Meet the Summer 2016 In-Asia Grant Recipients!

What are your plans for the summer? For four outstanding Obies and recipients of the In-Asia Grants, Danyang (Dennis) Dong ‘18, Jacob (Kirk) Pearson ‘17, Jun Takaki ‘17, and Linh (Clover) Tran ’18, this summer will be jam-packed with ambitious and thrilling plans ranging from an internship with an environmental advocacy nonprofit in China to a photojournalistic exploration of Vietnamese graduates of foreign institutions.

Dennis Dong ‘18: As a second-year double majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology, Dennis will spend two months interning at the world’s leading conservation organization, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Shenzhen, China. Dennis explains his motivation for his internship: “During my years in China, I lived in Hohhot (near Mongolia) and Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) that embody two extreme examples of environmental consciousness. The former has been the main site for heavy industrialization of socialist development since 1960 and faced tremendous degradation with life-threatening pollutions. The latter, where I lived as a teenager, is a very young city built after the Economic Reform in 1980s, but has been at the vanguard of many successful environmental advancements … I am enthralled and wonder how China is dealing with its environmental issues given the various challenges and its recent COP21 commitment.” Dennis will be involved in many fascinating activities including working with urban planners to implement the multi-faceted Carbon Evaluation System. We look forward to hearing about what he discovers about the environmental issues in China.

Kirk Pearson ‘17: From June to August, Kirk will live abroad a ferry crossing the Java Sea and chronicle his experience along the 4,500-mile trip across the archipelago, during which he will be recording 360-degree video and binaural audio. After spending his last Winter Term in Indonesia on the documentary Fin, which traced the tuna supply chain from Sumatra to Tokyo, Kirk will return to Indonesia and continue to work with Patrick Gilfether ‘14, Shansi Fellow in Aceh, to examine the Java Sea and Indonesian Coral Triangle. They aspire to juxtapose these two incredible ecosystems through narratives from people most affected by Indonesia’s maritime developments including sailors, construction workers, and conservationists. The end result will be a series of interactive multimedia pieces that will highlight life above and below water, and as Kirk notes, “Our voyage will take us to key port development projects and vital marine ecosystems (my research area) to tell the story of life at the frontier of anthropogenic climate change.”

Jun Takaki ‘17: The Moyamoya disease is a rare and progressive cerebrovascular disorder caused by blockage of the arteries at the base of the brain primarily effecting children in Asian countries. Symptoms include mini-strokes, and weakness of the muscles. Third-Year Jun will be spending ten weeks in Professor Shohab Youssefian’s molecular biology lab at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine examining the genes and various proteins associated with the Moyamoya disease. In addition to strengthening his lab skills, Jun said, “I am eager to experience lab work in Japan, which will allow me to better understand how cultural factors affect research processes. Upon returning to Oberlin, I will dialogue with my peers and mentors at Oberlin about my summer work in Japan to compare research experiences in Japan and America.” Upon his return to campus, Jun will write an article on his scientific findings on the Moyamoya disease and his experiences in a Japanese lab for Oberlin’s science magazine, The Synapse.

Clover Tran ‘18: An important question is on the minds of many of the international students at Oberlin — Should I try to stay in the United States or return to my home country after graduation? Clover’s independent project will take her back to Vietnam to explore that pivotal issue and will come together in a photography installation. Clover will interview and photograph Vietnamese “abroaders”—individuals who studied abroad then returned home; she is looking for the answers to questions about integrating back into one’s own society after an extended stay abroad, and the challenges that lie ahead. Clover will have a public exhibition in Hanoi, create posts on Facebook, and then bring the exhibition back to Oberlin as a way to engage with international students on campus struggling with the same question. She thinks, “It will provide a chance for us international students, in Oberlin and elsewhere, to catch a glimpse into the post-study-abroad life in our home countries and make the decision from there.”

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