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In her free time, Sadeghi sought out South African students and church groups who brought food and medical care to homeless people. Accompanying them, sometimes to burned-out buildings on bitterly cold evenings, she helped medical students take patient histories and arrange for medical referrals among the people that her laboratory research might ultimately benefit. This combination of research and community service invigorated and inspired her, Sadeghi says. "It renewed my faith that these are things I want to do and can do."
Another student opted for an assignment north of the border in Canada, just 400 miles from his home base at Michigan's Kalamazoo College. Michael Glista, a senior, immersed himself in Alzheimer's disease research by spending his summer at Peter St George-Hyslop's University of Toronto lab. Throughout the summer, postdoc Hiroshi Hasegawa mentored Glista as they worked with recombinant proteins in an effort to reconstruct the molecular puzzle pieces that interact as cells produce the disease's telltale β-amyloid plaques in the brain. His experience, Glista says, resulted in a published paper and a direction to pursue in his intended career as a researcher and clinician.
Although he didn't journey far for his research project, Glista says the international mix of colleagues in the St George-Hyslop lab—from Japan, China, Poland, and Canada—and their passionate commitment to their work left a strong impression.
Her summer in Ranulfo Romo's lab at Mexico City's National Autonomous University of Mexico allowed Egle Cekanaviciute, a junior at Harvard University, to explore neuroscience research with animals. She trained a rhesus monkey to respond differently when two distinct vibration frequencies were applied to its hands; then she watched her colleagues implant electrodes to understand how the monkey's brain distinguished between those stimuli. Sifting through detailed statistical analyses of the resulting data, she helped dispel the widely assumed notion that monkeys' brains sort and compare tactile information based on repeating patterns of stimulation.
Cekanaviciute also learned to appreciate working with these higher animals, especially compared with her previous efforts—with cell cultures. "Cells are not cute, they're not fluffy, and they're not smart," she says. "You don't get attached to them; you don't name them." Working with animals requires patience and emotional stamina, she says. "You are dependent on this whole set of circumstances: how smart the monkey is, how much it wants to be trained, and whether it stays healthy."
Overwhelmingly, her summer experience has deepened her love of Latin-American culture. In her free time, Cekanaviciute's growing fluency in Spanish allowed her to explore. She hiked through jungles and climbed pyramids in the Yucatan peninsula. She learned about the struggles of guerillas in the state of Chiapas and the poverty of young children selling flowers on the streets.
After she graduates next year, Cekanaviciute plans to spend a year south of the border, perhaps in Mexico or Peru, before pursuing graduate work. "It's very important to travel," she advises future participants. "It's a must to go and see everything you can."