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

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:

About November ’16

How is November already over?! It feels like just yesterday I was getting ready for the start of sophomore year. Now it’s December and we’re less than a¬†week away from the end of the semester, which means finals are just around the corner…..oh no. Anyway, I honestly didn’t think much happened this past month, but looking back, November was a lot more eventful than I thought! For the start of a new monthly installment on WHATSUPWITHCHU, here are the highlights of a pretty great month:

  • My 20th birthday– I got to start off my November by turning twenty!¬†On the down side, on my birthday I woke up feeling pretty sick¬†and spent literally the whole day in bed. But on the bright side, the day before my birthday was spent in fellowship with¬†my family. I got a Keurig as a gift which has been nothing but¬†a lifesaver over and over again. I also got a ukulele! It’s such a fun instrument because it’s easy to learn and its sound never fails to put me in a good mood.
  • Talking with the White House– It’s not every day you get to sit in on a conference call with the White House. Thanks to my presidential mentor, I got the opportunity¬†to listen in on a conversation about affordable healthcare options for university students as part of a¬†Get Covered America initiative. We were hoping we would hear from President Obama himself,¬†but we didn’t because he was busy (and what’s more, this was only a few days after the presidential election)
  • Church– We’re getting artsy¬†at church! My friends and I are the official decorators of the kid’s ministry chalk wall. We’ll be going every few weeks to redo it. The first time around was tough, but I know it will only get easier and we’ll only get better!

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  • Love Does–¬†I’m not exaggerating when I say this book has changed my life. Bob Goff’s wittiness and pursuit for a life fully lived changed the way I view life, God, and the world. If you haven’t read Love Does yet, I highly suggest doing so!
  • Thanksgiving break–¬†I went back home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. At the start of break, my brother and I hiked to the Jump Off. On Thanksgiving Day, our family feasted on¬†an insane amount of American food, and ate an even insaner amount of Chinese food the next night. Basically, Thanksgiving break was great.
  • Celebrating things–¬†I finished the month by taking my Organic Chemistry lab final and going to our Honors College’s Christmas party. The Christmas party was fun for obvious reasons, and the lab final was surprisingly fun because we had it at Pancake Pantry.

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(And yes, the pancakes were as good as they look.)

I hope your November was as great as mine was, and wishing you the best going into this month!

Healing

He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.’ Exodus 15:26 (NLT)

When I heard this verse maybe a month or so ago at church, I knew it was something that would definitely end up in my lettering journal. I forget why this particular verse was mentioned, but nevertheless, it resonated in me and I just had to put it out there. At around that same time, I had just learned how to draw a floral wreath from my favorite IG letterer and decided that this verse would be a great place to practice my newly acquired skill:

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After this print circulated social media for awhile, my mom contacted me and told me someone wanted two of these prints for her daughter, flower wreaths and all. I will admit that I was slightly confused; of all the verses in the Bible, why would someone choose that verse? I just went with it and still was skeptical until my mom clarified the situation for me.

The person that placed this order wanted two copies of this print for her daughter. One copy would be for her daughter, B (I feel so bad–I know her name starts with B, but I don’t remember what her name is!!), and the other for B’s¬†friend Olivia. B and Olivia are both nine years old.¬†B¬†picked¬†this print out herself because¬†Olivia is currently battling osteosarcoma. She wanted this print to remind her and Olivia both that God can heal anything, even Olivia’s bone cancer.

So lettering these pieces was a really humbling experience. I find myself still in a state of admiration when I think about just how much faith B and Olivia have. For this, I look up to these girls who are demonstrating what unwavering faith in the midst of challenging circumstances looks like. And as for Olivia, I know that God has already used her story and will continue using it to shape the lives of many. I know she has shaped mine.

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And lastly, I ask that if you’ve gotten this far in the post, could you join me in praying for Olivia and for God to bring complete healing to her body? That would mean the world.

Pursuit

Happy Monday!

As some of you may know, I picked up hand lettering over the summer and it has been my newest crazy obsession.¬†Lately, I’ve been especially busy with custom lettering orders as I’m fundraising for an ISL trip coming up in the spring, but hey I’m not complaining.

The cool thing about custom orders is that I have no idea what people will ask of me. I never thought it would turn into this, but doing lettering orders has definitely been a learning experience. Not only does completing orders allow¬†me to refine my lettering style and work on my skill, but¬†I’ve also gained new exposure to a lot of good quotes and Bible verses. More importantly, I’ve had to scribble¬†so many thumbnails, sketch¬†so many¬†drafts,¬†and erase and rewrite so many times that these verses and quotes have become internalized in my mind.

Lettering is also a means of meditation for me. When I letter my orders, I have plenty of time to think about what I’m writing about, what value it holds, and what it could mean in the context of my life. So this post is hopefully the start of a fun series where¬†I’ll be sharing a piece I’ve done as well as my personal reflection on it.

So…yeah. Let’s go ahead and get started!
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Look for Christ, and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else.

-C.S. Lewis

When a good friend of mine asked me to letter this quote, I was really excited to do so because 1.) everyone knows C.S. Lewis is pretty much the best, and 2.) I found this quote to be applicable to life, especially as a college student.

I know that at least for me, I¬†dedicate a good majority of my time as a Biology major hunkered down in my room over Organic Chemistry or Genetics textbooks. I spend so much of myself on my work that if and when¬†I’m not careful, it draws¬†me away from¬†what, or rather Who, is truly¬†important.¬†God shouldn’t be an afterthought or a second resort, and sometimes I get so caught up with my pursuits in my future career path or in other things that I forget that.

Yesterday at church, our pastor talked about how the things of this earth will fade, but heavenly things will remain forever. I need to be reminded constantly that¬†my pursuit of God’s face is the most important thing I will ever do because it is everlasting. And when I choose to find Him first and choose to prioritize Him over everything else, everything else will fall into place.


Want a print? Let me know!

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