Today marks the end of my first week in California…actually this is even the first time I have lived outside of Pennsylvania. Considering this, I was super nervous upon leaving from the Philadelphia airport, but I took my mind off of it by sleeping for most of the plane ride. Upon my arrival in San Francisco, I quickly discovered that the weather is delightfully mild here. In fact on my first day of being in California, the temperature was moderate, the sun was bright, and there was a very slight breeze which all made for some incredibly welcoming weather.
I managed to find my way over to Berkeley where I am staying for the rest of the summer. I also met Anna Lisa, one of the two sisters who manage my housing facility. She is incredibly funny and energetic, as well as extremely environmentally conscious which is a nice change from back home. Actually, a lot of people around here pay very close attention to their impact on the environment and most businesses strive to only produce compostable/recyclable waste products – say goodbye to styrofoam and hello to compostable plastic!
On my first day in California, I stumbled past sooooooooo many food places – they have everything from burgers with avocado to sushi (my first lunch and dinner, respectively). Walking around in a larger urbanized area is a world of a difference from the small town-like setting to which Juniata has me accustomed; I usually find myself becoming rather lost whenever venturing outside. Fortunately we live in the age of the smartphone, so I can always manage to find my way back home!
Even though the UC Berkeley campus is rather close to the lab in proximity, I have quickly realized that they are not affiliated with each other that much at all. I was originally under the impression that I would be doing research in an academic institution, but in actuality I found that I am going to be working in a government-funded research facility. I was not entirely aware of this distinction until after a few days on the job, but realizing this makes me even more excited about being here!
On orientation day, we were shown around the lab complex and – like the rest of Berkeley – it is HUGE. I remember initially being blown away by how many buildings they operate in…somewhere around 80 or 90. My group of interns were shown to the auditorium, where we sat through a boring presentation on things that were already communicated to us through email and afterwards we did a few ice-breaker activities to introduce ourselves. I could see why this is important stuff to do on the first day, but I didn’t care that much in the moment; I was just eager to meet my research mentor, Dr. Neslihan Tas of the Earth Sciences Division. Neslihan is a close friend and colleague of Dr. Lamendella’s, so they have been talking about me for the time leading up to the internship. All good things…or at least that’s what they’ve told me…
Neslihan gave me a small tour of the lab building that I’d be working in, treated me to lunch in the cafeteria, and showed me how to adjust my desk space for maximum comfort while on the job. She also gave me some background information and reference material on what my project would involve before also adding, “Oh, right. The bathroom is down the hall and around the corner. Sometimes I forget to tell people about that.”
I also met another intern in my lab, a sophomore named Ashley. She seems like the type of person who works hard at what she does, but is able to maintain a sense of calmness which I think is awesome! While I am in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program, she is participating in the Community College Internship (CCI). Fortunately, all of our requirements as far as submitting deliverable documents to the SULI and CCI organizers are pretty much the same, so we can help each other not miss any deadlines.
As far as actual work goes for this week, it was mainly just reading the scientific journal references, wrapping my head around functional metagenomics (as I have never worked with them before), and settling into the office space. I do know that I did some damage to the printer’s paper supply; I prefer to print out things before I read them, which is pretty ironic since most of my work is done on a computer anyway.
All-in-all, this week was primarily just focused around getting used to the changes in personal lifestyle as well as building research momentum to take into next week, which is when I will actually begin working on the project.