Chinese Dragon

Three Important Holidays: Taiwan vs U.S.A.

Each country has their own holidays and festivals. Some holidays are similar in every country but just in different date. Some festivals, however, are unique, exclusive, and traditional. People celebrate the holidays and festivals by the commemoration of the people and the significant events in the past. Also, people meet their friends and relatives and even have a family reunion during the festivals.  I am going to share three important festivals with anecdotes in my home country, Taiwan. Also, I will compare the holidays with American’s.

The first festival is Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is the first day in the lunar calendar. The day before Chinese New Year is Chinese New Year’s Eve. Similar to Xmas Eve, families get together and have a reunion dinner around the stove. After the dinner, the children say auspicious words to their parents such as wishing you prosperity and wealth. Then, their parents will return red envelopes with money called lucky money to their children. People stay up till Chinese New Year comes and also put the spring couplets around the house. When Chinese New Year comes, people set off the firecrackers. The reason why people have these behaviors is to scare the Monster Nian away since Monster Nian, which attacks people on the last day of the Lunar Year, is afraid of the red color and loud noises. This is a tradition and the way to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Wearing Tang Suit and holding red envelope
Wearing Tang Suit and holding red envelope
Celebrate Chinese New with American people!
Celebrate Chinese New with American people!








The next holiday is Dragon Boat Festival. It is also called Double Fifth Festival and celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The day is to memorize a respected government official, Chu Yuan, who fell into disfavor in the emperor’s court due to the misdeeds of jealous rivals and then unable to regain the respect of the emperor. He eventually threw himself into the Mi Ro River on fifth day of fifth lunar month. Therefore, during Dragon Boat Festival, people have dragon boat race to attempt to rescue him and also throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the river so that the fish could eat the rice rather than Chu Yuan. This later on turned into the custom of eating rice dumpling. The celebration is also a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. People hang healthy herbs on the front door, drink nutritious concoctions, and display portraits of evil’s nemesis, Chung Kuei. If someone manages to stand an egg on it’s end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one.

Making Rice Dumpling
Making Rice Dumpling
I made the rice dumpling!
I made the rice dumpling!
Dragon Boat Race
Dragon Boat Race



Stand an egg on its end
Stand an egg on its end


The last one is Mid-Autumn Festival, also called Moon Fest. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. It is a time for family members to congregate and enjoy the full moon. People usually have Chinese BBQ and mooncakes. Why do people eat mooncakes in Mid-Autumn Fest? The story goes that in the 14th century, when Zhu Yuan Zhang was plotting to overthrow the Yuan Dynasty started by the Mongolians, the rebels hid their messages with the outline of the attack in the mooncakes. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty. Moon Festival is hence also a commemoration of the overthrow of the Mongolians by the Han people. And today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this event.

Handmade Moon Cakes
Handmade Moon Cakes
Chinese BBQ - Meat, Veggie, and Tofu
Chinese BBQ – Meat, Veggie, and Tofu
Chinese BBQ on grill! Yummy
Chinese BBQ on grill! Yummy

Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Fest, and Moon Fest are the most three important holidays in Taiwan just like Xmas Day, MLK Day, and Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., respectively. We celebrate these festivals to memorialize the important persons and the momentous events and also to have the time to meet our families and friends. How about the holidays in your country? It must have a fantastic story in each festival. Share it to me some day and I will be the trustworthy listener.


PS. Chinese New Year this year is on Feb 16th! Let’s celebrate it together!



Getting used to the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion (°F to °C)


Unless you are from the Bahamas, Belize, or the Cayman Islands, you are likely encountering the Fahrenheit scale in the United States for the first time as an international student. The name of the scale itself is difficult to spell, but what’s even harder is getting used to the conversion between Fahrenheit and Celsius.
In late August, at the beginning of the Fall semester at Purdue, the historical average temperature in West Lafayette is as high as 83° F. But how hot is that and how does it compare to the temperature back in your home country? Here are some tricks and tips to understand and convert Fahrenheit to Celsius as you get adjusted to life in the United States.
According to an article in ThoughtCo posted earlier this year, the temperature conversion is easy to do:
  1. Take the °F temperature and subtract 32.
  2. Multiply this number by 5.
  3. Divide this number by 9 to obtain your answer in °C.

So, if you want to know the typical temperature in West Lafayette at the end of August, take 83, subtract 32, and you get 51. Then, multiply 51 by 5, and you get 255. Don’t forget to divide 255 by 9, and you get 28.3 °C.

Another easy trick is to simply go to Google, and type 83 fahrenheit in celsius in the search bar, and hit enter. You will get the temperature converted for you in Celsius, 28.3 °C as shown in the screenshot below.

You could also check your application and computer settings, as often the conversion can be done automatically for you. For example, if you search for West Lafayette weather on Google, you have the option of clicking on the °F or °C, and Google will do the conversion for you right away. See the °C | °F next to the number, and click on the one you prefer.
Weather West Lafayette
Lastly, there are plenty of conversion charts available online to help you better understand the conversion between the scales! Take a look at this one posted on Rapid Tables.
Good luck! 🙂
Attending the American Society of bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) annual meeting 2017 in Denver

What I learned from attending academic conferences

Me with my advisor and my lab mate at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017 in Chicago.
Me with my advisor and my labmate at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017 in Chicago.

Most of us who pursue a graduate level degree know that attending an academic conference is a worthwhile opportunity. Why? An obvious reason is we get to learn new knowledge in the field. From my experience, going to conferences benefits me far beyond this answer.

I do believe that attending a conference provides an excellent platform for professional development. First and for most, it allows us to put ourselves out there and present interesting findings from our research. This can lead to further thought-provoking discussion among us and other scientists in the field. Most of the time, we think and work on our own and it is always productive to have someone with fresh eyes critically share their thoughts on our work as well as what we could do to improve it. In some case, we might interact with someone who is working on a specific area that complements our work. In that case, the discussion can lead to potential future collaborations.

As a young scientist, I found both oral and poster presentation to be very challenging in different ways. An oral presentation is usually 12 minutes long. You have a 10-minute period to tell your story and another 2 minutes to answer questions from the audience.

Giving an oral presentation at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017
Giving an oral presentation in the Gene-Diet Interaction Research Interest Group session at the American Society of Nutrition meeting 2017

From my experience, you can excel the presentation part by practicing and putting a lot of thoughts on the flow of the presentation and limit the contents to where your target audience can follow easily in 10 minutes. Knowing your audience is always the most important key to success in a presentation. This is because you would cater the information, details to be included and words you use to suit your audience.

Presentation of my first research project on the impact of dietary calcium and genetics on 3D structure of femoral bone and lumbar spine.
Poster presentation of my first research project on the impact of dietary calcium and genetics on the 3D structure of femoral bone and lumbar spine.

The more difficult part for me is when you need to respond to questions from the audience. Given that I am already nervous to speak in public, I need to think on my feet in order to provide a sound answer to a question which I might not have thought about before. It is definitely challenging, yet helpful for developing my skills in communicating science. And remember, to master a skill, you need to keep practicing it. You might fail many times before you start to feel like you are getting better, BUT that’s a required step of growth 🙂

Apart from the opportunity to present your research, you would get to expand your circle of people who work in the same field and have similar research interests as you. As you can imagine, this is very useful and necessary especially when you are graduating and hoping to secure a job in the near future. Many people, myself included, dread the idea of networking. However, if you see it as an opportunity to getting better at networking (again practice makes perfect!) and you have nothing lose (since you might meet that person only that one time anyway lol). This helps put you in a productive mindset and might boost your confidence to go for it.

Attending Nutrigenomics Workshop at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2016.
Attending Nutrigenomics Workshop at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2016.

Also, networking can be very fruitful at times. Many times I heard stories of people who got their job because a friend of their colleague knew someone that can link that person to his or her future boss. Therefore, it is worth keeping your eyes opened and get to know new people. A couple of times I have met people who have become my good friends until now.

Another thing I appreciated from my experiences going to scientific meetings is I get to learn about a life story of thought leaders in my research area or their path to becoming a great scientist. I found this to be very inspiring and encouraging. Working in research requires a perseverance both mentally and physically. Therefore, it is very easy to fall for failures or failed experiments and feel bad for yourself in the course of Ph.D. study. Hearing how senior successful scientists overcome these challenges and thrive in this type of environment definitely help open my perspective and encourage me to keep working hard and determine to my goal rather than focusing on small setbacks that we inevitably cannot avoid.

Reunited with a friend from my Master's program.
Reunited with a friend from my Master’s program.

In addition to all the skills I earned from attending conferences, it is an opportunity for me to apply for financial support. Most research societies provide a travel grant for graduate students who have outstanding research work to present their work at the meeting. Applying for this type of sponsorship not only will you receive monetary support to attend a meeting, but also get a recognition for your research work which subsequently would enhance your profile in the long run. Besides an external support from meeting organization, I sometimes apply for a financial support from my college. Given that you presenting your work which has been conducted on campus, you help publicize the research quality at your university at the same time. Therefore, you are likely to get a fund from your university to go to a meeting.

Lastly, I enjoyed traveling to a new city as a way to broaden my horizons. Besides that, I get to meet new people as well as reunite with my old friends/colleagues. So I always have a wonderful experience attending a meeting both for my professional development and for my personal fulfillment.



Purdue Sign

India >>>>> Indiana – What Brought Me Here

India >>>>> Indiana – What Brought Me Here

In this post, I would like to talk about my field of study. I am a doctoral student in Learning Design and Technology or LDT, which is known as instructional design in some universities. I want to discuss what attracted me to this field and brought me here, all the way from India.

I wish to describe myself as an avid learner and a passionate educator. My work experience spans different career paths. I have worked as an electronics engineer, as a faculty in a computer hardware training institute, as a STEM subject teacher, University lecturer in a business school and as a technical writer. However, the career I enjoyed most was teaching Math, Physics and Environmental Science to middle school students. The curiosity that my students showed and their interest in exploring beyond the curriculum encouraged me to expand the boundaries of my teaching.

The Learning Design & Technology field has opened several avenues for me to put my education to practice in addition to stimulating my creative side. The Master’s degree and the Ph.D. programs in LDT at Purdue University, have provided the theoretical foundation for how to make learning appropriate for different audiences. LDT brings about a beautiful amalgamation of learning theories and emerging technologies to make learning fun, easy and meaningful to learners, whether in K-12, University, corporate sector or in adult basic education classrooms.

At Purdue, I’ve received maximum support from my faculty and I am involved in many research projects. My adviser applied for a fellowship for me and helped me receive the David Ross fellowship that supports my Ph.D. education. Not only me, several international students have received good fellowships and teaching assistantships which help them finance their education at Purdue. Within a year into my Ph.D, I was able to publish two scholarly papers in noteworthy journals and have a few more papers under review. In addition to working on research papers, I receive plenty of opportunities to work on other projects.

At present I am working with faculty on different projects ranging from evaluating MOOCs, studying attitude change in online and face-to-face (f2f) education, teaching f2f under-graduate educational technology courses, co-teaching an online course on Project Management, developing a repository of educational technology tools for online teaching and so on. As a service I am also developing STEM based learning modules for adult basic education (ABE). This semester, for my internship, I will be working on creating educational content which will be used by programmers to develop lessons using Augmented Reality (AR) technology. All these experiences, I believe, will make me a better teacher, collaborator, learning design technologist and educational technology expert.

On completing my Ph.D., my immediate goal is to teach in a research oriented university and gain valuable experience interacting with faculty, mining their expertise and expanding my knowledge. I really enjoy reading literature pertaining to educational technology, researching learning environments and writing scholarly papers. The joy of seeing my work, published in peer-reviewed journals is undefinable.

​Long-Term Goals​

I always wanted to establish a School of Practical Learning in India. This school will scaffold the theoretical learning in STEM subjects that is provided by other regular schools. It was with this vision and to update myself with what is new in education, that I enrolled in the LDT program at Purdue University in January 2015 to earn my 2nd Master’s degree. My journey continued into the Ph.D. program. I fervently hope to identify ways to augment the learning of students, with regards to socio-scientific topics, like environmental sustainability to make them better citizens of this world. ​

Someone once said, “If you are not willing to learn, No one can help you.

If you are determined to learn, No one can stop you.”

I’m determined to learn – Shamila Janakiraman


Zucrow Student Association

Reflections on Purdue and the Zucrow Student Association

Hello folks visiting this super webpage! I’m not entirely sure how to start this blog, as this is my first time as a blogger, but well 😊 first time for everything. I’m writing this up as I am flying high in the air somewhere over the Atlantic to land in Warsaw and then following the smell of chocolates to my home country: Belgium. Going on a necessary break after a nice and exhausting semester here at Purdue!

Small introduction… I’m James and currently 3rd year PhD student at Purdue University. As many students here, I’m an engineer and enrolled in the mechanical engineering department. I started at the same time as Mario Tindaro (who made this awesome movie for the global ambassadors, as seen here) as well as Valeria Andreoli. I landed here after doing a research master in fluid dynamics at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. And now I’m performing research on the future gas turbines at the PETAL lab (Purdue Experimental Aerothermal lab, This research lab is located outside of West Lafayette, near the airport, in a place called Zucrow Labs. A place that most students don’t even know!

I’m of course not here to tell you about my research (for those kind of questions you can shoot me a private mail😊), however I’d like to share some parts of my life here. At Zucrow we have a student organization called the Zucrow Student Association, in which I am serving my 2nd year as president. Indeed, foreigners can become presidents here! ZSA consists of all kinds of cool people: Amelia and Monique (both from the west coast) and Timo and me (both from the North of Europe 😊. You see, a lot of fun!

Our goal is to try to get all the students together as much as we can, both during working hours, as outside. In September we hosted a tailgate for the students of our lab. Tailgate? Yep, before a football game, all of the purdue fans gather in front of their cars and have a BBQ on the fields of the Corec (our gigantic gym) which results in a huge party! (For the early birds: during game days, the true purdue student fans wake up at 5-6 AM to start ‘breakfast club’.. a very interesting activity that everyone should once do!).


We also host lunch and learns where we get the famous Papa Johns pizza (some say the best pizza from West Lafayette) and where students talk about their research while eating some thin crust pizza/ cheese bread / you name it and ZSA serves it! We also do coffee breaks where we serve premium Starbucks coffee and Marie Lou Donuts. These Marie Lou donuts are unique: 50 cents for a donut, but the best ones you will ever try! I guess that’s why these donuts run out so fast…

Zucrow Student Association Volleyball

In summer (it gets really sunny out here) we play beach volleyball and organize barbecues in the famous picket park, because after some intense game of volleyball: what’s better than enjoying some of the finest Indiana pork ribs?! During winter this should be switched to ice skating, although now there is still no ice.. this will probably come very soon.



This year, we also hosted an end-of-the-year dinner at the Lafayette brewing company: some Indiana beers and burgers, what else you need to make students happy?!

Additionally, many of the former grad students at Zucrow go to space: recently Scott Tingle! Guess what? He took our group photo and a banner from zucrow to space to sign it, so in a way… all of Zucrow goes to space 😊 !!!

Finally, ZSA also sells a lot of apparel: Zucrow t-shirts, Zucrow mugs, … all you can imagine: ZSA sells it. Don’t hesitate to shoot us an email if you’d like to buy some hehe 😊 ( The apparel is very useful and cool: imagine taking a flight wherever over the world… at least one person will stop you to tell you “BOILERMAKER!!” (and you with your jetlagged mind :”huhh??”). So you see, you’re never traveling alone, boilermakers all over the world. (PS Purdue students are called boilermakers…)

So, this student is going to lower the seat, relax and ready to dream about chocolates, fries and beer aka Belgium 😊, if at least the people behind me stop talking… good night!