A couple of weeks have past since I returned from New Delhi. I have given a lot of thought to my experiences there and what they mean to me personally. Prior to this trip, I had never left the United States or experienced another culture. I honestly was not sure what to expect. I learned that the people of India are incredibly kind and generous. The food is good; especially the omelets which I hope to make at home. And the sites are some of the most magnificent in the world.
I realized that although I was thousands of miles away from home in an unfamiliar location with people I'd never met, we all really want the same thing; we want to make the world a better place. Dr. Pierret and JoAnna (a Mayo Clinic graduate student) came to share their knowledge and experiences with the teachers in the internship program. The teachers came to learn all that they could to ultimately make their classrooms better places to learn. I came to teach and learn if the thermocycler that I had spent so many hours on could actually be implemented for educational purposes and to perhaps even save lives.
This trip has furthered my scientific knowledge and provided enormous insight into the future of my project. I'm so incredibly thankful for each person I met along my journey; the scientists at IGIB and Amity, and the people who I saw along the roads as we traveled to different areas. Each of these people helped me ask important questions and influenced how I perceive the world. So many people have inspired me to continue working on my thermocycler. I have renewed interest, motivation and determination to make further refinements and help deliver it to the people of India, particularly those at Amity University and IGIB.
Lastly, I'm incredibly grateful for my mentor, Dr. Chris Pierret. I think it is fair to say that not too many people would offer to take a 13 year old across the world. Somehow, a simple thank you doesn't seem enough. He believed in me and truly let me be a scientist for those two weeks. I had so much fun being part of the internship program, meeting the scientists at IGIB, interacting with the teachers, and presenting my thermocycler. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and I hope to travel with him again someday. Chris is a great person, scientist and friend.
Today, we left New Delhi around 1:00 PM for London, England. After almost 8 hours and 30 minutes of flying time, we arrived around 6:00 PM London time. After navigating through layers of security and customs, we walked to the underground tube station. Having never been to London, this was a pretty incredible site!
After a 40 minute ride and hearing the phrase "mind the gap" numerous times, I arrived at Houndslow Central Station.
We then checked into our hotel and toured around London. We saw the Big Ben Clock Tower, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. We then stopped and had spaghetti for dinner. While I really liked Indian food, it was nice to have some Italian! We then headed back to the hotel to catch a few hours of sleep before our flight back to Minneapolis. Following an awesome American breakfast of pancakes, crescents, eggs, sausage and bacon, we left London. 10 hours later, we arrived in Minnesota.
Today was the last full day in India! We started the day off with a tasty, hot omelet along with some toast. During my stay in India, I came to love this omelet! We then headed back to the IGIB Building where we were for a large portion of our internship. Today, we went through all of our handouts and scored all of the feedback forms that we handed out during our 6 day internship. After 3-4 hours of grading, we finally finished! We then walked around the campus saying our good byes to some graduate students, Adita, and Dr. Sridhar Sivasubbu.
We then took a walk around the IGIB campus and took pictures of various places around the campus.
After walking around the IGIB Campus, we visited an amazing astronomical observatory that had devices that would detect solstices, measure the time in sub seconds, measure the date and more! We then went to a shop to pick up Dr. Chris Pierret's new suit, but got caught in a food market along the way!
Today, I woke up at 4:00 AM to get in a car by 5:00 AM to drive 3 hours to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located. We ate some toast and eggs with our tour guide after we completed our 3 hour drive to Agra. We started off by viewing the Agra Fort since the smog was too dense to completely view the Taj Mahal. The Agra Fort was a massive fort that was built over several generations by the Mughal Empire. It has 40 foot high walls as well a massive moat. Inside, it consists of several tombs and multiple palaces that are all covered with embedded jewels. The exterior of the Agra Fort is covered with monkeys sitting on the roof watching people. It is an incredible sight!
We then went to multiple handicraft places. One of the places had all kinds of hand woven rugs and the other had marble tables with embedded jewels and other artifacts. We then went on a carriage ride to the Taj Mahal. At the Taj Mahal, we learned of its dedication to Mumtaz Mahal, who was considered India's prettiest woman. Mumtaz Mahal was married into the position of Empress when she married Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to her 14th child. Afterwards, the king became depressed and sought to fulfill her last wish, which was to have a monument made to symbolize their love for each other. The emperor and empress both remain there today in the center where their tombs rest. After viewing this magnificent wonder, we then headed home and arrived at IGIB after a 4-5 hour ride.
During the last day of my internship, we visited the National Zoological Park in Delhi with all of the teachers. We discussed how there are many places on the zoo grounds with still water; areas that could possibly harbor diseases such Dengue Fever. We also focused on the beauty of the zoo. It was really awesome, and had many fascinating animals, including monkeys, rhinos, tigers and deer.
Afterward touring the zoo, we went back to the IGIB campus with plans to tour the Lotus Temple. However, our plans unexpectedly changed when the auto-rickshaw driver hijacked us and brought us to a store inside a gated area. Basically, he informed us that he would take us to the private store where we were to buy something, and he would get a percentage of the profits. Following his instruction, we then bargained for some souvenirs and Dr. Chris Pierret will be picking up a custom tailored suit on Monday! This was definitely an interesting and new experience for me! Finally, we finished what should have been a 5 minute ride.
We then toured the Lotus Temple which was a massive temple that had 9 pools and a gigantic area for prayer. Afterwards, we went to the Khan Temple where we viewed the many beautiful pieces of architecture and visited the area of prayer.
The day started with me getting my thermocycler ready to show to Amity University. At 8:15 am Rajiv, a friend of Dr. Chris Pierret, picked me up with his driver and brought me to Amity University to present to 6th-8th grade students. I had a lot of fun showing it to students my own age. After my presentation, I was greeted by lots of students who asked great questions relevant to the thermocycler. I had the pleasure of meeting the principal, hundreds of students, and a Major General in the Indian Army.
I then returned to IGIB (place where I stay) for lunch. After lunch, I presented to graduate students so the teachers could view the interaction between scientists during a presentation. I gained many great new ideas that may lead to a second invention involving my thermocycler. After dialogue (discussion about science in the community), we left Amity University to give a presentation to students and faculty. After meeting Dr. W. Selvamurthy and the Indian Major General again, I was greeted by more students which led to some great conversations. Long story short, I am now a celebrity at Amity University. Just kidding, but I did really enjoy meeting and interacting with so many students and faculty. There were so many amazing people with great ideas! To finish the day off, we visited the Kingdom of Dreams and watched a live performance.
During the third day of the internship, we woke up around 6:30 am as usual. We started out by learning some new vocabulary words such as "polymorphism" and "epigenetics". The teachers then went around the lab and interviewed scientists about their research and work.
Afterwards, we gave the teachers an assignment that was impossible to solve. The goal of this assignment was to get them to say "I don't know". Many teachers are reluctant to do this, and it creates a lot of pressure on the students and teachers, and does not allow for real scientific research. It took about an hour before they finally said the phrase "I don't know!" We discussed how this can really hinder the scientific learning process.
We then taught the teachers how to use Google Scholar and Pubmed, and how these tools can be used for scientific research.
I then presented my thermocycler to waves of graduate students until I was picked up by Rajiv. His driver brought me to Amity University where I met Dr. W. Selvamurthy, the president of Amity Science, Technology, & Innovation Foundation. He talked about how Amity has universities throughout world, and we also discussed my thermocycler. He appreciated the science and innovation of the idea and invited me to give a lecture later this week. I also spoke with numerous professors about my machine, and they were all intrigued. We finished up with an amazing dinner with Rajiv. We were treated to chicken, lamb, sweets, veggies and more!
During the second day of the internship, we woke up bright and early; ready for another day of teaching and learning. Today we went over a lesson on teaching from Carol S. Dweck, who is an American psychologist. Afterwards, we had a health lesson on prescription education and recorded stages in embryonic growth. We then did an activity known as speed dating. Each of the eight teachers cycled through 8 different scientists and got to ask questions to them.
We then had another dialogue discussion on the use of animals in science. Finally, we checked in on the teachers' progress on their assignments and went to Dilli Haat. Dilli Haat is a popular market place where you can purchase a variety of things such as the food from different regions of India and different cashmere dresses.
We began the internship by handing out binders to the teachers. In our internship, we will work with 8 teachers from Sachdeva Public Schools. We are going to exchange ideas on new ways to introduce science into the classroom. We will discuss their role in the community as scientists and how they can use prescription education in and out of the schools to make a difference in public health. We asked the teachers to make observations about the Zebra-fish using adjectives and verbs. We also had them make observations about Glofish, which are a breed of Zebra-fish that posses fluorescenst genes. We used a dialogue setting to discuss different topics relating to the community health. Finally, we finished up with a video that demonstrated intracellular interactions.
While visiting Humayun's Tomb, I saw a snake charmer in the parking lot. For 200 Rupees I can get a video taken with me petting the cobra. So, why not?