09/16/15 – The following Article, written by Jake Martin, was posted on StAugustine.com (The St. Augustine Record) on Sunday, Jun. 14, 2015 8:36am
Lily Dove is having the ultimate summer — or at least a scientifically productive one.
The 19-year-old from St. Augustine arrived in Thailand last week to study air pollution.
A Class of 2014 graduate of Allen D. Nease High School, Dove is now a rising sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she got a full-ride scholarship.
She’s majoring in earth, atmospheric and planetary science, with an emphasis on atmospheric chemistry.
“That basically entails everything from big-scale systems like hurricanes down to small-scale systems like the human body,” she said.
Dove is one of five undergraduates joining two MIT professors in the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology at Chulabhorn Research Center, just north of Bangkok.
For 10 weeks, she and fellow researchers will take air samples and study how reactive molecules in the air can potentially create mutations in DNA and other proteins in the human body.
“We kind of just go outside and scoop up some air,” she said. “It interests me because air surrounds us and we don’t think about it much, but what we’re doing to the earth has a lot of impact.”
Wasting no time
With 23 hours of travel from Jacksonville to Bangkok behind her and an 11-hour time difference to compensate for, she’s already put in a 40-hour work week of biomedical research.
“Every minute, I seem to be learning something new, from how to say critical phrases like: ‘Iced tea, please!’ to how to greet elders — a very important lesson — to how to use a high pressure liquid chromatographer,” she wrote in an email to The Record.
Dove hails from a pretty diverse family. Her father, Steve, is a sound engineer; her mother, Amy, is a textile artist; her older sister, Eva, is studying music at Rice University in Houston.
Dove’s parents said they have no concerns about sending her off to a faraway place. She also carries some previous experience abroad having traveled through Europe.
“She’s a capable young woman,” Steve said. “It will be an adventure.”
The day before her flight, Dove said she wasn’t nervous but “jitterally” excited about the whole situation.
“Thailand is a good place for rather nasty air, I suppose,” Steve said. “I last went there about 30 years ago and it was pretty grim then.”
Plenty to explore
Dove said health-wise, it’s in humanity’s best interest to develop an understanding of what’s happening — from the largest weather systems to tiniest cells in the human body.
“I realized there was a whole other world I wasn’t considering,” she said. “What we do to the world and what we do to ourselves we often think of as two separate things, but they’re actually very closely linked.”
While her area of study explores the myriad interactions among the earth many systems, its inhabitants and beyond, she will as be immersed in an entirely different culture.
“I don’t know much but I’m really excited to learn,” she said. “I do like Thai food, but my big concern is I’m actually vegetarian. So that’s going to be interesting game to play.”
Another challenge will be overcoming the differences between the way science is conducted in the United States and Thailand.
Dove said researchers can typically order supplies and they can be delivered as soon as the next day. That is not the case throughout much of Thailand.
“You have to do a lot of thinking like ‘What can I do?’ ‘What can I reuse?’ or ‘How can I use this more efficiently?’” she said. “So, not only am I learning about the culture, I’m learning how science is different throughout the world.”
Dove reported she’s had a “million little lessons” in her first week and suspects there’s an infinity more to go. And some of those lessons don’t require a chemistry set.
“A smile is universal,” she wrote. “Despite the gaps in language, I love the people with whom I have surrounded myself even after just one week.”