFL (test of English as a foreign language). I think that the presentation was very beneficial for these students. Overall, it lasted about a half an hour and went very well! I will be giving another one next Friday about paragraph structure and writing an introduction. For dinner on Friday I went to the mall with a couple of students I have met from working in the lab. This was the first time I tried eating the marrow from a pig bone. As shown in the photo below, we were given gloves to hold the bone, and a straw to eat the bone marrow.

During my stay in China I have seen a lot of food that I would not see in the United States. Some of the different foods I have seen so far are solidified pigs blood and chicken feet. There are also bones in most of the meat that is served. The other students think that don’t like meat, but I actually haven’t figured out how to eat it yet. Most of the other students are able to eat the chicken meat and spit out the bones. Hopefully I learn how to do this soon!

Above is a photo of Kang Lin Lin and I at dinner on Friday

This is a photo of Gan Qi and Ren Wenqi from dinner on Friday

Blog 4

Monday and Tuesday:

After my fun weekend trip, it was time for me to get started on my work. For the drug encapsulation project, I hope to encapsulate Avastin for treatment of wet AMD. Avastin is a commonly used cancer treatment drug and is not clinically used to treat wet AMD. This drug is being used because it is easy to image the drug and it provides Anti-VEGF therapy. Before I start doing experiments, I need to do a lot of reading so that I can determine what materials would be best to encapsulate and image Avastin. I have also been reading journal article to help me develop a protocol for my experiment. The goal is to eventually perform an animal study to determine how the encapsulated drug reacts in the eye.

For my second project, I have begun research on the anatomy of the eye. Once I have the CAD drawings of the eye, it will be possible to use a 3D printer to create a model of the eye that could be used for a lot of different tests. Before this happens, I will be printing a model that has roughly the same dimensions of the eye to ensure that the 3D printer will be suitable to create this model. On Tuesday night I went to a meeting and discussed this project. There are other students that will be able to teach me how to use the 3D printer. I was also able to attend a seminar on Tuesday morning about the development of nanotechnology for biological and disease studies. Meetings such as this one can be challenging because people are talking in Chinese. Luckily, the PowerPoint was written in English so I could still learn from the seminar. I appreciate meetings that are in Professor Xu’s lab because everyone has made an incredible effort to speak in English as much as they can and to put the PowerPoint slides in English!

On Tuesday I also created a QQ account! QQ is used to chat with friends online, and is very popular in China. The other students were very excited that I got an account because they said it would be much easier for them to communicate with me. This application also allows for group chats, so now it is much easier for me to keep up to date with what is going on in the lab.

Below is a photo of some of the students from the lab. This photo is very hard to see, so I will try to take a better one for my next blog!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blog 3

On Saturday Professor Xu, Xu Wanqing, and I traveled to Shanghai for a meeting at First People’s Hospital. We met with Ophthalmologist Dr. Sun and discussed research that is being conducted on drug delivery to the eye. Currently, there is a need for improvement in the therapy for wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration.  Wet AMD is a condition in which there is damage caused to the macula due to abnormal blood vessel growth underneath the retina. The drugs that combat this vessel growth are called Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor drugs (Anti-VEGF). The current therapy for wet AMD requires repeated drug injections into the eye which can become very expensive. One potential project of mine will be to determine if there is a way to encapsulate Anti-VEGF drugs to create sustained and controllable release of the drug. This would allow the drug to be effective for a longer period of time. Another project will be to use 3D printing to develop a detailed model of the eye that can be used for testing. I am consulting with Dr. Cynthia Roberts on this project to determine what characteristics this model should have.

Above is a photo of Dr. Sun, Professor Xu, and myself from the meeting at First People’s Hospital on Saturday

After our meeting everyone went out to lunch at a very nice restaurant. There were many different dishes were for us to try.  Some of the food looked very different than what I am used to back in America so I was hesitant to try some things, but overall it was a great experience!

Above is a photo from lunch with Dr. Sun

After lunch Xu Wanqing and I checked into our hotel. We were accompanied by Wang Qin who was one of the Ophthalmology students at the meeting earlier in the day. She was able to help us find our way around Shanghai to do some sightseeing. On Saturday afternoon we went to visit the City of God’s Temple, which was filled with small shops. My favorite part of this trip was being able to see one artist create the photo below with only his hand and ink.

After doing some sight-seeing during the day, Xu Wanqing and I ate dinner with 2 of her friends at a new mall. We were exhausted after a long day and went back to the hotel to get some sleep. On Sunday Xu Wanqing, Wang Qin, and I went out to do some more sight-seeing. We first went to the Yuyuan gardens. I was so lucky get an English-speaking guide for these gardens so that I could learn more about the history behind the beautiful scenery. We then walked to the Bund and saw downtown Shanghai. Overall, I had an incredible weekend traveling around and seeing some of the sights in China!
Above is a photo of Xu Wanqing and me touring the Yuyuan Gardens
Above is a photo of myself at the Bund in Shanghai

Blog 2

In the lab on Thursday, we began by having a large group meeting. People introduced themselves and the work they are doing in the lab.  During this meeting it was announced that in the meeting next week I will be giving short presentation on the first couple of chapters in a book called Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers.  The book has brought up many interesting points that should help simplify and clarify my writing and the writing of the other students in the lab. 

On Friday I was able to join Professor Xu on a trip to Shuzhou! While he had meetings most of the day, I had the opportunity to travel around and sightsee in the city. The commute from Hefei to Shuzhou only took a couple of hours by high speed train! Once in Shuzhou, we met with Professor Xu’s niece, Xu Wanqing, who traveled with me for the day to act as a translator and to show me around the city. After a delicious lunch, we found a bike carriage that brought us to a place called the Lion Forest Garden. This garden was filled with beautiful rock formations that were created by nature. Though I was unable to understand much of the information, Xu Wanqing gave me the basic idea of what the tour guides were talking about. After this tour we got on a bus and went to a boat tour. This brought us to the silk museum, which was my favorite place to see. We saw demonstrations of how silk was made, and some incredible silk designs. The last tour we went on was to another garden area. This stop had a calligrapher that was giving demonstrations of his artwork.  

After a day full of touring, Xu Wanqing and I were incredibly tired. We met back up with Professor Xu so that we could all go to dinner together. I was so happy we were able to go to Papa Johns because it is my favorite type of pizza back home. It was great to be able to eat some American food because there is not any on campus. After an exhausting day we went back to our rooms to go to sleep. Tomorrow Professor Xu and I will be traveling to Shanghai to visit with an Ophthalmologist!

Above is a picture from the Lion Forest Garden in Shuzhou

Blog 1

A goal of mine has always been to travel abroad within my 4 years at Ohio State University.  I have just finished my junior year as a Biomedical Engineering student and I am ecstatic to finally see my goal coming to fruition. I have been given an incredible opportunity to travel to Hefei, China to conduct research in Professor Xu’s laboratory at the University of Science and Technology of China. I would like to say a huge thank you to the OSA Foundation for giving me the opportunity to travel abroad to conduct research. Though I am nervous, I am incredibly excited for what the next few months have in store.  

 I arrived in Hefei late last night and was picked up by two students, Wenqi and Jiaqi, who work in Professor Xu’s Lab. They were incredibly helpful in getting me set up in my room at the guest house on campus. I have a nice room to myself and there is even food served in the building I am staying in! 

Today Professor Xu brought me to his lab where I met the other people that are working there. Everyone has been extremely helpful and welcoming. Most of the people I have met speak English very well, so communication has not been as difficult as I was anticipating. After talking to Professor Xu, it sounds like we will be traveling to Shanghai this weekend to visit an Ophthalmologist at The First People’s Hospital. This should help in narrowing down the focus and goals of my research this summer! 

I have not had a chance to take many photos yet, but I will get some up as soon as I can!