Ube, PCR, and Tricycles… Oh My!

Since my last post the morning after I landed, it has been a very eventful week in the Philippines. The entire group of interns learned about the Philippines’ rich history, culture, the Tagalog language, and to all of our delight–love of food–with frequent snacks and meals throughout the day. If nothing else, we all remember how to say “Saan ang…?” which means “Where is…?” and “salamat” meaning “thank you”, which should at least help us get started in the right direction in this new country. For dinner, we sampled a number of traditional dishes including chicken adobo and the colorful dessert, halo-halo, at a restaurant complete with floating tables and a little live band.


Later that weekend we ventured to Villa Escudero, where we rode in carts pulled by carabaos, ate lunch at the base of a waterfall, rowed bamboo rafts around a lagoon, and watched performances of natives’ rituals and dance.

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Independence Day allowed my IRRI group to explore the neighboring town of Los Banos and learn a little more about the Filipino culture and people. I discovered ube, a bright purple yam that is used to color many desserts, like cake and ice cream. It’s an understatement to say I’m hooked. I’m already scheming of how I could bring home ube desserts and the best mangos I have ever eaten.




After an amazing long weekend, each intern from Illinois Wesleyan was taken to their research lab at IRRI to meet their supervisor and begin work. I am interning in the Genetic Transformation Lab (GTL). In my first few days, I have already learned so much, not only about my specific roles in that lab, but about the broad accomplishments and goals by groups in the international community to ensure a secure nutritional future for all. IRRI is one of the organizations that works to achieve this goal by improving the staple crop, rice. The lab that I am at has helped work on projects such as Golden Rice, which is vitamin A biofortified rice, created to prevent blindness and fatalities in women and children in developing areas of the world. One of the more recent project out of the GTL has been zinc and iron biofortified rice, also developed to help those experiencing nutrition deficiency or “hidden hunger.” This is the project I will continue to work on with several members of the lab. So far I have done PCR of direct leaf samples and run gel electrophoresis for visualization. I have done these techniques before at IWU, but never on such a large scale on plant DNA. I look forward to discovering more about the genetic transformation process as well as other projects at IRRI as my stay continues.


Most recently, I ventured to Talipanan Beach in Puerto Galera. It was a vision of paradise–after taking a bus, ferry, then tricycle on twisting, sloping roads, and breaking a sweat or two to get there. My group took this past weekend to unwind by the ocean and hike to a nearby waterfall. Many restaurants and lodges were Italian, so carbs were no shortage. Laying in bed back at IRRI, I am already missing the white sand, late night sea breeze, and soothing sound of waves.



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