Cold Spring Harbor

Cold Spring Harbor was like an intellectually intensive summer camp. And it was the greatest educational experience I’ve ever had. In many ways it was more fun than freshman year of college.

Week 1: I arrived a little late on Thursday and didn’t have time to unpack or anything before the wine and cheese reception. The traffic in Long Island can be horrendous. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with being in a new place and just the magnitude of actually being at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Being surrounded by so many impressive people is intimidating. I managed to find Olivia at dinner, which was a relief. We walked together to the reception and it was nice to have a familiar face there. At first the group was pretty quiet so we played some awkward orientation games like 2 truths and a lie to try and break the ice. I am extremely awkward, uncomfortable and shy in new situations especially when it is a larger group, but I survived without any major embarrassment. Everyone else at this program is a grad student so I was afraid to say anything and sound dumb. As undergrads, we were the “interns” of the group, the bottom of the barrel. Our responsibilities included updating the course website and admin tasks, but in return we got to attend all the lectures and fun activities. Greg gave a little introduction to the course and then James helped me move my stuff into the hoops. Once I unpacked and all my things were settled in I started feeling much better.

The next morning I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t fall back asleep. My room overlooks the water and I just watched the sunrise. It was beautiful. I was up early so I actually had time to go to breakfast before our first lecture. That never happened again. Greg was the first lecturer and gave an intro to cellular biophysics and ODEs. Since I’ve already taken his class, all the info was a review, but it was a nice transition into the harder material and future lectures. For the evening session, the actual students had to give brief presentations of their work to share their research interests. The nights were always fun. James and I went on a walk and chatted and explored the grounds. I learned that when you are isolated with a small group of people for a few weeks you really get to know them pretty quickly. We all ate, studied, and socialized together so you can imagine by the end we were ready to get away. But, the social aspect was an important part of the experience. I learned about different people and their stories. Since the students were from all over the world I was exposed to new cultures and life experiences. I think I learned as much about life and people and culture and society as I did science.

Leah Edelstein-Keshet’s lecture was one of my favorite lectures of the course. She gave an interactive lecture on modeling infection with simple ODEs. Some of the other lectures this week were on: dynamical systems, XPP, VCell, Calcium Signaling, and Random Walks and Diffusion.

For the 4th of July we had off in the evening and had a party. I had my car so I was able to go off campus and visit my aunt, uncle and cousins who live about 15 minutes away before the festivities started. It turned out they are friends with a couple who are both pediatricians and another guy who works for the NY blood center. We had a great time talking and I enjoyed hearing their perspective on the medical field.

Week 2: Some of this week’s lectures of interest were on cardiac physiology, stochastic modeling, and all of Tyson’s lectures. Tyson was one of the best teachers at the course. The VCell crew was also extremely helpful and I spent a lot of time working with Ion. As the course progressed, I felt more comfortable talking about my project to the lecturers.

We had a lot of fun this week. We even had an entire day off! Most of the group went to NYC, but some stayed back and hung out at the beach. I’m from NJ so I wasn’t as interested as some of the international students in fitting all of the NYC tourist attractions into one day. We started very early after a late night of celebrations with an 8:30AM wakeup call by Olivia. I’m glad I went though because we had a great time. Thankfully, there was a Dunkin right next to the train station. Let’s see, we went to the Museum of Natural History and took some silly pics with the dinosaurs, tried to win tickets at the Book of Mormon lottery, but were unsuccessful, ventured through China Town and braved my first dim sum experience at the Golden Unicorn, walked to the Staten Island Ferry via wall street, which was pretty cool, and ate ice cream on the ferry. Overall, great success.

The sailing trip was by far my favorite day. It was absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect. I could have stayed out on the boat forever. We even got to jump in the water for a few minutes and cool off. The current was pretty strong so it was a challenge to stay near the boat. I wish we could have spent more time in the water. On the way back to campus, we stopped at the Juice Bar for some refreshing smoothies.

Week 3: Our last few days were mostly spent working on our specific projects while the students worked on their projects or during the exercise sessions. I made a lot of progress on my project and spent a lot of time with Greg figuring out and defining our goals. I also really enjoyed the LaMar/Day lectures. Chaos is a pretty cool subject and Greg showed me some neat fractals afterwards. Our last night, we went out to a nice Thai restaurant and had a family style dinner. It really felt like more like a family than it did a group of friends that have only known each other for only a few weeks. It is amazing looking back to the first awkward night compared to today. All the trips to Huntington were great. We saw Harry Potter at midnight, got lots of ice cream and frozen yogurt, and ate too much pizza from Little Vinny’s. I have so many great memories from this trip and learned an invaluable amount about life, science, and research. I am so thankful to have ended up in such a great lab with so many opportunities.

Comments

  1. Michael Cammarata says:

    Sarah,
    I could’ve sworn I left a comment on your first post weeks ago! Anyways, this is Michael from your Cellular Biophysics and Modeling class last semester. Your experiences sound like a lot of fun and an awesome extension of what we learned in class. I am kind of jealous that you got to see a lecture by Leah Edelstein-Keshet, since we read a good deal of her work last semester.
    What did the rest of the summer have in store in terms of your research? Did you do more modeling?