Koalified Medicine

This week’s post is from 2013 IB graduate Andrea Chez, who just completed her first year of medical school… in Australia!

 

Shock was usually the first reaction that I got when I told people that I was moving to Sydney.chez sydney

Then excitement.

Followed by disbelief.

And the question that I always got, and am still getting asked, is “why Australia?” Up until my senior year, I had never considered medical school anywhere outside of the States. I had decided to study abroad for a couple weeks in January of 2015 (through the University). The focus of the trip was to learn more about global healthcare, and the diversity of different healthcare regiments, as well as population diversity. In the course of the fortnight that I spent in Australia, I had fallen in love. The idea that I could potentially contribute to helping Indigenous peoples, both medically and culturally, was exciting and invigorating. I also truly appreciated how largely mental health is emphasized. The view isn’t too shabby either.

I had always known that I would like to study abroad throughout the course of my medical degree. I thought that I would arrange electives here or there in different countries, or utilize my summers to travel and explore. When I returned home, I decided to try and send off applications to some medical programs around Australia, without huge expectations that I would be accepted. That changed when I was notified that I had qualified for multiple mini interviews at both the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne.

The application process is not too different from the program in the States, but everything is much cheaper. One option is to apply to multiple schools through a main application that you send to the schools that you would like to apply to, but there is only one fee versus a fee for every school. Another way is to apply through an international representative (which I elected to do). My representative helped me throughout the whole process of dealing with student loans, applying for the correct visa, and just contacting the universities in general. The medical schools then conduct multiple mini interviews, in which a panel of interviewers will talk to different applicants and have them answer a variety of panel questions, each with a rubric of points that can be awarded. Once interviews are done, decisions are made, and places are awarded. Oddly enough, international tuition prices in Australia are pretty similar to domestic medical school tuition in the States. When I opened that acceptance e-mail, it was as if all of my hard work was validated.

It definitely takes hefty doses of bravery and moxie to pack up your life, and start over. The decision to enroll in any schooling, let alone medical school, in another country, is one that doesn’t suit everyone. I love that I am completely immersed in a different culture, and will get to experience opportunities that I never dreamed of. However, there are days that I am quite homesick. There are also days that I couldn’t be happier. No matter what happens, I know that I have never regretted my decision, and am excited to see where this journey takes me.

Reflections on research & Fulbright

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Hello again, my name is Sally Feng. I graduated with a B.S. in Integrative Biology in May 2014. I am doing work on coral reef restoration in the Philippines under a Fulbright research grant.

My research experience
Three years ago, research was a foreign concept to me. During my sophomore year, I contacted a few professors and let them know that I was interested in their research. The following summer, I began assisting with a project with Dr. Katie McGhee in Dr. Alison Bell’s lab. IMG_8232I started taking field courses in the States (IB 447 and NRES 285)
and abroad in South Africa (ANSC 398) and in Costa Rica (ANTH 445). I was also in Dr. Becky Fuller’s lab to see what it was like to work in another lab. The next thing you know, I was completing my own independent projects. I presented at the iBio Research Symposium and at the Undergraduate Research Symposium at U of I. I received funding from NSF REU, Office of Undergraduate Research and Bell lab to present at the Animal Behavior Conference at the University of Colorado Boulder and at Princeton University. After two semesters of IB 390, I enrolled in IB 490 to graduate with distinction. My senior thesis on color-reward association in stickleback fish has been accepted for publication in Animal Behaviour.

My Fulbright experience
I am part of the corals lab under Dr. Ronald Villanueva at the University of Philippines Bolinao Marine Laboratory. DSC01107My study organism is Drupella cornus, a corallivorous marine gastropod. I am interested in seeing whether the gastropod chooses to feed upon a coral colony over another and whether the removal of the gastropod will have an effect in coral cover.

Even though I had a project in mind, it requires a lot of patience to get an experiment started. This was my first field-based project. I had to figure out how to set up my study area underwater and what sites to use. I just became open water certified so I needed time to get comfortable in diving. IMG_8285I was set back a few weeks because of a storm and gale warnings. Soon it was Christmas and everyone was gone for the holidays. Finally, after two months since my arrival and with the help from the lab aids, I was able to set up my experiment. Since then my experiment has been running smoothly.

While research is my priority, I was able to pursue another interest of mine, environmental education. I attended SEA (Sea and Earth Advocates) Camp, a project of the Save Philippines Seas and U.S. Embassy Manila. DSC_0242SEA Camp’s goal is to empower young seatizens as leaders in conservation. There were 30 participants, ages 18-23, from a diverse background ranging from university students to government workers. I was invited to give a talk on coral restoration and was a mentor to the participants with their project proposals on marine conservation. The camp was very well organized with resource speakers, workshops and other activities. I enjoyed seeing how excited the participants became when they had the opportunity to snorkel and scuba dive. It was amazing to see how motivated everyone was in saving the Philippines Seas.

DSC_0294I have been abroad for six months and only have three months left of my grant. I am extremely happy with my stay in the Philippines and am excited to see where I will be next. If you would like to contact me, feel free to send an email to feng.sally26@gmail.com.

– Sally.

Amazing IB undergrads!

undergrad research week
This week is Undergraduate Research Week, a celebration of student excellence in research across campus. The signature event is the eighth annual campus-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS), held on Thursday, April 23rd.

We are pleased to highlight some of the great research our undergraduates are doing in IB!  The following IB students are presenting at this year’s Symposium:

Behavioral Freeze Avoidance Strategy in an Antarctic Fish
Mateusz Grobelny, Senior

Efficacy of Common Disinfectants Against Ophidiomyces Ophiodiicola, the Causative Agent of Snake Fungal Disease
Marta Rzadkowska, Senior

RNAi Knockdown: The Role of unc-25 in Mediating Nicotine Resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans
Andrew Tran, Sophomore
Emily Yaniz, Sophomore
Stephanie Martynenko, Sophomore

Community Inference
Zachary Cohen, Sophomore

Modeling Threat Assessment in Prey
Nicholas Sutton, Senior

Molecular Evolution for the Chemoreceptor Gene Families in the Common Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens
Yihui Zhu, Senior

DNA Fragment Length Heterozygosity PCR: Lab-on-a-Chip Method for Testing Bias in Prairie Root Metagenomics
Taylor Pederson, Senior

Electrophysiological and Mass-Spectrometric Investigation of Aplysia L1-L7 Neurons
Feng Zhu, Senior

Elucidation of Dopamine’s Influence in Peripheral Sensing in Pleurobranchaea.
Megan Flanagan, Junior
Andrew Tran, Sophomore

Genetic Analysis of Cellobiohydrolase I (cbhI) Gene Sequences and Production of Other Wood Degradation Enzymes in Tropical Aquatic Fungal Communities
Matthew Boyce, Senior

Improving the Accuracy of Photosynthetic Compensation Point Measurements
Jessica Ayers, Junior

Hox Gene Expression in Mammalian Limb Development
Paige Oboikovitz, Senior

Did you know you can “hack” photosynthesis?

According to IB profs Stephen Long, Amy Marshall-Colon, and Donald Ort, using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency of plants offers the best hope of increasing crop yields enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-photosynthesis-hack-world.html#jCp

A Foundation for Modern Teaching and Research

courtesy LAS News Magazine, Winter 2015 edition

In the late 1800s, with the University of Illinois facing growing enrollments and limited space, renowned University architect Nathan Ricker designed a distinctive teaching and research building at the heart of campus that he hoped would endure through the ages. He produced a gem—the Natural History Building.

This historic structure has hosted generations of students studying geology, biology, and other disciplines. Distinguished scholars have taught, established laboratories, and conducted groundbreaking research within its walls.

But designs and infrastructure that worked for the 19th and 20th centuries do not meet today’s teaching and research demands. The Natural History Building has reached a critical juncture and it must evolve dramatically to continue to serve our campus. Thus, the University has begun a $70 million renovation that preserves the building’s historic exterior while transforming the interior into a new world of state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, and meeting spaces.nhbA Vision

The renovation of the Natural History Building will create a dynamic education and research center. It will house classrooms, laboratories, and offices for current and future generations of geologists, geographers, and atmospheric scientists, and will be the center for biological and environmental education for students from across campus.

IB students will gain skills to examine challenges such as the outbreak of a new infectious disease or the causes and consequences of declining biodiversity. They will combine an understanding of basic natural history with new technologies that will bring breakthroughs in fields such as genomics. The holistic approach of the School of Integrative Biology will prepare students to tackle complex problems ranging from understanding evolutionary processes to developing biofuels.

For more on the NHB Renovation, including naming opportunities, and the story of a mysterious time capsule, please visit LAS News magazine.

What I learned as a First Year Medical Student

Amanda Ilag is a 2013 IB graduate and is our guest blogger this week!

amanda ilagRemember how you felt studying for the MCAT, taking that organic chemistry final, or going to a volunteer service event all in one day? This is the kind of stress and stamina needed to get through medical school. Year one of medical school takes everything you need to know about the basic sciences and applies it to human anatomy and physiology all in one year. That’s why they tell you to be organized, efficient with your time, and good at assessing your weaknesses and strengths. Studying for medical school is a full time job. You need to find new test taking skills, reform your old ones or in some cases group yourself up with fellow peers so that you get the most out of the learning experience.

In medical school you are working with an even more selective group of students so the pressure to do well is even higher. The way you need to study and take tests needs to be more efficient than it has ever been in your life. What I liked about SIU in Carbondale is that they counted our first exam lower than all other exams because they understood undergraduate to medical school could be a transition. It was also less pressure to compete for the best grades because our curriculum was a satisfactory/concern/unsatisfactory grading scale instead of actual grades. The good news is if you have the motivation and stamina to succeed; you will succeed! Get excited about testing yourself to the maximal potential of understanding! You’ll be pleased by how much you will have learned and even more curious about all there is to come.

A big part of learning now in any medical school curriculum is through “problem based learning.” This style of learning was crucial in SIU’s curriculum. It was discussion based and really challenged students to help each other understand material in a non-confrontational (group of 6-8 students) and moderated setting (tutor group leader, either a doctorate faculty member in the basic sciences or an actual physician). It was so different than undergraduate lectures where the lecturer told you most things and there was little or no discussion between students before exams. With problem based learning, students were the ones discussing what could be wrong with a “fake patient” in the computer system whose “labs, physical exam, and history information” were based on a compilation of actual patient records. It is a chance to explain material in your own words, to see if you are on the right track, and helps solidify material into memory.

I learned a lot about myself by talking with fellow students. Not all of your classmates are fresh out of college, in fact some may already be married with kids, so it was neat to gain new perspectives on life by talking with fellow classmates who are different from me. I made a lot of new friends that I hadn’t expected to make based on age, diverse background, previous work experiences, etc. We got to know our peers well because of our small class size, making it easy to be studious and to get together when we needed to have fun.

There is some clinical experience involved in year one. First years got a mentor to shadow in a specialty of your choice (mine was family medicine) where I would go once a week to observe and learn how to talk to patients from the surrounding community. You learn techniques for doing physical exam, what type of questions to ask to lead you to a list of possible diagnoses, and you learn to communicate this information concisely both verbally and in writing.

You still have time for hobbies, significant others, and relaxation you just have to be smart with your time; and be ready to adjust as necessary. And when you do find yourself in stressful situations get help from people you know and trust. There were many people on our faculty and fellow students that helped me deal with stress. And my family continued to be a strong means of support.

If you are applying to medical school or thinking about applying consider this… IS the lifestyle of a medical student something you can work with? CAN you imagine doing anything else? If you answered YES, then NO, go for it.  If you have applied but are not sure whether you want to go, take some time off to think about it. Year one of medical school is a life-changing experience for anyone so be really sure you want to go before doing it.  If you have been accepted and are sure you want to go, congratulations there is so much more you will learn about yourself along the way, and you are that much closer to being the doctor you’ve always wanted to be. Sometimes people find they don’t want to go AFTER they’ve already been there, and that’s ok too. The skills you will learn from a year of medical school will stay with you for the rest of your life and will surely make you a better person for it! Just consider all the options and learn as much as you can about it before diving into it.

Applying for a Fulbright Research Grant

IMG_7191My name is Sally Feng. I graduated with a B.S. in Integrative Biology in May 2014. I am currently doing work on coral restoration in the Philippines under a Fulbright research grant. If you are interested in applying for a Fulbright, here is my experience.

 

My Fulbright Timeline

  • May 2, 2013 – Attend Fulbright info session
  • July 1, 2013 – Priority deadline submission
  • September 3, 2013 – Top Scholars deadline submission
  • September 25, 2013 – Fulbright campus interview
  • October 2, 2013 – Fulbright final deadline submission
  • January 31, 2014 – Institute of International Education sends application abroad for final review
  • April 9, 2014 – Selected for Fulbright U.S. Student Award to the Philippines 

General Advice

Before starting the application, you need to decide whether you are willing to commit to the process. You have to be determined, self-motivated and patient. This applies even more so once the scholarship has been awarded. It is not a study abroad program where you take a class with fellow students. You will spend up to a year on your own in a foreign country. Don’t let that scare you; it is well worth the opportunity and a very rewarding experience.

Since it is quite a long journey, it is important to become familiar with the application process and deadlines. All U of I students will apply for the scholarship via the Top Scholars/National International Scholarships Program. The process involves submitting an online application, college transcripts, 1-page personal statement, 2-page grant purpose, 3 letters of recommendation and an affiliation letter. Keep in mind the letters of recommendation have different deadlines and specific submission instructions.

To begin, determine a starting point. What interests you? Where do you want to go? This is your opportunity to be creative. If you need help, there are many resources available. Visit the Top Scholars office and read past submissions. Ask professors if they have contacts abroad that may be willing to accept you in their lab. Have others proofread your essays. I highly recommend submitting a draft for the priority deadline. Be very detailed in your essay to let the reviewers know you have done your research. Plan out the months of what you will be doing during your stay there. Talk about the preparations you will take to become a stronger candidate. Let them know you are interested in the culture and what you hope to gain out of it. Most importantly, convince them why they should fund you to go to this specific country.

My Application Process

My starting point was the location. I wanted to work in water so I narrowed my search to islands. Next I looked into statistics. Based off of the 2013-2014 statistics for Philippines, of the 18 applicants, 8 were awarded. I began looking into universities that specialized in marine sciences. I looked into the research topics of faculty members to see if any were of interest. I found the topic of coral restoration very appealing so I emailed a professor telling him I was applying for a Fulbright and would love to work in his lab. He was willing to accommodate me at his lab considering that I would be fully funded throughout my stay.

That may have sounded easy but couldn’t have been done without help. My initial draft needed a lot of work and I might have given up if it wasn’t for the support provided by my professors and from the Top Scholars office. I was told I had very strong letters of recommendation and my professors were rooting for me. That was encouraging to hear and I did not want to disappoint them. I continued to read research articles to get ideas. I emailed my prospective professor for advice on my grant purpose. I worked on new drafts until I was satisfied with my project. It is extremely important to come up with a project that you are interested in because this could potentially be the next year of your life.

The application process is a rewarding experience by itself. Not only did I learn how to write a grant purpose, I was accepted into a lab at an international university. I have letters of recommendation ready for future references. I learned how to present myself on paper and in person. I gained confidence in the work I accomplished and the effort paid off.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share more about my past and current research experience. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at feng.sally26@gmail.com. Best of luck!

– Sally.

On the job hunt?

Searching for a job can be one of the most stressful ventures in life!  The IB Advisors are here to help with career exploration, finding internships, preparing for the job search, and more!

Be sure to also use The Career Center at Illinois for services related to job hunting like resume reviews, mock interviews, and career fair prep!crying in baseball meme

Check out these additional great resources to help make yourself the best possible candidate and minimize anxiety:

On cover letters via Conservation Careers

On using power words in your resume from Career Bliss

On staying positive from The Muse

On decreasing anxiety via The Career Center at Illinois

On tough interview questions via The Career Center at Illinois

On etiquette via The Career Center at Illinois

Bug Buffet!

Our very own Professor May Berenbaum and PhD student Michelle Duennes were featured in a recent Daily Illini article regarding IB 109: Insects and People, where as part of the class, the students enjoy a “bug buffet.”

Eat bugs

From the article…

While many cringe at the idea of eating bugs, which is called “entomophagy,” this practice is widely accepted in many countries around the world. For students enrolled in Professor May Berenbaum’s Integrative Biology 109 course, “Insects and People,” eating insects during the course’s bug buffet lab is anything but accidental.” 

Read on here.

Photo courtesy Anna Hecht via The Daily Illini

Looking for hands-on experience?

Consider registering for ENG 315: Learning in Community

Student teams working on real projects with community partners
Open to all students, all majors, all levels

LINC is an interdisciplinary, inquiry-guided service-learning course in which students provide meaningful service through the conception, development, and implementation of projects in collaboration with non-profits and community partners. Each section of the course is dedicated to a nonprofit organization that has proposed one or more projects of importance to the organization.  There are both new and continuing partners each semester. Choose a section based upon your interests and/or skills or your desire to learn something new!

Early in the semester you will meet a representative from your partner organization, learn more about the organization and its mission, and begin a semester project that addresses the needs of the organization. You will engage in a variety of research, service and fieldwork activities outside of class to gain knowledge needed for the project, and that knowledge is then discussed for understanding, applied, analyzed, synthesized, and evaluated in class. Class time is also used to help students delegate tasks, make decisions, process new information, engage in reflective discussions, learn core course content, collaborate with teammates, and receive guidance and feedback on the projects. Throughout the semester you will identify and explore topics that will assist you with the execution of your project. The semester concludes with a public poster presentation in which teams present the accomplishments of the project, value added to the community organization, and lessons learned.

As a result of this course you can expect to gain knowledge and skills in conducting research, understanding social and environmental issues, analyzing community and organizational needs and assets, defining problems, generating and analyzing solutions, identifying and mobilizing resources, project scoping, planning, and execution, teamwork and leadership, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, professional writing, and civic responsibility.

For more information and to see projects for Spring ’15, visit http://linc.illinois.edu/spring-15-projects