Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back Home

It has been a while since my last post, so I'll try my best to fill in the blanks. Research ended on a high note. I wanted to try my experiment in a new way (coating the STM probe with gold by sputtering). And on my last day of experiments, the gold tip seemed to work--I could see individual carbon atoms clearly! More experiments are needed to really pinpoint gold as the source of this increased resolution, but I was happy and proud nonetheless. Making the poster and writing the abstract was a good experience. Each had about ten drafts; but after some editing and playing with autoshapes, they came out with both my graduate student's and my approval.

Come the end of the program, only Melody and I were left in Beijing. We each moved in with our respective friends in the city. Staying after the program added to my experience in that I got to explore a different part of the city more extensively and I had the unique opportunity of going to the Olympics.

From my travels with my friend in SE Beijing, I would highly recommend going to Panjiayuan, the Goose and Duck, checking out the nightlife around the Worker's Stadium, and just looking around the city. SE Beijing has a much more business-y feel to it. The streets are covered with everything from Gucci department stores to the famous CCTV building. Panjiayuan is a weekend market (go early on Saturday--before 9am even!) that sells Chinese antiques, posters, artwork... It is an amazing place to barter and find unique gifts. Half of the stalls are just on the ground! Just take a seat on a low stool, look, and start negotiating. The Goose and Duck is an amazing place to watch sports. It's walls are covered with TV's, has pool and foosball tables and even includes a place to practice pitching. Also worth mentioning is that it's "pub snacks" are quite affordable. If you're looking for a good place to snag some fries and watch the NBA finals, I highly recommend going to the G&D. Next, on to the nightlife! Usually the group would venture around PKU or find ourselves in the Sanlitun area. But I found the venues next to the Worker's Stadium to be slightly smaller but exciting to say the least. I especially recommend Coco Banana if you are looking for bright lights and a crazy show--they had fireworks inside! Lastly, in terms of walking around, just try it! The architecture is mind-blowing, and there are countless hidden treasures to find.

In the midst of my adventure, I got to go and watch the Olympics. I started my Olympic adventure by watching the opening ceremony in CJW located in The Place. The crowd was glued to the TV and cheering for their respective countries. I could not believe how many nations were present in this little restaurant. China has brought such diverse people together on the world's largest stage. In terms of events, I watched water polo (6 games) and soccer (3 games). I played both sports in high school and thoroughly enjoyed cheering no matter who was playing.

Beijing is an amazing place. I enjoyed every minute and cannot wait to go back. If any future applicants have questions, please don't hesitate to email me!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Labwork and a little adventure

Right now I am actually in lab and taking a break. I have chosen my project and will be spending the next several weeks finishing it up. I'm working on the self-assembly of monolayers using an STM. Specifically, I'm interested in co-assembly and the promise that has for developing organized functional monolayers for surfaces. To study this I have a variety of compounds including one photoelectric molecule with an intended use in OFET's synthesized by the Jian Pei group. I want to see if this compound will self-assemble and if it can co-assemble with a "host" molecule that has bee shown to aid co-assembly. Additionally, I hope that I will have time to try and modify the tip of the STM probe to improve visualization of the sulfur groups in my compounds. Because I have learned how to use the STM, I've gained a lot of independence on my project; and even if my results do not work out, I will be satisfied with how much I have learned both about the research process and about my own capacity to work alone.

On to a different subject. What I do outside of lab ranges from going to our trusty art dealer located deep in the 琉璃厂 area of Beijing, to going to clubs and my new favorite pizza place around--Pyro Pizza. This last weekend, I went with a group to look at paintings again; and on our way back, we couldn't find the bus we were looking for. So instead of asking for directions, we decided to explore and found a mall with a great, inexpensive restaurant. We ended up staying for several hours just enjoying the atmosphere and ended up getting home at past 10pm (we left for the art dealer at around 3pm). Exploring seems to be a good idea.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One Month in China

Now that one month has past, it has really sunk in that I'm actually in China. I'm feeling comfortable with my living arrangements, using public transportation, working in lab and even ordering food. The last month has been action-packed to say the least. The first two weeks were "power touring" as Professor Coppola described. What this entailed was seeing some of the amazing sites that Beijing has to offer (Forbidden City, Houhai, Lama Temple, Great Wall...), going to stunning performances including Peking Opera and The Chinese Acrobatics Troupe, attending both language and culture courses, and even a trip to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Soldiers and eat some dumplings--the local specialty. Over-all, I have had the trip of a lifetime and cannot believe how much I have done thus far. In those first two weeks, my favorite events were probably going to the Laoshe Tea House and attending a traditional Chinese performance and the Xi'an trip. The tea house stuck out because it did really do a good job of sampling different types of performance by including acrobatics, music, dance, and a little bit of Peking Opera (really a unique experience). The trip to Xi'an was an adventure. We went to see the soldiers, a water show, the intact city wall, had a filling dumpling dinner accompanied by a mesmerizing performance and even saw a mosque!

Moving past the first two weeks, I began to work in the lab group of Professor Wu Kai. The best part of this experience has been interacting with the students. Just speaking with me has helped me to slowly improve my Chinese, pick up some slang, learn about their culture and really get a more complete idea of what life is like in China. This interaction could never really happen in the United States. And through it, I've made some friends that I hope to keep for a long time. I have began to work in both parts of the lab--nanomaterials fabrication and self-assembly of monolayers. The lab focuses on surface science and as a result I have been learning different characterization tools (STM, SEM, XRD, and more to come!) which should help me greatly with research in the future. While working hard, the lab has still been incredibly welcoming. The are willing to explain things even though using English to explain complicated concepts is tough; and they have taken me to play pool and basketball with them as well to karaoke. So far, the start of this trip has been everything that I expected and more. I'm excited for the rest of the summer!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Week 1: Michigan

We are boarding our plane tomorrow, and it has still has not sunk in that we are actually going to China. No one in my family has ever been to Asia, so I really don't know what to expect; I just hope to make the best out of it.

Right now, I'm with the group in Michigan for orientation. Because of Berkeley's late schedule, I actually had to take a final during this period in Ann Arbor. During my three hours of examination joy, the rest of the group went to a Chinese restaurant and tried frog legs, intestine, blood tofu and even duck tongue. Thankfully, they saved some food for me. Trying these "unique" dishes will definitely make my culinary adventure in China all the more exciting and daunting.

Besides food, I'm looking forward to working on my Chinese. I have taken a semester of Mandarin; but at our language lesson two days ago, I realized how much I had forgotten (basically everything). Figuring out how to get around and feed ourselves will be an experience to say the least.

I'm a little apprehensive about working in a professor's lab and navigating the city. I have no idea what I'm working on, for how long, with how many people (if anyone), and am worried that I'll find myself lost in Beijing--hopefully getting cell phones will solve this last one.

Going back to Michigan. I have spent the week with the other 11 travelers + Justin, several instructors and our commander-in-chief, Professor Coppola. It's been a great couple days; everyone is from all over the country and seems to have an interesting story about them. We have done several workshops which were helpful mostly as another way to bond and open up the idea that we were going to Beijing as a group, not as a bunch of individuals. This is important in that we will all be in a new country, and having a support group will help our transition into the lab, university and city.

Additionally, I have had the chance (instead of studying) to play basketball here in Michigan. It was great to actually stretch my legs and do something besides eat, study and move which had been my schedule for the couple weeks prior. Also along the sports trend, a group of us watched the Champions League final yesterday--poor Terry :-( .

Overall I've had a great experience thus far. I decided to go on this program to get a chance to actually see the world and try a type of research that I had not before. I'm looking forward to learning, trying, and seeing whatever I can with the China 12.