As faithful readers of this blog will be aware, I recently got a position as a research assistant in Professor Qin’s lab. About a month and a half or so ago, Dr. Qin encouraged me to make a poster and present at the Southern California Undergraduate Research Conference in Chemistry and Biochemistry, which was held about two weeks ago at CSU Channel Islands. I was pretty surprised that he suggested it, considering I had very little data, but I decided to go for it anyway. It was my first time ever making a research poster, so I pretty much had to dive into it and hope for the best. It was a lot of work, but I think it definitely turned out well! I call it my firstborn, and I still have it.
The experience was really informative. I got to see how conferences are held in the professional science field by actually being a part of one. I got to hear what other undergrads at other institutes like Caltech, Pomona College, and CSU Fullerton were up to (a lot of them were graduating seniors and certainly had a lot more data than I did)! I saw other people’s posters and listened to talks given by other undergrads, and I presented my own poster. In addition, I got feedback on my research from chemistry professors at CSU Channel Islands! All in all, it was a fun, eye-opening experience.
Last week, I attended the 40th John Stauffer Distinguished Lecture in the Sciences by Dr. Steven Block of Stanford University, a scientist with far too many titles and honors to name. This event was one of the biggest and most important held by the Chemistry department here at USC, and the Stauffer lecturers are all renowned scientists – as Dr. Mak, the Chemistry department chair, said only half-jokingly, “the list of Stauffer lecturers is the short list of present and future Nobel winners.” Dr. Block talked about his work in pioneering the field of single-molecule dynamics and optical tweezers; of course, as an undergrad, I didn’t understand much of it, but it was definitely interesting, and Dr. Block’s amiable, animated demeanor was really fun to listen to.
The next day was the Stauffer symposium in honor of Dr. Block. Scientists from across the nation flew in to talk about their research, all of which was related to or inspired by Dr. Block’s work. It was really interesting to meet them and see them interact with each other and even the Chemistry faculty here at USC; I couldn’t help but think “This is how science gets done!”
I’ve gotten all these opportunities through the Qin group, and I’m sure there are still more to come. I’m really excited to be working with them this summer – I won the Rose Hills Fellowship, which gives a $5,000 stipend to fund my research over the summer. I know my mentor told me that research only gets more boring, but there’s just so much going on that I’m not sure I completely believe her!
Until next time…