Wednesday, November 11, 2015

California Science Center Field Trip

Last week, my class went on a field trip to the California Science Center, which is actually just across the street from campus. Even after being here for 3 months, I still hadn't been to any of the museums nearby, so I was really excited to go. I was really excited to come to school in LA because of all the fun things to do around here, but I often find myself getting caught up in the campus bubble. I've barely explored LA, which is sad because that's one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to USC.
Over the next few months, I'm excited to go hiking and explore some other museums, but first, let me talk about this trip ;)

The science center is actually really big, and there are tons of exhibits on everything from the human body to animals to weather systems and different biomes and ecosystems. First, we headed upstairs to the human body exhibit, which was really cool because of all the different visual representations of different body systems. Although it was definitely geared towards younger visitors (my 11 year-old brother would love it!), I still had a good time guessing the heart rates of differently sized animals. The coolest thing I saw was this latex model of our lungs and the alveoli that air travels through. It's so intricate and it's incredible to me that this exists in our bodies.

After this, we went outside to the touch tank and marine biome, which was fun because I absolutely love the ocean and ocean organisms. In bio this semester, we learned about several of the organisms that live in the ocean as we traced the tree of life, and it was so fun to be able to recognize ctenophores and cnidarians with my fellow nerds. I loved how vibrant these starfish and sea urchins looked in the touch tank! We also went downstairs to the aquarium, which was pretty small and shallow, but still cool because you could see the kelp "forests" and eels and little fish.

After the aquarium, we went to this hangar outside to see the space shuttle the Endeavor! This was really special to me because 20 years ago, when my father worked for BF Goodrich in Minnesota, he was part of a team that worked on it. Since we only had two hours, we had to leave at this point, but I had an amazing time getting to know my classmates outside the classroom, and I can't wait to go back.
Sophia, Nate and I by the Endeavor!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Window on Death Row" Event Response

This Thursday, my class had the opportunity to attend an event called "Windows on Death Row" with USC's Vision's and Voices program. The event was a lecture by Sister Helen Prejean on her experience working to abolish the death penalty. She first got involved a couple of decades ago when she became the spiritual advisor to a prisoner on death row, and the inhumanity of the whole process got her interested in fighting to abolish it. Throughout the event, she discussed how prisoners were unfairly given poor lawyers not interested in helping them. I was pretty shocked to find out how there was only one person on death row in Colorado as compared to 750 in California. She also talked a lot about how many prisoners are wrongfully convicted and put on death row in solitary confinement for years on end. Another on of the speakers was actually a former prisoner who spent 20 years on death row and another 8 years embroiled in actually being released from jail after it was determined that he was wrongfully convicted. He talked about how he turned to painting and art to distract him from being all alone and to channel his emotions into something productive. I think that with the death penalty, the punishment is not so much actually being killed (as horrible as that is), but the psychological impacts of being alone in a confined space for years on end with no human contact. Biologically, humans are social creatures, and even introverts thrive on contact with others.

While I appreciate all of Sister Prejean's experience and the work she's doing, I felt that at times, the discourse did was a little too biased toward the problems with the death penalty. I know that I don't know enough about both sides of the debate to have an opinion, but I felt that the information was presented a little unfairly. I felt like they focused a little too much on innocent people sentenced to the death penalty, which has nothing to do with the death penalty in and of itself. Rather, it is a failure of the justice system. It's horrible that innocent people were sentenced to death and had to spend years in prison, but that's because of a justice system built against them. I'm definitely interested to see how this will play out in the 2016 elections in California, since the death penalty was almost abolished in 2012.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thoughts on Code Black

Last week, I had the opportunity to watch Code Black, a medical documentary about the emergency and trauma center at LA Country Memorial Hospital. Years ago,  there was a room in the emergency room called C-Booth, which, to any outsider, looked like total chaos. Whenever a case came in, there were dozens of doctors, nurses, and medical personnel surrounding a patient who was obviously in danger of dying. It looked incredibly chaotic and I couldn't understand how anyone could ever get anything done there. People were yelling at one another to get different medical supplies without saying who should get it, and somehow, everyone got the supplies they needed, and the patient was treated.
I'm a huge Grey's Anatomy fan, and even though I know that it's in no way an accurate portrayal of hospital life, C-booth almost seemed like a Grey's episode. I loved hearing what the surgical residents had to say about their experiences because of how much they loved it. They talked about how great being in the ER made them feel, and how it was so worth it, even with the mountains of paperwork.
I was pretty confused as to why the hospital didn't have adequate technology to manage all the paperwork. Honestly, buying 20 iPads or tablets isn't that expensive, and autofill capabilities would make it a lot faster. Although it's not particularly groundbreaking, simple changes like digitizing paperwork would speed up the process and allow the emergency department to treat patients more effectively. Another thing we talked about in class was biometric fingerprint or retina scanning to log into the computer, instead of having to manually sign in every time.
I definitely enjoyed this documentary overall. It made it seem like the huge mountain of schoolwork I'm putting myself through -- the polyatomic ions in chem and memorizing every animal in the tree of life -- it's all worth it to be able to go out there and make people's lives better.