IRSS Student Blogs

Carina O’Brien

2nd Pharmacy, RCSI DublinCarina Blog 1

Blog Date: 10/06/16

After around a 13hr journey, a tired but excited 2nd year pharmacy student from RCSI Dublin finally touched down in Haneda airport at about 10:30 am of Friday 3rd of June. Little did she know at the time what the following week had in store for both her and her fellow adventurers.

To say the first week was a bit mad is an understatement. No sooner in the country and within hours I was suffering from a severe case of culture shock.

I must admit it is a rather strange experience going to a place where you suddenly cannot understand the language. One of the main things other than the language that took a while to get accustomed to was the constant changing of shoes and slippers depending on where you were in the dorm, shoes must be left at the door in a locker, slippers cannot be worn in your room, different pair of slippers for the bathroom. I must say I have become quite the pro at balancing on one leg at this stage!

Orientation was later that day where we were introduced to the departments and professors we would be working with over the next few weeks.

My project involves the preparation of microparticulate DDS loaded with steroidal agents and its in vitro evaluation and application to dosage forms.

I am currently working under Dr. Kawano and Dr. Hattori and am preparing liposomes containing prednisolone and prednisolone 21 hemisuccinate via passive and active loading and evaluating them for particle size, zeta potential and entrapment efficiency.

Saturday was just as busy with a trip to Ueno Zoo which is the oldest zoo in Japan.  The main attraction there being the giant pandas. Research started on the Monday and from there the week became a blur of labs and experiments. The week ended on a high with us being shown and given the chance to try kendo and to play the koto (traditional Japanese instrument). Following this we all headed to Shinjuku for some much needed retail therapy after an interesting first week in Tokyo.

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Crystal MieresCrystal Mieres Blog 1

3rd Medicine, RCSI Dublin

Blog Date: 11/06/16

My name is Crystal Mieres and I am a third year medical student at RCSI, Dublin. I am from Trinidad and Tobago so I’m no stranger to rich food, rhythmic dance and vibrant music; these elements are the cornerstone of Caribbean culture. When I found out that I would be spending my summer in Suzhou, China, I was extremely excited for the opportunity to gain more research experience while delving into an entirely new and dynamic culture.

Known as “the East Venice of the world”, Suzhou is a beautiful city famed for its classical gardens, courtyard parks and canals. We visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden during our first week at Suzhou and were blown away by the natural beauty of the landscape which was enhanced by bamboo groves, ponds and bridges. We also explored Pingjiang Street in downtown Suzhou and rode along Weichang River in a canal boat. Some of us even got the chance to practice our rowing skills (you know, just in case medicine doesn’t work out).

This week, we were also introduced to our research supervisors and received details on our respective projects. I will be working under the guidance of Professor Xu in the Clinical Pharmacology department of Soochow University. The project aims to investigate the regulation of circadian rhythm through protein ubiquitination. More specifically, we will be looking at BMAL1, a core clock protein. Previous studies done in the lab have identified enzymes that interact with BMAL1 and participate in the regulation of its ubiquitination. My project will further investigate the mechanism by which these enzymes regulate the stability and ubiquitination of BMAL1. We will also explore the biological function of these enzymes in regulating circadian rhythm. Techniques to be employed include mammalian cell culture, PCR and cloning, immunoprecipitation and western blotting.

So far, our hosts here at Soochow University have been fantastic! They have done a great job at helping us to settle in and have even taken it upon themselves to teach us a bit of Chinese. For the next couple of weeks, the aim is to improve our Mandarin. We’ve (almost) mastered the essential phrases by now ie

Ni Hao – hello

XieXie – thank you

Niuroumian – beef noodles

Carrying on a full conversation in Mandarin may be a bit ambitious but sure, we’ll give it a try!

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Maryam Alzeera

2nd Medicine, RCSI Bahrain

Blog date: 21/06/2016

In the moments of stillness Maryam Blog 2in my second week here, the realization of what I am doing would strike again: I am in Japan. I’m halfway across the world, meeting people I never would have met otherwise, doing research in a lab with equipment that has always been out of my reach.

Away from home for 2 months, experiencing Ramadan in a foreign country away from family, and being self-sufficient. Many firsts have happened and many firsts continue to happen.

Our first week here, we became fast friends with some of the Japanese girls living in our dorm despite the language barrier and how busy our lives have become. We decided to spend the Saturday together in one of Tokyo’s most important temples, Senso-ji. We arrived at the temple and headed straight to get our fortunes from the stacks on the side.

Depending on your fortune, you can decide what to do with it. Two of us got bad fortunes so we tied the slips of paper to a stand so the bad luck wouldn’t follow us. We wafted incense smoke onto ourselves for intelligence and beauty and headed inside. After the temple, we went for a boat ride, appreciating the Tokyo skyline from the river.

I’m doing research in the Organic Chemistry department headed by Hosoe Sensei, and I’m working directly with Wakana Sensei. We are trying to identify and isolate a fungal secondary metabolite that shows antifungal activity. This involves preparing agar plates and comparing the individual fungi secondary metabolites antifungal activity against itraconazole, the control. If the compound shows antifungal activity, we analyze it by HPLC and isolate it by preparative HPLC. I was most impressed by the NMR spectroscopy we performed to identify exactly which compound was involved in the antifungal effects.

At the end of the second week here I realized how quickly time would fly. We are working intensely and playing intensely; everything is happening all the time and the days feel too long and too short. For now though, I’m going to continue to try to live in the moment. I know I will fondly look back on these times for years to come.

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Fatema Ahmed Ali

RCSI Bahrain, Medicine.

19th of June 2016

My journey has started from the lovely island of Bahrain (my Fatema blog 2 pic 1homeland), with small steps of adventure towards the rich, beautiful, deep and complex culture of China (the land of tea cakes and tea ice-cream! I’m in love!).

It is fascinating how art speaks culture, speaks history and delicacy that my fingers were silent holding a Chinese calligraphy brush…

It is indeed a fact, that we have mastered the language of signs, the language of smiles that seeps into the bright eyes of youngsters and the wrinkles of wisdom. I have learnt that language barriers are not barriers after all…

The past couple of days were a great experience in the research labs, Fatema blog 2 pic 2where I got exposed to different techniques and research skills for the first time (culturing cancer cells makes me feel something very hard to explain…).

We are currently working on an anti-cancer drug delivery technique that involves siRNA insertion into cells and gene silencing, targeting lung cancer in particular, under the supervision of Prof. Cui.

Apart from the dense information and knowledge that I got working on my project, I have learnt how dedication and hard work are like.

Everyday in China brings a new friend, and with them new adventures and a little more about a vast range of various fields!  Everyday unwinds a new aspect in me, that I myself was yet to explore!

 

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Maryam Naser

RCSI Bahrain, Medicine

Sunday, 26/6/2016

It is amazing how time flies by in China! We are done with the third week already but it still feels like we just arrived few days ago. The experience so far has been so enriching over so many levels and in different aspects. Blog 3 Maryam Naser Photo 2The academic part is definitely one of its bold highlights. I have been involved in every part of my research; from literature review to preparing my research proposal and lab work. I felt that I grew academically and came to understand the nature of research while doing so, including all the accompanying failures and frustrations. I am certain that I learned a lot and I know that I am yet to learn more in the coming weeks.

However, I would say that the highlight of my experience here is getting to know China; its people, its culture and the mix of history and modernization in it. I got to really feel the hospitality and generosity of Chinese people, which is so overwhelming. I cannot remember the number of times my lab mates did not treat me with something before leaving the lab every day. They manage to convey the warmth of their welcome in so many ways despite the language barrier.

The experience of trying Chinese cuisine is also one that I will always remember. The mix of flavours and spices that we would not usually use back home made Chinese dishes very interesting. What was even more exciting is that I got to finally know how to use chop sticks!Blog 3 Maryam Naser_Photo 1aWe also had the opportunity to learn the basics of Chinese calligraphy. I did not expect it to be this complex, and I was surprised to know that before even starting to write in Chinese, mastering other skills like how to hold the brush or the posture while writing is as important. Despite this, I managed to write my name in Chinese by the end of it, or at least that is what I think it was…

 

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Shenelle Samodee

3rd Medicine, RCSI Dublin

Blog Date: 24/06/16

Time is flying; that is how I know I am very comfortable here. The third week was an Blog 3 Shenelle 2eventful one, beginning with a trip to the Tsukiji fish market, the largest in the world. We were awestruck with the sights of tuna heads, king crabs and the existence of whale ice-cream (yes, whale ice-cream). We were able to get magnificent views of the city of Tokyo at the Tokyo Metropolitan Observatories followed by a mini shopping spree at the infamous Ginza. We then headed to Kamakura, known as Little Kyoto, on Sunday to visit the Hachimangu Shrine and Hase Temple. The hydrangeas were in full bloom and certainly a sight to behold. We stepped (literally) into Diabutsu, the second tallest Buddha in Japan, learning of the techniques used to build the grand statue built in 1252. We were accompanied by some of our Japanese friends during these visits who kindly explained those informative signs that we could not comprehend due to our inability to read Kanji (God bless them).

My laboratory work was both intense and fascinating as usual. I was fortunate to be placed in the largest department at Hoshi University, the Department of Pharmacology, led by the enthusiastic Professor Minoru Narita. He encouraged me to explore all ongoing projects which encompass cancer, pain, palliative care and a lot of neuroscience! My supervisor, affectionately called Hama-chan-san, is a PhD student who is currently looking at the effect of hypothalamic POMC and dopaminergic neurones on tumour growth using DREADD systems. Other experiments include the investigation of the side effects of different combinations of chemotherapy agents using human colon cancer mice models and the analgesic effect of oxytocin in mice bone cancer models.

Blog 3 Shenelle 1The week ended grandly with our cultural presentations followed by a welcome banquet. We spoke briefly about our home countries to an esteemed audience which included Hoshi University’s president Tanaka Sensei. I certainly enjoyed playing clips of Trinidad and Tobago’s internationally renowned Carnival and steelpan orchestras and providing the audience with their first Trini pineapple chow experience. The banquet featured warm welcome speeches and lots and lots of sushi. It was the perfect forum for us to interact with other students and staff members and practise the few Japanese phrases we have learnt. I am now proficient in conversations using random Japanese words, many English words, hand gestures and Google Translate.

Watashi wa sushi ga suki des! – I love sushi!

Kyoto ni ikitai des. – I would like to go to Kyoto.

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Nathalie Edmunds

2nd Med, RCSI DublinBlog 4 NEdmunds Photo

Blog Date – June 28th, 2016

As I sit at my desk in a bustling yet somehow extremely quiet laboratory here in China (having forgotten until this moment that I’m meant to do a blog post, as there’s been 101 other things to do here between travel and work) I’m reflecting on exactly how to concisely summarize our 4 wonderful weeks in China thus far.

It’s been a whirlwind of learning – not just in the sense of learning their language and customs and adaptation, but in that of reflecting on our own homes and cultures and comparing differences. It’s truly amazing how you can spend your whole life thinking you know everything about where you’re from, and then take a step back from it all and clue in to a million little aspects of social graces and whatnot that you never would have seen otherwise – for example the Chinese have a system of categorizing and thinking about larger numbers (such as 100 000s) that makes long division and multiplication much easier.

I’ve also just realized I’ve forgotten to introduce myself – my name is Nathalie Edmunds, and I’m a second year medical student of RCSI Dublin originating from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’m the President of the RCSI Psychology Society, newest captain of the RCSI Polo team, and have had the true pleasure of spending the last academic year representing RCSI as the Cultural Officer of the RCSI Student’s Union.

And now here I am in the picturesque city of Suzhou, China! Truly though, ‘pitcuresque’ doesn’t do this city justice – a commonly used Chinese phrase states ‘The sky has Heaven, the Earth has Hangzhou and Suzhou’. Even the campus here at Soochow University is like something from a novel, being covered in small ponds and all sorts of greenery – I find myself always taking the long way to walk places on campus just to enjoy the beauty of it all. Blog 4 NEdmunds Photo 4This city has been called the ‘Oriental Venice’, as it is covered in small canals and lakes, In fact, the photo taken above is actually at the canal surrounding our campus! Apparently having a moat is much more effective than building walls around the campus – I’m thinking we may have to bring this idea back to the head of estates at RCSI.

As for the lab work thus far, I’ve been lucky enough to be placed in lab of the most esteemed (and extremely well published), Professor Qin, in the Neurological pharmacology department of Soochow university. Blog 4 NEdmunds Photo 1

It’s been absolutely amazing (especially since neuroscience is my passion) and again it’s been nothing but learning – being here has definitely made me re-evaluate the definition of ‘hard work’! The students in the lab here work every day (yes, that includes weekends) from about 8 or 9am until 8 or 9pm in the evening. So no, it is not just a stereotype that the Chinese people are hard-working. It’s both amazingly impressive and at the same time puzzling to watch. As someone who is a member of much too many clubs and societies at RCSI, I cannot fathom not having time during the week to participate in all the external activities I so enjoy. When I consulted one of the Chinese students about why this phenomenon occurs, they were very candid with me – “There are many, many people in China” they said “If you want to get good a good job and stand out, you have to work hard”.

Based on this answer, you might expect an air of competitiveness. However, never in my life have I come across a more consistently kind and genuine peoples. When randomly consulted for help, people on the street will not only stop and answer your questions, but ensure you get to where you’re wanting to go by leading you there. It seems to be a country of twice the efficiency with half the ‘I’m-always-busy-and-in-a-hurry’ of my home country, Canada. This has come in handy many times, as without it a certain lack of knowledge in the area of speaking Mandarin would have made visiting Hangzhou, Shanghai and parks and areas in Suzhou without guides very interesting!

We’re most definitely looking forward to the second half of our time here in the beautiful city of Suzhou in China!

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Yousef Abousedu

3rd Medicine, RCSI Bahrain

Blog date: 30/06/2016Yousef Photo 1

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I
arrived in Japan! And I have to admit that I love it here. Let me start by
briefly introducing myself before going into the exhilarating details of what
I’ve been doing in Japan. So… my name is Yousef Ishaq Abousedu. I’m a 19-year old, Canadian-Born Palestinian that is currently in 3rd year studying medicine.

When I touched down at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, after an
exhausting 13-hour flight, the weather was phenomenal. However, days-weeks
later, it started raining heavily and became windier. My umbrella, which I
brought with me, broke since it couldn’t withstand the extreme weather. Later
on, it became really hot (30+oC) and humid, and because it was
during the month of Ramadan, fasting became increasingly daunting, especially
during the weekends, where I used to go out and explore different areas in
Japan. Spending the month of Ramadan and Eid in a foreign country, away from
your family was more difficult than I expected, but I managed to pull through
it.

Yousef Photo 2The biggest problem I encountered was communicating with people. It was a nightmare! Later on, I became (very) close friends with Google translate on my iPhone. However, I still faced some problems trying to explain certain things, and so miming as well as hand gestures became useful. Over a period of one month, I managed to learn a lot of Japanese words but not phrases or sentences; I’m still working on that. As for my research, I’m working in the Department of Pathophysiology and Therapeutics (Neurology and Neuroscience) under the supervision of Naomi Yonomachi and Professor Hiroko Ikeda. Yousef Photo 3My research topic is under the heading of ‘Epigenetics’ and focuses on ‘The Changes in Brain Function in
Diabetes (Type 1 and 2)’; specifically we’re looking at the changes in fear and memory between Streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic (type 1) and Vehicle mice (control), and between DIO (type 2 diabetic) and Vehicle mice (control).

Dr. Sudip Das came from RCSI Dublin for 2 weeks to conduct the research, and I along with Naomi were involved. Before Dr. Sudip left for Dublin, we all went out to Yokohama, an area called Yamashitacho, which is where the famous ‘Chinatown’ is located. We then visited several shrines and temples in that area. After that we went to a Sankei-en Garden in Hommokusannotani in Yokohama, where we visitedmore shrines and temples… unfortunately. At night, we went to Akihabara, where you can find hundreds of different flavored KitKats, the best one being ‘Green Tea’ flavoured.

Yousef all

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Maryam Naser

RCSI Bahrain, Medicine

 Blog date: 24th July 2016Maryam Naser Blog 2 Photo 1

I honestly do not know how to start my last blog or from where to start. The amount of things I want to describe and put into words is out of proportion to the acceptable word limit of a typical writer. But if I am to be asked to describe my experience in one word, I guess overwhelming would be my choice. Yes, my experience was joyously overwhelming by all measures and means.

Before I started writing the blog, I was trying to reflect back on the whole two months period and how I came a long way from where I was before China. I realized that I grew over so many levels.  I became more independent and with stronger sense of responsibility, not only in the house-keeping sense of making sure that I eat and have clean clothes on a daily basis, but in a much broader sense. I grew to become responsible for my own learning and education and to seek opportunity and create one from my failures in my work, which were quite many and accompanied at so many times with frustrations and negativity. In fact, I felt that my experience, my failures and my frustrations made me in so many ways in more control of my work and education. They directed me to be initiative, to strive harder and to be creative in making solutions.

My stay in the lab was also enriching academically. I learned and mastered so many lab skills during this two months period. I also became more confident in my abilities to deliver a presentation in an academic setting facing a panel of distinguished academics. I would say, however, that the best part of my lab experience is being given the opportunity to design my own research under the supervision of my PI (Professor Jianwen Wang) and my amazing project mentor (Ms. Yan Jun Ma) to whom I am so thankful and grateful. I tested the effects of AgNO3 as an abiotic elicitor on the production of a certain compound from the fungus Shiraia which has been long used in Chinese traditional medicine.

What I also loved about my lab stay is that I had the opportunity to establish so many connections with Chinese students, who despite the language barriers, made all the effort to share their own experiences with me and to make the best out of my stay among them- I never felt out of place there.

In short, China taught me a lot. It gave me a lot of things to think about and be thankful for. I know that I want to say so much more about my experience, but I also know that words will never give it justice because my stay here was one of the most amazing, thought-provoking and life-altering experiences I ever had. I am definitely looking forward to more of these experiences and I know for a fact that this will not be my last visit here.

Maryam Naser Blog 2 Photo 2