Education, Science

How to Read Scientific Journal Articles

During my researching and reading for my thesis project proposal (which I should finish soon!), I’ve come to realize that my ability to discern whether a given paper will be useful has improved a lot since I began graduate school. Before, I would have to read a paper in its entirety to figure out if I need it or not, which puts quite a few hours of valuable time down the drain.

My first semester in the program, I had a lot of papers to read each week for two reading-heavy courses, and I found myself struggling to keep up some weeks more than others. I spoke with professors and classmates and did some Googling to get some ideas of how to read long and/or dense papers more quickly without losing understanding of the material, but the biggest teacher has really been simple: just read more papers. This was one of the first pieces of advice I received, but at first, I wasn’t convinced it was very helpful. Why would reading more papers help if the sheer number and length of papers I had to read was what I was struggling with in the first place?

Continue reading “How to Read Scientific Journal Articles”

Education, Science

What Undergraduate Biology Laboratory Courses Don’t Teach You

Hello again!

I apologize for the lack of posts as of late. I have been adjusting to a new routine of lab work in the summer, as well as working on a proposal for my upcoming thesis project in the fall semester. I went home for some vacation time – only 4 weeks – and I have been slowly plodding through a cold I managed to catch (probably while I was traveling).

Since returning to the lab (more regularly at least than during the previous spring semester), I have come to realize that learning in a lab is different now, as a graduate student, than it was when I was an undergraduate student. That’s what I’m going to talk about in this post!

Continue reading “What Undergraduate Biology Laboratory Courses Don’t Teach You”

Education, Science

Top 10 Tips to Boost Your Learning

Back in 2015, I took an online course on Coursera called “Learning How to Learn” but didn’t get a chance to blog about it. It’s a wonderful course; it taught me lot about how the brain works when you’re learning something. In light of my current pursuits in neuroscience, learning is one of the many topics I am interested in (along with neurodegenerative diseases, mood disorders, and motor neuron diseases).

The course is free, and you can check it out anytime! I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to improve their ability to learn new things.

I made PowerPoint slides for each of the four weeks in the course to help me take notes on the course material. Instead of sharing these slides here, I decided to put together a short list of the most helpful bits of advice.

Here we go!

Continue reading “Top 10 Tips to Boost Your Learning”

Education, Science

So You Want to be a Scientist

I began my graduate school program in August of 2016, and I’ll be finishing at the end of the upcoming fall semester this year, in December 2017. I’ll be graduating with a Master’s degree, in Neuroscience.

In this post, I’ll be talking about what I have learned in the program so far, in terms of skills and things I have had to get accustomed to. I’ll also briefly list out some reasons why I decided not to go to medical school.

Continue reading “So You Want to be a Scientist”

Education, Science, Sketchnotes

How to Sketchnote Science


I have been researching and working on my own sketchnotes for quite some time, and I’m still trying to get the hang of it. Last semester, I tried sketchnoting to help me study in my cellular metabolism class. I kind of went through an “evolution” of sorts, where my formatting and style completely changed as I tried new things.

Check out the gallery below to see my progression!

Continue reading “How to Sketchnote Science”

Education, Science

Biochemistry Manga? No Way!

In light of my newfound interest in biochemistry, I decided to find some books to read so that I can learn more about the subject (namely to study for the MCAT). There are dozens of books on the subject, I’m sure, but I find that when it comes to chemistry, I need something more than an ordinary textbook. (The only exception to this is Dr. George Klein’s two-volume organic chemistry book series, “Organic Chemistry as a Second Language” and his organic chemistry textbook. I highly recommend these to all organic chemistry students; they are a life saver!)

I recently came across  this manga guide series that features titles like “The Manga Guide to Physics” (wish I had this last semester!) and “The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology.” There are others as well, including “The Manga Guide to Biochemistry,” which particularly excited me! Naturally, I went and got my hands on a copy of this manga-style guide for the notoriously difficult subject of biochemistry. Not only does it introduce the reader to biochemistry in a slow and easy way, but it also covers the basics and leaves room for the knowledge-hungry student with enough starting material to search for more information and deepen their knowledge of the subject. (Like me!)

Once again, here is another topic of interest that relates to something I was exposed to in my university course, “Science in the Day of a Life,” which started this blog: using comics as a means of teaching children! With this manga guide series however, I believe this idea can be – or rather, it has already been – extended to older students who would like to (or should I say “have to?”) learn about subjects that are otherwise difficult. If learning can be made into something fun, then it becomes easier, right?

Here’s a sample page from “The Manga Guide to Biochemistry!”

I’ve already discussed how important it is that we find new ways to teach future generations of children, especially since the education paradigm is changing with the advent of increasingly social and information-laden technologies. Kids these days want to master these technologies for themselves, so why not take advantage of this interest in technology and make it a learning tool in classrooms everywhere? There, these technologies can encourage these kids to learn important skills and be able to apply them in the innovative ways that future employers will be looking for. Although comic books have been around for ages, it wasn’t until recently that the graphic novel or manga was introduced to the Western world. As a result, kids are growing up reading manga volumes (like me!). Why not use this passion for reading stories within manga and help kids learn and have fun while learning?

I have been interested in manga for quite some time, and have enjoyed many different series since I started reading them. I also love learning, and since it is my dream to become a successful physician, what better way to learn those tough subjects than a manga that is not only informational, but fun to read? What a great idea! (I’m on my way to mastering carbohydrate structure and naming! Woohoo!)

If you’re interested in learning more about how comics can be used as a teaching tool (not just for science, but for any subject!), check out these resources!

Clay Crafting, Final Project, Science

Polymer Clay Science Presentation

Here is my final presentation about polymer clay and the science (mostly chemistry) behind it. My shareable component for my presentation can be found here. (It’s my polymer clay crafts blog, where I post inspirational creations, tutorials, videos, and pictures of my own work!) Also, here is a PDF with my references that I used for this presentation.

Click on the slide to go to the presentation!


I made this presentation on SlideRocket. It’s free to use, and easy as well. (Although I must admit, the number of available themes were lacking.)



Ambient Noise, Restaurants & Creativity

Have you ever been in a productivity slump? Try studying in a coffee shop!

A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research looked at how ambient noise affects cognition, mainly with respect to creativity.

According to the study, moderate levels of ambient noise (around 70 decibels) actually helped the performance of the subjects in creative tasks, such as brainstorming ideas for a new type of mattress. (Here is a list of sounds and their decibel levels, as a source of comparison.)

Apparently, moderate background noise actually helps people think more creatively and abstractly because it provides enough distraction. Interesting, right? Usually, we students are told off for getting distracted! (Here is the full study, if you’re interested in reading it!)

If you’re interested in getting ambient noise without leaving the comfort of home (or dorm room), check out this nifty little “coffee shop background noise” website, called Coffitivity. It does sound repetitive in some places, but the goal is to not focus on listening to the noise, but to have it in the back of your mind as you’re working.

Give it a try! (You’ll be surprised about how much work you churn out. I sure was!)


An Interdisciplinary Lens: The Syracuse University Lava Project

Here’s a really cool example of looking at something through an interdisciplinary lens: lava flow from both a geographical and an artistic perspective at the same time! This is one of the goals of Syracruse University’s Lava Project. (Here’s their website!)

The Syracuse University Lava Project is a collaboration between sculptor Bob Wysocki and geologist Jeff Karson. The goals of the project include scientific experiments, artistic creations, education, and outreach to the Syracuse University and City communities. Basaltic lava, similar to that found on the seafloor and erupted from volcanoes in Hawaii and Iceland, is melted and poured to produce natural-scale lava flows. The project supports a wide variety of scientific experiments engaging faculty and students at SU and volcanologists from other institutions. The natural beauty and particular properties of the lava are the basis for sculpture projects. In addition, lava pours are staged at the SU Comstock Art Building for classes, student groups, and the public. The SU Lava Project brings the spectacle and excitement of a volcanic eruption to Central New York.

Check out this amazing video! 610 pounds of lava flow onto a giant block of ice, and make beautiful bubbles when rapidly cooling and burning through the ice.