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Bioengineering Undergrad Explores Other Side of World

Sara Richardson
Sara Richardson (left) a bioengineering undergrad poses with fellow UCSD student Connie Hong during a visit to the Auckland Museum.

By Sara Richardson, a Jacobs School undergraduate student:

Auckland, New Zealand, July 21, 2008:

On a recent June morning, with a tear in my eye, beautifully colorful New Zealand money in my pocket and closed-toe shoes on my feet (I only like to substitute my sandals for soccer cleats), I boarded the 13-hour flight to exchange the hot streets of Los Angeles for the wet streets of Auckland.

I had originally applied to go to Australia for the PRIME Research Program. They asked me if I would be okay with going to New Zealand instead. My response: “umm, of course!” The program, which allows students to conduct research abroad while experiencing a new culture, expanded to the University of Auckland, New Zealand, this summer (or winter here, rather, as I am often reminded) and I am exploring this new site with two other UCSD students—one at U of A with me and another in Hamilton, 80 miles south of here.

Back on that plane to Auckland, though there were countless movies on my personal entertainment system, I stuck mostly to my background research papers, my New Zealand tour book and the back of my eyelids. Dinner at midnight Pacific Time and breakfast at 4 a.m. New Zealand Time on the plane was enough to throw my internal clock off balance. So on arrival, after some quick intros at the Bioengineering Institute and a note to home, I was off to bed.

Sara Richardson
Richardson poses in front of the entrance to the Auckland Domain, the city's oldest park.
Work is a convenient, albeit generally cold and wet, 10-minute walk away across the Grafton Bridge. Once tucked away in our office, it’s time to catch up on e-mail since there is no Internet connection at our residence (wild, huh?) and get started on digitizing and mesh fitting. We are working to create 3-D computational models of the female pelvic floor from MRI images to determine the effects of athletic activity on muscle size and shape. The difference in muscles may affect ease of childbirth. Back at UCSD, we hope to apply these techniques to heart models at the Cardiac Mechanics Research Group.

Our first weekend here, we took the chance to explore the city of Auckland. Saturday, we enjoyed a seafood buffet lunch and an amazing view of the surrounding city up near the top of the Sky Tower, Auckland’s 328-m landmark (I’m also beginning to think in metric a bit).  From this vantage point, we could spot several locations that we had read about in brochures and got our bearings in the city.

Sunday, we ventured to the Auckland Museum in the beautifully green Auckland Domain, which is the largest park in the city. At the museum we learned a great deal about three aspects of New Zealand—the people (both native Maori and European settlers), the land (from coastal waters and volcanoes to penguins and kiwis) and the history (war memorials and colonial development). I am glad that we took these two outings early in the trip so that I could gain a better understanding of the city and country, where I will reside for more than two months.

Business goes on as usual—I still have duties for the Triton Engineering Student Council to tend to and housing to find for the coming school year—but now from 6500 miles and 19 hours away. Having been born and raised in San Diego (and only out of the country on a cruise to Mexico), this is a big step in branching out for me and I am enjoying it even more than I thought I would. Still, it is always nice to get some love from home and tell stories to someone other than my journal. I remind my family, “one day ahead and five hours back.”

And one last note: tomorrow’s a good day—I know because I’m already there!

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Sara Richardson is the current president of the Triton Engineering Student Council (TESC)

  Note: this piece is part of the UC San Diego "Dispatches from the Field" series.

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Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-534-3262
dbkane@ucsd.edu

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