Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blog 15

Saturday and Sunday:

Saturday was a difficult day for me because the air quality was very bad. When I met with Sarah, the other American girl, earlier this trip she told me to get an app called air quality so I could be informed about how clear the air is. Many people will wear masks around outside when the air quality gets bad. On Saturday the pollution in the air was visible. It looked like there is a fog all around. The sky was grey and the sun couldn’t be seen. The app showed that the air pollution was very high in the “very unhealthy” range on this day, and there were not many people walking around outside. I went to the lab for part of my day, but I spent most of my day indoors because I think it is noticeably harder to breathe when the air is this bad. Hopefully the air will improve soon!

Above shows a screen shot of the application on my phone called air quality. Another student in the lab gave me a mask that I can wear if the air quality begins to be a problem for me.
Above is a photo of the weather on Saturday. Though it is difficult to capture in a photo, there is a blanket of fog everywhere and the sky is a greyish color.

On Sunday the air quality started improve a bit! I went into the lab in the afternoon, and met up with Jiaqi there. We went to pizza hut with two of her friends for dinner before seeing a variety show for their graduation. I was nice to see these girls again because they will also be going on the trip to Zhangjiajie on Friday.

Below is a photo of Jiaqi and I at dinner.

The variety show was held in a large auditorium that was packed with people. There were many different dance teams and skits that were performed. It was very fun to see! At the end there was a slide show about the places that the students will go after graduation. It was definitely a special night for the graduating seniors!
Below is a photo of one of the acts from the variety show!

After a great night with Jiaqi and her friends, I realize how sad I will be when she leaves because she has become a great friend and has helped me so much. It has also made me so excited to go on the trip with her later this week!

Blog 14

Thursday and Friday:

Thursday morning we had our usual group meeting that lasted all morning. I got to hear about all the work that the other students in the lab have been doing. Most of the people have PowerPoint slides that are written in English so I am able to understand what they are working on. It is fascinating to see the incredible work the other students are doing, and humbling to be surrounded by such brilliant people. Below is a large group photo with the names of everyone in the lab.

That afternoon I worked on my PowerPoint slides for my presentation on Friday, and I helped Yuan Shuai with his practice for his TOEFL test. He takes this next week, so he has been working hard to prepare for it. All I had to do was tell him when he mispronounced a word, and then read the passages myself. Most of the Chinese students are able to read and write in English very well. The most difficult part of the test is the speaking portion.
On Friday morning I finished my presentation for later that day, and set up a Chinese bank account with Lei Fan’s help. After lunch I found out we wouldn’t be having the weekly Friday meeting anymore because so many people have final exams this week and next and need the time to study. I was happy about this because it gave me the opportunity to try my first experiment on my own. Yuan Shuai was there to make sure I didn’t electrocute myself my first time trying the experiment. I only used one material instead of two so that I could get used to creating the Taylor cone on my own. Below is a photo of the stable Taylor cone that I made!

Next I hope to encapsulate Rhodamine in a PLGA shell!

Blog 13

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday:

Monday, June 2nd, was a holiday in China called “Dragon Boat Festival”. Professor Xu explained to me that this holiday commemorates the death of a famous poet named Qu Yuan. This is not a big holiday in China, but the people that live close to the school will go home and everyone else will have a day to relax. Below is a photo of the food that is traditionally eaten on this holiday. It is a mound of rice wrapped in seaweed and filled with meat or jujubes. The wrapping is used to add flavor to the food, but is not eaten.

Most people didn’t go into the lab on Monday. When I got there the only other person in the room was Jiaqi. I worked for a little bit in the morning, and I went on a long walk with He Yutong around campus in the afternoon. Afterwards we got lunch in the faculty cafeteria with the other students from the lab. Professor Xu gave us his faculty lunch card because we were in the lab on the holiday.
On Tuesday morning I worked on developing a new protocol for my experiment. To do this I read articles that performed similar experiments. After lunch I went to the police station with He Yutong, because any foreign visitor to HeFei needs to register with the police if they are staying for over a month. I didn’t know what was being said between He Yutong and the woman working the front desk, but it seemed like there was an unusual amount of conversation going on between the two. After we left, He Yutong told me that I was supposed to register with the police 24 hours after I arrived in Hefei. Instead, I waited about a month! I received a paper with the title “Punishment of Warning”, but He Yutong told me that it should not be a problem.
Later in the afternoon, Yuan Shuai told me that he built me my own experimental set-up! I wish I had been able to help him do this, but I didn’t know he was working on it until he was almost done. It makes me laugh when I work with Yuan Shuai because he works and walks so quickly that it is hard for me to keep up. I am happy that I will be able to start my experiment soon!
On Wednesday morning I worked on my eye model project. Dr. Roberts recently gave a clear outline and goal of this project and established communication for all the people involved in this project. Another student at Ohio State has created a detailed model of the eye. My job in this project is to determine how the model can be 3D printed. Our goal is to initially make a very simple model, and to add levels of complexity as we determine what works.
I spent the afternoon going to the bank with Lei Fan so that I could figure out how to exchange my USD for RMB. I was also very excited on Wednesday because Jiaqi invited me to go with her on a trip to Zhangjiajie. We will be traveling there with the rest of her class as a graduation celebration. We will be leaving on June 13th and arriving back in Hefei on June 17th. This trip is about a 4 hour train ride away from Hefei. The area looks beautiful and I am so excited to have the opportunity to travel there!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blog 12

Saturday and Sunday:
Saturday was a cool and rainy day. My goal of Saturday was to figure out how I could do my laundry. I was told that I could give my laundry to the front desk, and they would take care of it for me, but this small task was difficult because I can’t communicate well with the lady from the front desk. I tried to communicate with the woman through an application I have on my phone, but this was still very difficult. Eventually I had to call Jiaqi to translate for me. It will be nice to have some clean clothes soon!
In the afternoon I met Shen Shuwei at the lab to go hiking up a small mountain that is close to campus called Danshu Mountain. He had 4 other classmates of his that went with us. Unfortunately it was a pretty rainy day, but it was still so fun to see the beautiful scenery and to meet so many new people! Below are some photos from climbing Danshu Mountain.

The mountain only took about an hour and a half to climb up and back down, but it was still a great exercise! Afterwards we went to dinner and a movie. The plaza that held the movie theater and restaurant was beautiful! Below is a photo of an opera performance and a large camel statue found in the plaza. My favorite part of dinner was the milk tea that we got to drink. I asked for mine to be chocolate flavored, so it tasted a lot like chocolate milk!

After dinner, we saw the movie X Men. The movie was in English and had Chinese subtitles. Though I haven’t seen the other X Men movies, I still really liked it! Overall, this was one of my favorite nights so far!
Spending this night out with Shen Shuwei and his friends has emphasized to me one of the beautiful parts of Chinese culture. Though everyone has been extremely welcoming and generous towards me, I think it is inspiring to see the generosity that friends show toward one another as well. This night out everyone contributed in their own way. One friend swiped his card for everyone to get on the bus, one bought us drinks, another the movie tickets, one person volunteered to pay for dinner, and yet another paid for the taxi on the way home. This night was composed of everyone offering up what they could to make this a great night for everyone. There was never someone asking for money or fighting over who would pay. I think this kind of generosity it not as common back in America. If this night was an evening out in America, everyone would have paid for their own drinks, food, movie ticket, and transportation. I have felt uncomfortable here because things are not split evenly the way I am used to, but as I have continually seen people being generous throughout this trip, I have begun to see the beauty in the generous culture of the people.
On Sunday I had a pretty relaxing day. I slept in and went on a run on the track in the morning. In the afternoon I went into the lab for a little bit to do some work and catch up on emails. Overall, this has been another amazing week!

Blog 11

Thursday and Friday:

On Thursday morning I gave my presentation on my encapsulation project. Overall, the presentation went very well, but after discussing my research with Professor Xu, I will be taking my research in a different direction. I will not be testing Avastin because this is a very expensive drug to buy, and it would be difficult to finish the necessary experiments in the time I have left (which is about 2 months now, I can’t believe I have already been here for about a month!). Instead I will be studying the release profile of microbubbles. This research will be closely related to Yuan Shuai’s work, and therefore can have a larger impact.
To determine the release profile of a microbubble, I will be encapsulating Rhodamine in a PLGA bubble. Rhodamine is a toxic chemical that has fluorescent properties, which makes it easy to image. The concentration profile of the microbubbles will tell us how long the microbubbles can sustain release of Rhodamine. If a drug is administered without encapsulation, there should be a large spike in concentration of the drug, and then a quick decrease in concentration as the body filters out the drug. The goal for microencapsulation is to have a gradual increase in the concentration of Rhodamine, and then to level out a certain concentration for an extended period of time.
The rest Thursday afternoon was spent working on my presentation of chapters 5 and 6 of the book Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers. Chapters 5 and 6 are about the Materials and Methods and Results section of a research paper.
After going on a run in the evening, I got a text from He Yutong inviting me to get “toast” with her and her lab group. Professor Xu’s lab is broken into 3 sections so He Yutong is in a different section of Professor Xu’s lab. Since the lab groups are right next to one another, I still see the people from this lab a lot! He Yutong explained to me that toast is like barbeque food. We met at the gate of the campus, and right outside there were a bunch of people sitting and eating at tables set up alongside the road. We had a large group of 11 people around a table, and ordered a bunch of food. It was pretty spicy, but absolutely delicious. We also all shared a few bottles of beer. Wengi explained to me that it is a custom in China for everyone to make a toast to an honored guest and to drink with them. When tapping glasses, the person making the toast always has their cup below the honored guest. During this dinner, the other people referred to me as the “customer”. This made me laugh because they used that word because I was the one recipient of the customs. Everyone went around the table and made a toast with me.  Some of the people were not able to speak English very well, so they would just say “It is nice to meet you”.  I had so much fun at this dinner because I learned a lot about the other members of the lab. Especially about what NBA basketball teams they liked!

Above is a photo of the “toast” in Thursday night! Most of the students in the lab are men. I have heard that the ratio of men to women at the school is 9 to 1. I have only met 3 other girls in the lab, but I can’t count the number of boys!

Above is a photo of He Yutong and me from the toast. She has her eyes closed, but I wanted to put a photo of her up because she was not in the other 2.

On Friday, I spent the morning finishing my presentation, returning emails, and doing more research to learn more about my new microencapsulation project. After lunch I had the opportunity to talk to Professor Xu about my projects. Professor Xu is leaving soon to go back to Ohio State University, so I want to make sure that I am prepared to work independently after he leaves. We discussed how to test the release profile of the drugs from the microspheres, and how to develop a protocol for this experiment. We also discussed how the eye model needs to be 3D Printed instead of made my PDMS. Though PDMS is a better material, the model will have more details that need to be created by a 3D printer. I will have to find a new 3D printing material that has better properties than the current material. I am excited to get started on this work!
After the meeting, I gave my presentation on writing research papers. I thought that the meeting went very well! I had more participation from the other students in the lab this week. It has been great to get some more experience with public speaking. Generally when I give presentations I get very nervous and I talk fast. I think this experience has helped me practice slowing down and speaking clearly. 
On Friday afternoon, Professor Xu and Dr. Si took all the students from our lab to another very nice dinner. Professor Xu asked everyone to translate the names of the dishes into something that sounds appetizing because some of the dishes have unusual names.  Despite the effort, I was still introduced to dishes that were called Beggars chicken, stinky fish, stinky tofu, and 1000 year eggs. Professor Xu explained to me that the 1000 year egg is a preserved bird’s egg, and that it was on a television show for being one of the world most disgusting foods. Below is a photo of the 1000 year egg. Though it looked pretty gross, it was pretty good!

Below are a couple more photos from dinner. Dr. Si took a large group photo on his phone, so I am hoping I can get this from him to post next week!

After dinner I went back to the lab for a little bit with the rest of the students. On Friday nights the other students will play video games if they don’t have a lot of work to accomplish. After a while I left to buy a candy bar and watch a movie back in my room. Of the things I miss most from home, other than my family and friends, chocolate desserts are definitely one of them.

Blog 10

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
I began my week in the lab by reading an article written by Yuan Shuai. He sent me this so that I could gain a better understanding of his research, because much of his work is applicable to mine. While reading through his article I noticed many grammatical errors and unclear sentences. I spoke to him about his plans for his article, and he asked me to revise his paper for him. I spent most of my Monday afternoon doing this. It felt great to be able to help someone else because I have received so much help the last few weeks. For the rest of the day I practiced speaking Chinese on my Rosetta Stone program. Though I don’t know much, there are some phrases that I have noticed getting stuck in my head. I haven’t had the opportunity to use one of them yet, but hopefully I will be able to soon!
On Tuesday I began my day by doing more research on different materials that can be 3D printed. I need a material that is more flexible than the current material. I brought these ideas to a meeting I had later that day. After lunch I watched and helped Yuan Shuai with another coaxial electrospray experiment. This time we used the same liquid for both the outer and inner portions of the microbubble. Overall, this was not as effective at making microbubbles in comparison to the prior experiment. I was able to practice forming a stable cone by changing the voltage applied to the setup. This is a pretty easy process because Yuan Shuai has done a lot of work to develop his experiment. Hopefully I will have more pictures of this in future blog posts! I am planning on building my own coaxial electrospray equipment with Yuan Shuai’s help either at the end of the week or the beginning of next!
Tuesday was Jiaqi’s birthday, so we went out to dinner on Tuesday night to celebrate! I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to get her for her birthday, so I decided to decorate a jar and fill it with the candy I love. Below are a couple of photos from Jiaqi’s birthday!

The cake in the photo above was half mango and half green tea flavored.
The meeting on Tuesday night was very beneficial for my project. One individual in the room brought up the idea of using PDMS to create the eye model instead of 3D printing materials. I think that this is a great idea because PDMS is a much softer material than most 3D printing materials. The tricky part of this project will be to find a way to create a sphere of PDMS. There were a lot of great ideas that were brought up, but the first one I plan to try is to create the model by casting it. I will need to figure out how to make the sphere hollow. One good idea was to use a dissolvable substance, like soap, to create the hollow center. Overall, a lot of great ideas were shared at this meeting, and I will need to do more research to figure out which one is most appropriate. 

On Wednesday morning I spent my time working on a presentation for my meeting on Thursday morning. My presentation is about the progress of my microencapsulation project. After I was done working on my PowerPoint slide, I started working on a mold for my eye model project. Below are 2 photos of the outline of the mold I made.

On Wednesday evening I took care of a problem I had been having in my room. For the last couple of weeks, I would find a large black beetle in my room. The body of the beetle was about the length of AA battery, and it had long antenna. I had a lot of trouble capturing or killing the beetle because it was all black, hard to see, and very quick. Eventually I was able to kill this one, but a few days later another very large beetle showed up. When I came to my room on Wednesday afternoon, I found 4 smaller beetles. I think they started a family in my room! With Jiaqi’s help translating, I asked the front desk for help. They decided to have me switch rooms instead of trying to kill the beetles. I spent the rest of my night moving my belongings to another room, but I am very happy I don’t have to worry about the beetles anymore!