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Cindy Duong

Summer to Remember

posted August 08, 2015

Cindy attempts to take on the wild this summer, she fails…

We went camping at Pinnacles two week prior to the end of this internship. It was the first time that I’ve ever slept in a tent surrounded by wilderness and wildlife; it was amazing. Living in San Jose, I believed that I had survived the hottest summer days, but Pinnacles National Park reminded me how ruthless (and spectacular) mother nature truly is. Taking detours on the side of the road like real geologists, the intense sunlight and heat beat down on everyone excavating for fossils. I was extremely eager for night fall so that I could finally escape the grip of blazing sun beams. Hence why I distinctly remember staying up way past midnight on a picnic table with hungry raccoons scurrying in the darkness. It was one of the chillest and most relaxing nights ever with my intern lads, we talked about things all over the spectrum of life (school, activities, likes, and dislikes). We gazed at the stars to conclude such an entertaining discussion, and there is genuinely not enough words in the world that can explain the beauty from the night sky. As a city girl camping for the first time, I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine my jaw dropping expression as soon as I tilted my head back and saw the galaxy right above me. Just as I was about to draw an end to an amazing night, I searched for my glasses only to realize a someone, something had stolen it. I immediately flipped into freak out mode, checking under my sleeping bag over five times hoping that my backpack (full of valuables + cookies) would magically show up because the universe loved me; it didn’t happen that way. Thankfully I recovered my backpack the next morning (after two hours of searching) hidden within bushes and bushes of poison oak; I forgot to zip my tent and the raccoons ensured I would learn my lesson.

The rewarding view after hiking one of the hottest trails ever.
Two interns
My friend Kim and I while we were sweating in the heat trying to dig up fossils.

As soon as we got back to civilization, I once again had to get up early and commute to Stanford. We focused intensely on our final projects that would be submitted to AGU the following winter. My partner, Alex Tenorio, and I worked day after day perfecting our poster. I can recall all our attempts to use the computer language “R” to code and construct different plots and graphs, but always having to face the red and blue lines indicating we messed up. Researching and editing our poster via powerpoint was stressful and tiring; there were many moments where I wanted to just punch the computer. However, once I saw that poster being printed out, I realized all the hard work had paid off because right in front of me was proof that I have the potential to be a scientist one day. I honestly wouldn't have wished for another partner since Alex and I were able to work in harmony together, he was both strict and forgiving and those two qualities are what makes him a great partner to work with! After learning more about all the other labs that the general interns worked at, it dawned on me that science is the thing for me, since there is literally a department for everything; and it’s an extremely comforting and satisfying thought that science + Cindy will work.

Two interns
My partner Alex and I after we successfully presented our research at the end of the History of Life internship.
One of the many labs on campus. Wowza, this is the dream!!

I’ve met some phenomenal people, gotten close to a few whose personalities resonates with mine, and truly felt as if I was in a community of supportive people. I can’t remember a single day in which I felt dejected at the internship. There wasn’t ever a dull moment, and that is one of the prevailing reasons why this summer has meant so much to me. We created a ton of inside jokes that even a single phrase can cause a chaotic explosion of laughter. The people who I’ve met were some of the funniest and most hard working ever and I definitely can’t wait to see how far they go in life. In addition, I got the chance to speak to amazing adults who have gone through the whole high school and college life.. All the adults I encountered didn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand, whether that was to find my backpack, traverse through poison oak with me, help with coding, or simply giving me great high school/ college advice. Each time we had a lab meeting, the speakers never ceased to amaze me. Each talk was unique and different from the next; yet another aspect that I’ll never forget.

Group of interns
Stanford Fam(ily), thanks for the unforgettable summer, can’t wait to see many, if not all of you at AGU this December!
Interns in front of Memorial Church
Kim and Connie aka the two girls who showed the real way to ride the bus.
Noel and Cindy
One of the many amazing adults that I was fortunate enough to encounter this summer. Thanks to Dr. Noel Heim, I was able to learn the basics of coding.

Thinking back on all the memories of this summer brings a bittersweet feeling now that the History of Life 2015 program has officially ended. Sweet being that I get to finally sleep in until 12AM and I no longer have to endure 4 hour bus rides, but bitter because this has been the most rewarding and greatest summer of my life, and it’s over. I can’t begin to fathom how lucky I was to be at this internship. Not only did I contribute to the world of science, but I also got the opportunity to spend my summer learning. When I look back at this summer, the only word that comes to mind is "lucky." I have been so fortunate to be in an encouraging and open minded learning environment, where everyone was equally interested in similar topics. In addition, I've met a group of new friends scattered all over the bay area who I plan to continue to keep in touch with; they will serve as constant inspirations to me.

With that, this is Cindy Duong (hot pink crocs girl) officially signing out of History of Life 2015. Thank you to everyone who made this program possible, for believe in me, and for being so supportive!!

Cindy surrounded by pink Crocs

Venture On!

posted July 14, 2015

It's crazy to believe that half of this internship is over! I can't believe how lucky I am to be able to spend my summer this way. We are starting to work on our research projects, my partner and I have both been getting much more familiar with using R. I'm excited to see what conclusions we will draw about ecological and metabolic factors that have influenced the success of various marine organisms.

The History of Life interns had a library tour. There, we explored the realms of Stanford's large network of online resources, which has proven extremely useful in our research project. Besides working on our projects, I can proudly say I now know a ton of information about trilobites and the different methods that distinguish them from other organisms from the same time period.

Many people say that the ocean is the closest we get to another world--I couldn't agree more. All the hard work we have contributed to the science of geology, always pays off! Recently, there was a trip to Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford in Monterey. My favorite and most vivid memory was being able to go tide pool adventuring for the first time in my life and not having to fear being washed out by the waves. I was able to climb rock to rock and look down, each time seeing something new. In addition, I could touch LITERALLY anything; seaweed, rocks, crabs, and sea anemone. Everything about the tide pools was extremely interesting and amazing; I truly felt as if I was in another world. We also learned a great deal about the history of the beach and its previous Chinese inhabitants. Every single part of the day, whether that was touching sea cucumbers, getting a campus tour, learning about microbial mats, or being educated on sea stars was absolutely wonderful. Just being able to enjoy the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to with some of the best people ever has definitely created one of my core memories!

It’s true, it’s inevitable, if you are at Stanford, you will get lost. My two buddies and I lost our way to the cactus garden and ended up spending a good 45 minutes attempting to get there. To our disappointment, once we reached the location, we got a phone call saying they’ve headed back! Although it was a ton of walking, I’ve got to admit it was pretty hilarious. Besides getting lost, I was able to explore the many floors of the geo library with another buddy, from checking out the map collection to attempting to ride the elevator! My experience thus far has been phenomenal; I can’t wait to continue my research and further contribute to the world of science.

Within the span of just two weeks...

posted July 02, 2015

Within the span of just two weeks, I have accumulated so much knowledge from this History of Life internship. To be honest, I didn’t know how much more there was to paleontology besides cool bucket hats, tools, and dusting off fossils--but there is! Not only is this my first internship ever, but it’s also the first time I actually put excel to work and learned a little about programming with R. Although I began the exciting internship with little to no friends, a few bus rides and lunches playing games soon gave me a group of interesting buddies to converse with. It was, and still is, incredible to learn about each unique person’s stories and accomplishments.

We learned about different geologists’ background during our Wednesday lunch meeting, and it made me feel a lot better about not solidifying my future career path yet. This was because not every geologist knew exactly what they were going to be doing, but they found themselves as time progressed. I was inspired by each of their stories, how they discovered what resonated best with them, and their real world impact. Besides that, in the lab, I got first hand exposure to real life fossils left behind by brachiopods and various gastropods that I've never heard about before (which was super fascinating).

The current highlight of this internship so far was the trip to the Pomponio State Beach and New Brighton, I finally felt the real thrill of being a geologist. I precisely remember first stepping foot onto the rocks and just thinking to myself how captivating the view was. In that moment I was only talking about the the way the waves continuously hit the shore (nearly the only thing I noticed). However as soon as Jenny and Noel told us to look around for fossils, my entire perspective changed. I didn't notice the beauty of each unique rock; one with a fossil imprint different from the next (occasionally finding whale bone imprints as well)! It was a realization of how fossils are everywhere around us. Things I used to be oblivious to all came screaming in my face. The trip was real life exposure to the working world of geology.

I can’t wait for all the other adventures and memories that are stored for the rest of the summer!!

Interns sitting on beach rocks
My team quickly sketching the rocks at Pomponio State Beach!!
Just one of the many unique rocks!!