In her own words: Yukino Nakamura

A Look Back at Summer 2021

By Yukino Nakamura

A good portion of my summer was spent conducting research in the Arriaga lab through the Heisig-Glysteen Fellowship. Switching gears from upper division lab courses to an intensive period of independent summer research, I realized that research is not as smooth sailing as I thought it would be. It took time to figure out what experiments I was going to do, or gauge how long experiments take. At the end of it all, I didn’t accomplish as much as I thought I would have.

Though research was full of challenges and involved many failed experiments, I had a great time sharing similar sentiments with other fellows and highlighting both successes and failures in my first poster presentation at the Summer Undergraduate Research Expo.

I recognized that my work wouldn’t be possible without my group members who have trained me in many lab techniques and provided guidance on my project.

Aside from research, I continued connecting with communities on and off campus and evaluating my core values, especially those surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In Fall 2020, I joined the chemistry D&I Committee as a co-lead for an inclusive classrooms working group. After promoting a few initiatives as a small and large group, I knew that I could advance my personal DEI journey by pulling from my past experiences and engaging in various conversations that could drive action in communities that matter to me.

This led me to take on projects with grant writing for People Serving People, the largest homeless shelter for families in Minnesota, and help develop a youth resource page for Hennepin County as a Transition Age Specialist. Furthermore, I completed a racial justice facilitator training hosted by the YWCA and signed on to facilitate a small group at the 19th Annual It’s Time to Talk event in October 2020.

Both grant writing and web page development require creativity and adaptability, as well as a good understanding of the population that the work is serving. I was challenged to ask questions and work through potential solutions.

Is there a specific nuance to how the questions should be answered from this funder that aligns with the mission and vision statement of PSP to maximize the chances of receiving the grant? Are the resources listed in this youth resource page inclusive to all identities represented in Hennepin County? Questions like these come up as I integrate myself into the work and develop a strong sense of the motivation behind each project.

It feels great to be involved in something that I’m passionate about, and I’m learning that these things are intimately tied into my identities, background, and experiences, all of which are important in how I engage with diverse populations and find my role in these communities.

During the past three months, I was able to learn and grow in various dimensions. Presenting my first poster at a major undergraduate exposition gave me the confidence to communicate science and validated the multiple failed experiments which provided the groundwork for future directions.

All throughout, I engaged in community work that identified my strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately, it reminded me that we all have an active and unique role in tackling social justice issues. I’m excited for the start of fall semester, where I can talk about my experiences with my peers and encourage more participation in on- and off-campus initiatives!