National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes

Sook-Lei Liew, China 2008

I can confidently say that participating in the NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes has been one of the most influential experiences of my PhD career thus far, and one that has continued to provide amazing research opportunities even several years after.

I had been wanting an opportunity to return to China, where I had lived for several months previously, so when I saw the program announcement for EAPSI, I immediately googled “China social cognitive neuroscience.” There was 1 relevant result. I emailed that professor (Professor Shihui Han at Peking University), introduced myself, and asked if I could come work in his lab if I received the fellowship. To my surprise, he agreed.

A few months later, I arrived in Beijing, China, just months before the Summer Olympics were about to take place. I had spent the month prior preparing the stimuli and design for an fMRI study examining how our experience with actions and different races modulates the neural activity in regions associated with action understanding and social cognition. My experience for those two months in the lab was both stretching and awesome – by the end of the summer, I had successfully completed my first neuroimaging study with 18 Chinese participants, learned Chinese phrases related to “magnetic resonance imaging,” developed a great relationship with my host PI and many of the labmates, and got to experience a completely new lab, as well as country, culture.

While I probably spent at least 75-85 hours in lab a week (we did our fMRI scanning on Saturdays from 7 am till 9 pm!), I also developed an amazing set of friends in the EAPSI program who were so much fun to explore with outside of the lab. A few of us bargained for electric scooters early on and formed a makeshift Scooter Gang, zipping around to explore hidden parts of Beijing. With other EAPSI fellows, we also took weekend train trips (including one to Inner Mongolia), had weekly dinners at different local restaurants, and enjoyed the fun and unexpected aspects of the local culture together. Some of my favorite memories are from this summer in Beijing.

To date, one manuscript from my EAPSI research has been accepted for publication, with a second manuscript in preparation, from another study that I did in collaboration with Prof. Han after my EAPSI summer. In addition, after receiving the NSF EAPSI, I have been awarded several other fellowships and been funded to attend other summer workshops (including one in Japan!). I am confident that these opportunities have largely been due to the research I was able to accomplish during my EAPSI summer, and I would recommend the EAPSI experience to anyone. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to explore a new country, develop new collaborations, perform unique research, and make lasting friendships with fellow travel-minded scientists. In a nutshell, the NSF EAPSI provides an opportunity to work hard, play hard, and experience an amazing summer with limitless potential.

 A Chinese language article was written on Sook-Lei Liew's EAPSI experience, available here (English version not available).

Last Updated: September 01, 2010 05:26 PM

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