Silver Isn’t Silver, Empowerment Through Lab Goggles, and Other Lessons From Research

For six weeks of this summer, I am conducting nanoscience research in Belmont’s Physics lab through the SURFs (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program. As a Biology major, I came into this fellowship knowing next to nothing about physics. However, after my research advisor handed me a substantially thick stack of physics literature and nanoscience journals to read, and now that we are officially halfway into the research experience, I can now say that I have learned a few things about nanoscience and the research experience in general.¬†Here are some of them:

  1. If going to the mountains is a method through which I realize I am so small and God is so infinitely magnificent, then reading scientific papers is a method through which I realize my brain is laughingly small and the knowledge in the world is so infinitely vast. Guys, I can read through a paper three times and still not know entirely what the authors are talking about. There is such an immense wealth of information packed into just a few pages of reading material that it can be hard to register all of it sometimes. What even are silicon-based metal-oxide-semiconductor¬†electronic systems? Integrated optical devices?? Still not entirely sure….ask me again in a few weeks and maybe I’ll be able to tell you.
  2. Sonicating (cleaning) microscope slides is a very loud and obnoxious process.
  3. Carry your phone with you, because if you don’t, you will never know what time it is. No clocks or windows here.
  4. Silver nanoparticles don’t look silver. We use glass microscope slides to create these nanoparticles. The sodium ions naturally found in the glass leave and are substituted by silver ions surrounding the glass (we expose the glass to silver ions by immersing it into a piping hot liquid bath of silver and sodium nitrates). Once the ion exchange occurs, we heat the slides at around 500¬ļC for one or two hours so the silver ions in the glass clump together, thereby forming silver nanoparticles. The nanoparticles do not look silver, though – they look more golden-orange to me.
  5. You can only listen to an album so many times. I have exhausted Hillsong’s Wonder and Houndmouth’s Little Neon Limelight,¬†but as many times as I listen to Lorde’s Melodrama, it never gets old.

  6. I can’t hold my breath for that long…but I¬†can¬†hold it long enough to change out the slides in the IR machine. Carbon dioxide interrupts readings.
  7. You will never ever ever be able to escape IR. Think you can leave behind infrared spectroscopy after Organic Chemistry? Think again. I thought it was possible (out of all the things we learned in OChem, IR was the topic that I liked the least), but I was unfortunately mistaken. In the physics lab, we run IR on our samples every day.
  8. My memory isn’t as good as I think it is, so I’m very thankful for lab notebooks where I can specify all of the procedures and protocols we follow.
  9. Time is plentiful, but that’s only a good thing if you know how to use it. There’s a lot of waiting around for things to happen in our lab, so learning how to utilize time efficiently has become crucial.
  10. All it takes is a pair of latex gloves and some lab goggles to feel like you can conquer the world.

Happy Friday!

Samantha

Climbing Trees, Child-Like Wonder, and Going Out West

My name is Samantha, and I have never climbed a tree.¬†Judging from the appalled reactions I get whenever I tell this to people, I have to assume that tree-climbing is just a fundamental part of any normal childhood. Perhaps there is something about the challenge of climbing, of finding secure holds for your hands and feet. Or maybe there is something about the sheer thrill of towering over anything and everything else, of the satisfaction in realizing your new position is the product of your own strength. I never have climbed a tree, so I don’t know if that is even remotely correct. Nevertheless, surely tree-climbing must foster the innate qualities of adventure, discovery, and curiosity held in every child. Surely it establishes and strengthens the connection between humanity and nature.

My never having climbed a tree is the product of two things: one, I never really liked getting my hands dirty, and I honestly could never bring myself to do it because I was scared. Being raised in a household where being safe, tidy, and reserved was superior to being daring, messy, and outspoken, I often found myself shying away from opportunities and activities which required any speck of boldness. But as I have gotten older, have moved away for college, and have been exposed to a plethora of world views and attitudes towards life, I’ve come to adopt a renewed appreciation for adventure and child-like wonder. There is nothing quite like living life at least somewhat close to the edge. I have learned that being timid is a hindrance to learning from experience, and that sometimes falling down and failing is exponentially more valuable than staying safe and never knowing what waits around the corner.

All this to say, exploration is important! Stay fascinated. Be curious. Take chances. Discover more. Worry less. Go climb a tree.

And now enjoy some photos from our family’s trip out West, in which my desire for adventure was overwhelmingly satiated and some child-like wonder was coaxed out of all of us:

Day 1: Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

Day 2: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Day 3: Arches National Park, Utah

Day 4: Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Day 5: Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Day 6: Chinatown, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, California

Day 7: Fisherman’s Wharf, Santa Cruz, Seventeen-Mile Drive, Big Sur, California

Day 8: Yosemite National Park, California

Day 9: Point Reyes Lighthouse, California

 

About 2016: Faithfulness

Happy New Year’s Eve! Once again, it’s that time where we all get to pause and reflect on the year that has passed. For me, it seems like time itself is only accelerating and leaving me scrambling behind in the dust, but while this year feels like the quickest year yet, I nevertheless gained infinite amounts of valuable insight and knowledge about myself, others, and the world.

I’ll get right to it: above all,¬†2016 was the year I learned all about God’s¬†faithfulness. And let me just say, there is nothing¬†more¬†constant, tangible, beautiful, or true. While this year was filled with highs¬†and lows, the one thing that remained unquestionably steadfast was my Jesus.

I learned that God is a faithful Provider. He has provided me with another wonderful year at Belmont University where I’ve gotten to dive deeper into my studies of science and music.¬†He has blessed me with a new church family in The Move Church¬†along with the countless opportunities I’ve received¬†to serve there. He’s kindled¬†a passion inside of me for hand lettering. He’s provided for me financially through work in Belmont’s Admissions office as well as hand lettering commissions on the side.¬†And of course, God has continued to provide¬†me with uplifting and life-giving friends that I get to surround myself with and whom I can count on whenever I need them.

I learned that God is a faithful Friend even in my darkest circumstances. God was consistently¬†present¬†in life’s¬†overwhelming situations. From me¬†floundering¬†in my coursework, even to when I was panic-ridden because of¬†the time my car went mysteriously missing, He was there. God¬†was equally present in the small everyday¬†battles I waged¬†as a college student, whether they were against¬†loneliness, sadness, or anxiety.

Perhaps most importantly, I learned that God is faithful in His promises. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says He knows the plans He has for me. They are good plans that will give me a hope and a future. I continue to find comfort in this truth and and realize that although they are programmed into my nature, I need to let go of my worry and uncertainty. Though I am in a weird stage of life saturated heavily with ambiguity, I can have peace in my confidence that this stage of my life is only but a stepping stone to a greater plan known solely to God.

I was never truly able to say I had directly experienced God’s faithfulness in a way that shook me to my core, but after this year I can gratefully say that I have. It’s an attribute of God that has become so dear¬†to my heart, and I anxiously await the year to come where I will¬†find God’s faithfulness all the more evident.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that your 2017 is filled with friends, fun, laughter, and above all, amazement at God’s unwavering faithfulness!


Year

Purpose

It’s been a good day. Despite the gloomy weather and the threatening gray clouds hanging low in the sky, I have had a good day. And now sitting here mentally preparing for finals week ahead, I had a mini revelatory moment, one of those times when a series of past moments culminates into a beautiful realization. So even though it’s nearing midnight, my mind is awake, and I must write.

Colony House is one of my favorite bands. After hearing them open for Ben Rector in August, I was hooked. I streamed their music constantly on Spotify, looping their albums over and over again. I immediately preordered their newest album, Only the Lonely. Since it was a preorder, songs from the album have gradually been released and added to my music library over the course of the past few months. Today, I was ecstatic to find that Colony House’s newest song “This Beautiful Life” was released. I dropped everything, gave the song my fullest attention, and listened. It was a beautiful song. The opening words spoke to me right away:

“What in the world are we doing here? What is the meaning of it all?”

And then later in the song:

“Maybe I’m a part of something that’s bigger than me, like I’m a page in a book in a library.”

These lyrics brought me back to the very beginning of my college experience. As an incoming freshman, I didn’t know what to expect out of college, but if anything, I expected that since there were going to be upwards of a thousand new students joining me in the start of this new experience, that making friends would be easy. And it was. I made a few close friends pretty quickly…the thing was, they were all music majors. Don’t get me wrong – I love my music friends, and I am a music minor myself after all. But I came into college as a Biology major, and while I started college with many acquaintances in the science department, I could not truly call them my friends. The same went for the Honors college; I knew everyone, but none of my relationships held any substance. Needless to say, I quickly felt out of place. I felt like no matter where I was, I didn’t fit in. Sooner or later, I began doubting my choices. I questioned my choice of friend groups and eventually even my choice in my university.

This inward tension surfaced during a Bible study I was a member of. This study was composed of a Commercial Voice major, three or four Musical Theare majors, and a Commercial Percussion major, so they wouldn’t understand, but I threw the question out to them anyway. “What the heck am I doing here?” I asked. I was distraught, lost, and confused. “We’ll pray for you,” they said. And I am confident that they did, but I never heard an answer from God.

My purpose on this Earth was something I struggled to discover, and it still is today. Even now, I have no idea what I was put on this Earth to do career-wise. It’s tough attending a university where students are predominantly music majors. I imagine a lot of them have been dreaming of making it big in the music industry ever since they were little kids, and now they’re at one of the greatest schools in the industry to pursue what they love.

I admire that so much. To have that drive and dedication, to be able to pour your heart into your dream. Where can I find that? And until then, what am I supposed to do with myself? It wasn’t until earlier this month that I was reminded of my purpose. On November 4th, we had our annual Presidential Scholars reception. I got to eat scones and drink coffee with my fellow scholars as well as some significant people at Belmont: my mentor Dr. Paula Gill who is the VP of Institutional Effectiveness, our Provost, and even President Dr. Fisher himself, among others. We all chatted for awhile until it was time for a speech given by one of these significant people (and of course, I can’t remember his name…) The speaker talked to us about many things, but the one topic he discussed that resonated with me was our purpose. I can still hear him loud and clear when he said,

We have been blessed so we can bless others.

The speaker’s words hit home for me. I realized then that I was placed at Belmont intentionally, I was chosen, and I was blessed with more than I could ever need so that every day, I can go out and bless others. This doesn’t just apply to me; each and every person was placed in the setting and circumstance they are in by God because that is where they are best equipped to bless others.

So what in the world am I doing here? What is the meaning of it all? From my lost freshman self to the Presidential Scholars reception to me today jamming out to Colony House, I have learned that we have been placed where we are to bless others. It doesn’t matter if it’s through the seemingly mundane, everyday tasks like holding the door open for the person behind you or through pursuing your passions and dreams by making it big in the music industry. In blessing others with God’s hope and love, we are pursuing a cause dealing with eternity and fulfilling our most important purpose.

I’m definitely a part of something that’s bigger than me, like a page in a book in a library.

“And inside my heart there’s a dying part that’s always searching, ’cause I know that there’s a place where I belong.”

Listen to “This Beautiful Life” here:

Saga

“Alright, let’s¬†go around and say our highs, lows, and God moments of the week.”

This has always been a prompt¬†I’ve dreaded in Bible study, not because I don’t like sharing about my life with others, but mostly because I never have anything that happens to me that is of significant importance to share.

That is…until this past week.

This past week¬†has been one of extremes in terms of emotions.¬†It was literally a high, low, and God moment all wrapped into one. I’m writing¬†what happened for¬†those who are willing to listen so that maybe you can learn something from it, or if not,¬†then just find some amusement and satisfaction¬†out of it like I already have.

Let’s flashback to Friday. It was after my last class, and at this point, I was exhausted. I was in that mood where I was annoyed¬†with¬†everyone and everything and just¬†ready for a restful, relaxing weekend. My three roommates invited me to go to a haunted house with them after their musical theatre master class, but after hearing it was $30 to get into the door, I decided against it (I’m just a poor college student) and opted to stay in and get ahead on homework and lettering orders. Talk about a crazy Friday night. My friends left for their master class at around 5ish, and I got pretty bored and lonely soon after they left. And since I hadn’t been grocery shopping in what seems to have been decades, I decided to pack my backpack and camp out at the Panera Bread down the street. Homework and broccoli cheddar soup is always a win-win in my book. I got to Panera, parked in a Panera-Bread-Customers-Only parking spot (this becomes relevant later), went inside and ordered my food¬†from the very nice Assistant Manager, then sat down and got in the zone. If you’re wondering, I got zero homework done, but it’s fine. Instead, I hand lettered a cool thing. I watched vlogs by my favorite YouTubers. I ate soup and a salad. Life was good. Or so I thought. I glanced up out the window that overlooked the parking lot. My eyes skimmed over the Panera-Bread-Customers-Only parking spots where I had parked my car.¬†With the exception of one car which was not mine, they¬†were all empty.¬†All the spots were¬†empty. My car was gone!

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The cool thing I lettered feat. my salad, which was delicious

At first, I thought I was delusional. Maybe I parked somewhere else, I thought. But I soon realized I was not delusional, that I was in fact sane, that I had actually parked there. I packed up my things so fast, which was a true challenge because all of my belongings were spread out everywhere. I grabbed my stuff and sprinted outside to the Panera-Bread-Customers-Only parking spot that my car had formerly occupied. My mind was racing and was probably filled with some pretty un-Christian words. I was furious, but even more, I was terrified. Who am I supposed to call first? How am I supposed to tell my parents someone had stolen my car? Should I call the cops? My interrogation of myself was interrupted by a nice couple dining at SATCO:

“Were you parked there?”/”Yeah!”/”Oh no way, they towed your car.”/”WHAT?!?!”/”Were you in Panera?!”/”YES!!!”/”You’re kidding, that’s ridiculous! Talk to that guy in the Jeep, he did it.”

There’s that conversation. I stormed¬†over to the guy in the Jeep. I think he worked for security, but even now I’m still not too sure. He was very nice and guided me inside to where he talked with the Assistant Manager. After awhile, he told me my car had been towed by Panera after the General Manager asked everyone if it was their car and no one said anything. They’d been having the problem of SATCO/other non-Panera customers taking up their spots.¬†Wait, hold up. I had been sitting in Panera for around an hour, and no one asked me anything.¬†Or else I surely would have said something, because no one wants their car towed. The security guy gave me the number for the towing company and told me that at this point there was nothing Panera¬†could do. I called the towing company and talked to a man with a gruff voice who informed¬†me I would have to pay $125 in cash¬†to pick up my car at this address. I was infuriated. In angry tears, I demanded to speak to Panera’s AM. She was no help at all; even after explaining the situation to her, she was very unwilling to empathize and didn’t try to help a girl out. “Call back on Sunday and I’ll let you know what we can do…at best, we can reimburse you $75,” she said, even though she was the one who took my order and more likely than not knew I had been at Panera¬†the whole time. COOL, right?

The problem then became that I had to find someone to drive me 5 miles to pick up my car which was previously parked, and rightfully so, in a Panera-Bread-Customers-Only parking spot. This was a problem because everyone I would have called was busy: my roommates and other friends were going to the haunted house, and several of my other friends were at a res hall talent show. The situation seemed bleak until one of my friends said he could pick me up (hi David, you’re my hero and I owe you big time). We drove to the tow lot which¬†was very¬†sketchy. There, I paid $125 in cash to¬†get my car back, which was good because I got¬†my car back, but really bad because a night in which I was aiming to avoid spending $30 turned into one in which I was forced to spend over $130.

Fast forward to¬†Saturday. The events of Friday night resulted in¬†me¬†harboring¬†so much anger and frustration. I ran over the night’s situation in my head countless times- was there something,¬†anything,¬†I could’ve done differently? I was taken over by anxiety and guilt that followed me the remainder of the day, which was in unfortunate timing because that Saturday was Preview Day, and since I’m a Bruin Recruiter I had to act extremely excited and preppy for all of the prospective Bruins, even though I felt the exact opposite.

It’s Sunday. I called the AM like she told me to, and at this point I was¬†just ready¬†to get a definite answer. Even if it was not the news I wanted to hear, I think I actually would’ve been okay with receiving $75 because I would’ve gotten around half of my money back as well as a resolution to a very annoying¬†situation. But when I called, the AM told me the GM was talking to his superior and told me to call back¬†on Monday¬†for a definite answer. Okay, I thought, if the GM is talking to his superior that must mean he’s trying to work out something, right?

Now it’s Monday. I tried to call Panera four different times, but each time I got the busy tone on the other side. My frustration mounting, my parents graciously volunteered to call the AM for me, and they got through. And you know what happened next? The AM¬†told my parents that I told her I left Panera for one and a half hours. One and a half hours.¬†Okay, seriously?¬†This was insanity: the AM distorted the truth and made the story into something completely different, not to mention completely wrong. And why would I tell her that if I actually did? That would’ve ruined whatever I had been fervently fighting for in the first place. At this point, I truly believed there was nothing more that could be done, that I’d have to settle for the $75 the AM initially offered. But my dad still wanted to talk to the GM, so maybe there was a sliver of hope.

Tuesday rolls around. Dad left a message for the GM to call him, but he never did.

Then comes Wednesday. I got a call from my dad during convo hour with the best news I’d ever heard: the GM was going to give me a full reimbursement. That was music to my ears. All at once, all the burdens of¬†stress and anxiety that had built up as a result of Friday’s incident were lifted off my shoulders. I ecstatically went to Panera after Genetics lab to collect¬†my money. It felt oh so good.

Why did I go through all the effort to write down this saga that was my week? I honestly have no idea. It’s kind of a boring and over-dramatacized story, but it was important for me. This was the first time I really had this kind of a “low”: one where I was practically alone in an unprecedented and intimidating situation. I have been fortunate in life thus far to not have had any¬†devastating¬†events directly impact me; I have been blessed with good health, a supportive family who loves me, and stability in my life. Though this Panera story is absolutely nothing compared to what some people may go through once in a lifetime or even possibly on a daily basis, it was a big reminder to me that bad things happen. They happen, and we get blindsided. We don’t see it coming, but when it comes, it hits us hard. And yes it’s the worst, mainly because for awhile, things feel like they’re spiraling out of our control. It feels like there is no hope for a better outcome. This past week was also a gentle reminder to me that despite all of my efforts,¬†I am not in control. I am not in control because there is Someone greater than me Who is.¬†I can ultimately find security, strength, and redemption in the One who holds the whole world in His hands. Isn’t it great that there is healing where the Lord is?

Those are just some comforting insights I gained from the events of this past week. And to top it all off? A¬†high even higher than Mt. Everest. That Wednesday night, I was expecting some of Kashi’s friends from Highlands. When I walked out to introduce myself, *surprise!!* Kashi was there too. (That guy just continues to amaze me, I am a very lucky girl.) It was a fun, rejuvenating night of new friends, fellowship, really good food, and a lot of laughter. A lot of laughter as in laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe-and-you’re-actually-developing-abs kind of laughter.

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The Highlands crew and I

That was my week. A big bundle of anger, disappointment, frustration, gratitude, and excitement. I hope that yours wasn’t as much of a rollercoaster as mine was. And if it was and still is,¬†it will get¬†better!¬†I know for some people it isn’t this simple, but sometimes all it takes is a little¬†perseverance and a lot of prayer. As cheesy as that may sound, it’s true. It also takes an army; find your support system, whether it is your family or best friend, and vent to them. It never helps to hold negative emotions inside of you. I’m guilty of this all the time and I can say first-hand that the side effects are never good. Also, listen to their advice¬†– it¬†never hurts to get¬†an objective opinion on things.

If you’ve read this far, I seriously commend you because this¬†was the longest, strangest, most rant-y piece I have ever written. You’re awesome.

And I¬†need to¬†end here: the homework I didn’t get finished at Panera is waiting for me…

you are loved more than you will ever know by someone who died to know you -romans 5:8

Obvious

That’s a wrap on the second day of classes! Since my first class and only class of the day wasn’t until 11:00, I started the morning off right with a run at¬†the gym followed by a wholesome breakfast of egg and avocado. My 11:00, sociology, was filled with a diverse collection¬†of people spanning across all ages and majors. Mix that with a slightly eccentric professor to make what will probably be the most interesting class of the semester for me.

Only having one class meant having a lot of time to spend by myself. Aside from doing homework and the mundane day-to-day tasks that have to get done, I had a lot of time to just think. For me, thinking can bring me two directions. In one direction, my thoughts are uplifting, positive, and ultimately create a bright, glowing outlook on my life and my circumstances at the moment. But it’s when I let my thoughts head in the other direction that things begin to look bleak; I find myself plagued with more negative, pessimistic thoughts. While it’s never the place I like to find myself,¬†that is the place I let my thoughts drift¬†to today. Life as a college student is hard, especially when it comes to finding the delicate¬†balance among schoolwork,¬†your social life, and personal health (physical, mental, and emotional). I have yet to find contentment in my standings among those things, and this is something that I, along with probably every college student out there, still wrestle with. This struggling, paired alongside my fragility¬†and doubtful thoughts that seemed especially evident and prevalent today, made today a roller coaster filled with¬†highs and lows.

One of the bright sides, I suppose, of having a lot of time to myself is that I get to jam out¬†to my favorite music. So of course, I put¬†my Jesus playlist on shuffle and let Spotify take the wheel. The first song that came on¬†was “It Is Well” by Bethel Music. Sometimes I like to think that Jesus speaks¬†to me through beautiful, holy music, and I can almost say without a doubt that He did that here in my humble room. The words to “It Is Well” reminded me of the obvious fact that Jesus has ultimate control of¬†my¬†immediate circumstance, my¬†messy¬†past, and my¬†ambiguous¬†future. He is greater than anything and everything we will ever have to face, and that is a comforting and reassuring fact.

———————————–

so let go my soul and trust in Him

the waves and wind still know His name/

it is well with my soul/

through it all, my eyes are on You


//Obvious

Metamorphosis

Happy Wednesday! As I’m sitting in bed procrastinating on watching¬†an hour-long documentary¬†about the Magnificent Medici (Age of Exploration friends where you at?!), I instead am finding myself¬†thinking about the past summer and¬†more importantly looking forward to the school year ahead.

This past summer has been one for the books. While it wasn’t jam-packed¬†with crazy activities or world travel or anything quite so ambitious, it was one where I can say for certain that I underwent substantial change. For ten weeks, I had the privilege of being a camp counsellor at Milton Collins Day Camp for some of the most precious first graders I’ve ever come across. Though I knew none of them before, we all grew very close. In a way, they kind of became my kids (several of my campers have even mistakenly called me “Mom” on many different occasions). So, as kids go, while our time together at camp was definitely relaxed and fun, there were times when my patience was tested beyond what I thought was possible. There is nothing that’ll do it quite like kids openly defying your instructions or splashing you in the face relentlessly at the pool even when you’ve asked them time and time again to stop. Being a camp counsellor was hard at times, yes, but ultimately, I learned the importance of patience and compassion. I learned that there can never be an over-abundance of these two things, and I believe that if the world had a little more of each of them, we’d be in a much happier, agreeable place. My time at Milton Collins also taught me that I¬†don’t¬†need to stress over every single minute detail of my life. The small things I decided to waste my time stressing over ended up being either unimportant or insignificant in the long run. Once I learned to let go of my doubts and uncertainty, I found that though things may have been out of my control to a certain extent, they ended working out beautifully, and at times, even better than I could have hoped.

Now to the present: today was my first day of sophomore classes. Starting at 8a.m., I had an exciting schedule of Genetics, Organic Chemistry, and Honors Age of Exploration. Spending class time today going over syllabi and getting to know my fellow classmates enabled me to ease my brain into school mode. While making the routine round of introductions in AOE, I was asked what my dreams and aspirations were for the semester ahead. In that moment, I came to the realization that any experiences had and lessons learned as a counsellor this past summer all were to prepare me for my time to come as a college student. This semester, I aspire to become the best version of myself that I have ever been. I hope to exude patience and compassion toward others, even when I feel stretched or tested. I strive to not sweat the petty things, but rather devote my time and attention to people and things that are actually important and take top priority in my life. In the end, I hope to undergo a metamorphosis. A change. There is still so much to learn and to explore, and I cannot wait to jump in and see what sophomore year has in store for me. Yes, there will be trying times, and I will come across challenges both big and small. But once the trials have been overcome, and once sophomore year has come to an end, I cannot wait to look back like I have on this summer and see the metamorphosis I have undergone.


//Learning