And So it Begins

It’s official – summer has arrived at the puge. The flowers are out, the birds are chirping, the rain has been absent for well over 7 days now, and students – myself included – are beginning research.

Which is crazy to think about. Because between school and finals and OLE, I was not able to fully process the fact that research is upon me. I always knew it was coming. I’ve prepped this entire semester for this moment – I’ve written a proposal, created images plotting what my plan for this study is, and have had multiple hour-long conversations with my advisor/professor/role model for life, Carrie Woods, about bryophytes and epiphytes and life itself. The days turned to weeks which turned to months, and there was always something else to do before I could focus on the research I was doing this summer. And, like so many things about college life, it snuck up on me – but unlike many things about college life, this sneak-up was pleasant.

Because now I am here. I am sitting in the sun (!!!!!!) in the courtyard of Thompson on this beautiful Friday, after my first full week of undergraduate research (which included learning mosses, extended walks through Point D, climbing in the rafters of Harned, and over-complicating things in the typical college fashion). And I know that, for once, everything I worked for this semester has paid off. All the stress the proposal put me under, all the hours I spent reading paper after paper about epiphytes, all the mini-breakdowns that occurred all too often in Carrie’s office about “What-am-I-doing-Where-am-I-going-I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on”, all the people who told me that it wasn’t possible for a freshman to get a research position here, everything – everything – has boiled down to these 10 weeks.

And I couldn’t be more stoked to spendthe summer doing the thing that I love, with the people I adore, in the place that I can officially call home.

The first prototype of the bags that are going to be used to hang the bryophyte samples. Super over-complicated, as per usual.

The first prototype of the bags that are going to be used to hang the bryophyte samples. Super over-complicated, as per usual.

The second prototype for the mesh bags - this one took far less time and makes far more sense.

The second prototype for the mesh bags – this one took far less time and makes far more sense.

My view for the past few days

My view for the past few days – look at that beautiful bryophyte!


Russia, set, go!

Well the business visa went through! I can now travel in and out of the Russian Federation until the end of November 2017. I got to the Heathrow Airport a tad bit too early today so I’m sitting at a restaurant nursing a Guinness as I write this. I stayed at my sister’s place in Cambridge this past week, and we had a great time. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with her, my other sister Nikola, and my nieces and nephews. Also shout out to my brother-in-law Andy for keeping Guinness stocked in the fridge this week: team player.

[I was going to put more cool pictures of London/ Cambridge here, but apparently my camera too took large of pictures :/ ]

I took the train from Cambridge today around mid-day, and was to report to the Russian Embassy in London by 16.00 to collect my passport. I was a bit nervous this past week that it wouldn’t go through because of some careless error on the application. I took the tube and lugged my luggage not only to the embassy, but also to Heathrow. To all you students out there it cost roughly £6.00 in total for transport throughout London to get to the embassy and then to the airport. I think a London cab or Uber would have run me about £50.00 today when all was said and done.

So things I am excited for this summer: my internship, blini, banya, borscht, continuing to improve my Russian conversation, and of course all the other wonders that Russia has to offer. This summer won’t be all fun and games, but I hope to get in as much enjoyment during my last few months in the motherland as I can. I know in earlier blog posts I made a checklist of sorts regarding things I wanted to do during my time in Russia. I’ve checked off that whole list, except for the Transsiberian Railroad. After my experience during an 8-hour train ride in a Russian train, I thought that I had discounted this checklist item forever. Over the past couple months, however, I’ve had a bit more free time and as such have been planning what I want to accomplish with my remaining time abroad. I am in the process of convincing two or three of my friends from study abroad this past year to do the railway from Moscow to Vladivostok with me. It would be really awesome for them to come, but if they don’t I’m pretty sure I will still do it. It would be anywhere from a week to two weeks depending upon how long I spend at the various stops throughout Russia. I’ll post a route map below. Follow the dark blue route below that doesn’t veer off into Mongolia. The preliminary plan right now would be to stay in Russia to avoid the hassle of procuring another visa for China, but we’ll see what happens. I would start the trip at the beginning of August, giving me roughly two weeks before I need to fly back to the US to start my final semester at UPS.



On that note, I am also really excited to finish my final semester at UPS. Of course, sad that I will be graduating and leaving that wonderful university, but happy that I haven’t squandered my time there. I feel like I have learned so much, and in such a wide variety of subjects. All of my professors have been top-notch, and I’ve loved the small class sizes. I could go on, but I won’t)

Anyway, I am going to head off to my gate to start the always wonderful security screening process, so bye for now.


For the Last Time

My last…

  • Drink at E9
  • Tofu soup at Cho Dang’s
  • Ice cream at ice cream social
  • Time at the library
  • Time in the research lab
  • Pizza at the Cellar
  • Duke at Oppenheimer/Diversions
  • Bio and Chem picnic
  • Time listening to Pops on the Lawn
  • Time stepping foot on campus… Haha just kidding, I’ll probably be back. You haven’t seen the last of me.

Thank you for everything. Congrats to the class of 2017! Once a logger, always a logger.


Science All Day Everyday III


If you haven’t read part I (sophomore year) or part II (junior year), click the links and read all about it.

BIO 332- Tissue Culture

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This was a half-semester long lab, where we placed plant stem pieces onto media with different hormone ratios to observe for callus growth and the development of roots and shoots. After a course of several weeks, we tried transplanting one of the stems that grew a shoot into media containing hormones that would induce root growth.

BIO 350 – Siderophore


For this lab, our job was a collect a sample from any water source. My lab partner and I chose to collect a sample from Ruston Way. The actual lab consisted of taking our water samples and plating them onto different medias to see what microorganisms grew/lived in the water. After a week of letting them grow, we discovered a microorganism that secreted siderophores, aka it fluoresced under UV light. It was such a cool discovery, we ended up using it for our independent project later in the semester.

BIO 404 – PHYA

This was approximately a half-semester long project in lab, where we tried to understand the role of the phyA gene at the molecular level in tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum). This was lab was really fun because we were really able to build this project from the ground up. For instance we used several programs and online sources to analyze RNA sequences from our mutant and wild-type tomato samples to select for a candidate gene we were interested in, and create primers to be used for qPCR. But the coolest thing by far, was that we were all able to design and use CRISPR/Cas9 for our candidate gene.

CHEM 251 – Unknown Aldol Condensation


For this lab we performed a double aldol condensation between an unknown aldehyde and unknown ketone, which was then purified using recrystallization. With our purified product we obtained their melting points and H-NMR spectra to help identify our unknown aldehyde and ketone. One of the things that made this lab so memorable was that my “unknown” product looked like this shiny film of gold.

*And if you were curious, I identified that my aldol condensation was between cinnamaldehyde and cyclohexanone.

BIO 490 – Research


For all of my senior year, I have been working on a research project with my advisor. In my research, which is genetics based, we looked at changes in apoptosis/cell death in response to exposure to BPA using zebradish (since we can’t use human subjects, darn). From this experience I was able to learn a new lab technique, qPCR, which would help other biology labs (some would had a lab section dedicated to using qPCR). Additionally, I loved being able to dedicated a large amount of time into exploring and answering to a specific topic of interest. I’m so glad that I chose to do research over another biology elective.

Honorable Mentions

  • Synthesis projects in CHEM 251

Creatures seen on Campus

Whenever I see a really cute animal anywhere, I will almost always say something along the lines of, “Awww!”, “Puppy”, “Soooo cute”, “Buuunnnyyy!”, “Ooohhh”, and etc, in an octave higher voice (my friends can contest/confirm to that). During time here, I have seen a fair share of cute animals on this campus. So here I thought I would share some of the animals I’ve seen on this campus (some cute, some not so much).

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Always a Logger

As I was cleaning out my room this past weekend getting ready to move out I found an earring I had forgotten about. A single earring that I kept despite losing the other during move-out freshmen year. I had bought it at the fall student market from another student, a girl I didn’t know but I loved her jewelry pieces! It was an homemade silver axe design pair of earrings! I wore it all the time freshmen year, loving the school spirit and the swing of the axes (with none of the danger!). I was infinitely sad to discover I had lost one of the earrings and I didn’t have any others that matched or would work mixed with the single axe earring I had!

All these memories came back as I prepared to move out. Especially so in my moves every year, that I clearly didn’t throw away a lone earring when I try to de-clutter as much as possible! A lingering symbol of freshmen year Rachel and my excitement about being a Logger. I wish I could’ve wore the pair of earrings on graduation day but alas it was not meant to be. I’ve grown so much during my time at UPS, freshmen Rachel I no longer am. Yet axes, loggers I will always be, an alumni of UPS with all its shared with me. And probably for the rest of my life explaining to those unknowing no I didn’t go to the United Postal Service, Puget Sound is a completely different place and transformative experience!



My Year Abroad


It’s been quite the ride this past semester. Many “ups” and “downs,” trials and tribulations, but most importantly an incredible amount of personal growth and clarity regarding what I want to do with my life. Let’s face it; a large number of people (at least who I’ve spoken to) didn’t really have any clue where their true direction lay in life when they first began college. Sure there is always that one kid who wanted to be a nuclear physicist or an engineer when they entered college, and did it. I think that’s awesome, and wish I could have had that same level of future clarity regarding my life. I’m actually thankful it took me a few years of college to kind of carve a path for myself and figure out what I was passionate about. They said this at the beginning of my freshmen year at UPS, and I don’t think I quite understood it at the time, but their liberal arts degree undergraduate programs expose you to such a wide array of subjects and interests that you’re bound to find something you like (unless of course you decided to make every day thirsty Thursday).

Russian Police

Russian Police

I just finished my spring semester studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. As I write this I am sitting on a national express coach on my way to Cambridge, England to meet up with a couple of my sisters, niece, and brother-in-law. I was supposed to continue on back to the USA with the rest of my fellow study abroad comrades, but one thing I’ve definitely come to learn during my time spent abroad thus far, is that plans change. Through a Russian conversation club downtown off of Nevsky Prospekt, which is the main street downtown in SPB, I was able to obtain a social media marketing and digital advertising internship over the summer with a Russian company. In order to do this, however, I needed to apply for a business visa from the Russian Federation. After a month of frantic calls and last minute edits to the online business visa application (which has to be spot on or it will be rejected), I finally was able to receive my invitation from the Russian Federation. In order to apply for any type of visa, whether it is for business, study, or diplomacy, the Russian Federation has to issue you a formal document saying you are welcome in the country. Of course leave it to the way Russia does things, and I ended up having to go to some sketchy hostel called “The Puppet Hostel,” the day before my student visa expired and my flight was booked out of the country to pick up my invitation. You have to apply for a visa outside of the Russian Federation. Since I have family in England and London is a common stopover for transatlantic flights, I figured I’d take the opportunity to spend some time with them while I sort out my visa. It is going to take about a week-or-so when all is said and done, and according to my invitation I can re-enter Russia on the 22nd of May. My business visa will expire in November, and allows me to enter and exit Russia as I wish during this 6-month period. Of course my final semester at UPS starts the third week of August so I will be returning shortly before then. This type of multi-entry business visa is convenient because living so close to Europe it can be quite inexpensive to take a weekend trip somewhere and go on a mini-adventure of sorts.

Now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just go home for the summer, or maybe you’re not 😉 With the exception of one person (Emily :P), I find that people who have lived in Russia for an extended period of time either love the country and want to become an expat, or hate it and are counting down the days until they never have to be there ever again. I personally have loved my time in Russia. I love the language, the people, the culture, and I wish I could say all the food but sometimes I just can’t do it. It’s not so much that the food tastes bad, just Russians typically do not add spice to their food, so you are stuck with a diet that mainly consists of root vegetables, meat, and bread with no flavor. Sure it is sustaining during those -15°+ winters, but sometimes I just need some hot sauce or paprika…something.

I think I mentioned this at the beginning of this blog, but the two main responses I got when I let people know I was going to study abroad in Russia for the year were: “Why Russia?” and “You’re crazy man.” I still can’t answer that first question, but I can definitely tell you I do not regret my time spent abroad. Like someone told me right before I left to study abroad, it is a life-changing experience to be able to get out of the “US bubble” and look back at America from a different vantage point. I know what they meant by this now! Having lived abroad I consider myself to be much more of an active global citizen than before. I am more sensitive to cross-cultural interactions and am able to examine everyday situations with greater depth of perspective than I ever could before. I hope I am clearly voicing what I have gained from my time abroad…sometimes it is hard for me to even express what I have gained. To address the second response, no I don’t think I’m crazy, but the country I’ve lived and studied in definitely has its’ moments.

Where do I even begin!? Talking with my classmates at the hotel today before we all parted ways, we of course were talking about war stories and the most insane things that happened. In a country where at the start the majority of us could not speak the language, more often than not you just have to fly by the seam of your pants and hope nothing bad happens along the way. As a matter of fact, attested to me by countless native Russians and based upon my own observations, a majority Russians live everyday like it is their last. Of course right there you can imagine how exhausting of a pace this can be to keep up on a daily basis.

The past 9 months or so I have had 18-hour days. Toward the end of the spring semester the sun started coming up increasingly early. A couple nights (mornings) ago I think sunrise was around 04:00. With how cumbersome transport could be to take me all the way to my homestay at the north of the city from my uni, often I was looking at ~45minutes one-way. This may not seem like much if you are driving, but I either rode the metro or marshrutki. Let me re-enforce my thoughts about the marshrutka from previous blog posts. During the winter the rides were fairly smooth because of all the snow on the ground. At times I was a bit afraid for my life, but they were smooth moments of terror! Once all the snow stopped falling and the ice melted, all of us passengers got to experience Russia’s poor infrastructure. The past month or so I’ve actually been getting motion sickness on the marshrutka, which is weird because usually I have a fairly strong constitution.

Alright, so transport is nuts, long days…white nights! I’m so incredibly excited to be able to spend the summer in St. Petersburg, Russia living and working as a true expat (even though if not for long). My fellow study abroad classmates and I decided that in order to call yourself an expat, you can’t be in the country through a study abroad program or something of the sort. White nights is a phenomenon in this region of the world, where for approximately a month or so, it is high noon 24-hours a day. Of course the answer to this solution is blackout curtains in your room, which I have in the flat I will be renting just off Nevsky, but still…nothing I have ever experienced before.

On a side note I also have to mention Russian pop and EDM because I have been saturated with it for 9 months. Whether I am watching the channel 5 Russian news with my tea in the morning, eating lunch in the cafeteria, riding the marshrutka home, or trying to go to sleep and my host brother had the tv on in the next room…it’s like my life has had a nonstop dance party soundtrack. Ok maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I don’t quite know how to convey how much Russian pop…so much Russian pop.

Russian 202

Russian 202

I don’t want to drone on here because 1) I know it’s summer right now and if you’re reading this you should be outside enjoying yourselves, and 2) I want to wait until I’ve finished my summer internship in Russia before I give you a really thorough perspective on what my year and Russia has been like. Bye for now!



Things I Never Thought I’d do in College

Become president of a club

  • When I was high school, I was very much a follower, rather than a leader. I was way too shy of a person to ever take charge of anything. Although I still am bit of a shy person, since coming to college I have grown so much since then. I have become someone who is more confident with herself, and because of that (plus with a bit of encouragement from my friends), I was able to become co-president for the Asian Pacific American Student Union (APASU) club. From this experience, I was able help to create and find a community of friends/”family” on campus.

Present in front of a large group

  • Although I still don’t like presenting in front of people. I found the courage to present on the research I worked on during my senior year for the Phi Sigma Research Symposium. For me, I chose to do this because put so many hours into my research that I wanted to share with people what I had found. Additionally, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to gain experience with presenting in public/in large groups, while in a familiar environment.

Dance in Luau

  • Similar to the one above. I do not like being in front of large crowds; as I’m sure most you are on the same boat. But with a little encouragement from some friends, I found myself on the stage, in the fieldhouse, performing a dance I’ve never done before to a very large crowd. And I did it again next year, and I am glad I did it. It was such a fun experience and it was a great moment to share with friends.

Get scuba licensed

  • I had always wanted to get licensed as a scuba diver, but I never made the extra effort into actually getting it (you know finding an actual place that taught scuba diving). But lo and behold, it was offered here! All I had to do at this point was register for the course, attend classes/practice diving in the pool, take the test in the sound, and here I am now with a scuba license.


Becoming a Memory

One of the main reasons I joined Beta was because of one person, Ray. Ray is an alumni, having graduated the semester that I joined. He ended up as my Great Grandbig (my big’s big’s big) and we made a whole ton of good memories in that one semester we had together. Easily one of the best parts of joining.

So I realized something the other day. Our current new members never met Ray or any of the other members from the class of 2016. And that’s a kinda weird thought. Beta as it currently is is not the house that I joined. The Seniors graduated, we got a whole bunch of new members and the house culture has changed a lot.

And in a few days, it’s all going to change again when the current Seniors graduate. And then we’ll get new members. Then those members won’t know who the members from the class of 2017 were. And that’s a pretty weird thought too.

And eventually (but thankfully not soon), I’ll be graduating. Then, Beta will be a completely different house than the one I joined. And people like Ray will be a long distant memory.

And not long after that, I’ll be just a memory too. This just makes me think. What will be the legacy I leave? Will I make a big enough impact that Betas 5 or 10 years after I graduate know who I am? Or will I be forgotten and fade into the background like countless alumni unfortunately have? It’s more than likely the latter, but I can’t help but wonder.

Damn. I really need to be studying for my last final instead of getting philosophical.

Life Without a Meal Plan II

In a previous post, I wrote about my top 5 favorite restaurants around Puget Sound. However, on the days that I do cook, I mostly cook Asian dishes because that’s what I am most familiar with. Now Safeway, Target, and Walmart do not carry Asian products. So, where do I get my ingredients from? Well I do have to go a little out of my way, but it is worth it. There are three supermarkets that I like to go to, each for different reasons.


H-Mart is a supermarket chain that mostly sells Korean products, but can still find other Asian products. Out of all the supermarkets I go to, I go here the most often because (1) they sell almost everything you need, (2) offer the best quality of produce, and (3) offer a variety of options.

Paldo World

Paldo World, another Korean based supermarket is a slightly cheaper version of H-Mart. But with the price, comes less variety and produce quality. However, in my opinion, I find that the quality of meat is better here than in H-mart. In addition, they have the lowest prices for rice.

Hong Kong Market

Hong Kong Market, as its name implies, is a Chinese based supermarket (however, it is run by Vietnamese people, so you will tend to find more Vietnamese products than Chinese). I occasionally go here for some items that are not offered in H-Mart or Paldo World. Things like certain hot pot ingredients, specific kinds of produce, and roasted duck/ soy sauce chicken.