Interim Report: Harvard University

by Yi Jia Liow

The first month at Harvard University was mainly about settling down and finding my own rhythm in this new town that I will call home for the next academic year.

Academic-wise, I am 85% integrated into my affiliated department and laboratory—the Nutrition & Microbial Ecology Lab under the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology (HEB). On the second week of my fellowship year, I had a debut presentation where I presented my research proposal to my supervisor and all the lab members to discuss the feasibility and potential issues with the research design. It is critical for me to move my project forward since I am on a limited timeline here at Harvard. Based on the critical feedbacks I received from the lab members, I am currently working on refining my experimental design to maximize the possibilities that my hypothesis will be properly tested and minimize the presences of confounders. I have participated in the animal handling training and the animal facility in-person tour as a safety measure before I could interact with the animals as part of my experiment protocol. Moreover, I am also slowing beginning bench work performing bacterial DNA extraction with other graduate students in the lab.

Not limited to my affiliated department, I also attend workshops on campus offered by other departments. For example, I have been attending the weekly Applied Statistics workshop offered by the Government Department. This workshop is instrumental for me to stretch myself beyond my field and learn how to apply quantitative methods away from political science to biological science field. More importantly, I am able to network with faculty members and other graduate students from the workshop.

Aside from my work, I spent the first month settling down and establishing a new rhythm in this new town. A huge factor that eases my transition from Tokyo to Cambridge is my roommate, whom is a Japanese and also a graduate student at Harvard. We are living in the Harvard University Housing located within 10-minute walk to campus. My roommate and I get along really well in terms of characters and lifestyles—we would explore art museums, drive up to a fish market and beach town on weekends when time allows, explore Harvard campus, grocery and cook meals, go to cafes and study, unwind the day with tea—the time we spend together has been very pleasant and I really appreciate my roommate’s company.

Arriving in Cambridge in the month of August, I was able to experience the town in summer while now it has fully transitioned into the fall weather. I am ready to go on full speed in the cold weather, initiating my own research project with the lab and maximizing my resources use here at Harvard University. Once again, my sincere gratitude to Ito Foundation U.S.A. because I would not be able to fully focus on my research without your generous financial support.