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Kim Duong

The Very Last

posted August 10, 2015

This blog has been delayed because of a camping trip, following the ending of the 2015 History of Life program. It was in the middle of nowhere high in the mountains at two in the morning, when I suddenly remembered what I forgot to do before leaving on Friday. Therefore, I was obligated to stay up all night to recollect all that had happened this summer, the new friends I had made, and great deal of knowledge I had gained.

It was a rough start for me, because I did not immediately open myself up to my peers. I recall that the first week was exclusively data collection daily. Everything was fascinatingly new, but at the same time, dull towards the end of the week.

The end of data collection, marked the beginning of our research project. Our agenda no longer meant continuous data collection. My research partner, Lauren, Noel, and I began diving deep into our research, beginning with tedious coding for our graphs. It was days and weeks of trial and error; code would work one day, and forced to change the next. Our list of pathogens grew constantly, and was only finalized the second to last week. It was definitely difficult compared to data collection. For data collection, it was a procedural task, which was time consuming but easy. On the other hand, the research project was was like an aimless car going through a maze.

The day the poster was finished marked the biggest relief and joy of the whole internship. Seeing our work printed beautifully on a giant poster, made both my partner and I extremely proud. We only spent one summer of this research project, yet it brought so much pride and relief to us when it was completed. I can not imagine what it is like for scientists who spend their whole life on their research to finally see it come to an end.

Every step of the way, we were assisted by our supervisor Noel Heim. This man's patience knows no boundaries. There was one of him and eighteen of us, but he never failed to let us down. He answered every single question, and always succeeded in giving helpful feedback. I will definitely miss the goodies he baked for us and his awkward sense of humor.

I would also like to give a big shoutout to all my fellow interns. The experience was completely unforgettable because of them. I will miss hanging out in the Old Union with them playing games and laughing about ridiculous things. I will miss...

  • Alex for his great taste in music. "F***ing mode"
  • Allison for her cute lunchbox and smarticles
  • Charin for her love of birds
  • Cindy for her bubbly personality
  • Divya for her never ending excitement
  • Fabiola for her kind personality and our bus rides
  • Hefan for his unforgettable accent
  • Hrithik for all his funny pictures
  • Juliette for being the game master and French
  • Lauren who is the best research partner ever. "I would like to thank the academy"
  • Shayna for her conversations about MUN
  • Sid for his memes. "We in it" "Hostile work environment"
  • Weber for his athleticism. "Ay Bro"
  • Will "Bacon" for his awesome shirts
  • Frank for being a very awesome old man with an okay taste in music
  • And Amy for her books and friendliness.

See you Tuesday Connie.

Everyone in The History of Life

The poster printed. Photo credit: Connie Huynh

Down by the Bay

posted July 15, 2015

July 8, 2015, my fellow interns and I spent the day at Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey Bay, exploring marine life and learning about the historical significance of the site. We started our day down on the tidal pools, inspecting living marine life in its natural habitat. There was no shortage of amazing things to observe. The most abundant life forms that dominated the pools and rocks were sea snails, mussels, algae bloom, and barnacles. Occasionally, we would come across sea stars, anemones. and crabs. It was refreshing to observe live animals instead of fossilized ones that have been dead for thousands of years.

Equally interesting were the mounds of empty shells laying by the tide pool. It featured an array of colored shells, varying in morphology. These shells will one day become fossilized as part of sedimentary rocks, and studied by geologists and paleontologists in the future. A striking thought isn’t it?

On our tour of the campus, we were given a brief history of the station. It was established in 1882, and now boasts as the oldest marine lab on the west coast, as well as the third oldest in the country. The original buildings still stand, alongside many other additions. The library showcased an impressive collection of books, including historical artifacts of the immigrants that once inhabited the area.

One moment of the trip that stood out to me, was a tour of the lab tanks holding marine animals we didn’t find down by the bay. As weak hearted as I was towards most animals, I succeeded in touching or holding all of them. It was amazing to hold a sea cucumber and a sea star in my hand. It was so bizarre, reminding me that there are still so much out there to be discovered.

That day, I felt fortunate to be in good company, to discover new things, and to be a part of something so great. This internship has given me the opportunity to grow and find new inspirations. On our next trip, we are heading to Pinnacles National Park for an overnight camping trip. I have no doubt in mind it will be another learning experience.

I would like to end this blog post with a bad sea joke:

      “What did one tide pool say to the other tide pool?
      ...Show me your MUSSELS!”


Noel holding a crab. Photo credit: Connie Huynh.

A pile of empty shells. Photo credit: Connie Huynh.

Me, holding a sea cucumber. Photo credit: Connie Huynh.

Bus, Beach, and Bacteria

posted July 02, 2015

Two weeks have gone by, and I've grown more independent and knowledgeable. Sixteen years into my life and I have never experienced public transportation on this level. Every time I tell people about my four hour commute, there is a mix reaction of shock and sympathy. I also tell them that it's all worth it, walking to class through the oval every morning, interacting with my fellow History of Life interns, and contributing to practical scientific research.

As History of Life interns, our job is to read through articles on bacteria and archaea to collect information on individual species' living preference (pH, temperature, salinity), dimensions, and metabolism. By compiling knowledge, we are creating data that will be useful in the study of microbial evolution.

It was a rough start. While I scanned through the article, I was forced to recall my limited understanding in biology. Most frequently, I had to search for the definitions of words or ask Noel for assistance. With the help of my extraordinarily talented partner, Charin, data collection became more easy and consistent.

On a personal level, the experience thus far has been both eye opening and enjoyable. I've met so many individuals who are driven and unique in the way they carry themselves. Especially remarkable were the presentations by the two graduate students and their experiences. It spoke to me, in the sense that uncertainty about the future is completely normal and persistence always wins good results.

The most memorable event of these two weeks was the field trip to New Brighton and Pomponio State Beachs. We spent an entire day together, examining fossils and sedimentary rocks in a natural location. As a group, we discussed how the rocks formed and what marine animals have fossilized there over time. Our encounter with five million years old rocks made our studies feel extremely extensive, even though five million years really lag in comparison to the scale geologists work with.

The anticipation for the next six weeks is overwhelming. I look forward to unfolding new knowledge and memories in the program.

Fossilized clams
Sedimentary rock embedded with fossilized clams found at New Brighton State Beach
Intern working on computer
My data collection partner, Charin.