Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blogger Out

Just a quick thank you from all of us campers to all of you wonderful people who fed, clothed, and entertained us this week! It was way more than just a learning experience for me, and I hope to end up at Mizzou, whether it's in a year or four. But really, its sleep time.
Thank you again,
Allison Brennan

Friday, July 25, 2008


You should know that we're all exhausted. Today was a big day. No one has cried yet, except for John and Brent when I nailed them with water balloons. But we're all pretty sad that its the last full day.
We started out with breakfast at the usual dinning hall, and then shuffled very quickly (and slightly late) in the rain to the College of Veterinary Medicine. This was by far my favorite part of the week; I was totally in my element. We started with a discussion with Doug Tindall, who works admissions at the CVM, and a second year vet student. We heard all about admittance, pre-admittance, what classes are like, specializing, and what it takes to be a vet student. Then we looked at some bones (including an elephant vertebrae, and a chunk of elephant skin). Then, for the piece de resistance, we got an up-close and personal tour of the 24hr. veterinary hospital (which is less than 50 yards from the school). Everyone kind of went berserk when there were a couple of dogs in the waiting room; we're a little pet-starved i guess. Mr. Tindall took us back past all the initial exam rooms to the restricted areas of the hospital. We saw the ICU, a hydro therapy water treadmill (with a basset hound being exercised on it), and where the admitted small animals are kept. Then we went downstairs where we looked at the large/food animal sections of the hospital. We saw the chute where the cattle and other food animals are driven into the hospital (the chute actually runs in a loop through the hospital, so the animals can be stopped at various places to be worked on depending on what it needs). We also saw a surgery table for small cattle. Then we went to the equine section of the hospital (obviously the best part. duh). We saw the stall areas, surgery rooms, anesthesia areas (which are large padded rooms), the unloading station, and the lameness-check sand arena. We also saw one of the few equine lameness eval. treadmills in the nation, donated to the school by the walmart people.
After the CVM, we were supposed to go to see the nuclear reactor, but our tour was cancelled for some reason. Sabotage is the general assumption.
Instead we went to lunch at the dinning hall, and from there went to the Life Sciences building for a wrap-up discussion with Dr. Freyermuth about ethics. It got kind of heated. I'm disappointed in John (who can't keep the video camera out of our faces, even when SLEEPING) for not getting us on video when we were yelling at each other across the room and being noisy. We have heard several times a day that we are too quiet...
Then we went to South Farm Research Center where we were "introduced" to atmospheric science by Dr. Neil Fox. He got stung by a wasp.
We looked at a lot of instruments that measure/predict/analyse the weather; everything from Doppler to rainfall meters. Then Haley uh... attacked Kyle (who's been tagging along all week and taking our pictures, which I'm sure will be interesting to watch in a slide show tomorrow) with a kite.... After that I really had to reconsider what the highlight of my day was.
From South Farm, we went to Bradford Farm where Tim Reinbott took us on a tractor-wagon tour of the farm. He explained to us the issues on genetically altering crops such as corn. Then we talked about alternate fuel (uh, sugar cane???). Then we saw some native plants, many of which were wild flowers (very pretty). Then we um were taken to septic city. At first I was kind of confused; this was just a farm studying new methods and genetic alterations of crops, right? Wrong. The Bradford research center is pretty dedicated to raising awareness about the affects not just farming but also that our lifestyles have on the environment. So septic city was a project to research and showcase different septic options and explain to others how they benefit/harm the environment. We also saw a pond that is home to several hundred fish in cages; its a relatively new project which is supposed to apply to small farmers as an easy way to add to their income.
After Bradford we came back for a really quick dinner, and then we threw together our things and headed over to the Ag. building for project presentations, which actually went well. At least no one was physically harmed. Mentally, though... :)
After we presented our counsellors took us downtown (after I sneak attacked and soaked John and Brent. Actually they both saw it coming and I got just as wet. But revenge was so sweet). We were treated to Coldstones for ice cream (smoothies for some), and then we shuffled over to the Quad, where we sat around on the columns, making small talk and checking out the view.
The day ended with a tour of Greek town, which John new all the dirty little secrets about, at 10:00 p.m.
Its now 12:28 a.m. and I'm really looking forward to sleeping in, but its not going to make any difference if I don't get off this computer!
Signing off for the final time,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursay Update!

So we're all shaking our heads at how fast this week has gone by. Almost every minute of our day is planned and its just flying by. We're learning so much each day, and today was no exception. This morning we split into two groups again and went to the session that we didn't attend Tuesday morning. I saw the lasers in medicine on Tuesday, so today I went with my group to Bacterial Genomics with Dr. Freyermuth. This was a really interesting biochemistry presentation (considering how thrilling biochemistry typically is...). We actually prepared spliced DNA of a certain bacteria (which had been placed inside plasmid strands in E. Coli). Oh excuse me, we did a "plasmid preparation to obtain the DNA for sequencing".
Then we checked other pre-prepared samples of the DNA to check for a certain insert in the plasmid, by taking some really cool pictures. Lastly we used computers to sort through previously obtained DNA data to find what organisms (in this case, bacteria) shared certain DNA. While it was two hours of A LOT of information, Dr. Freyermuth did an amazing job of explaining to half-dead seventeen/eighteen year olds the more complicated aspects of our lab and walked us through every step. I really hope my biochem professors are as helpful as she was.
We left the Life Sciences Center and went to Hulston Hall, which is in the Law School, for a pizza lunch and a short discussion on some law school options. Michelle Heck opened up some doors that I personally hadn't even considered. She talked about duel degrees, shorter law school scholar's programs, and the admissions process for Law School. She definitely cast a new light on Law school for me, and I think, my fellow campers.
We once again split into two different groups (an obvious attempt by our meddling counsellors to prevent absolute anarchy) and attended two different sessions. One group went to a discussion about microbes in the food we eat, with Dr. Azlin Mustapha, during which I was told they spent a long time discussing the microbes that are "everywhere!"
I went with eight others to a session on Why fertility is important in Farm animals and Humans, with Dr. Peter Sutovsky in the Animal Science research center. We spent a lot of time talking about, looking at, and making slides of ah... sperm. It was enlightening to say the least.
After this we left for the Thomas Jefferson institute, which although it sounds like a library with some old crone stalking book shelves and shooting scathing looks, was actually an educational farm. The goal is to provide education for urban people and farmers on how to run a farm successfully while being friendly to the environment. The farm is relatively new and with all of the ... "FUN" weather we've had lately, many of their crops were just beginning to peak above the soil. It was really cool to see the beginnings of an orchard, with several different types of each plant (from blueberry bushes to peach trees). There is a 7+ acre man-made lake that contains various water plants and a couple of types of fish. They also have a lily-walk that has more than 100 types of lilies planted next to a path that tours some of the smaller vegetable and fruit crops. They also have a small barn which had two halflinger ponies (which slobbered over my hands for a solid ten minutes searching for treats), a couple of sheep, and some young goats. There are plans to soon have a couple of cattle. I really miss my horse, so this was pretty much the highlight of my day (other than jumping on top of my suite-mate this morning to wake her up :)
Once we arrived back at the dorms, we had dinner at the Plaza 900. From here everyone but me went to a discussion on Insect Diversity with Dr, Richard Houseman (i had a migraine and missed out). I heard the bugs were "cool."
Later the counsellors treated us to some ice cream with multiple, sugar-rush-inducing toppings (not sure they know what they got themselves into). After ice cream we played a game of catch-phrase, and then attempted to play a game Chrissy uh... sort of explained called connections. It was really noisy and fun. So that brings me here, at 10:31 wrapping up my second-to last blog. We're all having a lot of fun, even the two boys (i think; they don't talk much...). I'm really looking forward to visiting the college of vet med tomorrow morning, and then we have a pretty full day after that, so I'd better work on our project (which the lady at walmart assured me is designed just so that the counselors can laugh at us... we'll see).

Midweek Update

This is a day late because of our ongoing ag. projects; my group took the majority of last night to work ours. But I can still give you an idea of what we did yesterday.
After breakfast we took the vans to Rock Bridge State Park. The park was gorgeous with a system of walking trails that ran in loops all leading back to the parking lot. There we met Dr. Vaught, who introduced us to hand-held GPS. But first he dished out handfuls of bubble gum, and we were instructed to see who could blow the biggest bubble. I think John won when it ended up in his ear and on his hair... Dr. Vaught explained to us the uses and limitations of GPS, asking us to keep in mind the effect this technology has on the human population.
Then came the fun part, we split up into groups of 4-5 and were given a set of clues for landmarks to find along the trails. Each landmark was described and then had coordinates that we had to use the handheld GPS to find. While we were wandering through the park, we came across The Devil's Icebox, which is a kind of gorge with a spring or creek running through it. Its called the Devil's Icebox because the air is cool around it.
After our hike (no worries, no one fell off any cliffs or was permanently lost), we came back to the dorms, went to lunch at the plaza, and got ready for the float trip.
Once we arrived at the launch site, we split into two groups; the first went on the Missouri conservation boat for the first half of the float. We paddled (some kayaked) the first stretch and then stopped at the foot of a natural spring that fed into the river. The entire group climbed the bank and we splashed around in the chilly spring which flowed from a wide mouthed cave. Here we switched groups and my group went on the conservation boat. We whipped around the river and took a cruise down one of the places where the river is being re-routed. It was interesting to learn about how the river has been changed in the last two hundred years, how it will continue to change, and what efforts are being made to salvage some of the original ecosystem.
After a good hard Missouri river mud fight, we all ended up back at the dorm, cleaned up and headed to dinner. But, surprise, instead of dinner at the Plaza 900, we were taken to Eckle's hall where we were served a fantastic dinner by the hotel & restaurant faculty and students. It was really yummy and a nice break from the cafeteria. After dinner we slaved over our urban agriculture awareness projects until we eventually crashed. Another day well spent.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blog Entry 2: Our Second Full Day

By Allison Brennan

It’s 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night and most of us are pretty tired. We just got back from the movie theatre, where some of us saw the new batman movie, mama mia, or journey to the center of the earth. It was the perfect end to a busy day’s activities.

Our day began with a sprint to our first session after breakfast, in the monsoon-esque downpour that lasted all morning. I went with half of the group to an hour-long session with Dr. Viator about the use of lasers in medicine. In his laboratory we heard and saw how lasers can be used to identify cancerous cells in the blood once the cancer has spread, called metastases. Not only did we get to see this relatively new technology, we got to play with it! After an hour of shooting various light wavelengths across the room, creating beams of color, sound effects and wavelength graphs, we left the seminar and returned to the dorms before lunch.

The other half of the group went to a session on bacterial genomics, with Dr. Freyermuth, which I’ll attend later in the week.

After lunch the entire group went to a discussion with Marivern Easton to learn about medical school options. While the discussion was very down to earth and honest about the highly selective application process, about what it takes to prepare for and be in med school, the MCATS, etc., it was really informative and gave us an idea about what we should aim for (if we’re considering medicine).

Once again our group split in half. My group stayed put and heard a seminar from Dr. Linda Blockus about life science undergraduate research options. She really encouraged us to seek out research opportunities while working on our undergrad degrees to give us some experience in a related profession. I learned a lot about undergrad research that I didn’t know, like how some professors consider the research a part-time job and pay students for their time spent working on a project.

Next we heard a presentation about studying abroad while at MU. We saw some really awesome pictures, like several MU students riding elephants in Thailand, and others standing in front of the Eiffel tower. They also dispelled the “myths of studying abroad” for us, such as it being too expensive, setting you back for graduation, being unsafe, etc. We learned a lot in that short session about how international studying can be beneficial to our education.

Next we left the classroom to tour MU’s Yeckel and Glen Smart collections (basically large game and water fowl trophies stuffed and labeled for our benefit) with Dr. Walter Wehtje. There was everything from a rhino head to a whole stuffed swan. It was really interesting to see all of the large game trophies placed side by side for comparison. I was surprised to find that the elk head was almost twice as large as the moose head (who would have thought…).

From there Dr. Wehtje took us to his lab to see the rest of MU’s taxonomy collection. We learned how you can differentiate the different classes of small animals by observing their skulls and teeth. We looked at the skulls of an opossum, two foxes, a gopher, a couple of weasels and others.
After the taxonomy tour, we returned to the dorms (where I promptly scrubbed my hands), for some down time, and then headed off to dinner.

From dinner we went to the movies where I (and other people I’m sure) drooled over Christian Bale and Heath Ledger.

Upon returning from the movies, we broke up into our small groups to work on our projects. The project is to create a product/service that we will sell to investors that will be beneficial to the environment. Those are still a work in progress and will be presented to the group Friday night.

Everyone is looking forward to the float trip tomorrow and we’re hoping for nice weather after today’s downpour and Monday’s heat. Personally I can’t wait for Friday to check out the college of veterinary med. But it’s now 11:08 p.m. and I’m off to get some much needed rest.

Will write more tomorrow,
Allison Brennan

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day TWO!

By Allison Brennan

Monday morning was an early wake up call. Somehow we all ended up at breakfast in the Plaza 900, which is a really nice buffet-style cafeteria. After breakfast we went to the Brady Commons building, which houses a small food court, a giant bookstore/convenience store where we all had photo IDs made, and downstairs a bowling alley and arcade (more about that later).

From Brady Commons we were whisked away on a very warm but informative campus tour. Personally I loved the new Rec. center and I didn’t have to be assured by our tour guides that it was the best in the nation, but they did anyway. We also ambled through the building that houses the admissions offices, through the Quad with the infamous columns, and eventually ended up at the Life Sciences center for our first seminar.

For the next couple of hours Dr. Freyermuth conducted a discussion on the ethics regarding scientific research, specifically cloning, in reference to the book The House of the Scorpion which most of us had the chance to read prior to camp. The discussion was heated and interesting, which I think brought us closer as a group even though we had dissimilar opinions.

Later in the afternoon we attended a short seminar called the Secrets of the Wildlife. We were introduced to the frequency transmitters that MU and the Missouri department of Conservation use to track wild animals. We also got to see some of the newest video technology that is being experimented with in regards to wild animal behavior.

After this we left from the dorm to tour the Mizzou basketball arena. We got a really close up look at the court, the locker rooms, the TEAM (which was practicing…), and pretty much everything else in that awesome building.

After the arena tour we went to dinner at the Plaza 900. Later the counselors took us back to Brady commons, to the bowling alley and arcade, which had been rented out for a few hours for our personal use. After getting beat in bowling, an alien-slaughtering arcade game, and pool by my suite-mate, several of us returned to the dorm.

Once everyone gathered, we were divided into groups and given a project, (which I will tell you more about later, because Ben is kicking me off the computer). So that was at 9:00 p.m. and now it’s 11:00 pm and nothing much has happened since. I’ll be back to write more tomorrow.

Blog Entry 1: One and A Half Days over… Four and a half to go

By Allison Brennan

It’s 10:15 p.m. on Monday and thus far there have been no fatalities. It’s been an amazing first two days. After all of the parents cleared out on Sunday we were taken to Venture Out, a team challenge course on campus. For the next few hours we played “ice-breakers”, name-games, and completed challenges that required team work and lots of trust. For example, we had to balance a group of ten people on a 3’ by 8’ (ish..) plank that was suspended on a 12”-wide log. It was practically a giant teeter-totter, with five people standing at each end and only three touches on the ground before we died and had to start over.

In another challenge there were three small (4’X4’) raised platforms that were in a line separated by several feet. Eventually we had to move everyone in the group from the first platform to the last one using only two 2” by 4”s that were alone not long enough to stretch the distance between the platforms. Oh, and no touching the grass because it was “lava” (they’re actually looking for funding for real lava if any of you parents would like to make a contribution).

Once again we had to work as a team to correctly apply the laws of physics to safely move everyone to the last block, and we suffered as a team when someone made a mistake and was blindfolded or not allowed to use their arms.

Around eight o’clock we were done at the team challenge course (and a little tired) and we arrived back at the dorm. We then had 45 minutes to shower and meet in the lounge on the second floor (called the “Portal” ?). Forty-five minutes for groups of four girls to use one shower and get dressed. So really the team challenges weren’t done for the day.

At nine our counselors treated us to Shakespeare’s pizza, and afterwards we played even more ice-breaker games. By then everyone was laughing at everyone else and we were all successfully not dying of awkward silences. From the Portal room (give me a couple of days and I’ll figure out how it got that name), we meandered back to our rooms and crashed for the night.