Continued from: The Road to Istanbul With my one week trip cut short by my eventful journey, I had only 4 days to spend in Istanbul. On arrival, the day's lectures were over so I only had dinner to look forward to. Everyone was so warm and largely confused as to why I had missed the initial part of the program but I gave them a glimpse of my journey over dinner. Then I went up to my room to nap with the intent of waking up to watch the World Cup with the rest of the group. You already know how that ended.
I was in Istanbul because I had gotten an NSF Fellowship to attend the 13th International Summer School on Biocomplexity, Biodesign and Bioinnova: From Gene to System was sponsored by the NSF, co-sponsored by the IEEE EMB Society and other societies. I learned so much, much more than I can put in words and I definitely recommend this program for any Biomedical Engineering student at any level (Bachelors, Masters, PhD). We had lectures delivered by professors from different universities and the topics ranged from Microfluidics to Nanomedicine. The location for this summer school was Bogazici University, which was surprisingly within close proximity to the beach. So essentially, we were in an NSF sponsored summer school learning about cutting edge Biomedical Engineering research techniques in a beach house. Perfect Graduation present to myself. And I learned about this opportunity through an email sent out by my Dean. Like I stated in my post What College Taught Me, endeavor to read emails. No opportunity is handed down. Day 1: I was up from midnight till we left for sight-seeing that morning. My fellow attendees teased me about how I had come just in time for the fun part of our summer school. Our first stop was Dolmabahce Palace, a huge palace-turned-museum. This was the main residence of the Ottoman Empire so it was occupied by some Sultans and their families. A huge conference room in the palace served as a reception ground for government officials from other countries. It was so majestic with intricate details in every room. Our shoes had to be covered throughout the tour and pictures were not allowed inside the palace. You have to be there to take it all in.
Our next stop was the Ayasofya Muzesi (Hagia Sofia Museum). In one word, this cathedral-turned-mosque-turned-museum was magnificent!
Then our last place to tour was the Blue Mosque. It is directly opposite Hagia Sophia and it's architecture was inspired by the Hagia Sophia's. Blue mosque got its name from the fact that its interiors are covered with thousands of blue tiles. After we left the Blue Mosque, we stood outside and heard the almost synchronized call to prayer for both mosques i.e. the Imam in the Hagia Sophia would sing one line and after a brief pause, the Imam in the Blue Mosque would sing the next line. It was nice to witness that.
Our last stop for the day was a popular spot that sells Baklava, a really sweet pastry of the former Ottoman Empire. That evening ended with a banquet where we were awarded certificates. We had just become NSF Fellows!!! :)
For the next two days, we had lectures, student presentations and a panel discussion where we the students shared our feedback and opinions about the program to the attentive program directors. Our Biocomplexity Summer School then ended with a final banquet. This was a really rewarding experience and I wouldn't have asked for a better post graduate trip. I'll call this my graduation honeymoon :)