Day 13: California is in a drought; London is definitely not

As the days go by and class is getting more intense, it’s hard to try to keep up with the world outside of this program. And so, even though I’ve basically given up on this ‘every day’ blog, my new goal is to write at least every other day, just so I can try to have more time to enjoy myself, but also so I can have more things to write about when I actually do write.

Yesterday and today were two totally different experiences and so much has gone on that it’s all very exciting and also tiring.

We started out the day yesterday with class (of course), but then after morning tea (yes, we do have morning tea every day), we had a guest lecturer from one of the genetics labs here at Cambridge. I won’t go into much detail about his work because, let’s be honest, most people reading this probably won’t even know what I’m talking about, but I will say this: I was completely blown away and totally impressed with his presentation. His research was, to put it simply, on stem cells, which are these cells that are ‘unprogrammed’ and are able to differentiate themselves to either make new stem cells or become a new type of cell, like a skin cell, brain cell, muscle cell, etc. The research that he is doing and has done is everything that I’ve been interested in for years and exactly what I wanted to do in the future. I was able to ask specific questions and I learned a lot about new techniques. It was so inspiring and exciting that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it every since. The groundbreaking research that is being done at Cambridge is making me more encouraged to apply here for graduate school.

The rest of that day was spent in class and then studying afterwards. At night we all went out as a group together because we haven’t done that since the first night we got here, and it was really nice to forget about school for a little while.

Today we took a day trip to London to visit University College London and had another guest presenter and a tour. The presentation was on gene oncology which is basically creating a giant data base of a bunch of research being done so that you can easily find articles linked to one another. It can be used by other researchers to find corresponding work being done, but it can also be accessed by the general public, so if you have any interest in the way that apoptosis cells in humans are related to specific proteins, you could go on there are read several hundred articles about that subject. It was really interesting to hear about this field of biology that nobody really talks about, but you know is still really vital to all the other research that’s being done. It’s such an important way of organizing the information we have and making it all collectively similar that without it, we would most likely be years behind in research. After the presentation, the guest speaker who works at UCL gave us a tour of the university, but it happened to finally be raining in London, so the tour was quick and easy.

It was really nice to feel rain finally after being in California and having it become such a rare occurrence. And yes, California has had a little bit of rain, but the rain today was so good; it was like a healthy rain, if that makes sense. Since rain is my favorite weather, it made me really happy and in a good mood, which is usually opposite to what rain’s supposed to make you feel. It’s supposed to rain in Cambridge tomorrow, but I’m exacted for the few days after that, because the days after it rains are always my favorite kind of days.

After the tour, we then took the bus to Camden, which is a market area in London. It’s basically full of little independent shops where people are selling things from London tourist-y things to jewelry to clothes to delicious food. It felt so nice to get out of Cambridge and have a little break with friends and just enjoy each other’s company. I wish we had more free days like this, even if it’s just for a few hours. It felt too soon to be heading back to Cambridge after what had been such a nice day, but tomorrow we have class and a dinner party with some graduate students from the university. Today was so relaxing and I think it was much needed for all of us to relax and rejuvenate and I think we’re all ready for another week of classes before leaving for Stockholm!

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