How wild it was, to let it be. –Cheryl Strayed, Wild
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:
- 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.
- Sonicating (cleaning) microscope slides is a very loud and obnoxious process.
- Carry your phone with you, because if you don’t, you will never know what time it is. No clocks or windows here.
- 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 500ºC 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- All it takes is a pair of latex gloves and some lab goggles to feel like you can conquer the world.
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
Hello friends! Wow, what a hectic week it has been. Life has finally slowed down enough for me to share all that went down on my ISL (International Service Learning) trip to Mexico. I cannot emphasize how much I treasure everyone’s support, encouragement, and prayers. They mean the world to me and this trip would not have been possible without them!
March 4, 2017
On Saturday evening, after an exhausting day of air travel and layovers, I along with ten other Belmont science majors arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. We gathered our things, boarded a 14-passenger van, and began the drive to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.
It took three hours to get to the US/Mexico border and another three hours to arrive at our final destination. We arrived at night and were excited to see our house for the week was really cute, plus it was located right by the beach. (Fun fact: the house we stayed in is the house of the man who founded ISL – how cool is that?)
March 5, 2017
On Sunday, we had our recreation day. A great portion of it was spent in the van driving to Pinacate Biosphere. There we learned about the area’s natural wildlife and got to take a mini hike outside. From there, we took a very very very bumpy drive to one of the volcanic craters in the area. It was massive, and it was awesome. We didn’t spend much time there though because it was extremely windy, to the point where it was kind of hard to walk straight. We got back in the van and drove the 2 hours back to the city. We visited a local area and went shopping and got dinner.
March 6, 2017
Our second full day in Mexico was the true start of learning about why we were there. We spent the morning in medical training and orientation. We refreshed our skills on taking blood pressure, listening to heart sounds and breathing, and checking out the eyes/ears/nose/throat. For many of us, it was also our first time learning how to check blood glucose levels.
In the afternoon, our Belmont group split up into groups of 3-4 and began doing house visits. The job of each group consisted of walking from door to door in this residential community and take people’s health information and history. More importantly, we were there to promote the clinic we would be hosting later on in the week. It amazed me how people were so willing to give us strangers their medical information. The people were overall very friendly, and some even invited us into their homes.
Luckily for us, the language barrier was not too much of an issue. The forms we filled out had Spanish translations to any questions we had to ask the local residents. And like every other group, we had an awesome translator, Ruben, who stayed with us the whole time. One of our group members, Crystal, was also fluent in Spanish, which made our job even easier.
After house visits, we returned to the house and sorted through vitamins, school supplies, medicines, and other donations in preparation for the community clinic. To end the day, we got tacos at a local taco place (some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten) and churros at a churro stand.
March 7, 2017
On this day, we did more house visits. It was awesome getting to know different people and their families. There was one sweet lady who invited us into her home and offered us fresh tortillas. Her family also had a cute dog that kept biting Christopher’s and I’s scrubs:
After our lunch break, we visited one of the public hospitals. We were so lucky in that we got to see a surgery: the removal of a Fallopian tube cyst. This was my first time seeing a live surgery, and it was the greatest experience. We observed and took in all that we could (with Today’s Top Radio Hits playing in the background). The anesthesiologist in the operating room was great; he was very instructive, guiding us step by step through what he was doing. He even let a few of us administer the patient’s IV drugs.
March 8, 2017
On Wednesday, we started the day by visiting a men’s drug/alcohol rehab center. We stuck with our same groups from house visits and made mini stations for patients to come to. These visits were some of the most enjoyable, I’d say. The people we assessed were all very nice and talkative. A few of them also spoke English, alleviating the language barrier for awhile.
We spent the second day doing our last round of house visits. These visits throughout the week were our best view into the lives of the local people. It was definitely a humbling experience. We saw that many people had houses that were not sustainable in the long-term. These houses had mosaic-like walls, patched up with various sizes of plywood, sheetrock, and cardboard. Despite what we in the US might term poor living conditions, some of the people in these houses were genuinely happy and loved the life as they had it.
March 9, 2017
The 9th was our first day of the community clinic! It was quite fulfilling seeing people from our house visits waiting in line to receive care. Our group’s job was to check the patient’s vitals and to assess the patient before he/she was seen by the doctor.
Clinic ended at lunchtime. We had a free day for the rest of the day, so we went to the beach and got dinner at this place called Get Wrecked, a really tourist-y restaurant right by the beach that we had had our eyes set on since Day 1. The hashtag #getwrecked became a recurrent joke throughout our trip and is also featured on all of our group’s Instagram posts;)
March 10, 2017
This was our second day of community clinic. We had a lot of fun this day, because after clinic, there was a piñata party with cake and ice cream for all of the kiddos we met on our house visits and the clinic. It was amusing to see some kids arrive right when our clinic opened at 8:30, then sit and wait patiently until 12, when we had the party.
After we wrapped up the clinic, our group hit the town one last time before our return to the States. We made a quick stop at the Tequila Factory (the legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, so…) before going shopping at a different shopping area. I got a fun mug to remind me of all of the fun we had on our trip (thank you, airport security, for dropping my backpack and subsequently breaking my mug. To be repurposed into a pot for some succulents…)
To end the night, our group went on a sunset cruise. We headed out on a boat for two hours and got to see the most beautiful sunset. What made the trip even more special was seeing dolphins swimming literally less than 5 feet from our boat. It was the best way to spend our last night in Mexico!
March 11, 2017
On Saturday, we said our goodbyes to Puerto Peñasco. We left our house at 7:30 and drove back up to Phoenix. We all made it to the airport on time and said our goodbyes before heading off our separate ways.
A fun story: my friend Marcie and I had the same flight back to Nashville (yay!). But our connecting flight through Salt Lake City got delayed by ~3 hours (boo) so we had to reschedule flights. We weren’t able to leave Phoenix until 12:50am, 11 hours after we were originally supposed to leave. We ended up getting back to Nashville at 11am the next day. What made it all the more annoying was that they left my luggage in Phoenix. Luckily, they delivered that to me at 11pm. What a journey this was.
I am so appreciative of this Spring Break. As I’ve never been on a mission trip before, this was a great chance to use what we’ve been blessed with to bless others.
I no longer take simple amenities for granted: clean, potable water; smooth, paved roads; immediate access to basic health necessities; flushable toilet paper; fresh fruits/vegetables that are safe to eat.
I have a renewed fascination with languages and the intrinsic uniqueness and beauty found in each one.
I also view healthcare in a new way. Did you know that in Mexico (or at least the area we were in), the doctor gets paid no matter what, even if he does not show up? On the day we visited the public hospital, there was a surgery supposedly scheduled in the morning which was ultimately rescheduled simply because the surgeon decided not to show up.
I have a deepened appreciation for the qualities of empathy and concern that physicians ought to display. While the community clinic was definitely beneficial overall, it was astounding to witness the way our doctor treated some of the cases we presented to him. He was there to get the job done, with not much regard for the patient’s feelings. Thus, when he told our patient that “you have severe hypertension, you will die, and at this point there is pretty much nothing you can do about it,” I was slightly taken aback.
I am reminded of how crucial it is to stay openminded. Despite these stark contrasts I noticed between Mexico’s healthcare system and ours, sometimes people just do things differently than we do, and sometimes that is okay. But more importantly, if we are unwilling to view things from a different perspective, we are missing out. Positive or negative, there is always something to gain from different perspectives and new outlooks.
Every moment on this medical mission trip was a blessing, but the trip would not have been what it was if it weren’t for the people I got to experience it with. I had the pleasure of serving and learning alongside ten outstanding individuals. They were all acquaintances at most in the beginning, but now we all share a new special connection as friends. These people taught me a lot about what it looks like to serve on your knees, putting others above yourself.
The joy and laughter each of them brought to the group was contagious. In loving on Puerto Peñasco, they made the love of God so tangible and so evident, and that was pretty cool.
What a great start to a new year! If I can say anything, I can say that January has been the busiest, most hectic, at points most stressful, month I have had in a very long time. It has been a season of growth and intentionality which has kept life exciting. Without further ado, here’s some of these exciting things:
- Back to school: I kicked off the new semester at Belmont. This spring, I’m taking 17 credit hours composed of science, music, and Honors courses. I can genuinely say that I love all of them. That doesn’t happen often, so I am rejoicing in the fact that I wake up every morning actually excited to learn new things.
- An internship: On top of classes, I took on an internship at church! I heard about the opportunity back in December right before Christmas. I knew immediately it was something I wanted to get involved in despite my class schedule; but I also knew that if there’s any good time to try something new, it’s now! College is the time to experience new things, and what better new thing than a position within my church? I entered the internship with high expectations, and it has not disappointed me yet. I’ve been able to grow close to so many exceptional individuals, and I’ve already gotten the chance to complete some fun projects:
- 21 Days of Prayer: I’m not going to lie: in the past I haven’t been one to attend church events outside of the usual Sunday morning service, but I loved having the opportunity to attend nightly prayer and worship services at church as a part of 21 Days of Prayer! There’s so much power in a group of individuals gathering to talk to God. I can’t wait to see how God continues to move!
- Delivery: I was in the debut of an original musical! Not as an actress, obviously, but as a violinist in the band. This was another one of those things that was just too good to pass up. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to share the stage with some pretty incredible musicians, and I’m seriously hoping we’ll get to perform it again soon!
- Hand lettering: My lettering has unfortunately been put on the back burner, but I’m excited to be getting more stuff out soon. Meanwhile, feel free to check out some of my stuff on Instagram.
So January has been busy and tiring, but in the best and most fulfilling way possible. I have loved getting to cultivate new relationships with people who I have gotten to just do life with.
It’s only a few days into February but I already know it’s going to be the same as January, if not even more packed with exciting things. I can’t wait to share them with you!
Have a lovely February!
Live boldly. I have these two words hanging up on the wall above my desk and they have together become a sort of motto for my life. I’d like to think that this year, I’ll do something that pushes me in new directions and challenges the boundaries of my comfort zone. The most prominent way I’ve done this as of now is through taking on an internship at The Move Church.
If someone told me a few months ago that I’d one day join the church team as an intern, I probably would have laughed in his or her face. I’m normally the one who tends to say “that sounds like a really cool opportunity,”not the one who says “that sounds like a really cool opportunity that I should take advantage of.” But actually acting on my impulses this time around turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for myself. I’ve only been a part of The Move Church’s team for a week, but it has already challenged me in a multitude of areas in my life, most importantly in my faith. It has been a big leap into the unknown, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey thus far.
I’m sure I’ll post more about The Move in the future, but right now I wanted to take a moment to share our first project. My incredibly talented friends and I covered a large area on the wall with chalk paint, and on it we wrote the central verse for the current campaign “New Rivers New Roads,” which says
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
Can I just put it into writing that I am so proud of my team who stuck with me to make this project possible? I can’t wait to work with them and make more things!
And happy Wednesday: live boldly today!
It seems like as the years have gone on, my family has deviated from our normal Christmas tradition. Up until two years ago, we would drive to Memphis, Tennessee, to spend Christmas and the few days leading up to it at my cousins’ house. But now that one of my cousins has moved here to Knoxville and the rest of his family has moved to an apartment in middle Tennessee, our Christmas tradition has been turned upside down and is basically now nonexistent. So this holiday season, my family decided to take a short vacation away to Charleston, South Carolina. None of us had been there before and my parents had heard overwhelmingly good things about it, so we packed our bags and drove over on the 26th.
We started our visit by exploring the historic downtown scene. I immediately noticed the timeless feel of the city. Buildings had a classical feel and they were also painted fun colors which added to the vibrancy of the city. Since Charleston is a tourist destination, there were horse carriages on nearly every corner carrying people for tours. We walked up and down King Street which would be the ideal stop for the shopping obsessed. There was also a market stretch with unique items and trinkets that were characteristic of Charleston.
On Day 2, we visited Magnolia Plantation which I loved for its beautiful gardens. It was surreal standing in a place that still holds so much historical value, as the plantation was an important location for many events around the time of and during the American Revolution. After spending half of our day there, we revisited the opposite side of King Street (more shopping) and ended our day by visiting Rainbow Row and the waterside.
It was a short getaway to Charleston, but it was nice getting out of Knoxville for a little while. The new sights, fun memories, and getting to experience a new culture were all things I wouldn’t trade. I can’t wait for the adventures this new year holds!