The summer after my freshman year was a perfect blend of work, travel, and time spent relaxing at home. For the first seven weeks, I resided at USC to work in Professor Zavaleta’s research lab. As mentioned in my last blog post, Professor Z’s lab investigates the use of nanoparticles in detecting tumors with great precision. Every week day, I showed up at the Michelson Center around 10am—our lab members were not early risers—and undertook various projects. One of my projects was to characterize different fluorescent dyes by observing trends in their excitation and emission peaks. I helped Professor Z distinguish the dyes that had the potential to be inserted into our nanoparticles and imaged.
Another project of mine was growing colon cancer cells (also known as cell culture) that were later used in our experiments. Meanwhile, I got to be a part of the synthesis of liposomes and nanoparticles made of gold. A month into my research experience, Professor Z asked me to write an introduction for a paper she was working on. What an awesome opportunity!
While I was in LA, I took advantage of having no homework and explored the fabulous city. Some highlights were eating brunch at Urth Caffé in the Arts District, attending a music festival featuring performers like Shawn Mendes and Ariana Grande, and watching The Late Late Show with James Corden live. Even more exciting, Professor Z took our lab to Disneyland! Professor Z is a huge Disney fan, so she led us on a personalized adventure around the theme parks.
After my research experience, I traveled to Japan with my family. We rode the bullet train, called the Shinkansen, from Tokyo to Kyoto to Hiroshima. We visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, saw the great Torii at Miyajima Island up close, and of course savored the exquisite Japanese cuisine every step of the way. Sushi, ramen, steak, fish, oysters, tonkatsu…
The primary reason we went to Japan was actually to hike Mount Fuji with our extended family. We started at an elevation of 5,000 feet at 1:00pm and arrived at a sleeping hut close to the top at around 6:30pm. The next morning, we made the final trek to the summit, which was at around 13,000 feet. It was definitely one of the most physically and mentally challenging feats I have ever accomplished. The views of sunrise at the top were absolutely amazing, and being with family made it extra special. After my Japan trip, I came home to Hawaii to relax and spend time with high school friends. It was really nice to catch up with everyone, swim in warm, Hawaiian waters, and eat my all-time favorite spicy ahi poke bowls.
Many times, freshmen have difficulty deciding whether to use their first summer of college to get a head start in achieving their future career or to enjoy their last summer before they must really consider their future career. I say, why not both?