PRIME 2009 Undergrads Dispatch Stories From the Pacific Rim and India

By Maureen C. Curran

PRIME Monash at football game
PRIME students and their colleagues from Monash University enjoy an Australian football game.

San Diego, CA, August 28, 2009 — Five undergrads from the Calit2-based Pacific Rim Undergraduate Experiences (PRIME) program share their experiences half-way through their summers abroad. The students are doing cyberinfrastructure-related research across the Pacific Rim and India.

They are serving as 'foreign correspondents' for the wider UC San Diego community as part of a "Dispatches from the Field" series in This Week @ UCSD, an e-zine published by the University Communications and Public Affairs Office.

Here, they share first-person observations and stories on what they have been doing scientifically and culturally (with links to full articles). For several of them, this is their second installment (see link to earlier story below).

Michael Nekrasov
A Typhoon and an Eclipse Bring Home the Importance of Nature

Michael Nekrasov
Michael Nekrasov in front of a statue of Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan.

Kenting, Taiwan — As I write this article, a major typhoon is making landfall. A few days ago, we saw the last sunset we would see in days as the sky turned blood red and we watched the sun melt into the rough waters as warm moist wind howled around us. Already, incredibly strong wind lashed rain at the windows. [Link to full story on This Week @ UCSD]

Michael, a computer engineering major, is helping engineer a system that will allow researchers to study corals in real time. He is mentored by Tony Fan and Fang-Pang Lin (at National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium and National Center for High-performance Computing) and Tony Fountain (from UCSD).

Jade Kwan
Getting Used to the Japanese Lifestyle and Landscape

Jade Kwan
Jade Kwan riding on a float during the Japanese festival Gion Matsuri.

Tokyo, Japan — After being in Tokyo for more than a month, the question I have been asked most frequently has been, “How is Japan?’ I could simply answer with “great!’ But one word really would not do Japan justice. Tokyo, one of the world´s most populous cities, is said to fit the population of California in a space about the size of the big island of Hawaii. It is one of those got to see it to believe it facts. And after witnessing many crowded events like the Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai, a large festival with 20,000-plus fireworks across the Sumida River, which attracts close to a million visitors, and the Green Tokyo Gundam Project, a special 18-meter (59 foot) tall life-size statue of a Gundam (a robot featured in Japanese cartoons) to celebrate the series´ 30th anniversary, which attracts thousands daily -- I do believe it. [Link to full story on This Week @ UCSD]

Jade, a cognitive science/human computer interaction major, is working on a data visualization project, taking scientific datasets to create an artistic 3-dimensional mapping, then scripting these mappings to present on high resolution tiled-display walls. She is mentored by Shinji Shimojo and Taku Morinobu (at NICT) and Jürgen Schulze (from Calit2 at UCSD).

Brian McMahon
Wildlife, Poverty and Occasional Chaos in Hyderabad

Brian McMahon
Brian McMahon after a visit to a local temple in Hyderabad, India.

Hyderabad, India — After a quarter of preparing and about 32 hours of travel time, I have finally found myself in the City of Hyderabad in India. I am spending nine weeks here living at the University of Hyderabad and working on a data streaming system for a tsunami early-warning system. I´m here with two other PRIME students, Matt Mui and Dee Chen, who are working together on another project involving protein bonding inhibitors. We´re all living in one of the university´s international student hostels (the Indian term for what we would call a dorm) with other students from around the world who are visiting the university. [Link to full story on This Week @ UCSD]

Brian, a computer science major, setting up a data streaming system for a sensor network in the Bay of Bengal. This system will be used to allow near real-time access to data for researchers to study, and possibly predict tsunami activity. He is mentored by Arun Agarwal, K.V. Subbarao and Rajeev Wankar (at the University of Hyderabad, India) and Tony Fountain and Sameer Tilak (from UCSD).

Jessica Hsieh
Enjoying Great Food, Meeting New People and Learning About History and Culture in Malaysia

Jessica Hsieh
Jessica Hsieh at the Penang Butterfly Farm, Malaysia.

Penang, Malaysia — A little past the halfway point with my time in Penang, I would have to say that meeting the “International Buddies’ and other international students is probably one of the best things that happened to me here. The “Buddies’ are local students that attend Universiti Sains Malaysia; they not only provide answers to questions I have but also take the time to make sure that I am adjusting well and having fun. [Link to full story on This Week @ UCSD]

Jessica, a bioengineering: biotechnology major, is working to improve influenza treatments. Her project is to optimize the design of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) test probes targeting the nucleocapsid protein (NP) in the influenza virus. She is mentored by Habibah Wahab (at Universiti Sains Malaysia) and Wilfred Li (from UCSD).

Ramya Chitters
Making Friends and Enjoying Life in Australia

Melbourne, Australia — It´s been over a month and half since I first stepped into the winter weather of Melbourne, but time seems to have flown by so fast that I can´t believe I have less than three weeks left here. So, that must mean that I have been thoroughly enjoying my time down-under. It is weird really, the fact that I got used to a new lifestyle in less than a month, me, the person who loved her lifestyle back in the States. As it´s due, I would most definitely attribute this comfort level in Australia to the people around me: friends, cousins, people in the lab and even our hotel staff. [Link to full story on This Week @ UCSD]

Ramya Chitters
Ramya Chitters at the Melbourne Museum, Australia.

Ramya, a bioengineering: biotechnology major, is mentored by David Abramson (at Monash University) and Anushka Michailova (from UCSD). Her project is to use NIMROD/E to perform parameter sensitive analysis in cardiac electrophysiological models.

PRIME is a nine week-long international internship program founded in 2004 with funding from the National Science Foundation, with UC San Diego collaborators including Calit2. Other campus partners are the Academic Internship Program (grants one academic unit for the experience) and the International Center (assists students with improving their cultural understanding). The host sites of the PRIME program are key to making the program the success that it has become. Gabriele Wienhausen, UC San Diego division of biology associate dean of education and founding provost of Sixth College, is the principal investigator of this award. For more information, please see links below.

PRIME is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (including supplemental support from NSF's program for India and supplemental NSF funding via PRAGMA for three students), with additional support from the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the National Biomedical Computation Resource (NBCR), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Bioengineering department of UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering, additional partners and the host institutions, including additional support at USM, NiCT and Doshisha University. Five of this year's PRIME students received outside scholarships to participate.

Related Links
PRIME program website

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