The week before “the moment of truth” (aka Finals)

Hey UIC!

I am now what I’d like to call “student survivor mode.” In the past 72 hours I have:

  • Averaged 4 hours of sleep each day
  • 12 lab reports
  • 2 term projects
  • 1 oral presentation
  • 3 Finals Monday, 1 on Friday

This past semester I actually broke my record of the most papers I written, 124 pages and still counting. Coffee becomes your BEST FRIEND.

Bright side is that I got an early Christmas gift! We had our JST RA/PM Staff Secret Santa gift giving with a cultural potluck and my Kris Kringle gave me the coolest gift, a Nerf Gun. I owe it to her for choosing the ones with the strong darts I wanted =)

Best College Gift Ever

Best College Gift Ever =D

On the academic side, I presented one of my term projects for Transportation. My answer to Chicago gridlock is a lot like what Bill Ford, grandson of Henry Ford, states “more roads isn’t simply the answer.” I proposed the idea of solar roads to help Chicago. Not only will it help Chicago traffic, but also assist in providing green jobs and local revenue to Chicago communities as well as increase safety in our streets especially during winter

Presentation on Solar Road Technologies

For more information about what where I got the idea, look here:
http://www.solarroadways.com/main.html

Unfortunately I don’t have a list this week as I try to finish all these lab reports for tomorrow. But I’ll make it up to you all after finals week.

Good luck to everyone!
-Darren

RSNA: Radiological Society of North America OR Rad Stuff of the New Age

I will now call it Rad Stuff of the New Age. RSNA is a yearly medical conference in Chicago, specifically radiological, with 60,000 + participants each year, making it the BIGGEST MEDICAL CONFERENCE IN THE WORLD. Not because Radiology is the largest field of medicine, or even the one with the most money, but because it has the most technology associated with it- the most cool stuff!

Entrance to the conference

You could walk around it forever. You could get lost in the GE booth or the Siemens booth, testing out their new, spiffy, minimally-invasive radiological equipment. (Well, you wouldn’t actually get an MRI or anything, but you can look and touch.) It’s like going to Brookstone and not really intending to buy anything more than an alarm clock, but sitting in the massage chair for half an hour.

That’s how I felt while working a booth at the conference this week, but many people come to the conference for REAL business. They are looking to invest, looking to buy new equipment, looking to merge companies, to showcase their new technology, to see what’s out there. Radiologists come to see what’s new and to watch famous people in their field present work and give lectures. Vendors come there to sell their patented products (and to spy on the competition). A lot of people come to see their friends in the field. It’s really the place to be if you’re in the field of medicine, radiology or medical sales.

I worked at the Fovia booth! Fovia, Inc. is a software company that takes huge data sets from radiological equipment like MRIs, CTs and Ultrasound, and makes it into high definition 3D images and movies in which you can see extreme detail. It’s the new wave of rendering medical data! and it’s awesome. You can see more here.

Oh, and the conference is so big that I failed to see the FLASH MOB that occurred on the second day of the conference! But I later found it on YouTube. Check it out!

Science Finals Kill

So I got that third organic chemistry exam back and it definitely did not go as planned. I did way worse than my other two exams, which significantly puts me back into the unsafe zone of an extremely low B/middle to high C range for that class. The final is worth a lot, but will I have the wonderful brain to do it? I sure hope so.

I’m not sure if I have the ability to get an A in cell biology, but a girl can hope. I’ll have to calculate in each of those classes to figure out what I need to get in order to get a high grade so that my GPA doesn’t go through a debacle, but at the end of the day the message is: study hard and do your best…and if you don’t, just do better next time.

As for my other classes, I did not realize that my Asian paper was due on the Monday of finals week so that is my first priority. The second thing would be my portfolio for English 212 (Introduction to the Writing of Fiction) and I have not yet started those revisions on my stories. I hope it won’t take too long but with those kinds of things you want to make them good for the benefit of yourself because writing is a very personal thing. Nutrition and music therapy are awesome and are put in a different corner of my brain because I need to really focus on doing well in my science classes!

With all of that junk floating in my mind, I’m starting a new experiment with my PI at research and so recently I did a bone marrow isolation (poor mouse T-T). It went a lot better than it did the last time we did it (my first time) and so hopefully next time I do it again I can do it by myself! These things take practice and confidence, and making a few mistakes here and there are all a part of the process. I’m pretty excited to conduct qPCR, ELISA, and Western Blot for my macrophages! I have not learned how to do ELISA or the Western blot so that will be an exciting experience.

Ack. There’s also this scholarship I am hoping to apply for that is due December 9th. It’s specifically aimed for Asian Americans, which kind of sucks for those who are not Asian American but luckily UIC offers a lot of different scholarships that everyone can apply for! Each entry box has a limit of 1000 words, which is ridiculous! That’s like two or three pages with no double spaces. What am I supposed to ramble on for so long? Here comes my life story, haha!

Speaking of which, the research grant application for the Sarah Madonna Kabbes Award for Undergraduate Research I turned in two months ago finally released the people who got the award and one of them was me! This is great, especially since I’m starting new experiments and everything you do in research is expensive.

Plans for winter break? I have none…except for maybe research, teaching myself Polish, maybe some art projects I have on my own, and allergy shots! :D ’til then, toodles.

Unclogging the Life Line

Today we turned in some drawings of a surgery of our choice. I chose the carotid endarterectomy, which is where a surgeon unclogs your carotid artery! I wrote about it previously- I like it because it’s very visual. Here are a few steps from the procedure. I chose the pen and ink style. I hope to render out more later! When things get less crazy.

Relevant anatomy of the neck

Step 2: Removal of the carotid sheath

Step 4: controlling the superior thyroid artery before incision

No Turkey For Thanksgiving? No Problem.

I actually didn’t miss the usual eating turkey ritual for Thanksgiving. Just being around family was something I’m sure most of us can be thankful for.

So SFP has been running out on lecture events for our members and I decided to chip in and invite my cousin to come out and talk about his residency as a Family Medicine doctor at Christ Medical. The crowd was kind of dead but I think he was pretty cool with it. Most of the students at UIC get pretty tired around this time of the semester since finals are coming up and academics are definitely more important than those extra-curriculars…but we all try our best to do what we can. After the SFP lecture, my brother and my other cousin who goes to UIC met with us at Kohan (my brother is lucky enough to go to U of I and get a whole week off for Thanksgiving…but whatever. I get out of school earlier at least)! I think we all got Korean dishes except for my doctor cousin, who got this awesome Ninja Turtle Roll.

Kohan, located on Maxwell Street and conveniently next to my dorm (MRH), has an awesome roll called the Ninja Turtle.

Kohan, located on Maxwell Street and conveniently next to my dorm (MRH), has an awesome roll called the Ninja Turtle.

Awesome? Yes, I think so too. Hmm, it wasn’t too eventful at school this past week (well, I guess having an organic exam and biology quiz could count for being eventful…but let’s put those behind us). I’ve been pretty active with SFP because I started making meetings for HAC (Health Activism Committee) and we’ve been having some great discussions for what we want to do next semester. I’m pretty excited!

I’m not sure how my organic chemistry exam went yet, but I’m happy not knowing until I go back to school to study for finals. I actually did well on that biology quiz, and the one before so I am hoping to do well on the final! As for my other classes, I should really get started on continuing that Asian Studies paper.

Let’s move away from school for a bit though and talk about my recent Black Friday purchase, as well as my recent quick return to the world of Facebook. So before midnight hit, my brother and I looked up some deals that were going on at electronic stores. We came across a beautiful one:

Xbox FTW!

This deal is TOO amazing.

At 11pm we went straight to Fry’s Electronics on Downer’s Grove. To my surprise, there were probably only 50-100 people waiting in line. My brother and I stood in the cold listening to my Zune until midnight hit. The doors did not open. We let it slide for a good twenty minutes before we felt like something was wrong. We asked the people next to us (by this time, there were at least 100+ behind us in line) and of course they would say that the store opened at 5am. It was no wonder that people had tents set up and everything! There was definitely no way I was going to wait in the cold for another five or six hours until the doors opened, so we drove to an Hhgregg nearby.

Hhgregg sold the bundle for $199 so we were really excited, until we found out they only had six bundles and you had to have a ticket to get it. To our dismay, we walked to the Best Buy next door. Of course, Best Buy never has any good deals when it comes to systems…so we just decided we should just buy it online.

When we came out, we stared at the place that we literally have not stepped into in decades: Toys R Us.

“Want to try there?”
“I swear to God. If we get one there, I am never shopping anywhere else for Black Friday.”

We walked in, and almost by fate this girl worker there saw us and asked, “Hi! Are you looking for the Xbox bundle with Kinect? It’s $199!” My brother and I looked at each other, and then back at her: “Yes, actually. We’ll take one!” I think that was the moment I decided Toys R Us is the best place ever. It is probably one of the most overlooked places for items that we’d normally go for an electronics specialty store for. I mean, they even gave us a $10 gift card! The games were buy one get one for five dollars, and an Xbox controller was $30!

Did I mention how awesome the system is? Kinect is so responsive it is seriously incredible. I am so happy right now with it and I am definitely bringing it back to school with me for the two weeks that I’m there (and then FREEDOM!). I got Dance Central 2, Kinect Adventure (free game with bundle), and Gears of War 3. Game on.

It Gets Better

Last year one of my good friends and classmates had the idea of making an “It Gets Better” video on behalf of the UIC community, specifically soliciting the stories of those associated with the College of Medicine, be they physicians, residents or students.  What resulted was something more genuine and better-edited than I ever could have imagined, and something which I am truly proud to have been a part of.

For those who may not know, the “It Gets Better” project was started by columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage early last year in response to a string of LGBT teen suicides, and consists of youtube videos directed towards teens who may be considering suicide due to any number of factors, with sexual orientation being the main focus.  The project spurred an outpouring of support and videos from celebrities, professionals, and random people gay, straight, and anything in between, all to get the message out there to young people in a troubled place, that things do, in fact, get better.  Below is the UIC College of Medicine’s video, which was officially premiered earlier this month:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9rr0exEOmo

In the spirit of the video, I thought I’d use this week’s post to speak a little bit about my own experiences, and comment on how positive an experience coming out has been in both my professional and personal life.

Personally, I would say I knew from a young age that something was different. And although I wouldn’t self-identify with the label until much later, I pretty much knew.  God knows the signs were there: dancing to the Spice Girls in the 4th grade talent show, a keen interest in pop music and none whatsoever in sports, I was basically a walking stereotype.  Nevertheless, when confronted with even the prospect of being gay I was petrified, so much so that it took until late in my teens to really start to accept that it was true, even if I didn’t know how to deal with it, or want to openly embrace it.

For the longest time I viewed it as a fault, obsessing over my grades and academic performance in order to compensate for the one thing I knew I couldn’t control that would ultimately disappoint my parents.  Strong academics became the façade that protected me against questions.  Why didn’t I have a girlfriend?  Oh, I was too busy studying.  Why no interest in sports?  I was just the nerdy type and preferred science (this one is still completely true).

Regardless, that plan only worked for so long, and eventually the pent up stress and angst came to critical point.  College had brought new challenges and stressors, and I could no longer function as I once had.  I had initially felt that UIC was too close to home to get that fresh start that people talked about with college, and once I realized this wasn’t the case, was so disappointed with myself for once again creating a lie for myself to live in.

This led to a nasty bout of depression and low self-esteem, the likes of which I’m sure each of those teens was experiencing.  I was just fortunate enough to have made it past those moments (because it was not a one time thing) and get to a point where I was at least able to begin a process of introspection.  It was a dark place, indeed, but the more I was honest with myself, the more accepting I became.

The process of self-examination and reconciliation went on until sophomore year when I decided I’d finally become comfortable enough with myself to begin the slow, perpetually awkward process of coming out.  Anyone who’s been through it knows: you don’t come out once; you come out over and over and over again.  It’s an arduous process, but one that is necessary.

So I started with one close friend, and then expanded to a larger group, then eventually got myself to the point where whenever I was in a social setting I could be comfortable being introduced along with the title “gay.”  It was certainly an evolution, and one that took a good amount of time.  But as comfortable as I became with myself and my friends, I still had extreme resignations about coming out to my parents.  For some reason, they were the ones that I most expected to be un-accepting.

Now this was not completely off-base.  Growing up with the fear of the inevitable (i.e. having to eventually come out) I had long since picked up on their attitudes towards LGBT issues and gay people in general, and from what I had seen, it wasn’t looking good.  My dad, despite having grown up in a very diverse part of Chicago, and not a racist bone in his body, was the polar opposite when it came to “the gays.”  He listened (and still does) to Rush Limbaugh and quoted Fox News on a regular basis, so needless to say, I was less-than optimistic about how he’d react.  And my mom, although not nearly as vocal, was on a similar plain with regards to the subject.

That said, I had strategically come out to my siblings well in advance of telling my parents, knowing that, even if it randomly came to light, and things turned ugly, I would have them on my side.  Lucky for me, that didn’t happen.  Although incredibly uncomfortable, and still-makes-my-stomach-churn awkward, things turned out alright.  When I finally told them my dad was taken aback, while my mother said that she had always known… not from the Spice Girls dance, but rather, the fact that I’d always only had girls for friends growing up.  Go figure.

Point being, as awkward as it may be, it is who I am.  And the experience has shaped me in myriad ways which are hard to completely pin down.  Above all else, the harsh introspection that came with the depression led me to a level of self-assuredness and confidence which continues to mold my decisions and interactions with people to this day.  Furthermore, clinically, it has meant that I am slow to judge; I see patients with the mindset that I will never fully understand their context, though I will do everything I can as a clinician to empathize and understand.  After all, anyone who saw me during my turbulent period was privy only to the façade, and had no idea what was stirring beneath.  In just recognizing this fact with my patients, I feel like I will have done them a service.

And so, to finish this post off, allow me to repeat yet again that IT DOES GET BETTER.  With time come perspective, growth, acceptance, and ultimately the ability to help others who find themselves in a similarly difficult position.

Two weeks – Six Classes

While the smart thing to do right now would be to study for my third upcoming organic chemistry exam, I thought I’d give a little update on things are going school-wise before I hardcore rock out memorizing reagents and how to do synthesis problems into my brain.

My roommate and I played badminton at the UIC Recreation Center!

My friend on the badminton club at the UIC Recreation Center invited me to come out last Friday to hit around some birdies. It was really fun and a wonderful way to exercise! (: I went with my roommate and her boyfriend. I would have taken a picture of myself if I didn't have such bad eczema plaguing my face! xD

I’ll go from hardest/scariest to least:

Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 232) – I’ve got one quiz and two exams left to make up my grade. It is totally doable, given that I study like a monster, which I plan to do. I think right now I’m at a B/C range, but there is still a lot of points to get that could put me much higher. I am hoping for a B since getting an A seems out of reach (stupid quizzes). Wish me luck!

Cell Biology (BIOS 222) – I’ve only got one quiz and one more exam left, which kind of sucks because this class goes by percentages instead of points. My past exam grades kind of slumped, and I think it’s due to my laziness and also due to my attitude towards school; but perhaps I was too confident that I’d do well in this class because “biology is my thing.” It’s bad to assume classes are easy! I think I’m at a B/C range too for this class. Any hope for that A? Man that would be wonderful, but not likely.

Human Nutrition (HN 196) – Best class ever. I don’t think I have to worry at all about being A/B borderline. Her quizzes and exams are so straight-forward, not like biology where you have to read a huge paragraph of text and then look at the answers in the multiple choice section to read MORE confusing text. Her presentations are so wonderful too because she gives you the information that will basically be tested on the exams and the facts she brings in the enhance the information on the slides are so interesting.

Asian Studies (ASST 270) – I think this class is going well. My professor hasn’t updated the grades lately but the bulk of the grade for this class is a final 6-8 page paper. I like writing so this shouldn’t be too big of a problem. I made an appointment at the UIC Writing Center so that should help a lot (btw, I might help redesign their website because they are in need of an awesome one for the amazing things they do!).

I never like waiting for this bus. I prefer it over the CTA but it only comes every 20 minutes to take me to west side where I work and do research!

I never like waiting for this bus. I prefer it over the CTA but it only comes every 20 minutes to take me to west side where I work and do research!

On a quick tangent (and speaking about the Writing Center), I went to my regular tutoring hour and the person I tutored last week was there getting tutored by someone else and she saw me and was like “Oh Milie! I have to give you something later!” I had no idea what it could be because it’s not normal for tutees to give gifts to tutors, and there is probably something against some kind of ethic code to receive it, IF I am an employee…but I’m a volunteer so maybe there’s a leeway? After my session and her session she came by my desk and handed me the aloe gel that I mentioned in my previous two posts (she wrote it in Chinese). Apparently her friend from China came to give it to her but she said her skin was doing well and thought I could use it for mine (since it was clearly conspicuously bad and scratched up from my eczema problem). It was so sweet of her, especially since we only met once! I initially declined, though. I guess it’s a natural instinct of mine to decline gifts because it’s more humble in my culture. But if they persist, then I tend to give in (because the thought was so nice!). Ah you really meet wonderful people at the writing center.

Introduction to Fiction (ENGL 212) – This class is too hilarious. Words can’t describe, literally. Grades? Eh they don’t matter as much when it comes to this kind of stuff in my opinion, but I think I don’t have to worry too much. (:

Music Therapy (HON 201) – It’s a pass or fail seminar…so I’ll be fine! Too bad it doesn’t count towards my GPA but that’s okay.

Independent Research (KN 396) – I know I said six classes, but I have to kind of include this since I am taking 1 credit hour in it, and it will count towards my GPA apparently because we get graded with an A, B, C, etc. I didn’t discuss with my PI about it, but I hope he remembers to grade me (and hopefully give me that A!).

As you can tell, taking 18 credit hours is severely inhibiting my science grades…but you know what I’m not going to give up! Hopefully medical schools are understanding of my other interests (of course, after this semester I am never taking any more electives again unless they relate to science). Other than that…I’m really excited for Thanksgiving! :D

Carry on the Flames

Hey UIC!

Atmosphere is getting tense! Everyone is getting ready for finals, working on term projects, and it truly has become the moment of truth for the semester. Good luck to all the students!

So for this week’s list, here’s some tracks we play on Krome Radio. Check it out, listen, and Rock out!

(Krome Radio is a UIC College Radio Station that plays new, upcoming, as well as unplugged tracks from the past of Asian and American music!)

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“Breakups Are So Like Me” by Kim Jang Hoon (ft. Hee Chul from Super Junior)

“Winter Magic” by KARA

“Most Like You” by Thomas-Jack

“Before It Explodes” by Charice & Bruno Mars

“Be My Baby” by Wonder Girls

So follow Krome on twitter to see weekly updates about College Radio!

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In addition, last Wednesday our Men’s Basketball Team rocked against Roosevelt!!! The Pavilion flooded with the UIC Colors and they were handing out free Flames Jerseys to the first 500 students. So go if you can, check out any of the UIC games!!!
http://www.uicflames.com/

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TOPIC NEXT WEEK: Thanksgiving

ANSWER FROM LAST WEEK: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith from the film Armageddon

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do you believe in Karma? If so, when will it come most useful?

Spinning class : exercise :: semester at UIC : life

“OK class! Let’s start out slow! Just start peddling! Difficulty level should be at about a 5 out of 10!” yells the already-sweaty-because-this-is-her-third-spinning-class-today woman up front with the microphone.

It’s like the first few weeks of school, when you ease into studying after a crazy and lazy (but short if you have a summer semester) summer break.  You’re not thinking about the big projects, the papers. You’re thinking about how fun it is to learn!

“Now we’re gonna start off with a gradual hill.  We’ll take forty seconds at each level, and go all the way up to 10. It should hurt by the end, but you’re not dying!”

The first few tests and quizzes roll by. The first big assignment hits.  You pull your first all-nighter of the semester. It’s fine!  You can sleep it off the next night, because THINGS ARE UNDER CONTROL.

“Okayyyy, turn it back down to 5 and grab some water, catch your breath.”  The song switches to “You Can’t Hurry Love,” by the Supremes.

A lull in assignments, weekends are spent doing some work, catching up on The Office, baking cookies and attending the neighborhood block party.

“AlRIGHT! Consecutive 30 second sprints! Give it your all!!!”

 Midterms!

“Keep it up at level 7, keep peddling those legs, you want it to hurt!” You look at the clock- you’re over half way through the class but you feel like you’re ready for the last five—the slowing down and stretching part.

This is like weeks 9 through 14- constant assignments due, and you’re thinking about how far away winter break seems but how vaguely excited you are for it.

“Keeeeeeeeeeep pushing! C’mon! You OWN it! You can’t improve unless you push yourself!!!” A heavy metal song pumps in the background. You usually hate heavy metal, but you’re actually enjoying the angry “De ner ner ner nerrr” sounds. It’s right for the moment.

Last two weeks of class, and things are not quite coming together yet.

And then there’s the last hill.  The one where you start to feel sick to your stomach.  Where you take the last swig of water in the water bottle, and it turns out to be just one drop.  Your mind is playing tricks on you, saying “you can’t finish” and “I’m dyyyinggg!” And right when you think you’re going to collapse…

You’re DONE!  And you can cool down, go home and eat some home cookin’.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

He's a rockstar.

This past weekend we celebrated my grandpa’s 90th birthday! It’s weird because I thought we celebrated that last year…but I guess not! My grandparents follow the lunar calendar so I tend to get confused when his actual birthday is. Anyway, we took up like three giant round tables at the Red Lantern restaurant with my family (and we still needed more chairs to fit everyone who could come). If it were my actual whole family, we’d probably take up the whole restaurant! Haha. Anyway it was a real blast and I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas to come around so I can see them more.

Now, going back to school…ehhhh. I think taking 18 credit hours was really stupid (and I might be taking 17 credit hours next semester because I don’t think I learned my lesson quite yet). My science classes are not going so hot, especially biology. I thought organic chemistry was going bad and that biology was my forte, but after our third exam I don’t even know what to do. I think it’s my fault for not studying harder, but at the same time I couldn’t concentrate on anything specific with everything that has been going on. Balancing everything is seriously the most useful skill anyone can contain. I think I had it going pretty well throughout most of the semester, but right now there’s only three weeks of school and that means three weeks to get my act together! Cross your fingers that I’ll make it alive and with an okay GPA.