Friday, July 8, 2016

EXP Summer '16: The UCLA Life

The Research Science Signature Experience (also known as EXP) is a program designed to help students develop their passion for scientific research and to encourage them to consider an eventual career in science-related fields. During the summer between Junior and Senior year, each EXP student completes approximately 200 hours of laboratory work. This year's EXP class placed in labs at the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Stanford, Boston College, MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, NYU, and even at NTNU in Norway and an NGO in Uganda!

This post is written by Ian, who is working on coding at a UCLA lab. If you'd like to hear more about this summer's EXP adventures, read the Peddie 2016 EXP blog!

My first week at my lab has been quite an experience. On my first day, I met up with my PI, Dr. Kutch, and we discussed the work I would be doing. It was similar to what was described to me before, except for the fact that it was way more complex in every which way. I was thinking to myself this won't be a problem... because he can guide me through it. Well it turns out that he isn't very well-versed in the JavaScript language, and said that anything I figured out would be new to him as well. He showed me how I could edit the code, which looked something like this:

While looking quite daunting at first, Dr. Kutch showed me many different methods to access forums and tutorials to look at how to implement the interactive JQuery functions and events that he asked me to create. These included adding text so that when each of the 165 individual brain region was moused over in the diagram below, the specific name of the region would appear. To add on, each name had to replace the "Scroll over individual regions for more information" text box.

Once I had completed this, I was so proud of myself... until he told me that my next task was to compile a list of wikipedia pages corresponding to each brain region, and integrate it so that when a user double clicked a region, the page would open up in a new tab. Needless to say, my jaw about dropped. And although it took me almost two full days to perfect the list and successfully integrate it, I managed to figure out that the fear was all in my head. Even though I had never even seen actual code in my life, and didn't even know what JQuery was, I was able to successfully complete the tasks he assigned to me. Dr. Kutch continues to assign tasks that I would have probably thought were near impossible for an amateur programmer like myself, however after this past week, I no longer fear doing what I do not know, but long for the sense of accomplishment each task brings.

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