Thursday, March 24, 2016

Simultaneous work and holiday visit in the University of Macau

View in Macau
My father Risto stayed 5 months in Macau and I asked him to write about his experience there. Macau is known as a gambling paradise in Asia like Las Vegas in USA. Click 'Read more' to read about all the other activities you can do and experience in Macau instead of gambling

Enter my dad

My friend Garry Wong offered me a visiting fellow sabbatical time after starting on August 2014 as the professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences in the University of Macau. I accepted his kind offer after discussions at home and with Garry, started my visit on August 2015 and returned home on third of February. I was satisfied and happy about my sabbatical time, because I could work for more than five months without worries, see a new culture, and meet people and got new and friendly experiences.

Research work
Garry is using a small worm, nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans as the model organism to study neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, stress and aging. In his group works his wife Merja, a research assistant and four PhD students. During my visit three collaborators from Finland visited 2 – 5 weeks and another research assistant from Estonia was working several months in his group. My experiments were connected to stress, as I studied structural changes of foreign compounds i.e. xenobiotic metabolism in C. elegans. These reactions protect organisms as they make foreign compounds mostly inactive and water soluble so that they can be excreted to urine or bile. Firstly, our aim was to transfer a gene of human enzyme to C. elegans. However, we could not finish this work during my visit, but the work continues still in Macau and hopefully human enzyme will be expressed in C. elegans. Secondly, we studied xenobiotic metabolism reactions using model substrates. In these studies we found that a new type of reaction occurred for our model substrates. This we could detect as the fluorescence of our substrates disappeared in the reaction. It means that before the reaction our substrates emits light and then after the reaction the light is not any more emitted. We could show what type of reaction occurs to our substrate. Based on literature search nobody has observed and reported this reaction yet. Therefore we are finishing our experiments and have started to write a manuscript about our studies.

Working tools to study with C. Elegans worms

Social life
We in Garry’s group had many activities also outside the research. In our research group meetings there was served delicate, if someone had visited exotic places such as Thailand, Estonia, Finland, Philippines or Hokkaido. We went frequently together to lunch and enjoyed dim sun food. We had some pot luck parties in Garry’s apartment during weekend. We also went together to dinners. In these food parties I learned much about food culture in Macau, where there are many Chinese and Portuguese restaurants and their mixtures. Many kind of sea food was available and often I ate fish. I ate both Pekingese and Cantonese duck. Often I ate big portions of noodle soups in Golden Dragon restaurant, whose size of portions and taste was appreciated to me by PhD students. Famous delicate was egg tart of Macau developed by the British industrial pharmacist lord Stow. Delicious lunch or dinner could be bought also from grocery stores, where they sold inexpensive take home portions. On New Year evening I had delicious potluck dinner, which means that in the middle of table there is a boiling pot with spiced water and then you cook all kind of food in the liquid. In the end you cook e.g. noodle which absorbs the final taste formed from all thew cooked ingredients. In the last weekend of my stay we traveled together to Guangzhou, which is the third biggest city of China about 100 km from Macau. This trip was magnificent. In Guangzhou we tasted local food, saw very busy business street, modern city center, old home museum of very rich family and modern museum showing animals, traditional Chinese medicines, pottery and traditional Chinese paintings. Metro has more than 200 km trails, works well and its stations have English names.

Tourist places of Macau
Five months gave me great possibility to look most of Macau’s places as its area is only 30 km2. Most of area is covered with high houses as about 650 000 people are living there meaning that the density of population is more than 20 000 per km2. Sixty Casinos attract about 30 million tourists every year. I didn’t go to gamble. I went, however, to entrance halls of some big casinos to see and feel richness, as they are decorated with beautiful paintings, handicrafts, golden things, diamonds or other valuables. Macau has been Special Administrate Region of China since 1999 having similar special position as its close neighbor Hong Kong (since 1997). Every province of China have donated a friendship gift to Macau and these gifts can be seen in the great exhibition of Handover Gift Museum. I visited also Museums of Taipa Houses, history, art, science, Grand Prix and looked historic center of Macau. I learned that China patriotic Lin Zexu burned large amounts of opium on 1839 in this region, which has stimulated long later to start International Day against Drug Abuse and Trafficking by WHO. Coloane is less populated and is country region of Macau. There are two beaches and nice hiking trails on the mountain. I swam in the South China Sea on the first of January. I went also hiking several times in Coloane. In Coloane there is also a small Zoo where there are two Pandas, apes, ostriches black swans and flamingos.

Magnificent campus
The best I learned to know the campus of the University of Macau. It was build 2008 – 2013 on 1 km2 area rented from mainland China and is 20 min bus trip away from the center. Traveling by bus costs only 2 - 3 MOPs (30 – 40 cents). Campus is planned to be the university paradise and it could also be a tourist attraction, but I am afraid that it is not known to be so beautiful. I was living there in one of the four postgraduate houses, which are for PhD students and visitors. In my room there was a shower, toilet, bed, table, chair, refrigerator, shelves and two cabins. In every floor there is a common pantry with microwave oven. In the campus there are also houses for the staff and nine residential colleagues for graduate students. Of course there are faculty buildings, big library, student house, several research buildings, shopping center, several restaurants, sport hall and stadium in the campus. Among 220 plants of the campus many had beautiful flowers and some were interesting. Camel foot’s tree’s leaves were like camel's foot. Common screw pine was not pine. The name of California fun palm was great. Yellow flowers of sunshine tree were blossoming in the tree all the time I spent in Macau. I can conclude that got unforgotten once in life great experience in Macau.

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