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Lucky We Live LA

There’s a saying back home, “lucky we live Hawaii”. Everyone appreciates Hawaii for the great place to live that it is but despite growing up in such a great place, I’ve really loved my first summer living in Los Angeles. Of course work is great and I’ve had a great time with my jobs, but I don’t think it’s enough to just like your job. You have to love where you live.

 

The difference between the summer and the school year is I’m not going to school. That probably seems obvious but it feels very different to have the focus of my life here be off campus. It feels like I’m sort of student-real person hybrid and it’s been an interesting twist on life here. The best change for me is that I’ve gotten not just off campus to the city, but out of the city to the really explore the Los Angeles area. I’m an outdoors person. I always have been. Downtown Los Angeles is not exactly a nature filled environment outside of the USC campus but it has amazed me what exactly I have been able to find outside of the city. My summer golf obsession has led me all around the city and its surroundings to some absolutely spectacular places. I played on a course in the canyons outside of city that overlooked all of Los Angeles

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Looking down the fairway to the city

I played on another outside of Pasadena that was nestled in the mountains and out there you would never be able to guess that the second largest city in the United States was only 30 minutes away.

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The mountains on a beautiful summer day

Just look at that view. The weather has been absolutely perfect this summer (and I’m from a place with some pretty nice weather). Every day is the epitome of summer and there are so many ways to enjoy it around the city.

Now I swear, golfing isn’t the only thing I have done this summer (though I have done a lot of it). I managed to make some time to take a trip to the shooting range downtown and practice one of the more fun activities out there.

Reloading the shotgun

Reloading the shotgun

Downtown I was also able to grab my absolute favorite seafood, fresh scallops to sear up later. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer working on my cooking and it has been a blast. But when I’m not cooking, there’s plenty of great food around the city to enjoy.

Destroying my arteries with this monster of a hot dog at Pinks

Destroying my arteries with this monster of a hot dog at Pinks

Finally, I spend the Fourth of July in an unusual manner. I wasn’t in Michigan like I have been for 17 out of my 20 Fourth of Julys. My girlfriend and I went to the fireworks show in Exposition Park to watch fireworks over the Coliseum and wow, Los Angeles goes all out for fireworks shows. It was the longest and biggest fireworks show I’ve ever seen and it was funded by the city. Now that’s my taxes at work.

 

Living in Los Angeles outside the school year has been quite simply awesome. All around, I’ve had a great time here and I can’t believe how fast the summer has gone. Next time I write, I will give an in depth talk about the app I’ve been working on. We released a beta build last week and are gearing up for an end of summer release!

 

 

 

Santa Monica

Seeing the Sights

Before the semester ended, I was lucky enough to receive a summer job here at the University of Southern California working with various summer conferences such as orientations, athletic camps, and academic seminars. Rather than returning home from college my first summer after freshman year, I opted to stay in the always busy city of Los Angeles to get to know my way around a little bit better. I’ve got to meet some fantastic people, many of which will be joining us next year in the Trojan Family!

During the year, although there are ample opportunities, there is not as much time to go sightseeing around the city when you have to keep up with classes, extracurriculars- you know the drill. However, I started a project this summer which involves me seeing at least one new place in Los Angeles every week. It’s part of my goal to get very oriented with the area! Coming from the Sacramento area, I’m at a slight disadvantage to SoCal residents when it comes to knowing my way around.

So far I have managed to see Santa Monica (& the Promenade), Venice Beach, Griffith Park (the Observatory, Greek Theatre, and the Hollywood Sign), Elysian Park, Echo Park, and LACMA. I am still planning on visiting a Dodger’s game (only so I can cheer on the Giants!), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Olvera Street, Malibu, and a couple other small areas around the city. I also managed to make a trip up to Santa Barbara to see my brother. Everywhere I go I get another chance to take out my camera and practice some photography- which I love!

Is there anything on my list that you think I am missing? Feel free to comment! I would love to visit a place I may have overlooked!

One of my favorite parts of the office!!!

Update From the Sunshine State

So what does one do during Florida summers when it torrentially downpours every day? Go to the movies!!! Haha, but really, while I’m going to work every day, it rains, pours, rains some more, floods, and then there’s tropical storm warnings. So because I haven’t been in the sunshine much, I figured I’d show a few pictures of my awesome office!!!

This is the 3Ci kitchen, where interns and employees eat a free lunch every day and also have access to yummy (and healthy!) snacks throughout the day

This is the 3Ci kitchen, where interns and employees have a complimentary lunch and also have access to all kinds of delicious (and healthy!) snacks throughout the day.

 

The kitchen is always stocked with coffee, fruit, yogurt, salads, and the main lunch meal; it also has quite a view!!

This is a cubicle at 3Ci. It almost looks like hurricane shutters which matches the modern feel of the entire office

This is a cubicle at 3Ci. It almost looks like hurricane shutters, which match the modern feel of the entire office

Although these look pretty cool, the 10 interns don’t work in cubicles; we work at a table area designated for our team, and often move around to meet with our department and work on projects.

 

One of my favorite parts of the office!!!

One of my favorite parts of the office!!!

Yes, those are motorcycles. Yes, those are guitars. This is understandably my favorite part of the office(Although I don’t get to ride any motorcycles).

This pillar is an example of the artwork that is scattered throughout the office.

This pillar is an example of the artwork that is scattered throughout the office.

 

These “graffiti” art pillars are scattered throughout the office to brighten things up a bit. All of the other artwork(i.e. paintings, wall decor) is also very modern and hip, which definitely made me happier because the environment was so cool. I’m really loving it here and learning a lot, but also can’t wait to get back to school for Sophomore year to finally begin. T minus 35 days!!!!

Kelsey and me at graduation! Fight On!

Summer 2013 So Far

As I have mentioned, I love watching sports, so I’m writing this as I watch the CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Costa Rica! Go USA! Anyways, this summer has been exciting! I went back home to San Diego for the summer, which was much needed because I started missing my family towards the end of spring semester.  It also gave me a time to catch up on all those doctors’ appointments I had put off. Continue reading

Got Nano?

Summer Internship at Quantumsphere

Hey guys! This summer I’ve had the awesome opportunity to intern at Quantumsphere Inc. in Orange County and I’ve loved my experiences there so far.  The area I’m working in is with zinc air batteries which use nano manganese to increase efficiency.  I’m working in the research and development department, and have been working with the scientists and 2 other interns from USC to decide which combination of materials gives the best results.  I work in the lab every day, and I’ve gained so much valuable hands on experience.  There is tons of cool equipment and other projects going on too.  Everyone who works there is really smart and it is great to pick their brains and learn a lot from their experiences.  Being a smaller company, I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from the executives on the business side.  I’ve enjoyed that aspect as well because there are many different concerns for a company versus work in a research lab.  The company also fosters new ideas and creativity and encourages us to always try new and different techniques to do things better.  I’ve definitely learned a lot here and gotten to see the entire process from beginning to end.

 

Outside of work, I’ve also been having some fun exploring Los Angeles and Orange County.  Some of my favorites so far have been the Huntington Library, adventures to the tide pools and beach, and a spectacular Fourth of July with the family.  I’ve definitely had a well balanced summer between work and fun, and there’s always so much to do in the area!

Diamond Jubilee in Trafalgar Square.

Viterbi Summer Overseas in London

Diamond Jubilee in Trafalgar Square.

Diamond Jubilee in Trafalgar Square.

 

The past six weeks have flown by, and it is crazy to think that I only have two more weeks left in London! With at least one main essay each week, homework, weekly quizzes, traveling every weekend (and I mean every weekend), and trying to see London to feel like I actually lived here, I have decided that sleep can wait. This has been the most hectic, exhausting, and incredible adventure that I have experienced, and I have Viterbi to thank for it!

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned my main worry about living in London: a lack of peanut butter. Luckily, there is no shortage of peanut butter whatsoever! London is primarily fueled by Nutella, but peanut butter is easily found. Needless to say, I am very happy about this! It is funny, though, how big Nutella is. When going through security at an airport, there are always the examples of “what not to bring” in your carry-on. At home, it’s always water bottles and large-sized toiletries. In every European airport that I’ve been in, there is always a jar of Nutella on display along with the toiletries and water bottles. I found that pretty bizarre and funny!

Anyways, I have found that living in London has been much easier than anticipated, but doing all of the touristy-stuff in London has been much harder than anticipated. I’m pretty directionally challenged, but I’ve found that it is very easy to get around here! There are maps almost every block, hundreds of bus and tube routes that can take you anywhere you want to go, and people who are always willing to point you in the right direction. I’ve been able to find my way to and from many of the main areas of London, and I’ve never gotten lost to the point of panic!

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

Though I feel like I have seen most of the areas of London, I do not feel like I have seen any of them in enough depth.  I don’t feel like I have been to even half of the main tourist attractions. Like I said earlier, I have been traveling every weekend, so I haven’t had much time to spend at the museums or on main tours within London. I wish I stayed in London more often, but traveling to different countries and cities within England has been spectacular!

I have been to Stonehenge and Bath, the Seven Sisters cliffs, Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Oxford, and will be going to Brussels this coming weekend. Culturally, I think I would have to say that Dublin was my favorite because of the live music. Scenically, I would go with Edinburgh because it felt like I was in a medieval castle-village. It was funny in Edinburgh because every building looked like a castle and was made of beautiful stone and brick, but then you would look at what was inside the building and it would be a McDonald’s or H&M. Definitely not what I was expecting, but it was really cool how they could keep the whole scenic feel of the area even within the main center of the city. Food-wise, I’m thinking that Brussels will be my favorite with Belgium chocolate, waffles, and the original French fries, but that’s just a guess!

Edinburgh, Scotland.

Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

 

Traditional Irish Band at Open Mic Night.

Traditional Irish Band at Open Mic Night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Sisters Cliffs.

Seven Sisters Cliffs.

 

Stonehenge.

Stonehenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlights of London for me have been the markets. Borough Market and Portobello Street Market are musts while in London. Borough Market has about every kind of cuisine you can imagine, but for me, the highlights are the fresh fruits and vegetables and cheeses! Portobello Street Market also has street food, but there are more vintage vendors selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, and small trinkets of all sorts. Both markets are fun to shop at, and they’re perfect for unique London souvenirs. They are also the perfect places to pick up an assortment of food for a picnic at a local park, which has been one of my favorite things to do.

I am sad that this program is coming to a close, but my plan is to fit as much into these next two weeks as humanly (and homework-permitting-ly) possible!

Celebrating the Fourth at Great American Ballpark!

A Baseball Tour of America

Baseball, America’s pastime, and my first love. I have always been a big baseball fan and played baseball until the start of high school. I still remember my first Major League Baseball game. My Bubbie (Yiddish for grandmother) brought me to a Baltimore Orioles game. We sat in the upper deck along the left field line, bought hot dogs, and left in the seventh inning because five-year-old me was too antsy to sit through the entire game. Since that game, I have been an avid Oriole fan and baseball addict.

So, when my family suggested we go on a baseball road trip over the Fourth of July week, it was a no-brainer. My younger brother, Evan, is also a baseball fan and has always wanted to see all 30 Major League Baseball parks. Prior to the vacation, my family had seen 26 ballparks, and we decided to see three of the four remaining stadiums on a road trip through the Ohio River Valley.The Coco family vacation started with a flight to Pittsburgh and a baseball game at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We took the Pittsburgh subway to the Tuesday night game versus the Philadelphia Phillies (a match-up known as the Battle of the Commonwealth) and bought Pittsburgh Pirates tee-shirts to blend in with the home crowd. The Phillies ended up winning 4 to 2, doubling up the Buccos. Despite the loss, seeing a game in PNC Park was a neat experience. The stadium was located on the junction of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela, and I loved dancing along with the Pirates’ beloved neon green mascot, the Pirate Parrot.

Next stop? Cincinnati, Ohio. After a long car ride, my family arrived at the Great American Ballpark on the Fourth of July. Wearing an American flag hat and tank top, I was ready to celebrate America’s birthday with America’s pastime. However, a thunderstorm postponed the game and Fourth of July festivities. My family had to wait until the next evening, when the Cincinnati Reds took on the Seattle Mariners. I enjoyed walking around the stadium, which had an old-fashioned steamboat built into the seats in deep center field. Even though the Reds lost, I had a great time and almost caught a foul ball (the guy sitting next to me got it). At the end of the game, a brilliant fireworks show capped off a July fifth that made up for a rainy July fourth.

The next day, my family was back at the ballpark, this time four hours to the northeast in Cleveland, Ohio. We made it just in time to see the Cleveland Indians take on the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Whenever the Cleveland Indians would hit a homerun, a SUV on a rotating platform in deep centerfield would rotate toward the crowd, firing tee-shirts into the stands. My mother actually caught one of the shirts! But yet again, the home team lost. I am convinced my family was bad luck for the teams!

Outside of baseball, the vacation allowed me to see a section of America that I normally would not travel to. I loved the opportunity to immerse myself in the laid-back, homely culture of Pennsylvania and Ohio. From the Football Hall of Fame to the Andy Warhol Museum, I saw tourist attractions unique to the Ohio River Valley. A neat stop on the road trip was at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. While OSU will never compare to SC, I enjoyed seeing the school spirit at the university when I went on a college tour with Evan. Later in the trip, I even saw some family history! My parents took my brother and me to where they had their first date at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

While I had an amazing time on vacation, I am very excited to return to SC. In less than a month, I’ll be back in Los Angeles and attending Dodgers games. But for the time being, I’ll be working! Several weeks after my last blog post, which chronicled my summer plans in lieu of an internship (See No Internship, No Problem), I got an internship working at RSA Corporation, a chemical plant. So far, I have shadowed several employees, in both the research labs and plant. I have been learning the complex processes and equipment involved in creating active pharmaceutical ingredients. Currently, much of my time is spent in the quality control lab doing pH, percent solids, and other tests. Expect another blog post soon concerning my internship!

When I am not working, I am still practicing Solidworks and C programming language. As a member of my fraternity’s social committee, I have also begun to plan the fall semester’s social calendar, brainstorming themes and contacting DJ’s. With fall semester quickly approaching, I cannot wait to meet all the new USC freshmen, and I hope you all had a great time at orientation. If you have any questions about USC, be sure to ask me or any other Viterbi Student Ambassador. Have a great summer, and see you in the fall!

 Night Game in Pittsburgh!  The Pirate Parrot  Progressive Field and Cleveland!

Night Game in Pittsburgh!

The Pirate Parrot

Progressive Field and Cleveland!

Syntouch

SynTouch LLC

This summer I am working at a biotech company called SynTouch. The company grew from research conducted at Dr. Loeb’s research lab at USC, and many of the employees at the company are from USC. The company creates tactile sensors that emulate the human finger – “synthetic touch.” My job as an intern at SynTouch this summer has been to do a “proof of concept” that shows that their tactile sensor (the BioTac) can be of use in minimally invasive surgery and return some form of feel to the surgeon during operations.

The BioTac sensor

The BioTac sensor

The job has been engaging since I get to choose my own approach, with, of course, much guidance from other people in the company. I make my own research plans to analyze the sensor data and display it in a way that is useful. In every step of the process the output is improved little by little. I love working at SynTouch because I’ve gotten a very personal connection with the other workers, and the work I do could potentially end in a new application for the company’s products. Internships are always an incredible learning experience, and mine has certainly proven to be so.

sunscreen

Solar Science

           

While skin cancer has always been more prevalent with old age, each year more and more frighteningly young people are being diagnosed.   Between lower ozone levels in our earth’s atmosphere, the invention of tanning beds, and our culture’s craze to attain that “sun-kissed-glow,” ultraviolet rays are penetrating our skin to the point of damaging DNA and mutilating skin cells.  According to the National Cancer Center, nearly 77,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2013.

Between soaking up the sweet Los Angeles sunshine during the school year and lifeguarding in Chicago during the summer months…my skin gets more than enough vitamin D.   Each summer growing up I had always looked forward to attaining that “golden glow;” laying out for hours and hours and not thinking much of a sun burn here and there.  I had always been proud of the fact that I’ve never used a tanning bed; however, I now understand I need to be just as cautious with my skin outdoors. This summer I’ve been especially careful to slather myself in sunscreen before heading out to work, the beach, or even going for a run outside.

If you are coming from a seasonal state like Illinois and are not familiar with 365 days of sunshine… here are some additional tips I’ve been following that you might find useful throughout your year!!!

 

  • wear polarized sunglasses as often as possible.  And no, big shades are not just for style and steeze (eyeballs can burn too!)
  • use a hat or visor…The hairline is one of the most cancer-prone areas since the sun is constantly hitting the top of our foreheads and it’s easy to skip over this area when smearing around the sunscreen.
  • Try and avoid getting too much sun between 10AM-4PM when the sun is highest in the sky and its rays are most powerful.
  • Stay away from tanning salons!!!! (nothing wrong with being pale)
  • Use water-resistant sunscreen when engaging in outdoors activity, reapplying every 2 hours…I am obsessed with my Hawaiian Tropic “shimmer effect” sunscreen so my skin sparkles when I step out into natural light.  Sounds cheesy I know, but once my skin looses it’s shimmer I know its time to reapply (:

 

Why Skin Cancer Has Become More Prevalent:

 

The ozone layer is located in the earth’s stratosphere and serves as a natural protective barrier from the sun.  While UV-A rays still pass through, ozone (a compound made up of three oxygen atoms) absorbs UV-B rays and blocks them from hitting the earth.  Strong compounds like chlorofluorocarbons, freons, halons, and refrigerants react with these UV rays and release individual chlorine and bromine atoms.  These atoms then react and break down ozone.  These reactions go on to spark a chain reaction which has caused a thinning in the ozone layer and the “hole” over the Antarctic region.  This thinning has left us subject to deeper penetration and more exposure to UV rays.  Since the Montreal protocol of 1996, however, countries all over the world have banned the use of products containing CFC’s and other damaging chemicals found in industrial cleaning tools, refrigerators, and aerosol spray cans.  So while we are slowly restoring some of the lost ozone to our atmosphere, we must continue to be extra careful under the sun!

 

The Science Behind Sunscreen:

 

The sun emits three types of radiation.  UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays.  UV-A is the longest wavelength of the three and penetrates most deeply into the skin.  It is not absorbed by the ozone layer.  UV-B rays are only partially blocked by the ozone layer and are responsible for causing sunburn.  UV-C rays are the least problematic to humans as they are usually completely blocked by the earth’s atmosphere.  Sunscreen contains active mixtures of organic and inorganic compounds that reflect these UV-A and UV-B rays.  Usually inorganic compounds like zinc and titanium oxide are responsible for reflecting and scattering these rays while the organic molecules absorb excess rays and releases it as heat.

 

There is tons of science involved in the mysteries of skin cancer and a lot of fascinating research taking place every day.  All you outta-towners don’t let the “golden state of mind” get in the way of protecting your skin.  If your naturally pale like me…own it!!

 

 

A fellow Trojan and I rocking the pale look and big shades (:

 

A fellow Trojan and I rocking our stunna shades just trying to stay cool (:

 

sunscreen

my lovely assortment of lotions!!

 

Surfing out in Santa Monica!

Summer Update!

Hey Everyone!

Hope everyone’s summers are going well! Mine has been awesome so far. Research is progressing, I’m getting prepared for next year’s classes, and I’m taking the extra time I have to continue to explore LA and take up surfing!

As for the research, I’m currently in the process of making this:

assembly

 

It’s a mechanical woodpecker simulator which, as I’ve mentioned before, will be used in conjunction with a professor up in Washington to impact and test the neural plasticity of real brain cells! I’m super excited about the  prospects of our results, and hopefully soon we’ll be well on our way to designing better helmets for military and commercial applications!

Outside of research I’ve gotten into surfing with one of my roommates. It’s been really hot down here recently, so I’ve been more than happy to pick up a new hobby that keeps me cool on these super hot days.

I also got to spend a couple days at home before going to Tahoe for the 4th last week! It was an awesome time. We hiked, went boating, and hung out on the beaches of the lake for a couple days before returning to LA. It was an amazing few days but it’s good to be back in SoCal with the roommates for some more great summer experiences!

Below are some photos of the summer shenanigans!

 

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