Jonathan’s perspective on the retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake

— Jonathan Amezquita

PREP@UCD trainees participate in the T32 Training Program in Molecular and Cell Biology annual retreat at Fallen Leaf Lake. In the time leading up to the retreat, the program had us writing grant proposals, working almost full time in lab, and thinking about graduate schools. Which are all really exciting but difficult things. Thus, a weekend out in the woods and on a lake is exactly what we needed.

The retreat site, the Stanford Sierra Conference Center, consisted of multiple cabins, hiking trails, and a scenic lakefront, and was surrounded by mountains. It almost felt surreal to be in a scientific research retreat in such a location.

We began most days* by enjoying a delicious breakfast in a grand dining room with a view of the lake. Afterwards, we all gathered in a conference room and engaged with other students’ research. We got to hear about all the topics that was being investigated in our department, and the types of experiments people were conducting. The people presenting were all more senior students who have been in graduate school for awhile, so it was also interesting to imagine how I might be in their position in just a few years.

Ivan, a PREP@UCD trainee from the 2017 cohort, presents his research while PI Dan Starr looks like a proud papa.

Overall, it helped me realize that science is done by students and people just like me. Plus, the fact that we were in such a laid back location really allowed me to feel open to asking any questions and talking with other students and professors about their research. It also helped that during lunch and dinners, there were discussion tables with professors at them that guided the conversations for any questions related to graduated school and after.

However, apart from the science there was also mayhem! I put an asterisk in my earlier description of how most days* were started because the crazy scientists at UC Davis like to also begin their wintery mornings by jumping head first into an ice cold lake! I’m not sure if it was the thin air up in the mountains, but I somehow was convinced to join them for the Polar Bear Swim. I was definitely wide awake for the presentations after that.

That’s me in the dark swim trunks.

On the other hand, if you’re a sensible person, you would simply wait until the free time in the afternoons to enjoy the lake from a paddle boat or lounge chair, and you might even have the good fortune to be recognized for it,

This retreat was a beautiful experience I will remember for years to come.

Passengers obscure the paddler. That also would be me.
A proud Polar Bear non-participant with his Non-Participation Trophy.