News from Seoul – July 30, 2019: Skylar

In week 5, Skylar finished her experiments that were conducted in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Working with a postdoc in the lab, Skylar successfully calculated the swelling ratios for both polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA) and alginate. Skylar was able to use the PDMS molds that she created to in week 4 to create the gels. Since her swelling ratios results were good, Skylar’s professor gave her a new project to work on. Her new project is to qualify the adhesive properties of PDMS gels made at different concentrations. Once these properties are calculated, the gels Skylar will create will be used to improve the surgical techniques used in other research projects conducted in her lab.                                               

Skylar has continued to spend time with both her lab and IRiKA mates. Skylar and Shayla went to see the new Lion King movie and tried Japanese curry for the first time. They also visited 명동 (Myeongdong) for the first time to do some sight-seeing and shopping. There Skylar and Shayla ate rose-shaped ice cream, it was almost too pretty to eat! In week 5, Skylar and her lab mates went to eat Korean BBQ before her labmates left for Berlin to attend a conference.  

News from Seoul – July 29, 2019: Shayla

Shayla  has been working on her  design methodology for a T-coil Inductor that the group needs. Since there are no specification for the T-coil Shayla is using Visual Basic to program HFSS to build the coil once the group has specifications. Shayla is excited to be able to create a program the group could continue to use well into the future.  She is debugging the code so that she will be able to demonstrate its use and capabilities in the final presentation next Monday.

Yakusuni Temple Entrance

Rather than spend the weekend in Korea, Shayla ventured to Tokyo, Japan. As a true Otaku, the first places Shayla visited were Ikebukuro and Akihabara.  Manga wasn’t the only thing that caught Shayla’s eye, she enjoyed time in an Owl Café and the Aquarium in Sunshine City. Then She visited various temples and museums across the Tokyo area, her favorite was the Yasukuni Shrine. She also learned a lot about Japan history in the museums from a different perspective and dated earlier than she learned in school.

News from Seoul – July 26, 2019: Alejandro

Research Progress  

Alejandro continued to wait for the delivery of the parts that he ordered previously from DigiKey; as such, he continued his work with electrodeposition. Shortly after the beginning of the week, he was ready to begin electrodeposition, and so he did. Using counter and reference electrodes in an iridium oxide solution (along with the default settings for current waveform length and number of cycles), he was able to get through half of the stimulation points over the course of the week. This rather slow progress can be attributed to the fact that each electrodeposition process takes multiple hours due to the large number of cycles set for each waveform. On the final working day of the week, the parts for the stimulation circuit arrived; this means that starting next week, Alejandro will be able to begin working on the circuit while he waits for electrodeposition processes. (Note: Alejandro started working on Tuesday instead of Monday due to his delayed arrival from Japan).


After wrapping up his Japan trip, Alejandro flew back to South Korea, landing at Incheon airport at around 2:40 pm local time (two hours later than expected due to multiple delays). Due to his late arrival, Alejandro did not report to his lab that day. Soon after arriving home, his three roommates arrived from their labs and the four went out for a rather pricy dinner of grouper and crab at a new branch of an international seafood chain (thanks to one roommate’s affiliation with said chain). Afterwards, the foursome went bowling before heading home from the night. On Tuesday, Alejandro continued his weekly tradition of night basketball with the HOBAS group. Thursday night and Friday night featured dinner with the roommates, followed by a trip to a gaming lounge (Thurs night) and a nightclub (Fri night).

Alejandro, William, and their two roommates with their crab and grouper dinner in front of them.

The weekend was less eventful, with Saturday consisting of a haircut and trip to Myeong-dong (where Alejandro had lunch with two of the roommates) and Sunday consisting of a visit to the nearby Holly’s Coffee. Alejandro spent most of the morning there, starting by getting in touch with his family and some friends who happened to be visiting his family. He later went to lunch with the same roommates he had met in Myeong-dong the day before and went to dinner alone, finally trying a Mexican restaurant that he’d had his eye on since his first week in Seoul. Overall, another fun week for Alejandro

News from Seoul – July 26, 2019: Bri


Bri Robertson checked her Instagram to see a message from her best friend from elementary school:

You’re coming to Korea??”

Bri froze, dropping her neatly folded shirt on the way to her suitcase, realizing that this would be the first time that her and her best friend would be on the same continent in seven years.

Yes! Where do you live?”

Four weeks later, nearing the month mark of living in Seoul, Bri boarded a high-speed train to Gangneung, a picturesque town on the East Sea. After two hours, over hills and through valleys, Bri emerged at the last stop: Gangneung. Immediately, she felt the breeze from the sea, and all around her existed a view that could only be captured as if it were a mixtape produced by Florida and Colorado. Mountains to her back and sandy beaches ahead, she surveyed the area until two arms folded around her. “Bri!” … “Cathy!”

The following weekend was an accelerated recap of the previous seven years, almost as if the two best friends restarted at age thirteen and updated the lost time over the course of 48 hours, discussing topics about parents, new siblings, former pre-teen crushes, and high school. Their adventures that were halted in the States resumed in Korea, first travelling to a beach famous for the blue waters and… coffee! Ironically, when Bri first met Cathy in kindergarten, she misunderstood the teacher when Mrs. Edmundson introduced Cathy as Korean; Bri thought that Cathy’s Korean name was Coffee, so the Coffee Beach was a perfect reunion for the two now twenty-year-old’s!

From the cold East Sea waters, through a pine forest walk, past a beer festival, and into a Korean dynasty-styled village, the pair embraced Gangneung, celebrating Cathy’s hometown as they once celebrated Bri’s hometown. After ending the day in a Korean spa, Bri went to Cathy’s home, where Cathy’s family excitedly greeted her. “Bri, you look the same!” exclaimed Cathy’s mom, with a huge smile crossing her face.

Prior to leaving Gangneung the following day, Bri and Cathy drove out to Daewallyeong, deciding to spend the morning hiking the ancient Seoul Pass. Hundreds of years earlier, prior to the invention of the automobile, Koreans would hike Daewallyeong to cross the mountains on the way to Seoul. From that era, a beer pub, which would have been a popular stop for travelers, marked the midway point of the hike. However, Bri was most surprised to see a fire-bellied toad, known for its fiery belly pattern, hop across her path!

At the end of the weekend, Cathy’s family drove Bri to the train station, exchanging hugs and promises of visiting again in the future. As the train exited the station, Bri smiled, understanding “forever” in “best friends forever.”

News from Seoul – July 19, 2019: Alejandro

Research Progress  

Having finalized the design (part specifications) of the neural stimulator circuit, Alejandro began his fifth week by searching for parts for said circuit; he would later build and test the circuit on a breadboard. After finding and ordering the parts from DigiKey, he moved on to the most hands-on aspect of his internship with Dr. Kim’s lab: testing and altering electrodes. Essentially, for each electrode, he was to use biphasic pulses to deposit thin layers of iridium oxide onto the surfaces of each stimulation point. This means that he would do twelve electrodepositions over the course of the project (three electrodes, four stimulation points per electrode). Before these electrodepositions, Alejandro had to collect data concerning each stimulation points (specifically impedance and cathodal charge storage capacity, also known as CCSc). The rest of the week was spent collecting said data.


A group picture with the HOBAS basketball club, featuring Alejandro and one of his roommates.

Monday (7/15) through Thursday was mainly uneventful for Alejandro; those days consisted mainly of work and dinner (often by himself). He played basketball with the HOBAS school club on Tuesday, as he had the previous couple of Tuesdays. However, the weekend started early, as on Friday evening, Alejandro departed Incheon International Airport for Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan. He arrived a bit later than expected, as he missed his original flight to Tokyo, but this didn’t stop him from having a great time!

Alejandro standing in front of a five-story pagoda in the Nakamise shopping area during his weekend getaway to Tokyo, Japan

He started his weekend in Tokyo early with a guided bus tour on Saturday; leaving at 9am and not returning at 5pm, the tour consisted of visits to the Meiji Shrine, the Imperial Palace Garden, and the Nakamise shopping area. It also included a delicious lunch (chicken, in Alejandro’s case) and a short cruise on Tokyo Bay. Overall, it was a very nice tour, and given the short amount of time that he had to explore Tokyo, Alejandro was very happy with it! The next day (Sunday) he explored other parts of Tokyo on his own; he revisited Ginza and saw places such as Akihabara (“Electric Town”) and the second tallest building in the world: the Tokyo Skytree! He was unfortunately denied the chance to go to the Skytree’s observation decks by bad weather, but this weekend getaway was still a huge success!

News from Seoul – July 19, 2019: William

Research Update

To develop a bioactive hydrogel with a longer gelation time, William employed a systems approach to materials design. He quickly identified a few key variables to tune by evaluating various compositional and processing parameters that effect both cellular interaction and gelation kinetics. Through a series of gelation and tissue growth experiments he demonstrated a viable class of materials with gelation times ranging from 2-fold to over 4-fold higher than that of MBEL’s conventional hydrogel.

William is now expanding his research focus to modeling wounds using organ-chip technology. Compared to existing models that typically rely on 2D layers of cells or cells seeded onto scaffolds, his approach utilizes multiple cell-types in complex arrangements that more closely mimics actual tissue. As such this project holds promise in providing a more accurate representation of how tissue responds to localized damage and inflammation.

Away from Lab

William and Alejandro recently received two new housemates, “Dome” and “Ter”, who are engineering students from Thailand also interning at Seoul National University through a separate program. In addition to picking up a few Thai phrases, William has enjoyed exchanging hobbies with the housemates. He first introduced them to the sport of bouldering at an indoor gym in the popular university district of “Hongdae”. Later on, Dome took William to a nearby videogame bar where he got to meet a number of fellow Americans while playing Super Smash Bros Ultimate.

 Left image: (From left to right) Alejandro, William, Dome, and Ter at a bouldering gym,

Right image: The videogame bar in Hongdae

These past few weeks have also brought about new delicious foods. Some of the highlights include grilled eel and Hanwoo Beef, a famous breed of Korean cattle that is known for its high degree of marbling. Both dishes were incredibly juicy and flavorful!

Left: Grilled eel. Right: Hanwoo beef (before grilling!)

News from Seoul – July 15, 2019: Skylar

Skylar is currently at a turning point in her project. The first two weeks, Skylar created agarose gel moisture block using a cube mold made by one of her lab mates, but the cube mold was difficult to use. Due to some small spaces within the mold, the gel would leak out of the sides before forming the desired cube shape. In week 3, Skylar figured out a way to utilize the cube mold and was able to take some measurements, but unfortunately these measurements did not give the desired results. In week 4, Skylar made molds out of PDMS, which is a lot easier to use. She is continuing to take measurements of the gels using the new mold.

In order to get more well-rounded results, Skylar is going to start fabricating different types of gel so that the measurements can be compared. She is going to fabricate these gels in a lab in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, so that she can use their equipment to take measurements.

These past weekends, Skylar and Shayla have continued to explore the many neighborhoods in Seoul. They have traveled to 합정 (Hapjeong), 이대원 (Itaewon), and 홍대 (Hongdae). One evening, they went to 여의도공원 (Yeouido Park) and at delicious food from various street vendors.

Every Sunday, the five IRiKA members go out to eat, and they always have a competition to figure out who pays for dessert. This past Sunday, the five along with Saeyoung went to karaoke!