Summer Abroad Program Keeps Science Students in the Lab

Science majors, like Phillips Ambassador Katie Magee, find that summer study abroad programs enhance their Carolina experience.


Summer Abroad Program Keeps Science Students in the Lab Print E-mail

August 20, 2011  UNC Global News

Students in science majors have sometimes been concerned that studying abroad could delay graduation since many programs focus on the humanities. Times have changed, though, and there are a growing number of science study abroad opportunities that allow students to gain international experience and stay on schedule with their course load.

“We are always looking for new ways for our undergraduate science students to earn science credit while studying abroad, and one way to do this is to undertake lab research during the summer. The added advantage of this program is that, being based on a student exchange logic, the program cost is more affordable,” says Bob Miles, associate dean for study abroad and international exchanges in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

When Jenny Levine ’12 saw a notice about the summer exchange program for science students at the National University of Singapore in her junior year, she decided to apply, somewhat on a whim.

In addition to fieldtrips with fellow exchange students, Levine was able to participate in dedicated research in the lab, working on cancer pharmaceuticals – and her international summer experiences have solidified her interest in pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy and a career in pharmaceutical research. Levine participated in the National University of Singapore Science Summer Lab Exchange, along with Olivia Anne Hurd ’12, Phillips Ambassador Katie Magee ’12 and Marina Snellings ’13.

“I was researching kinase-inhibiting drugs, two of which are already on the market and another derivative currently being developed by the pharmacy lab I worked in,” she says. The drugs are used to treat certain types of kidney cancer and certain gastrointestinal cancers. Her tasks included obtaining cell cultures, gene transfection, and western blotting, an analytical technique used to detect proteins in a tissue sample. “I really enjoy the hands-on lab experience, and it was great to spend my summer in a lab and in a foreign country.”

Levine kept track of her experiences in her blog,, where she chronicled some of the opportunities she had outside of the lab as well – exploring Singapore’s sights, culture and food. She also visited Thailand and Malaysia with other students in the program.

Looking back, Levine says she is glad she took the chance and responded to the exchange program announcement on a science listserv to which she subscribes. She urges other science students who are uncertain about study abroad to take the leap.

“The only advice I have is to not have any hesitation and just do it. I hesitated before deciding to do this program, but I am so glad I did,” she says. “I'm sure that I will be talking about this past summer for the rest of my life.”

Levine returned from Singapore with a travel list for the future. She plans to return to Asia, specifically to China. “I'm half Chinese, so it was great to become more in touch with that part of my heritage,” she says.

The program brought two students from the National University of Singapore to UNC this summer – Sos Fus Kok and Yuanyuan Wei.

Check out more information about science study abroad opportunities now.