Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I'll be doing while my friends are freezing in the Midwest.

Did I mention that the average temperature in Taiwan is going to 70-80 degrees? It'll be like going to Florida, but with a purpose besides theme parks and binge-drinking.

I come bearing excuses! With the new departure and arrival dates, our old itinerary is no longer. Dr. Huang is now in the process of shifting things around, but we'll still be doing the same experiments and adventures we had planned on doing. My fiancĂ©e has been insisting that I write all these things down in some coherent manner, partly so that she can explain to her friends that I'm doing something besides "herbal stuff" and so that she can slap it on our Christmas card (our first one as a couple - I'm torn between pride and self-disgust) and make our relatives match their Christmas trees with envy. Or something else that's really humble.

So here is the general list of things that we will be doing in Taiwan, sans any details that don't really matter to anyone but my research group/team/squad/gaggle. Some of it was mentioned in earlier posts and some of it I'm forgetting and will just have to surprise you with.

Imagine this, only shorter, more demanding, and
less articulate.
We are leaving in the middle of Christmas Day. I just need to wrap my plane tickets in Charlie Brown comics and I'll have one of the best gifts ever. The plane should take us directly to Taiwan, right after a 3 hour layover in Japan. While it will be cool to be in Japan, being stuck in an airport for longer than an hour can be unpleasant. The last time this happened to me, I befriended a young man whose three years of age made him quite the adversary in a game of 


I'm not sure that game will work as well in a country where the toddlers don't speak English.

Chung Shan Medical University
Once we are in Taiwan, we have a couple of main projects. Foremost is the work that will be done in Taichung City with Dr. Yu at Chung Shan University and anti-aristolochic acid (AA) antibodies. We're hoping to take their ELIZA assay originally designed to detect AA in TCM products and adapt it so it can help us with our zebrafish/heart failure/Coolstuff projects.

With any luck, we'll gain a better understanding of what is happening in our heart failure model as well as in the drug (Coolstuff) I worked with over this past summer. Fun side note: I recently finished my research with Dr. Karl Peterson, and from what we can tell, C6 (the official arbitrary label for Coolstuff, but it doesn't sound sounds as nice) does not appear to bind with AA. This is great news, as that means that Coolstuff may eventually move out its parents' basement and become a successful drug for heart failure.

Project number two is a good one as well. We'll be working with a colleague of Dr. Huang's, Dr. Liu at Tunghai University, who is also in Taichung. She's lending us the use of her zebrafish lab so that we can test some TCM products on the zebrafish for effect on AA-induced heart failure. In addition, we'll be visiting some traditional medicine shops, learning traditional remedies from a colleague of Dr. Huang, and touring the School of Chinese Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chinese Medical Resources in Taichung. Being the CAM-nerd that I am, this part of the trip is super cool. I'm even working on a sort of field guide to help us figure out which plants are which and their uses at the latter school's garden. We'll be visiting other gardens and reserves as well, so it'll be nice to have some grasp of the mountain of information that is traditional Chinese herbalism.

Thar be Whales (NMMBA)
Project number three is in Kanting on the south end of Taiwan. It'll probably look like we're hanging out at the beach a lot, mostly because we will be. But, there is a reason besides my never having swam in the ocean before: I've also never collected algae samples form the ocean. Working with Dr. Sung at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, we'll be collecting even more compounds from various aquatic sources to test on the zebrafish for effectiveness on heart failure. We'll get to learn how to use chromatography and how to fractionate mixed samples in the process, as well as how to snorkel and not drown. Should be fun.

Project number four is not really a project, but a general goal for myself and Dr. Huang. Dr. Huang wants to share as much of his country as possible, and I want to absorb as much of it as possible. This includes the language (which I have some training in already), the celebrations (we'll get to see the build-up to the Chinese New Year and then leave right before it happens - one of the few aspects of this trip I'm not happy with), bullet trains, architecture and especially the food. It's funny, but despite all the research and work, I'm pretty sure that Dr. Huang is most excited about seeing what kinds of crazy food he can get me and the others to eat. What's even moreso is that his wife felt the need to sit me down and warn me.

Dr. Huang, if you're reading this, I'm unto you and your dastardly plan. I also fully support it.

Basically, the only things lacking from the trip are that we'll miss the Chinese New Year and Dr. Huang and the others won't get very much time to prep for spring semester. Our return flight is scheduled to have us home on the 23rd of January. School starts the following day in all of its jet-lagged fury. I lucked out, as I'll be done with undergrad once I get back. I just get to try and find a job instead.

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