I can honestly say that this summer in Japan, I have had the greatest time of my life. I feel so grateful and fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take part in the UTRIP program, and the memories will remain with me always. It is so difficult to put into words everything that I feel I have achieved and gained in this short time: the program has taught me so much!

   The placement itself was well organised and very enjoyable. I began with introductory lectures from Professor Kuroda on systems biology and temporal coding in cellular signalling. I then had a series of discussions with several current lab members in which they introduced their areas of research to me and told me about life in the lab. I also received lab training which included cell stimulation, Western blotting, Nanodrop spectrophotometry and electrophoresis. The final 3 weeks of my placement were based around the completion of my UTRIP project: I used practical lab work and computational modelling to answer questions about the effects of step stimulation using Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) on PC12 cell cultures.

   I found that the members of the lab were so welcoming and always happy to help me with new techniques and difficult concepts: the program has been challenging in places and a lot of hard work, but I have always been given the support that I needed. I have now finished the program with renewed faith in my abilities, and an even stronger desire to continue my studies after completion of my Bachelor's degree.

   I have learned so much from my time in Kuroda Lab: not just the practical and analytical skills essential for success in Systems Biology, but also about the culture of Japan. The history. The people. Even the cuisine.

   Outside of the lab, my time in Japan has also been well spent. Exploring the amazing metropolis that is Tokyo has been so exciting, and I have also had opportunities to go farther afield and see the World Heritage Site Nikko, Kamakura, and even reach the summit of Mt. Fuji! The social aspects of the program were amazing too, and I have met so many people and made many new friends at the University. The other UTRIP participants were also a lot of fun, and it was great to spend time with people from all over the world.

   It has definitely been a challenging 6 weeks, but I have learned so much and it has been incredibly rewarding. I have experienced life in a real working laboratory. I have seen a part of the world that I never dreamed I would be fortunate enough to visit. I have made friends that will last a lifetime.

   Thank you. I will always remember my time here.

Sophie Andrews (The University of York, England)

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Kuroda Laboratory, The University of Tokyo
URL: http://www.kurodalab.org