Kevin Fomalont, 2012-2013, Russia, preparing for the day’s injections of inflammatory factors
There is the impression that laboratory scientists do their work in isolation, plodding through their experiments uninterrupted. It is often overlooked that to maintain a controlled experimental environment, researchers accept some chaos in their own lives. After a few months working at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg, Russia on my Fulbright project to investigate the effect of early life exposure to stress on behavioral development in a rodent model, I realized how similarly laboratories in Russia and in the United States function. To collect all the data during our narrow time points, we borrowed labor from other laboratories to be paid back in the future. We shared materials to be returned on pain of death. Our experiments started at 5:00 p.m. sharp to take into account the daily rhythm of stress hormone – the rats have outsized influence on our schedules. Five of us created an assembly line, and hurried at each step not be late for the next. Meticulous planning and troubleshooting preceded the harried action of the experimental day. Although there were many languages spoken, one sentiment was shared: “don’t blow it, or wait six months to repeat the experiment.”
Science research is a fundamentally collaborative activity, and that is why a laboratory-based project proposal is well-suited for a Fulbright grant. Successful Fulbright proposals have an element of community engagement. I became interested in the Institute’s research at a conference, where I also learned about its famous history. The Physiology Department of the Institute includes Ivan Pavlov’s preserved office to commemorate the location where he conducted his groundbreaking conditioning experiments. One of his students discovered that the immune system could be conditioned to overreact to innocuous substances, using the principles of Pavlovian conditioning. Although performed in the 1920s, these experiments were not well regarded in the United States until 50 years later when they were revisited at the University of Rochester. If Soviet and American scientists had worked together over those 50 years to reconcile their different experimental approaches, progress would have proceeded more quickly.
August 6, 2014: “Whirlwind Arrival”
The adventure started in Portland! Everybody who’s been to Portland International Airport would immediately recognize this carpet, which is famous!
Katie Nikolaeva landed in Portland on August, 6,2014.
My favorite place in Portland became (guess what) Union Station! We basically lived there for the first two days waiting for the train and exploring the city along the way.
Portland is considered the most “hipster” city in the U.S., and you can feel it just walking on the streets.
Katie visited Powell’s Books in Portland.
The first ‘hipster’ place I visited was Powell’s Books, which can be best described as a city of books. You can spend hours and hours there looking through thousands (probably millions!) of different books — from technical to art literature sitting on one shelf.
Portland is also often called Rose City, because people say that the climate there is perfect for growing roses, and you can see it in almost every element of architecture.
After all the MTP project participants gathered at the hub we headed to Mark Zusman’s home for dinner. Zusman is the editor of the alternative newspaper Willamette Week. We had an first amazing dinner and equally amazing speakers — young entrepreneurs who were presenting their small businesses (right to my topic!). Among others, we learned about Britt Howard’s creative fashion enterprise ‘Portland Garment Factory’, which was started as a sewing shop and developed into the fashion house, the last project of which was the uniform for flight attendants of Michael Jordan’s private jet!
As our Fulbright-MTP participants make their way to Portland for tomorrow’s launch of the MTP 2014 journey, they reflect on their Fulbright experience thus far, what they believe are the most pressing issues facing global Millennials today and how their Fulbright-MTP project is a vehicle for enhancing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
In the words of Katie Nikolaeva, a Fulbright Foreign Student from Russia:
Inequalities in the standard of living around the world makes people look for better places to live, thus creating immigration issues, which become more and more acute, especially for the developed countries. While governments are struggling to solve immigration problems, the cultural and religious differences contribute to the outburst of ethnic conflicts. These conflicts constitute a big challenge for the modern society, while people slowly learn not to resist, but tolerate ‘foreign’ cultures.
I study international economics at Brandeis International Business School, where students from over 50 different countries represent nearly all of the world’s major cultures and languages. Brandeis is my first experience in communicating with so many international people at the same time.
Katie Nikolaeva is current Fulbright Student from Russia.
The most striking thing is that even though all these students have various opinions and thus contribute to the development of social diversity and open-mindedness, all of them (representing their own countries) also have similar problems: ethnic conflicts, economic growth issues, international trade barriers, poverty (which is an issue in any country in the world, no matter how developed the country), religious conflicts, political instability, environmental problems, and so on and so forth.
After my first year as a Fulbright scholar at an American university, I can say that in today’s world with plenty of wars and conflicts, people from different countries and cultures SHOULD get together in order to discuss the current problems and listen to each other’s opinions. Thus, the society would benefit from the resulting range of viewpoints and experiences.