Understanding A World of Differences
Exposure to a university environment allows one to come in contact with a multitude of people from different countries with different ideas and distinct approaches to problems. Sharing time with someone outside our culture challenges our ideas and approaches to the way we solve our own problems. As an undergraduate, it is sometimes difficult to come in contact with foreign researchers unless a serious attempt is made on the part of the student. Fortunately, UBRP provides an avenue for its students to acquaint themselves with the faculty from UA and their international collaborators.
On Tuesday, May 26, I had the privilege of hosting German visiting scientist, Dr. Stefan Silbernagl, at the first Summer 1998 Lunch on Us! at No Anchovies. In the company of Julie Boles (Dr. Ulreich's lab, Surgery/Transplantation), Alexandra Chetochine (Dr. McDade's lab, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology/Plant Sciences), Kellie Hazell (Dr. Wells's lab, Biochemistry), Parmis Rad (Dr. Brown's lab, Chemistry), Susanne Rafelski (Dr. Galbraith's lab, Plant Sciences) and Sara Salek (UA Medical student and UBRP alum from Dr. Runyan's lab in Cell Biology & Anatomy), we spent an afternoon of laughter, learning and great advice.
Dr. Silbernagl, who is visiting our lab (Dr. Dantzler's lab, Physiology), is the current president of the European Physiological Society as well as the head of the Department of Physiology at the University of Wurzburg in Germany. Despite being such a renowned and respected scientist, talking with Dr. Silbernagl was like chatting with a trusted friend. He frequently joked and laughed throughout our lunch, which made conversation rather informal and very pleasant.
Dr. Silbernagl is not a stranger to Tucson. He visits the Arizona desert and the UA periodically. His visits allow him to put aside his departmental and other responsibilities and provide an opportunity for him to write and revise physiology textbooks, which is his focus at this point in his career.
After we were seated, Dr. Silbernagl began discussing his profession. He began his scientific career as a tissue physiologist emphasizing organic transport in the renal system. As the field became more popular for study, his interest changed to cellular physiology, specifically the renal tubular cell, where he has made remarkable scientific advancements. He now devotes much of his time to teaching medical and pharmacy students and writing scientific literature.
He described the academic differences between the U.S. and German medical school curriculums. In Germany, the emphasis is on individual student research outside the classroom--students must locate the books necessary to solve or understand a specific ailment and determine a treatment plan. Professors rarely assign readings or homework; it is the responsibility of the student to do the research outside the classroom in order to succeed. As a result of this learning process, the students learn to handle problems by themselves just as a practicing physician would--doctors are not given multiple choice patients!!!
Our discussion ranged from U.S. medical school criteria for selecting future physicians to the warm Tucson temperatures which Dr. Silbernagl believes is one of Arizona's best features. Since he was only in Tucson until early June, we all suggested he stay until at least August to see if he changed his opinion.
Dr. Silbernagl observed that Americans seem to move frequently. In Germany, moving is far less common. For example, some Germans live in one area all their lives and never leaving the immediate area.
Throughout our lunch, Dr. Silbernagl stressed the importance of being exposed to other cultures, especially for those involved in science. He was very impressed with the BRAVO! program because it allows students to experience other cultures by working and living with the inhabitants. It allows cultural growth, development of interpersonal skills, and independence. It is this broadening of horizons that he strives for and fosters in his students.
We all agreed that Dr. Silbernagl is a fascinating and enjoyable person. His cordial, easy-going personality allowed us to interact with him in a friendly atmosphere which heightened our interest in science, culture and new experiences.
Oscar Serrano, UBRPer in Dr. Dantzler's lab, Physiology
The Big A, June 9
Great people, great food, and stimulating conversation!!!! What more could you ask for? This is exactly what took place during the UBRP/faculty luncheon on June 9 at the Big A restaurant. Thanks to Dr. McDonagh from the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery research lab and host Jeremy Logan, some fortunate UBRPers were well fed and assailed with valuable information.
Initially, we all met as complete strangers focusing only on the free food we were about to devour; but after the traditional introductions, we were all at ease and ready to get to know one another. Dr. McDonagh and Jeremy told us a little about the research they are conducting. After talking about science for awhile, the conversation took a sharp turn and focused on a variety of vacation trips, especially to Las Vegas. That's right--these lunches aren't just about science. It was great!!! We shared tales about trips to Las Vegas and the mishaps that happened along the way. UBRPer, Trung Tran, (Dr. Rowe's lab, Family & Consumer Resources), regaled us with a story about a researcher who seems to have had more accidents and been in the wrong places at the wrong time in the past five years than a person could have in a lifetime. Quite amazing!! By the end of the lunch, we knew a lot more about one another, and we were able to laugh together.
Once again, I would like to thank Dr. McDonagh for taking time out to attend the lunch, Jeremy for hosting it, UBRP for funding it, and UBRP students Nicole Davis (Dr. Katsanis's lab, Pediatrics), Trung Tran, and Elizabeth Munch (Drs. Grimes and Smith's lab, Biochemistry) for contributing to the conversation. I hope to see y'all around sometime.
Heidi Benyamin, UBRPer in Dr. Runyan's lab, Cell Biology & Anatomy
Mama's Pizza, June 19
Three hungry ladies, released from lab and out on the town for lunch! Professor Christina Kennedy (Plant Pathology/Molecular & Cellular Biology), Sylvia Thompson (Dr. Hildebrand's lab in Neurobiology) and Andrea Swenson (Dr. Kennedy's lab) supplied the appetites; Mama's Pizza amply satisfied the cravings.
Naturally, this small bevy of biologists (renown and aspiring) shared thoughts upon the subject. What opportunities are available to a biology graduate? Dr. Kennedy replied, "endless."
She utilized her degree to propel her down the research road. This pursuit brought her to merry old England where she worked at a nitrogen-fixation research institute. After her time abroad, she relocated her studies to the desert and added teaching to her repertoire.
Although her heart belongs to research, she finds teaching classes more challenging. In research, study and focus are concentrated on one subject. Whereas in teaching, one must delve into numerous topics making it difficult to become extremely knowledgeable in any one particular area. However, Dr. Kennedy has handled the balancing act quite superbly. One of her feats was to generate a gene determination activity for her microbial genetics class which enables students to identify unknown DNA sequences using advanced resources.
As the noon hour came to a close, the two undergraduates were inspired by Dr. Kennedy's achievements and were ready to tackle the world (microscopically). After all, there is nothing like mama's cooking!
Andrea Swenson, Colorado College UBRPer in Dr. Kennedy's lab, Plant Pathology/MCB