by Susanna Elledge
I am incredibly grateful to FUTI for sponsoring my participation in the UTRIP program this summer at the University of Tokyo. I spent six weeks working in Professor Ozawa’s lab studying the dynamics of cell membrane receptor proteins, including their activation, inhibition and movement, using luminescence and fluorescence.
My specific project focused on a human membrane protein found in the immune system called Formyl Peptide Receptor 1 (FPR1). When FPR1 is over activated, it results in a severe skin disease called Steven Johnson’s Syndrome. I tested two known inhibitors of the protein to determine their potential as therapeutic agents, as well as visualized the spatial distribution of activated FPR1 over time.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to present my findings on a poster at the annual Karuizawa Seminar. At the same time, I got to hear about interesting new research happening in analytical chemistry in universities across Tokyo. Additionally, I got to take a break from the intense heat in Tokyo and feel the cool freshness in the mountains west of Tokyo.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in lab and spending time with my labmates outside of lab, I also had many opportunities to explore Tokyo and the surrounding areas. I loved walking to the Ueno area after work, basking in the beauty of the tranquil Shinobazu Pond, or enjoying delicious food and shaved ice in the area. I enjoyed going to Shibuya, which was always lively and filled with people. Outside of Tokyo, my friends and I traveled to Kamakura where we saw the Daibutsu (Big Buddha) and enjoyed time on the warm water beaches. In truth, everyday was an adventure.
Studying abroad in Tokyo for six weeks seemed like a long time initially, but when it was over I couldn’t believe how fast the time had gone. Still, I can tell I grew from my short time abroad and it really made me think about the differences from the United States and the rest of the world, as well as the things I took for granted. I gained true respect for anyone who moved away from home to live in an entirely different country. In addition, I got to experience the country where my grandfather grew up. I got to work in the university that he also attended and worked in. Even though I cannot directly hear about his experience in Japan, I still feel I understand him and my past better.
I definitely think I’ll be back to Tokyo, as I already miss the delicious food, kindness of people, and liveliness of the city. I am so thankful to FUTI, UTokyo, and UTRIP for giving me this opportunity to travel and do what I love at the same time.