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.

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