Four UIC Environmental Science students went to take part in a study abroad programme at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas from 3 July until 26 July. Previously, Trinity students had been in UIC for a short-term exchange programme but this time it was Trinity University’s time to host UIC students. The four students that went to Trinity University were divided up and placed into groups with Trinity students to take part in research projects.

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Four UIC students went to Trinity University


During their first week of the visit, students conducted a rotation throughout all the laboratories, while the director of each lab introduced the students to the types of research that are carried out there. During that week, students planned in consultation with their Trinity research mentor about an individual project situated in the context of ongoing research programmes at Trinity, which they then pursued during the remainder of their time at Trinity. Then, on 25 and 26 July, the students prepared and delivered a poster presentation detailing the results of their projects.

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Ma Kuiyun (King)

Kuiyun worked on a project to determine the difference in response to visible spectrum lights (white light, red light), absence of light, and UV-B spectrum exposure, with the addition of chemicals which induce stomatal closure, to explore whether Arabidopsis thaliana has different stomatal reaction between rosette leaves and cauline leaves, and what if any biological processes cauline leaves may be implicated in that differ from rosette leaves.

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Kuiyun really enjoyed meeting new friends


Kuiyun noticed that there were differences between the classes in Trinity and the classes in UIC. “Classes in Trinity are more academic and have more interaction between teachers and students.” He also said that the professors help a lot during the research, and that they have labs meetings every week, to engage in deep discussion on their research, and to give suggestions.

According to Kuiyun, Trinity gives the students more free time to manage by themselves. “In Trinity, we need to keep a good balance between the study and the campus life.” He liked the research instruments at Trinity and the open management of campus life. The time that Kuiyun has spent in Trinity has allowed him to become more hard-working and according to him “It definitely improved my English skills, especially academic writing”. His favourite experience during this exchange programme was the ability to learn how to get along with the new friends.

Sun Kexin (Sandra)

Kexin’s project in Trinity University was to research the sedimentology and geochemistry of a lower cretaceous dinosaur track site. Her team studied the tracks preserved in the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country. The purposes of this project are twofold. On the one hand, they conducted an integrated investigation of the paleoenvironmental conditions, including paleoclimate and stratigraphy of the track site. On the other hand, the field survey also evaluated whether there is a single or multiple track horizons at the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country.

From Kexin’s observation, the teachings styles of their classes are almost the same as UIC. For example, teachers encourage students to ask questions as much as possible, and have many interactions and discussions during the classes.

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The four UIC students all said that their English language skills had improved during their stay


Sun Kexin also found that the dormitory in Trinity is much bigger than that in UIC. In addition, the canteen in Trinity serves a buffet and there are a wide range of choices of food, which she claims made her gain weight during that period. What is more, the Wi-Fi in Trinity covers all the campus, even in the dormitory, which is very convenient.

When asked if the experience changed her in anyway, Kexin replied that “I can clearly feel that my English has improved a lot and I adapted to American people’s way of speaking gradually. In addition, influenced by my American classmates, I tried to speak out my questions as much as possible, which made me more outgoing.”

The professors, her classmates in Trinity and Trinity students who came to UIC in June, took her around to see some sites and even invited her back to their houses for parties, and she really appreciated the way they treated her.

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(From left to right) Ma Kuiyun, Sun Kexin, Xie Ge, Wang Haoyu

Wang Haoyu (Ambrose)

Haoyu worked in the Eco-lab of Trinity University, where his project was a biology study on the various ecological functions of the lizard, such as the body colour change. He mainly stayed in the labs and worked with other students in Trinity. He said it was convenient for him to find different facilities and departments at the Trinity campus. Also, he mentioned that the Texan 2-floor gender-neutral dormitories with huge rooms were very different from UIC.

He was pretty impressed by the well-designed laboratory building in Trinity named CSI – Center of Science & Innovation. “I would be really happy to see a centralized and independent building for doing laboratory work in UIC,” he said.

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Haoyu presenting his project at Trinity University


The experience in Trinity has changed Haoyu a lot, “Not only on the amelioration of my spoken English, but also on the attitude toward problem-solving”. Haoyu now tends to be more direct and comprehensive when expressing his view points, which to a great extent increases the efficiency of working and communicating.

The trips and time he spent with classmates and professors meant a lot to Haoyu but doing lab work in CSI with his partners and finding interesting places with friends were his favourite parts of the experience.

Xie Ge (Skylar)

Ge’s project was about the effects of hypoxia and inflammation on barrier integrity of Caco-2 Cells, a model intestinal epithelium. It's about spontaneous intestinal perforations in extremely low birth rate infants.

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Xie Ge (left) and Wang Haoyu (right) at Trinity University

She was very impressed by the labs in Trinity, calling them “incredible”. She mentioned during her time in Trinity that she stayed in the labs doing experiments that mainly concentrated on biology while in UIC they focus on the ecology in Zhuhai, which involves many field trips to see the ecological development.

When asked about general feedback about the experience, Ge said “We hung out a lot with American students and pretty much everyone owns a car! So we went to many places. The food is awesome. The steak provided in the canteen is very good.”

She explained that students in Trinity are allowed to join the research programme led by the professors. They have more chances and access to very practical and meaningful research topics, which helps a lot. She hopes that UIC can allow students to have access to research programmes that would be very helpful to shape their interests.

Like the other UIC students who joined Ge in Trinity for this exchange programme, she explained how her English has improved a lot. However she mentioned how she learnt how to work with people from different cultural backgrounds, and due to different thinking patterns it took her some time to solve problems.

Read more: Short-term collaboration programme at UIC is a success

Reporter: Samuel Burgess (MPRO)
Photographer: Ma Kuiyun, Wang Haoyu (Year 3, Environmental Science)
Editor: Deen He (MPRO)
(with thanks to the ELC)

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