Saturday was a day of goodbyes. Jake and Heather drove everyone to the airport in batches except for Corey, Sukrit, Kevin ann Max who all drove to their respective destinations. Brad dropped Veronica and I off to the airport after a mad dash to Fremont to drop Veronica’s car and some extra luggage off. We were all extremely sad to see the summer end but very grateful that we got to experience all the things that we did. None of us expected to see or do the things that we did and we all will never forget it. One thing that stands out from the summer is the amount of opportunities that are presented to each and every one of us, specifically tailored to our needs and ambitions. The Academy opens so many doors for you that you have to sit and think about which to take. It is a truly incredible experience and I can’t thank everyone enough for all that they have done to make this opportunity possible. Thank you!
The final day of the Academy dawned bright and early. Doug met us at Megabytes for our last breakfast before our final presentations. After a morning of presentations, Kristina bought donuts and coffee for the 11am break. Then we gave our final LAMBDA presentation to Pete Worden. The presentation turned out to be quite successful. Following this we headed to Megabytes for our last lunch together and then back to the auditorium for more presentations. I headed to my lab after my presentation to say my final goodbyes to everyone there. Then Brad, Heather and Jake welcomed us into the NASA Ames Academy Alumni Association (NAAA), the last event for the summer!
We headed back to Oakwood to freshen up and pack before heading to a lovely Italian restaurant on Castro for dinner. The restaurant played live jazz music which was very entertaining and then sung Heidi early birthday wishes (she turns 21 3 days after the academy). Then we all said our first farewell to Heidi who was leaving that night rather than the following day. Many tears were shed and then she was off with well wishes and many happy memories.
We headed back to Oakwood to get dressed for our last celebration, a five hour ride on a limo/party bus and trip to a San Francisco 18+ club. It was a fantastic night to end a fantastic summer.
The second last day of the Academy and we were all exhausted after a long night of writing reports. We spent most of the day clearing up our individual lab space and Oana’s lab.
I also went for a farewell lunch with my lab at Buca di Beppo in Palo Alto. It was a fantastic Italian restaurant and we had a variety of pasta dishes which were all delicious. After reminiscing about the summer we headed to an upmarket shopping centre for some coffee before returning to the lab. After finishing the group report we headed back to Oakwood for happy hour pizza and wine. Brad and Kristina also joined us for some wine before taking Jake and Heather out for a farewell/thank you dinner. The rest of the academy headed back to our room for a final team meeting and practice run of the LAMBDA presentation tomorrow. None of us can believe that it is the last day of the Academy tomorrow. Whilst we are all exhausted none of us actually want the summer to end.
Wednesday brought the Academy burrito challenge. Participants had to eat a burrito for breakfast, lunch and dinner and most of the Academy participated. After the morning burrito challenge was over we headed to the lab to finish our last few tests on LAMBDA.
I also had my dry-run with Jake and Heather. I got some great feedback from them and a few pointers on how to improve my talk. I will also practice it with Natalya and Eduardo before I present on Friday. After my dry-run I turned back to the lab for our final LAMBDA test, which actually worked. We then spent the rest of the afternoon clearing up.
For dinner we headed to Taquiera La Bamba to conclude the burrito challenge with some Academy alumni. We got take away burritos and headed back to the Oakwood breakfast room to eat and chat with the alumni. However we didn’t stay for long as most of the reports were due tonight, including our individual project report, the end of summer survey and our personal statement.
Tuesday brought another long day in the lab, either Oana’s or individual project labs. The last day of group testing brought some promising results. We may actually be able to get some good results for the presentation on Friday. I also spent some time working on my presentation for Friday. It is almost finished but I want to try and analyse some more of the data to add into the presentation. I have my dry-run tomorrow. This is good practice for the final and it helps a lot to get feedback from people who aren’t in the biology field.
We left the lab early to head down to Doug’s house for the farewell BBQ. Dinner consisted of steak and chicken kebabs, salad and grilled vegetables. After dinner we handed out our self-designed Academy 2010 (A20X) T-shirts to the Academy management. Then we watched the academy video, a video presentation put together by our staffers Jake and Heather. It was 1.5 hours of awesome footage from the summer and left us all very teary (including the Academy management).
The last week of the Academy had finally arrived. It started off as usual with breakfast at Megabytes followed by much work on our individual projects/reports/presentations as well as work on the group project. We were still trying to make the apparatus work, but without much success.
I had finished all my arrays on Friday so I spent the day conducting data analysis or helping in the lab with the group project. We have decided that the last day of testing will be on Tuesday as we have to have the group report in by Thursday, this will hopefully give us enough time to analyse the data that we have and write the report.
We had MNL in the conference room situated next to Oana’s lab so that we could continue working on the group project after the meeting. Our last MNL made us all realise just how much we would miss the Academy. It has been such an amazing summer with such incredible people and all of us will miss it a lot. After MNL, we went back to work in the lab for a few hours before heading back to Oakwood to continue working on our individual reports/presentations.
Today we were going wine tasting with Pete Worden, the Ames Research Centre Director. We arose early and Jake’s car went to pick up Pete from his house and then travelled to the winery in the Sierra Foothills. It took about 3 hours to drive there but it was worth it. The winery was absolutely beautiful and the wine was even better. We sampled an array of reds and whites followed by a tour of the winery by the owner. He also took us up to the new wine tasting facility which was still being built. The new tasting facility was set up on a small hill overlooking a small portion of the 40 acre vineyard.
We had some more wine with lunch and we all spoke with Pete about the various wines. After lunch we tasted some more wines and then many of us purchased multiple bottles. We then departed for the long drive home. Once back at Oakwood we all got straight back to work.
Saturday we had a day off to catch up on some much needed sleep and to catch up on our work. We have a number of reports and surveys to complete by Wednesday next week as well as our final presentations which we have dry runs for on Tuesday and Wednesday. Most of the day was taken up with all of this work.
We had dinner at Olive Garden, Italian food in America. When we got there it was a 1.5 hour wait until we could be seated so we decided to have our group meeting whilst waiting for a table. It was a very productive meeting. We discussed everything that had gone right and wrong over the past week as well as possible solutions to all the problems we had been having. We also spent some time going through the sections of the final report and presentation and who would be doing what. By the time we had gone through all of this it was time to go and eat.
After a lovely meal we headed back to Oakwood and did some more work. None of us can believe that it is almost over.
The day started off with breakfast at Megabytes as usual. We then headed our separate way to frantically work on our individual projects. We were all starting to get a little worried about finishing our work in time, especially considering we still had a lot of work to do on our group project.
After setting up my PCR arrays (3rd last for the summer), I headed down to Oana’s lab to try and work on the group project. As hard as we were trying we still could not get it to work. Many of the Academy students had spent every night this week trying to get it to work. We have now decided to change our procedures slightly to see if that will work. However, our new method was still not working. The main problem that we were having is that we needed to devise a procedure to measure very low concentrations of E. coli rapidly. Unfortunately, we were trying to do this using fluorescent microscopy and/or spectrophotometry, which were not working very well. The other problem that we were having was keeping the bacteria alive. It seemed to only last in the apparatus for about an hour. We did get some results but they were not as reliable as we were hoping them to be.
That night some of the Academy students went with an academy alumnus, Jeff Smith, on his yacht. They went sailing around the San Francisco bay area and had dinner at the yacht club.
The other Academy students stayed at Oakwood (or at Ames in Oana’s lab) and worked on their individual projects or the group project.
After another long night, we all headed to Megabites for breakfast at 7.15 am. The morning started off fairly normal, I ran more PCR arrays and also helped the group set up the new LAMBDA experiment. We decided to change our experiment to ensure that it worked this tiem and it did! We prepared serial dilutions of E.coli and added them to the apparatus. We then measured voltage for approximately 30 mins and used fluorescent microscopy to determine cell count. Although the voltage started out a bit jumpy, it was normalised in about an hour and so we started testing.
We then had a lecture from my PI for the summer, Dr. Eduardo Almeida who spoke about the research that the Bone and Signalling Lab does at NASA Ames. The talk was comprehensive but not too technical and so everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, especially after he showed us some videos of Newts flying in microgravity!
After the talk I went back to work on my individual project and then spent most of the night in Oana’s lab with the group conducting LAMBDA testing. After the testing was complete, the group who was left in the lab, Corey, Veronica, Max and I headed up to Freemont Peak to join the rest of the Academy to watch Perseids Meteor Shower. The meteors were spectacular and the number of visible stars was also incredible. Freemont Peak Observatory had one of the telescopes out and we also saw Jupiter and its moons and the Andromeda Galaxy which was beautiful. After a long time watching the stars we headed back to get some sleep before work.