News from Seoul – August 16, 2019: William

Research Update

During the final weeks of his research internship, William worked on optimizing an organ-chip model that mimics how cells are recruited to the site of a wound. A major strength of his model compared to existing models is the integration of complex tissue structures to show not only the behavior of the recruited cells, but also the surrounding tissue with which they interact. William presented his results at a lab group meeting which was later followed by a delicious lunch of Korean-style Chinese delivery.

Lab group meeting. Left: William presenting his work to his fellow group members. Right: Unpacking of Korean-style Chinese food delivery.

Final Excursions around Seoul

On the second to last week of his internship, William received an unexpected message from an old friend from high school saying that she and her family will be arriving in Seoul that week. So of course, they jumped on the opportunity to meet up. William first showed them around Hongdae, where they explored the Hongik University campus, went shopping, rock climbing, and relaxed at a Starbucks Reserve, a less common high-end style Starbucks. At the Starbucks Reserve they enjoyed a blueberry cookie cheesecake along with their coffee. After resting for a bit, William and his friends went to walk around in a park by the Han River before heading back to Seoul National University for a classic Korean meal of “Bibimbap” (mixed rice with various toppings and side dishes).

 Left: William and his high school friends by the Han River. Right: Blueberry cookie cheesecake and coffee at a Starbucks Reserve beneath the Hongdae Climbing gym.

As a fan of photography, William sought out the best views of the city he could find before his stay came to an end. Of the many locations he found, one of his favorites came from an unexpected discovery when he went to the restroom in the neighboring engineering building. Since the engineering buildings are located furthest up the mountain, looking out from the top floor bathroom that faces the city offers a breathtaking view of both the campus and the distant mountains beyond Seoul.

Left: View from the 301 Engineering Building restroom. Right: Nighttime view from the Namsan Tower outdoor deck.

William’s personal favorite of his nighttime shots was taken from an outdoor deck on the Namsan Tower. The dazzling city lights contrasting with faint glow of the distant mountains highlight an interesting interplay between nature and modern technology embodied by Seoul. During one of their last nights in Seoul, William and Alejandro traveled to the tower to enjoy this amazing scenery while having a long conversation reminiscing about their experiences and growth in Korea. Similar to the dichotomy of new and old in the photo above, they agreed that while they had both gained a multitude of new external experiences, both academic and cultural, some of the most important developments during this program related to better understanding ourselves – discovering things they enjoy, expanding their curiosity, and gaining confidence for the future.

News from Seoul – August 12, 2019: Shayla

What a wonderful ending to the experience of a lifetime!! Shayla finished her code to generate a square Inductor in Visual Basic. She delivered a full user guide and software to the team! Many members of the team were excited about an automated designer they could use! Her closest lab members also made sure to go to dinner with Shayla twice in her final week! One dinner was a traditional Korean meal the other was BBQ chicken and pizza!!

For her final weekend in Seoul Shayla celebrated Skylar’s 20th birthday weekend on Jeju Island. The girls tried black pork on black pork street! Very delicious! Then hung out on the coast of Jeju during sunset . The next day they got to see both of Jeju’s waterfalls as well as go to Jeju Water world to relax at the end of the day!! Finally, the girls went to the beach but was rained out! The girls still had fun together over dinner and television!!

Shayla would like to thank NSF for funding the program. She would like to thank Professors Kim, Choi and Moser for all the direct help and involvement throughout the summer!!!

News from Seoul – August 9, 2019: Alejandro

Research Progress  

In his final week as an intern at Seoul National University, Alejandro maximized his work time. He stayed until at least 9pm every day, including the final day, in order to finish collecting data from not only the experiment he had been working on over the previous couple of weeks, but also a couple of new electrodeposition experiments in which he modified part of the electrodeposition process to see how it affected the impedance and CSCc of electrodes after electrodeposition. More specifically, he modified the pulse widths of the rectangular pulses used to change electrode impedance and CSCc during electrodeposition. Alejandro ultimately found that iridium oxide electrodeposition increased a CSCc and decrease impedance in targeted electrodes and was able to elaborate on this finding by determining that increasing rectangular pulse width increased the extent to which electrodeposition affected the targeted electrodes and decreasing it did the opposite.

In the case of the neural stimulator circuit that Alejandro assembled on a breadboard, the completed circuit was connected to an Arduino Uno microcontroller, which he programmed to simulate stimulation by light. He achieved this by connecting the photocells to the Uno as inputs and the outputs of the Uno to two pairs of p-channel transistors. The circuit was connected to a power source, and using an oscilloscope, Alejandro was able to confirm that his circuit and program worked correctly; the circuit produced a biphasic pulse with an amplitude of about 1.6 mA (just above the target of 1 mA) which disappeared when the light hitting the photocells was blocked. This means that the circuit, with the help of the Uno, successfully simulated retinal stimulation by light.

Alejandro considered all of these results to be successful; as such, he was content with his work at SNU and was ready to head back home.


Much like the previous week, Alejandro was unable to do much in terms of extracurricular activities during his final full week in Seoul due to the work that still had to be done on his research. He said goodbye to two of his roommates early in the week and focused on wrapping up data collection for his work. After his final day as an SNU intern (during which he had pizza with his labmates), Alejandro ended his incredible summer trip by going to the Namsan Seoul Tower with William. The view, even from below the observation deck, was incredible! Alejandro also scheduled a tour to the famous Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for his final full day in Korea, but unfortunately he slept through it. With that, the 10-week internship and cultural experience in South Korea was over, and the next day Alejandro returned home, stopping briefly in Hawaii on the way.

News from Seoul – August 5, 2019: Bri

Lines of code flowed across the screen as ink does from a Joseon era calligraphy pen. The green arrow in the right corner of the screen beckoned, and soon, all the code was pressed through the native complier with ease. Executed, the code began to paint the screen with critical results, finding branch points with accuracy… it was beautiful…

But it was not to be, yet.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Bri Robertson lifted her tired head from the desk, only to see the words, “Segmentation Fault,” bolded in white print at the last line of the command prompt. The past eight hours were focused on extracting coordinates of the branch points and using those to quantify angiogenesis; however, the array would not pass, so Bri took the opportunity to take a deep dive into numpy arrays for most of the day. Time was not fleeting; rather, time was stumbling forward with boulders tied to both ankles. There is nothing beautiful in coding to the normal observer, yet within the lines capped with indentations, Bri found a peace that she would carry with her throughout her adventures in Seoul. With a final F5 press for the day, the code executed, and she waited, in the calm before the expected storm. This time, however, the typhoon’s path was diverted! Within three minutes, the stack of angiogenesis slices processed, exporting information about density regions and max length areas to Excel.

To celebrate the in-lab achievement, Bri, for the fifth time, escaped to the mountains of Seoul. However, prior to climbing Inwangsan, a mountain known for its views of Seoul and the Seoul Fortress Wall that traverses the mountain, Bri took a detour through the Gyeongbokgung palace: Seoul’s largest palace. Taking a moment to investigate the history, she quickly learned the importance of the area. Originally built in 1395 during the Joseon dynasty, the palace was then burnt by the Japanese in 1592, rebuilt, and then demolished again by the Japanese during occupation! Without an extensive Korean history background, Bri relished every line she read from Wikipedia on a park bench beside Gyeongbokgung about the palace’s history, proceeding to reflect during her quiet hike up Inwangsan.

Text Box: Inwangsan Joy!
Inwangsan Joy!

News from Seoul – August 4, 2019: William

Research Update

While building prototype wound models to analyze cell migration behavior towards regions of inflammation, William noticed an interesting dependence of this behavior on the type of hydrogel in which the cells travel through. Through additional experiments he believes that there are significant contributions from both the mechanical strength as well as the chemical makeup of the hydrogel environment. He is now employing his most promising hydrogel in a more complex model using the MBEL organ chip system, in order to achieve a more accurate representation of in-vivo wounds.

Outside of Lab and Outside of Korea

Taking advantage of the close proximity to Japan and IRiKA’s generous funds, William went on a weekend trip to Tokyo to visit a couple of old friends and enjoy amazing new cuisines. Throughout the trip, he encountered one of the most complex train systems and some of the most breathtaking nightscapes he had ever seen.

On the night of his arrival, William reconnected with a friend middle school for the first time in nearly a decade. They shared a delicious meal of “yakiniku” (Japanese style bbq) in the Kichijoji neighborhood while catching up on life and discussing differences in job hunting in Japan and the US. While the yakiniku setup was similar to the cook-it-yourself experience in Korean bbq restaurants, William was able to try some unique cuts of meat including his first, and surprisingly yummy, taste of beef tongue.

Left: William and his middle school friend holding a plate of fresh beef tongue. Right: An intersection at night in Kichijoji.

William spent the rest of his trip exploring various areas of the city with his local friend Yurina, a former coworker in his lab at Northwestern. They first visited a trending interactive digital art museum featuring work by teamLab. The art exhibit “Boarderles” comprised of several interconnected rooms and hallways filled with dynamic light shows and accompanying music.

Images from the teamLab Boardless exhibit. Left: Rain and flower projections room with a synthetic rock formation in the center. Right: William standing in a forest of color changing LED strips.

Later they also explored the area of Ginza, which has a famous street where car traffic is restricted on Sundays, allowing pedestrians to roam freely around. There, he also had his first “sushi omakase” in Japan. Omakase, which literally means to trust, is a style of dining where the customer leaves the menu decision to the chef, believing that the chef knows what is the freshest and most delicious items that day. Similarly, each piece of sushi is served one at a time and quickly eaten, with the understanding that each piece is prepared precisely at the optimum condition.

Left: William and Yurina in Ginza. Right: A piece of sushi from the omakase meal.

Another highlight from the trip was a multi-course teppanyaki dinner in the Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest building in the world behind the Burj Khalifa. Teppanyaki is a style of cooking that involves preparing the food on a countertop iron griddle, which allows for cooking of a wide variety foods including soft items such as rice and eggs. One of the best courses included a butter roasted abalone served with some lightly cooked veggies and lemon. The large class windows in the dining room provided an amazing view of the city at night, making the food even more delicious.

Left: Abalone dish from the teppanyaki dinner. Right: View from the Tokyo Skytree at night.

News from Seoul – August 2, 2019: Alejandro

Research Progress  

With only two weeks left in his internship, Alejandro began to up the pace on his work as he continued to collect impedance and CSCc data using the provided microelectrodes and three-electrode circuit in iridium oxide solution. Additionally, he began assembling the previously simulated neural stimulator circuit on a breadboard using the recently delivered circuit parts, which included p- and n-channel transistors, photocells, 5kΩ resistors, and a wiring kit full of wires with various lengths. He worked on this circuit while waiting for tedious electrodeposition processes to finish.


As per usual, the weekdays were mostly occupied by work; in the evenings Alejandro was too tired to do much of anything. Additionally, due to the impending end of his internship, he was unable to play with the HOBAS club on Tuesday evening. The weekend, however, brought one of the highlights of his entire trip: the Garden of Morning Calm. Located in a region called Gapyeong, the Garden of Morning Calm was a beautiful and peaceful display of nature. The weather was pleasant and the landscape was painted with color due to the variety of flower types in the Garden. Alejandro also visited nearby Nami Island in the early evening; while it was quaint, the sun fell very quickly upon his arrival, and he was unable to truly experience the place, including its famous tree-lined walkway. Regardless, it was a memorable weekend for Alejandro, which he needed as he prepared for the final week of his internship.