Day 0 @ SSP Biochem Purdue – Welcome to SSP!

Sunday, June 18th

Arrivals, Introductions, and Icebreakers

Arrival day is here – this is day 0 of our five and a half week program! We had 36 participants arrive at Purdue University, our host campus, so it was a hectic day. Most of our participants have never lived on their own before, and for many it was the first time even travelling alone.

21 of the participants arrived at the airport throughout the morning and afternoon – as more of them arrived, they created a larger and larger group to welcome each other, eat, and commiserate about their long, lonely flights. Once Ms. Latus (our site director) and I finally arrived, we met up with the participants and all made our way onto the bus for the ride to campus.

In the meantime, the other participants who arrived with their parents checked in with the other 3 TAs. Many tearful goodbyes were had – especially from the parents as they entrusted us with their children.

Once everyone arrived, got the chance to see their dorms, and met their roommate for the next six weeks, we headed over to the Wiley Dining Court for a group dinner. Our participants had their first exposure to the lovely dining hall food while having a chance to bond with their roommates and start building the foundations of our community.

Finally, after dinner we headed back to the dorms for our first meeting, where the participants were introduced to the faculty. First, they heard from Tracy Furutani, our Campus Director (and SSP alum), who explained the traditions and values of SSP and related his own SSP experience so that our participants could get the most out of the program. Next, our academic directors, Dr. Chitta Das and Dr. Soma Mukhopadhyay, introduced themselves and very briefly explained their roles as professors. The TAs – Martin Emerson, Paige Robinson, Austin Mickles, and Hugo Sheehan (yours truly) – introduced ourselves and ensured the participants that they could come to us with any and all problems. Finally, our site director Christin Latus spoke to them about rules and expectations. Ms. Latus especially emphasized the honor code, which places much responsibility and trust in the participants.

After patiently listening to the faculty for the better part of an hour, our participants were tired and probably anxious to get to bed after a long day of travelling. But this is SSP, so we TAs kept them even longer to do some icebreakers outside and start building our community. Everyone had a lot of fun learning about each other and playing games for a while, and by the time we were done, most everyone had made at least a friend or two.

It was a very long day for the participants, and we finally let them go for some unstructured time at their dorms – but not before telling them about our scheduled group breakfast at 7am sharp the next morning! (This announcement was met with numerous groans.) Before breaking for the night, the participants met their lab groups of 3 people each with one final icebreaker. Over the course of the program, these groups will form some of the closest bonds by working through the trials and tribulations, the failures and successes, of performing real, hands-on lab research.

This marks the end of our first SSP Purdue Biochem blog post – as the TA in charge of the blog, I wrote this first post myself. But for the rest of the program, each participant has signed up to write the blog for one day! Each day’s blog will be posted the day after to allow the participants some time to write it – for example, this Day 0 blog for Sunday, June 18th will be posted on the evening of Monday, June 19th. These blogs will vary from day to day as there’s no set format – some participants will write a summary of events like this one, but hopefully the participants will take ownership of this blog and get a chance to demonstrate their creativity!

In closing, a brief introduction of our TAs:

Martin Emerson (he/they)

I am a rising senior at Purdue. I am majoring in biochemistry and minoring in psychology. For the past two years, I have been working in a molecular genetics lab studying a transcription factor necessary for development of the heart. After graduating, I plan to attend optometry school.

Hugo Sheehan (they/them)

I just graduated in May 2023 from Saint Leo University with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical and Health Sciences. I love research, and I’ve been working in a biochemistry lab for the last two years performing cancer drug discovery research with the CMG Helicase (aka DNA Helicase). I’m planning to attend medical school next fall.

Austin Mickles (she/her)

I just finished my undergrad with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies. I have worked in microbiology, paleoclimatology, and biogeochemists labs. I recently completed a three-year study on soil microbial community dynamics and scientist-to-farmer communication. I am going to do a service year before pursuing a Ph.D. in biogeochemistry.

Paige Robinson (she/her)

I will be a senior at Indiana University. I am majoring in biochemistry. I am planning on attending graduate school. I enjoy teaching, and I tutor chemistry and calculus in my free time.