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SIT-Summer Institute in Taiwan
Academic Exchange & Cultural Experience in Taiwan
Matan Shelomi
As far as my research is concerned, the data here does suggest that phasmids lack any obligate endosymbionts. Even with the low numbers of non-plant, non-host reads available, a true endosymbiont would have been present in large enough numbers to have been spotted by the data (as is the case in the pathogenic endosymbiont Spiroplasma). That phasmids do not seem to have important microbial symbionts complements my findings that phasmids make their own cellulase enzymes and that their digestive system seems devoid of conspicuous bacteriocytes where symbionts would be housed. The phasmid gut microfauna is diverse, but perhaps not interesting.
Several questions still remain or have arisen from this paper, not least of which is what the gut fauna of wild Phasmatodea look like. I suspect my findings here will hold in the wild: that phasmids lack obligate symbionts on the level of, for example, aphids and Buchnera aphidicola. Wild phasmids will have different gut microfauna, but this will likely be due to their different diets and environments. I suspect phasmids have a lot more endogenous enzymes than we previously thought, and that their enzymology is a fruitful topic for future research.
This research can be turned into a stand-alone paper, perhaps for the Journal of Orthoptera Research, so I will work on readying it for that purpose. It will also fit well into my dissertation. I have learned some useful bioinformatics skills during my time here, and have a better understanding of how the bioinformatics process works and the abilities and limitations of the different techniques used in it. I have also opened up a completely novel collaboration between my lab in UC Davis and Academia Sinica that had not existed before. Perhaps this will lead to future joint projects between the labs.

Cultural Experiences
As exploring and experiencing Taiwan is an important part of the SIT program, I made every effort to do just that. Many of the adventures from orientation week were important to me, such as learning how worship at a Taiwanese temple works, and learning about the Aboriginal culture, as I had no idea that it existed. I knew almost nothing about Taiwan going into this program, so I leave it with a lot of new information.
My personal favorite way to experience a new culture is through the food, and I have enjoyed eating my way through Taiwan, particularly through the Night Markets. Besides Shilin, I have visited Raohe St, Lehua, Huaxi, Tamsui, and Guangzhou night markets, as well as City God Temple market in Hsinchu. My favorite food has been the coffin bread, but I have also tried almost everything else. I made a point of trying local specialties, such as the iron eggs, a-gei, and fish balls of Tamsui when I visited there, or the famous lunchboxes of Fulong Beach. I’ve had thick cuttlefish soup, oyster omelet, small sausage wrapped in little sausage, three cups chicken, shaved ice mountain, blood pudding, spicy hot pot, fried chicken steak, bamboo tube rice, aiyu jelly, mochi, bubble tea, lurohfan, stinky tofu, grilled squid, scallion pancake, popiah guabao, dumplings, candied tomatoes, congee, pineapple cakes, intestine vermicelli, and even the snake body fluid liquors of Huaxi.
I did not make it too far from Northern Taiwan, unfortunately. Weekend trips I did outside the city included visiting Fulong beach and taking the the Caoling Historical Trail, Yangmingshen park and a local hot spring, scuba diving at Long Dong Bay, and hiking near Hualien and Toroko Gorge and white water rafting there. I also hiked to Battleship Rock and Shinbeitou and visited the public hotspring there, which was very relaxing and enjoyable (although the 43°C water was too hot for me). I also visited Taipei 101 (of course), the National Palace Museum, the Chiang Kai-Shek and Sun Yat-Sen memorials, the Taipei Zoo, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. I did most of these trips with friends in the SIT program, so it was great to have met them all and had their contact information. I made lasting friendships and saw places I otherwise would have missed.
Overall it has been a very memorable experience and one I will strongly recommend. Thank you for a wonderful summer!
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