Reflecting on my JVS Summer

At the beginning of the summer I did not imagine that I would feel extremely sad to leave JVS on the last day of my internship, however, during the past week as my summer internship came to a close, I realized how attached I had become, how much I had learned, and how much I will miss working at my little office in East Boston.  I feel so grateful to have had the summer that I did.  When reflecting on my learning goals, I feel confident in saying that I not only met my goals but also learned and grew more than I could have imagined possible over the course of the ten weeks.  My internship at JVS pushed me in many ways over the course of the summer and enabled me to be a more confident, caring, and adept person.  (Below: My coworker and me during our last week.) 

My feeling towards conducting new-client-assessments is a clear example that comes to mind when thinking about how I have grown over the summer.  During my first week, I observed one of my coworkers while she conducted an initial assessment of a new client to see if the person was a good fit for our program.  When observing this interaction, I felt uncomfortable.  It seemed awkward to me to have to ask someone personal questions without knowing them.  Because there were language barriers, more typical courtesies and ways of creating comfortable distance were unable to take place.  The interaction was a much more blunt and boiled down version of what it could have been had both people been fluent in the same language.  There were some of the question like “What are your job goals?” or “Did you attend college?” that were comfortable.  As the interview went on however, the questions that needed to be asked about a person’s citizenship and work authorization status felt harsh, and asking them to choose one of the boxes in the ill-equipped lineup of “racial categories” made me cringe, but there was no way around doing this.

I did not imagine that I would ever be comfortable conducting these sorts of meetings.  A few weeks later, I began to be in charge of assessing new clients and had to handle these meetings on my own.  At first, it often felt strange, but as time went on I found my own rhythm, and soon it became one of my favorite tasks at work, because it enabled me to be the first person that the new clients got to know at JVS.  I loved hearing their stories for the first time, understanding what motivated them to come to JVS, and having them know that I was a person they could trust.  During my last day of my JVS summer, I did four new-client-assessments.  It felt amazing to end my summer bringing four new candidates to the program through the task that I had once been so nervous to take on.  

Working at JVS has enabled me to envision many different paths that would excite me in terms of my work and life post-graduation.  JVS’s East Boston location’s partnership with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center has been an important part of my learning and exploring this summer.  While I can happily envision working for a nonprofit like JVS doing career counseling or teaching, being around medical professionals at EBNHC has given me a window into what a career in public health could look like as well.  Through my internship, I got the exciting opportunity to attend a small event where Elizabeth Warren spoke to professionals at the EBNHC clinic about the work that they do and this was very inspiring to me. 

Elizabeth Warren accepting a gift from EBNHC

My work over the summer solidified the knowledge that I want to always be working in a place that enables me to be making some sort of positive difference within my community.  It has been so valuable and heartening to watch some of my clients go through dramatic life changes over the summer in part because of the support that they got from JVS and from me.  It is crazy to think that clients I met at the beginning of the summer were able to get jobs during the past ten weeks because of work that I got to help with.  I would highly recommend interning with JVS.  Unlike many internship opportunities that students sometimes have, JVS cares about your learning and your experience working with them.  If you want to work with JVS I would recommend reaching out to their HR manager, or simply going to their downtown headquarters and asking for information in person.  

I am so thankful that WOW helped me have the summer that I did!

Signing off, EC

Final Week Reflections

As I finish my internship, I believe I have largely met my defined academic, career and personal goals I established before beginning my internship. My academic goal was to build upon the knowledge from the biology classes I have taken, as well as to expand that knowledge to better assist me in future classes. These goals were met as all my research either built on my basic biology knowledge, such as understanding how cellular respiration works and how DNA is replicated, or new lab techniques and concepts. These new techniques include ELISA and cell culture preparation, which will be useful when I take biology lab in the fall. More so, I was introduced to many neuroscience concepts, such as the role of PPAR agonist receptors and the importance of insulin in the brain, which I will be able to apply to my neuroscience courses.

Here is a link to an interesting article about the correlation between insulin resistance and AD, concepts on which my project focused, written by my PI.

My career goal was to gain research experience and decide whether research and neuroscience are areas I am interested in pursuing. This internship provided me with valuable research experience that will make me a far more competitive candidate when applying to future research labs. Additionally, the experience of working in in a lab made me realize that while I find research interesting and would like to continue it throughout my undergraduate education, I don’t think I would like to pursue a career solely involving wet lab research. However, this experience has also helped solidify my choice in majoring in neuroscience, as it has given me further understanding of how uncharted the brain remains and how vital an understanding of this organ is to the future of society and medicine.

My personal goal at the start of my internship was to challenge myself to fully understand all concepts of my research. I feel as though I have met this goal through asking questions and feeling comfortable in being wrong in my understanding, giving me a better grasp of my research through my mistakes.

Overall, as a result of this internship I feel capable of taking on and successfully completing challenging projects. Although my research project appeared daunting and confusing at the beginning of the summer, by working through the project slowly and asking questions when confused, I ended my project with a newfound confidence in my abilities and understanding.

Here is a picture of me at the lab:

I would advise a student interested in this internship to come with an open mind and be prepared to give his or her full efforts. Additionally, this lab prefers to reteach techniques regardless of a student’s previous knowledge, so it is important not to become frustrated or discouraged by this. It is also essential to stay very organized and have full command over your topic, and quality over quantity is key.

I would advise a student interested in an internship at the Brown University Liver Research Center to come into the internship with an open mind and be prepared to give their full efforts. By personally doing so, I learned far more than I expected to and produced results, such as the raw data from the experiment, my presentation for the lab, and a manuscript of the experiment, which I wouldn’t have expected coming into this experience. Here is the link to the lab’s website:

I would advise a student interested in this field to definitely try a hands-on experience, such as working in a lab, in order to interact with the field of study in a new light that differs from the textbook experience. This allows for a new perspective and better understanding of the topic, as well as more comprehensive look into whether you are truly interested in the field.

Looking back at my internship, I am most proud of my presentation at the lab and the manuscript I wrote about my experiment. I often do not present, and when I do, the presentations are often much shorter than the fifteen-minutes I was allotted. Additionally, this presentation was on a challenging and complex topic that required me to gain a comprehensive understanding of in order to make it a successful talk. Fortunately, applying the necessary time and effort allowed my presentation to run very smoothly and I felt I was successful in conveying all aspects of the experiment to my audience. I am also very proud of the manuscript I wrote on the experiment. This required a very extensive understanding of the topic background, results, and experimental significant, and required a style of scientific writing that I had never attempted before. However, I produced an end product that was something I didn’t think achievable before coming into this experience.

Dustine Reich ’20

 

Reaching the summit: climbing with the burden of pain

My fellow science geeks, sadly, this will be my last World of Work blog post.  However, rather than focusing on the fleeting nature of summers, I wish to walk you through my achievements, insights, and trials and tribulations of working in a biomedical research lab with a severe chronic pain condition.  Since the age of twelve, I have endured an excruciating nerve pain syndrome known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)[i].  Here, I will briefly mention how CRPS affects me, with the hopes of encouraging students living with disabilities and adversity to pursue their career passions and dreams.

One of the most common questions I am asked regarding my pain is “how?”: “how do you attend college?”  “How do you participate in a research lab?”  “How do you live with the pain?”  My response remains steadfast; human beings (and life in general) possess a remarkable ability for adaptation, even in the bleakest of circumstances.  I believe in challenging the notion that extreme adversity cannot be triumphed in some form.  As you read this blog post, I hope you will view my experiences as evidence for why your hardships should never preclude you from actualizing your dreams.

Shapiro Science Center (SSC) of Brandeis University. The SSC is the annual location of SciFest, an undergraduate poster session [ii].

A few weeks ago, I presented a poster of my summer research findings at Brandeis University’s SciFest VII [iii].  SciFest is an annual poster session showcasing undergraduate student research hosted in my favorite building on campus, the Shapiro Science Center.  In this very building, I learned a cursory understanding of journal style science writing in Dr. Kosinski Collins’s (Dr. K-C) Biology Laboratory course (thank you Dr. K-C!).  I only had a taste of journal diction, yet I relished the opportunity to learn the art behind science writing.  Generating a poster presentation of original research presented my next learning opportunity.  Thankfully, the post-doctoral fellow (“post-doc”) I worked alongside and my principal investigator (PI) were ecstatic to hear about Brandeis SciFest, and strongly encouraged me to create a poster of my summer research.  Thus, I began crafting selected “mini” sections of a journal style paper, beginning with an abstract, followed by a curtailed introduction and figure descriptions of my experimental evidence.  I was fortunate to receive invaluable advice from my co-workers; I passed my writing along to my supervising post-doc, asking her to tear my writing apart.  I wanted her to know “I mean business” when it comes to learning.  I circulated my writing amongst lab members, also gathering my PI’s sage advice.  This gave me a small taste of the manuscript writing process, an essential component of every research laboratory.  This process culminated in a poster, which, upon entering this summer, I knew little about.  My poster explored the role of cysteine restriction in energy homeostasis, focusing on a key metabolic pathway known as the trans-sulfuration pathway.

Pictured above is the intersection of the methionine cycle (from methionine to homocysteine), the folate cycle (far left), and the trans-sulfuration pathway (bolded in red). I focused on the enzyme CGL, or cystathionine-gamma-lyase. This figure was created with assistance of Yang et al. 2016  [iv].
I am immensely proud of my poster and presentation, given that my success represents triumph both over internal and external doubts regarding my capacity for achievement in the face of debilitating pain.  Given that my physical disability effects my left hand and arm, I was concerned regarding my ability to efficiently learn new experimental techniques.  However, with patience, I successfully completed methodologies such as Western Blotting [v], including the pain-inducing sonication step [vi].  Sonication involves “shooting” high energy sound waves into a sample containing proteins and nucleic acids.  The sound waves shear DNA into small chunks, thus liberating nuclear (nucleus-bound) transcription factors (proteins) for proteomic investigation.  I may have taken a few extra minutes to complete this step, but I obtained pure proteins, which I was able to immunoblot for [Western Blotting] analysis.  Another technique I am proud of learning is mouse dissection.  Although simpler than the microscopic Drosophila (fruit fly) dissections I have attempted at Brandeis, mouse dissection still requires significant dexterity and focus.  I was concerned I would lose control over my left hand, or that the pain would inhibit my precision.  However, I excelled, even learning how to excise “speck-like” structures such as the pituitary glands in the brain and the thyroid gland in the neck.  I also improved upon techniques such as RNA tissue extraction, reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) [vii], study design, statistical analyses, and more.

Altogether, I am quite proud of my tireless work this summer, both experimentally and regarding my pain condition.  I see my work as another step towards achieving my career goals in medicine.  There is an expanding pile of evidence that my pain will not write my story; I will.  I wish to convey this simple fact to other students living with disabilities and adversity; you can achieve your greatest dreams and more.  Although I have yet to accomplish my goal of becoming a physician scientist, I know I will get there.  You will reach your goal too.

 

-Josh Lepson

 

References

[i] American RSDHope. 2017. CRPS OVERVIEW/DESCRIPTION. Accessed on August 17.

http://www.rsdhope.org/what-is-crps1.html

[ii]  Brandeis University. Integrated Media – CAMPUS BUILDINGS. Accessed on August 17.

https://www.brandeis.edu/communications/media/mediaresources/buildings.html

[iii] SciFest. 2017. SciFest VII Abstracts. Accessed on August 17.

https://kb.brandeis.edu/display/SCI/SciFest+VII+Abstracts

[iv] Yang, M., Vousden, K.H. 2016. Serine and one-carbon metabolism in cancer. Nat. Rev. Cancer. 16(10): 650-662.

[v] ThermoFisher Scientific. Overview of Western Blotting. Accessed on August 17.

https://www.thermofisher.com/us/en/home/life-science/protein-biology/protein-biology-learning-center/protein-biology-resource-library/pierce-protein-methods/overview-western-blotting.html

[vi] New England Biolabs. DNA Fragmentation – Application Overview. Accessed on August 16.

https://www.neb.com/applications/library-preparation-for-next-generation-sequencing/dna-fragmentation

[vii] ThermoFisher Scientific. Basic Principles of RT-qPCR: Introduction to RT-qPCR. Accessed on August 17.

https://www.thermofisher.com/us/en/home/brands/thermo-scientific/molecular-biology/molecular-biology-learning-center/molecular-biology-resource-library/basic-principles-rt-qpcr.html

Blog Post 3: New York Communities for Change

Prompt: What does change or progress look like at your organization?

Change for me starts small. It’s shifting one man’s stature and expression. He’s hunched over his phone, eyes narrowed, scrolling aimlessly; shoulders squared away from me.

I get a hard profile to talk to. All stubble, snapback and tired eyes.

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“Good.”  He mumbles still not looking up from his phone.

“My name is Gabriel. I work for New York Communities for Change, a local community organization that fights for affordable housing, good jobs and other issues like that.”

He looks up from his screen.

“We’re here in East New York to demand a real investment in good jobs with living wages. What do you think of the job situation in East New York?”

He shrugs. Eyes though, are scanning me and the petition I’m holding.

“Do you feel like there are a lot of job opportunities?”

“I mean…” And then it happens. He shifts his hips and shoulders so that they are squared to me.

This is the first small change.

These days I am doing field work in East New York and Brownsville to invite folks to our worker’s committee meetings. I visit Workforce 1 centers, SNAP offices, parks, housing projects, bus stops and other locations to meet local residents and talk to the them about the aims of the worker’s committee. The worker’s committee connects folks with job opportunities as well as fights for government investment in permanent job programs with living wages in East New York and Brownsville.

The first change might seem small – just a shift in posture – but hopefully that is the start of a real conversation. Maybe he will sign my petition. Maybe we will meet one on one. Maybe that will be the start of a real organizing relationship. Maybe he will come to our first meeting. Maybe he will invite his friends. Maybe he will become a leader in the worker’s committee.

Engaging one individual and bringing them into our community of activists is a profound change. Chris Chrass wrote, “Capitalism and other systems of oppression are designed to make almost everyone feel inadequate, isolated and powerless.” These systems of oppression thrive off of people feeling separated from their internal power and communal power in numbers. In this way, even bringing just one person into NYCC’s community can be a profound change.

A single worker voicing a complaint will not be able to change an institution or years of under-investment in East New York and Brownsville. However, once workers, unemployed and underemployed folks are able to come together and agree on specific demands, a number of strategies can take place to promote change. Common NYCC tactics include publishing reports, creating press conferences, rallies, marches, strikes and protests. A working relationship with the press is crucial to building public support and antagonizing bad employers or corrupt politicians.

For instance, when the #fightfor15 started in 2012, people laughed at the prospect of more than doubling the minimum wage from $7.25 to the demanded for $15. Today, over 22 million people across the country have won raises thanks to the collective power and tireless fighting of the workers and organizers behind the campaign.

That’s a Wrap! Final Thoughts on my Internship with the Rhode Island International Film Festival

Working with the Rhode Island International Film Festival has been a truly eye-opening and rewarding experience. I am going to miss reviewing independent films everyday, seeing my coworkers each morning, and interacting with filmmakers around the world! With that said, I am excited to share that I am going to be serving on the RIIFF advisory board in future, so I will still maintain a role in the film festival.

My summer with RIIFF certainly went out with a bang, as my last full week working there just happened to be during festival week! The week of the festival was jam-packed with preparing for events, hosting screenings and running the behind-the-scenes of it all. I am most proud of our Opening Night, as it was extremely successful in regards to sponsorship, attendance, and the films screened. I was elated to be present for the awards ceremony and to hear the announcement of the 2017 award winners, including the three films that were chosen as RIIFF’s Academy Award Nominee. These films are under the category of Animation Short, Live Action Short and Documentary Short.

Opening Night

I initially set out with three particular goals for the summer in mind: to explore Providence and greater Rhode Island, make connections in the film industry, and learn more about the marketing and creating of independent films. Throughout the summer I feel as though I made steady progress in regard to these goals, through interacting with filmmakers, meeting with potential sponsors in Rhode Island and learning about the ways in which filmmakers market their pieces. However, during the film festival itself I experienced accelerated progress and learning in all of these goals. I was able to interact with the filmmakers everyday, by attending networking events at night, ticketing their screenings and interviewing them after their films. These opportunities for building connections and fostering new understandings of independent filmmaking were invaluable. In addition, the week of the festival featured events, workshops and screenings throughout Providence, so I was able to see even more of the city in a variety of contexts.

One of our screening venues: the Moses Brown School Auditorium

 

This internship has helped me to pinpoint my interest in the film and entertainment field more specifically. After talking to so many filmmakers during the film festival, I have a better idea of how I would like to pursue my own career in filmmaking. It was also helpful to hear the many different ways in which the filmmakers got involved in the field and eventually reached their current career point.

Some of the 2017 interns

 

My advice to students interested in film internships would be to search early, as more is available the earlier you inquire about potential positions. In addition, I would advise students to pursue their internship search thoroughly and creatively; often internships in the film field can be found in companies that are not typically associated with film. Lastly, I would suggest working to get to know and learn from all of those you come into contact with. For me, there has been nothing more valuable than making the most of the people and work experiences I have been fortunate enough to have!

-Anna Craven

Seeing Inequality Firsthand

After working at PRONTO for about a month, what became apparent to me was the level of inequality that the clients have been facing. Many clients have been part of the system for years now. One person was a client of PRONTO for almost 10 years, and is dependent on this being the food source for them and their family. What really started to illuminate this to me was a summer program that I am working on along with the Brentwood School District, where we are teaching kids about farming and nutrition. When the program started, I noticed this lack of equality from the view of nutritional education and what the kids eat. This connects well to one of the books I read in Race and Social Policy with Professor Ryan LaRochelle, Stuck in Place by Patrick Sharkey.

In Stuck in Place, the author talks about how people in urban neighborhoods overtime lose the ability for economic mobility and the ability to actually leave their neighborhoods. Oftentimes, they are stuck in these neighborhoods due to political choices and social policies that have done, sometimes with the intention to segregate people. So if someone’s parents are both born and raised in an urban neighborhood, their child has little ability to really leave where they were raised, due to factors ranging from living conditions, education, and even the people they are raised around. This idea is the reality that faced by people that live in Brentwood.

Brentwood is not an urban neighborhood. Challenges such as poverty, drugs, and violence make it a difficult to live at times. Wealthier home owners are uninterested in investing in Brentwood. People get trapped in an endless cycle of paying for rent and taxes, while not even being sure they have enough to pay for food.

With gangs on the streets, it becomes dangerous to live in the area especially for kids. Through our farm to table programs, we are targeting kids ages 12 to 14 which we know are most vulnerable. I believe teaching kids about farming and nutrition can help give them a better understanding of the world and how to take care of themselves better. From here, I hope that the kids are able to springboard into new experiences.

Care Dimensions – midpoint

The idea of securing an internship was always an intimidating career step to me. Everyone has a different idea of what an intern should do, whether they should be paid, and how valuable their experience really is. I was afraid that interns were overburdened, insufficiently supported workers whose sole contribution was to carry out their supervisor’s agenda without having strong ties to the rest of the office or team. Luckily, this has not been my experience this summer at Care Dimensions.

My biggest surprise as I began working regularly in the office was that my supervisor rarely had a strict agenda for me to complete. Though this was part of my expectation of internships, my background as a full-time student also contributed to this assumption. By the first day of classes at Brandeis, each professor has spent at least half an hour explaining a three to seven page syllabus that often contains a detailed schedule for the full semester. While, as a student, I generally knew how to best organize and prepare for my academic responsibilities ahead of time, I’ve had to become very flexible in my position within Care Dimensions. In the past two weeks, I have driven to patients’ homes while shadowing a nurse practitioner; I have worked in the Waltham office and the Kaplan Family

There are 20 rooms in Kaplan, and all beds can be moved onto the outdoor patio overlooking gardens. This offers many bed-bound patients an opportunity to safely see the sun.

Hospice House (KFHH) in Danvers; and I have helped on projects for four different volunteer coordinators and two different bereavement counselors in the two separate offices. Most recently, I have been working on small projects for a bereavement counselor in the Kaplan House, and that has required fast familiarity with several areas of the program used to store patient data. The tasks themselves are simple enough, but it involves a lot of data entry and modification. Though the counselor showed me how to do this, I quickly discovered that if I spent some time exploring the program, I would find a new approach that was easier for me and allowed me to finish much faster. As I fell into a rhythm and knew what information to expect on a patient profile, I occasionally found errors that the counselor could later correct. I was also happy to share a few shortcuts she hadn’t previously used, but was excited to learn and try.

 

 

 

Care Dimensions locations: (Danvers, MA) Kaplan Family Hospice House and Danvers office, serving the Northshore Area (Waltham, MA) Waltham office, serving the Greater Boston area *the Lincoln House will be opening in Waltham this fall!!!

Since my exposure to Care Dimensions staff and volunteers has grown to encompass two offices in the past month, I can more confidently say that people choose to work and volunteer for the organization because they have a real desire to contribute to hospice. Whenever I describe my internship to friends and family, the most common reaction is that the environment must be incredibly depressing. While it’s true that patients and families on hospice can experience a great deal of emotional distress, the nurses, social workers, volunteers, bereavement counselors, and other staff at Care Dimensions are genuine, supportive, and caring resources. During my shifts at the front desk of KFHH, I met and spoke at length with a number of volunteers. They shared the reasons they got into hospice as well as the reasons why they’ve stayed—in some cases, for up to seven years. Many volunteers got involved with Care Dimensions following a personal, positive experience with the hospice and wanted to join the team to give back to other families in a similar way. So I can’t say that my internship with Care Dimensions has been in any way negative, depressing, or intimidating; rather, the people and the cause have inspired and challenged me since day one.

Angela Balcom ’18

Midway at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

Working at the Malden District Court has been a truly immersive experience. I’ve made it my personal goal to attend as many jury and bench trials as possible, and at each one, I’ve made detailed notes of the prosecution and defense attorneys techniques in opening, closing, and cross examination. Through these notes, I’ve been able to witness a plethora of styles of oral advocacy.  Surprisingly, it helped me better understand how attorneys face audiences, whether juries or judges, when presented with trials.

Outside of the workplace, I’ve gotten to know the attorneys and court personnel of our office and court and talked about their experiences in law, law school, court, and lives as legal professionals. It’s been a great way to get an insight into what it’s actually like to work in the public sector as a criminal prosecutor, and I’ve felt more than welcomed by all of my peers to ask and inquire as much as I’d like.

The staff at my office are phenomenal at teaching me anything I’d like to know.  So within the past two weeks, I have learned how to create redacted copies of case files, file discovery notices, and create CTU folders (I’ve included a blank picture of one here). This takes hours of time off the attorneys hands, and in the process, I get to learn about what the different components of a case file (like the elements of discovery) consist of and how they are relevant to investigation.

While I was watching a jury trial, I asked an attorney about the significance of side-bar conversations with the judge during trial. After she explained it to me, she noted, “This is the stuff they don’t teach you in law school!” At first, that statement was shocking to me, because it seemed as though court proceedings and techniques would be necessary to teach in law school, but the more trials I attended, the more I saw her point. Academic life is a wonderful way to learn about the law, master it, study case law, and become an expert in the components and contents of the law and case matters. The most representative of the difference between on-site and off-site learning can be exhibited here with this Annual Report.  It contains a wealth of information, and it all becomes much clearer once you are actually in the court watching it happen. Practice and observation is where I have learned the intricate details in oral advocacy and court etiquette that make all the difference when bringing a case to trial. These hands-on experiences are what show me what makes a successful defense attorney or ADA, because the requirements extend beyond what case law can teach you. (For instance, here’s some information regarding the types of jurors that exist in the MA court system: http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/trial-and-grand-jurors/ http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury-info/mass-jury-system/ )

Not only has this experience taught me to properly analyze, observe, and interpret case files and trial proceedings, but it has also taught me to become a better oral advocator myself in enhancing my organizational and communication skills. I know how to present myself in court and to the public, and I’m learning how to closely read cases and spot relevant information that might be important or worth noting for future arguments. These are vital skills that will carry with me through my academic career at Brandeis and law school, but they will also assist me in all other areas of my life in my professional career as a lawyer, my personal interests in reading and writing, and my on campus involvement with student groups that aim to reach and affect wide audiences. It’s been a wonderful first four weeks, and I’m more than excited.

Nadisha Wickramaratne

Last Day at HunnyBon

It has been an emotional day here at HunnyBon HQ in NYC. I am going to be saying goodbye to my mentors, Kim and Yoav, who have taught me so much about both business and life during my seemingly short time here. Excitingly, I am going to be studying abroad in Russia this coming semester, which is definitely something to look forward to.

 

I am excited to say that I have exceeded my learning goals for this summer, which have changed significantly since the beginning. Initially, I was excited to just start working with financial reports, but I have actually done so much more than that. I have worked on content creation and management (using photography, photoshop, and email marketing software), social media research and outreach, managing daily orders and special order projects, vendor outreach, website testing and improvements, growth strategy and data analysis, and TONS of bookkeeping. In addition to all of this, the most exciting parts of the summer were the days that Kim took me to meetings all over the city. We visited accountants, designers, and lots of companies interested in selling the product in their shops. Although I am still not sure exactly what I will be doing five years from today, working in HunnyBon’s small office allowed me to be comfortable and creative, and I understand that this is the ideal work environment for me. I also know that my work was really appreciated here, and I always felt accomplished after working hard on a project.

         I believe my biggest achievements this summer included becoming more organized and being less afraid to communicate my thoughts. My advice for students who are interested in an internship at this organization or ones similar would be to breach your comfort zone and never say no, even if you are asked to do something you have no experience with. Also, ask a lot of questions, even if you think they are obvious, because it’s better to ask a “dumb” question than to make a huge mistake. Overall I have definitely matured this summer and believe I am a much stronger applicant for the job market because I am more confident in myself and my skills.


Wish me luck in Russia!

Chantal Tepper

Midway Update from The Benson-Henry Institute!

Hello WOW Blog readers!

Gianna here, with a report of my second month’s adventures at the Benson-Henry Institute. This month has been a busy one, with an increase in responsibilities and a greater variety of tasks that I have been exploring.

As an update from my last blog post, I mentioned the RR sessions we hold here at MGH. I led my very own RR session earlier this month! To think I only began working here at the beginning of the summer and that I have already been trained  to lead RR has been a real, tangible indicator of all the information I have gathered so far. I’ve even included a picture of me from my first RR session I led.

Two current highlights I will be reporting on in this post are my creation of hair collection packages, another aspect of our clinical trial upkeep, and my work on an abstract—my first piece of research writing here at BHI! For the hair packages, when we perform clinical trials an important part is hair collection. The hair is very carefully and securely packaged when it is sent to us, and we record the hair samples we receive before sending them to the lab for data analysis. I have learned the entire process of hair collection, including package preparation and sending, package receiving and data entry, and transport to the lab. The data that hair samples can provide us with is one’s cortisol level: a biological marker of stress in an individual. Because our clinical trials aim to reduce stress, the hair samples combined with our questionnaires that rely on self-reporting measures give us an indicator of the changing stress levels over the duration of a relaxation intervention. When I discovered all of this data is contained in your hair I was amazed! And one more interesting fact: every centimeter of hair from your scalp down accurately represents one month. So in collecting 3cm of hair, we are able to collect stress data for the past 3 months! Click here to learn more about the cortisol levels your hair contains.

Below I’ve included a picture of the hair sample kit I created—I discovered the most uniform and methodical way to create hair packages for collection was to create several in the same fashion. It begins with a large envelope which holds everything, and inside we included a blank envelope for easy return and a plastic bag with foil in which participants put their hair sample.

My other project that I am currently working on is an abstract. This is giving me a chance to utilize my understanding of BHI’s methods and objectives—to elicit the relaxation response and monitor how it works in practice—in order to contextualize and analyze data from one of our clinical trials. For a reminder about mind body therapies, which are the focus of our institute, see this site which outlines some facts about Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). This abstract will be submitted for MGH Clinical Research Day and as a future task for this internship I will create a poster analyzing and explaining the data our center has gathered. In reflecting on my initial thoughts when beginning my internship, I would say I underestimated the degree to which I would do hands-on work and create tangible products.

As I reflect on my time at my internship so far and look forward to the time I have left here, I have appreciated the atmosphere that the BHI research team has created and welcomed me into. There have been numerous times I gave updates over conference calls or offered my opinion during group meetings and I have always felt like my contributions were valued. This has given me a positive outlook on the healthcare field which I plan to enter one day as a profession, and this experience has given me a great jumping-off point. Another feature my internship has given me that differs from other work I have done is that, particularly in the context of clinical trials, there are always many tasks that go into organizing and managing the day-to-day operation, so it has been challenging to prioritize which work is most pertinent at the moment. In academic life there are more regular deadlines and there is more direct supervision over individual tasks, such as assignments and assessments. Here, though, all members of the team have so many things they are simultaneously managing that it becomes very important for each individual to learn how to juggle many small tasks in any given day. Thus, some of the skills I have improved upon most are time-management and organization, which I thought I was an expert at before. If anything, until I had to handle upwards of ten tasks in a given day for a variety of up to three or four different projects I did not realize how much more I had to learn. But the learning curve was steep and quick, and now I feel that my efficiency and organizational skills have improved exponentially. These are absolutely skills I will use in the coming academic year, both for schoolwork and in the leadership roles I hold outside of the classroom.

Tune in a few weeks from now when I will be posting my final blog post! It’s hard to believe that my time at BHI this summer is almost over!

GP ’19

 

 

Reflecting on Research at CANDLab

So far, my internship at the Clinical Affective Neuroscience and Development lab has been an amazing experience. I have always loved the lab environment, a place where everyone is continually learning and helping each other grow, but this lab has a particularly great environment. Everyone is supportive of each other, the graduate students are a source of positivity and advice for the interns and the lab manager is always looking out for the interns to get more out of the internship.

It is very different to work as a summer intern research assistant compared to being a research assistant during the year. As a summer intern, I can see what a full time research assistant job would be like in terms of the hours and work that is done. I am a part of a team, and I see how, in the world of work, interactions with your co-workers are extremely important and valuable. It is different from the academic life in that you are not working for your own goals and achievements, you are working with people for a common goal. As a person who likes working in a team, I am really enjoying this aspect of the work.

A career in child clinical psychology requires a very long process starting from an undergraduate psychology degree to the postgraduate internship after your PhD. First of all, the experiences you have as an undergraduate majoring in psychology are very important. In order to be a good candidate for getting accepted to a PhD program in clinical psychology, which is what I want to do in the future, you need to have a lot of experience in the research field. This internship is giving me exposure to clinical research in the field of anxiety disorders and also giving me exposure to anxiety disorders in children. It is the most challenging lab I worked at, and I had the ability to get trained on things that will be extremely important in my future career as well as in future jobs right after college. I  administer intelligence tests, trauma questionnaires and anxiety inventories. These skills will help me in my future career. Another experience that is important to have in undergrad is clinical experience with children. This internship is giving me the opportunity to interact with healthy children and children with anxiety disorders. It is an amazing chance to improve my communication skills with children and their parents. This has been one of the best aspects of this internship and I think it will give me an advantage in the future when applying to jobs.

Selen Amado ’18

 

 

Reflections: New York Communities for Change

What have I learned about social justice work?

Professor Wallace concluded ED170A, “Critical Perspectives in Urban Education” by distinguishing between social service and social justice. Social service, he said, is relief from systems of oppression. Social Justice means changing the structures that make that service necessary. However, changing systems takes time.

One thing I’ve learned from my time at NYCC, is that an effective community organization needs a balance of social service and social justice initiatives. Because social justice fights are long and drawn out, it’s important to offer social services to keep community members engaged and motivated.

Let me give an example. East New York and Brownsville are sections of Brooklyn that have been hit hardest by gentrification and years of under-investment. These neighborhoods have high unemployment and homelessness rates. NYCC has a worker’s committee in East New York and Brownsville with the long terms goal of ensuring that De Blasio’s $1.35 billion job plan results in permanent jobs with living wages and a provision focused on youth training. However, that fight will take years of political pressure and protest. In the meantime, we are partnering with job training programs like Pathways 2 Apprenticeship to help residents find jobs within a broken system. P2A does not change the system, but it provides a measure of relief.

Another lesson I learned about social justice work is the importance of messaging and controlling the narrative. Let me give an example. New York City subways are in a state of emergency. NYCC could fight this problem from any number of angles. For instance, they could focus on safety issues, delays, derailments, fare hikes, or the criminalization of turnstile jumping. However, NYCC has made a concerted effort to link the crisis to the fact that rich people and wall street are not paying their fair share of taxes. To that aim, last Friday we held a rally outside of Blackstone executive Steven Schwarzman’s house.

 

We linked the action with Trumps Tax Plan with the hashtag #TrumpsTaxPlan and signs like “No More Giveaways to Billionaires.” In response, de Blasio announced a plan to fund MTA repairs by taxing the rich. Wild! I couldn’t believe it. NYCC leveraged this issue to achieve a specific policy aim. That is the power of messaging. You have to know not just what your fighting against, but also what your fighting for.

 

What advice would I give to someone  who wants to pursue an internship  in my organization or field?

I would advise people to focus on building relationships. This is the most important part of community organizing. Build relationships with members. Build relationships with colleagues. Build relationships with people in the community. Community organizing blurs the line between work and leisure. It’s okay to enjoy your time with folks or take time out of your leisure to build relationships with people. For instance, one of the most meaningful parts of my summer was attending a church of one the members of NYCC. I got to see him in a different environment.

I would advise folks to ask all your colleagues how you can help. For me, I am given high autonomy in my internship role and sometimes I don’t have a lot to do in the office. The best way to find tasks was by asking my colleagues if I could help them. I learned a lot by befriending the communication team and assisting them with social media outreach. Ask organizers if you can shadow them. This is the best way to learn about on-the-ground organizing.

-Gabriel Fontes

Giampietro Gallery Post #2

I can’t believe how the time is flying this summer at the gallery! My impression of the gallery remains complete awe and admiration. Fred, the owner, and Katie and Adam, run an incredibly personable gallery that is truly there for the artists. Yes, it is a commercial art gallery and they make a profit, but the artists come in daily just to chat and catch up, or ask for advice of help of any kind, and they are always welcomed with open arms. It is a truly wonderful place, and the kind of gallery that I hope to own one day.

Install Shot of Gallery from one angle

I have to say, the most surprising thing about this internship, was really just how much one needs an internship to truly learn. I absolutely love my time at Brandeis more than anything and I wish I could stay there forever! But, I have learned so much in this internship that I could never have learned in school. It is, in some ways, a very physical, hands on job. Since my last post, I finished pulling and labeling all the pieces from the back, which is no easy task because paintings can be really huge and you are on a ladder and identifying paintings based on brush stroke and common themes, much like an art history test actually, so I thoroughly enjoyed that. We had new shipments of paintings come in and documented them, there was an install and a de-install where I bonded with a few of the artists that I deeply respect such as Elena Herzog who is so incredibly talented. I learned how to wrap and ship paintings, the proper ways to handle different kinds of art, and completely mastered the system in which we inventory our work, and update the website, which is the same software used by most galleries and museums nationwide!

Me installing an Elena Herzog piece for the Opening

While this might seam like a rather banal skill-set when it’s phrased like “how to wrap and ship a painting”, let me just tell you how many layers and how important it is to get them right. Little things like, if the bubbles of the bubble-wrap (which is the third layer) face inwards on the first layer of bubble wrap, they could indent the surface and you could end up with faint circular indents all over the surface of the painting. So, you must wrap bubble out, then bubble in. There are also very specific instructions for hanging, and the various power tools involved, and heights, and aesthetic choices made in hanging shows that I will carry with me for the rest of my career. All of these skills are SO incredibly important when entering the gallery or museum world post-graduation, which is closer for me than I would like to admit, and I can now put all of these on a resume, skills that I did not even know I needed to possess!

I’ve also realized that my courses at Brandeis prepared me for this internship. Had I not taken and thrived in all of the art history courses I have taken at Brandeis, identifying the artist who made the unlabeled paintings in storage would have been nearly impossible. I truly have so much to be thankful to Brandeis for.

Olivia Joy ’18

Slow Season for Broadway? DKC/O&M Keeps Busy!

One of the other interns and me at the Tony Awards after party at the Carlyle Hotel!

Experiencing the Tony Awards, from the red carpet to the hottest after party at the Carlyle Hotel, was nothing less than absolutely fantastic! It always seemed like a distant dream to me and there I was, attending the same party as so many of my idols. Even though it was about a month ago, it’s still crazy to think that I was in the same room as celebrities such as Bette Midler, Olivia Wilde, Ben Platt, Sally Field, Anna Kendrick, Kevin Spacey, Darren Criss, Corey Cott, and about four hundred others. By the time I went to bed, I had been awake for over 20 hours but I didn’t even feel tired. I was very grateful for all of the adrenaline I was running on! That following week, the interns were kept very busy as we archived every mention of our shows from the Tony Awards on every news and media outlet, along with preparing for the opening night of “1984,” a new Broadway play based on George Orwell’s book adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan. “1984” recently premiered on June 22nd, so there was very little time after the Tony Awards to get everything together. Much of our time was spent on picking up and preparing tickets and press lists for the following week.

At the beginning of July, I moved into an apartment only four blocks from my office, which has cut my 2 hour commute into 10 minutes! I love being so close to work because I’m not exhausted while there and can really focus on what I’m doing. I’m also able to see many shows on Broadway since I live so close which is how I love to spend my evenings.

Soon we will be preparing for the opening of Michael Moore’s new play, “The Terms of My Surrender.” I feel more prepared having already done work for the opening of “1984” and hope that I will be able to help even more than before. The summer is typically a very slow time for the Broadway world but we are lucky enough to be part of two shows that begin during the summer.

Working with DKC/O&M has solidified my desire to go into Arts Administration after college. Since we don’t offer courses around Arts Administration at Brandeis, I really didn’t know what it was or that it was even an option for me. I am very grateful for my internship because it is very difficult to truly learn what it is a press agent does in an academic setting. So much of the work is hands on and it’s great to be able to get that experience with DKC/O&M. Getting to see how different situations are handled first hand is invaluable. I love the environment I’m in, the people I’m working with, the work I’m doing, and the experiences I am lucky enough to have. If you find yourself interested in working in Arts Administration, my suggestion is that you apply for every internship you can get your hands on. The theater community, especially in New York, is so small and close knit that no matter where you end up, you’ll be connecting and working with people from all different areas of Arts Administration. You’ll make extremely valuable connections and it can’t hurt to try something different than what we’re always studying in school!

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Me: “Kisa ou ta renmen ye le ou gran?” Translated to English, “What would you like to be when you grow up?”

In Haiti, when you ask students what they would like to be when they grow up, they always answer, “a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher.” This proved to be true when I asked 60 students this question in the first week of Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp.  After reflecting on why this might be, I came to realize that most of them say these careers because they are pretty much the norm in Haiti. These are the careers students are aware of. At ETE Camp, we believe that it is important to teach these students about other career paths.

Observing my students work.

Now, when I ask the students what they would like to be they don’t all say, “doctor, teacher and lawyer”.  Students chime in with jobs like, “engineer, business woman, agronomist, professional soccer player, and neurologist”.  In addition, they’ve started to see themselves as leaders. They understand that they have a sense of responsibility to serve their community by contributing to its development. ETE Camp over the past 9 consecutive years has been forming youth to become leaders in Hinche, Haiti. Although that doesn’t erase the fact that certain students still don’t have access to a quality education; it empowers these young people to fight for a better education for themselves and their peers.

“Let’s take a picture, guys”

ETE Camp creates the momentum of producing leaders in the Hinche community because of the support of many individuals. Each year many people from the US  volunteer at ETE Camp. Now, we have over 40 counselors who teach during the program. Teaching at the program not only benefits the young leaders in Hinche, but also it benefits individuals like me who volunteer. Many counselors who volunteer are English teachers in the United States, often they teach English as a second language.  At ETE Camp, Creole is the dominant spoken language but our counselors teach English, Engineering, Leadership, and Mathematics.  They gain perspective on how challenging it can be to learn a second or third language and can apply this to the struggles that immigrants might face when starting school in the United States of America while learning a new language. The experiences staff have at ETE Camp usually shape the way they teach students when returning to the US.

“SUCCEED”

To sum it up, ETE Camp creates an opportunity for youth to learn how to be leaders. It gives students the confidence to think outside of the norms when choosing a career. It opens a door for people like me to make an impact on individuals I would not meet if it were not for the camp. The smalls steps ETE Camp supporters take, help us to accomplish something great and help students SUCCEED!

End of my Internship

I ended my internship working with the Program Services and Survey department at FCD. For the survey department, I finished the lit review I was working on for background information about parental supervision and permission to drink and supply at home. Hopefully they can use what I have researched to help with the publication of some of their research that they have already done using the surveys they give to school and the data they have collected from it. I also helped my supervisor in the survey department scan some of the last surveys they got from the 2016-2017 school year using their scantron.

For program services, I completed a few assignments and I was able to work with the high school interns that arrived in July. They are working on these videos that FCD will send to individuals that have signed up for the weekly newsletter. Each video talks about a certain topic, for example, one of them they talk about normative beliefs and they are also hoping to be able to interview a prevention specialist. I met with them to talk about some of their ideas and sat in on one of their practices to give them a different perspective. It was  interesting to get their perspective of what they thought of FCD as high school students, which is part of the grade level that FCD works with. In addition, I looked over a research update one of the other college students worked on earlier this summer and contributed a bit of data that I found from my research on parental supervision of alcohol. I provided some of my ideas and opinions on it and our supervisor will attempt to use what she created and some of the edits I did to make a finalized version of this. I also worked on a PowerPoint that prevention specialists will be able to use as one of their resource. This was actually a request from one of them after one of their students asked them what the inside of a human brain looks like after using substances. FCD wanted to give accurate data but also did not want to use scare tactics and say things like “these are holes in your brain” when really it is just less blood flow to certain areas. I found some images like this one under the alcohol section. I used these images to create a PowerPoint and wrote some summaries and discussion questions for the prevention specialists to use.

Student Comments: So many are positive!

Coming into this internship, I did not have the most specific goals and I think that was good because I came in with an open mind and did not think that only certain things were worthwhile to do. I had wanted to learn more about prevention in general because that is what FCD specialize in. I definitely think I met that goal after interning there this summer. They were open to questions and were so willing to explain things to me about FCD. I also wanted to get a better sense of how a health-related organization is run. I was able to work in all four of the departments over the summer and that gave me a good idea of how each department is critical and necessary to a health organization. I liked having this background internship where the prevention specialists are the ones who talk to the schools while people at the administrative building at FCD provide them with the support they need to make everything work and run smoothly. I wanted to see how a public health organization can affect the community it works with. Seeing how many schools have worked with FCD and reading student comments about FCD showed how much they have impacted the lives of these students.

 

FCD works across the globe to teach students about prevention.

I still am not quite sure of what I want to do after graduation. I don’t know if it made me want to work specifically in a substance abuse prevention organization even though I enjoyed my time at FCD immensely. At the same time, FCD is so unique, I don’t think I will find something that is quite like it. I did enjoy working at this small non-profit and I felt welcomed into their community. I have always known I do like working individually for the most part on assignments. But after interning at FCD, I realized I do like being able to bounce ideas of my supervisors and fellow interns have the space and ability to ask questions and get suggestions. One thing I noticed is that sometimes I just have a hard time getting started with a new assignment or project. I have this feeling of not wanting to mess it up already and just not being very confident in myself to produce exactly what my supervisor is expecting. After FCD, I realized that sometimes I just have to make the plunge and start it after I have asked all the clarifying questions, and it will usually turn out fine.

I think that a student who wants to intern at FCD should know that the people who work there welcome all questions that you have. They encourage interns to ask questions and to question things they do in order to learn. They value an intern’s input and will ask for their opinions and ideas. At FCD, an intern has to realize this is a smaller organization and people are very passionate and motivated about the work they do. Prevention, to them, is not just a class but an environment they hope to create in communities. There will be independent work but supervisors are always willing to help and ask questions. I think in these health non-profits in general, people have to realize, for the most part, the people who work there are extremely passionate about the mission of their organization. At these smaller non-profits, everyone has to help with everything. Although my supervisors and other all helped when the need arose. I think that is something people have to realize when going to work at a smaller organization; although you may be going in to do something specific, you also have to help with the general running of the organization.

I think the thing that I am most proud about after this internship is the fact that I was able to produce things that was not just for an academic grade but could actually be used in the real world. I’m just really glad I was able to help the organization with their mission. I think it really helped that my supervisors were always willing to explain to me why I was doing something so it never felt like I was just given a random task to do as busy work. Knowing why I did something gave it value. I am proud that, for example, the intern evaluation I made for FCD will be used in the future and the PowerPoint I made could be something a prevention specialist might use in the classroom in some distant school. FCD was a lovely organization and I am so glad I found them and that I was accepted into their organization with so much welcome and support.

Looking Back On My Time At WINGS

During training we were advised that these children came from traumatic backgrounds and that these backgrounds gravely affected them. While I’ve always known and been advised that these campers are not necessarily like others, I wish I had known more about how they might be different before I began this summer.

Many times during craft or a quiet activity, one of the campers would start talking about their home life. One child referred to her father as a monster of whom she was still afraid, another child spoke of his father’s shooting, and yet another spoke of the yelling and hitting that occurred in their home. Today, an inconsolable child spent thirty minutes trying to open a locked door as I stood by with Child Advocates. He had been removed from the classroom because he had begun hitting and kicking his brother, and with the locked door between them he was unable to force the brother into doing what he wanted. Similarly, a couple of weeks ago, two of our older campers stopped showing up regularly, and we were eventually informed that the older sister had been caught trying to strangle the younger brother. Situations like this never really occurred during any of my past jobs working with children, and I had to learn how to adapt to engaging with traumatized children.

However, I’ve also learned just how resilient these children are. Some of these kids have been in abusive homes their whole lives and are just now starting to get a sense of what safety truly is. Despite all that they have been through in their short lives, they still show up to camp with smiles on their faces. When selecting their feeling at the beginning of the camp, they oftentimes talk about how excited they are to see what activities are planned and what the “theme” is.

It may not look like much but we spent over an hour designing, testing, and perfecting our very own mini-golf course.

Most of the time, these kids are no different than any others—they laugh, they sing songs, they try to trick you into spelling I.c.u.p.—so it is oftentimes difficult to remember the trauma they have been through. It is oftentimes difficult to remember that at the end of the day they have fled for their lives.

The activity helped highlight how difficult it is for many to get help.

During training, one of the exercises that really stood out to me was a group activity in which we were placed into the roles of fictional domestic violence victims. My character was a wealthy lawyer who married the good-looking attorney that visited her workplace. It started with controlling behaviors, emotional abuse, and financial abuse. Then, the physical abuse began. As we worked through the game we were forced to make choices: would we speak to our local minister or try explaining the situation to our best girlfriend, would we call the domestic violence hotline, or simply wait, hoping that our mother would ask about the bruises dotting our neck? Even during the game the choices seemed nearly impossible, and even though we tried making the best decisions we still ended up back at the “Abuse Happens” station, where we had to each take a Band-Aid and place it on our physical body. The visceral image of being covered by Band-Aids is one that I will never forget.

I really enjoyed my time interning at WINGS. It was such a unique experience that led to an invaluable summer. Being given the opportunity to step into such a leadership position was something that I truly think I needed to experience. Through the position I was able to develop my planning skills, social skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, and a plethora of other things. I learned so much about a crisis that affects so many across the country and across the globe. Domestic violence knows no race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, class, etc. Domestic violence is a real problem that affects millions.  My experience with WINGS is one that will stay with me, and I am immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to interact with children, their parents, and the organization as a whole.

Mid-Point at Global Trade Watch

It is hard to believe that time is passing so quickly and that I am more than halfway done with my internship at Global Trade Watch! It has been an action-packed couple of weeks, full of research projects, phone banking, and attending protests. Washington D.C. really is the place to be in the midst of all this political turnover. I have settled into the day-to-day life and working environment of a political advocacy non-profit. Every day I work from 9am to 6pm in an open cubicle next to another intern, working on whatever projects we have in store for the day. We get our projects mainly from the senior researchers, but also from the field director or from anybody else who needs help with a project. We usually have a few days to complete the task, but almost all of our work does end up being circulated or used in some larger component within the organization, so all of our work is high priority and often on a deadline. It is very exciting to be able to contribute to the actual workload of the organization. It feels like we are truly able to participate and that our jobs mean something. Our projects can range from anything like sending off information packets and making phone calls to researching export and import data and the corporate contributions that have been made to a congressman’s campaign. A few weeks ago we spent days calling congressional offices to update our contact lists with the names and emails of current staffers, a tedious but very necessary task. Luckily, our supervisor also gave us cookies to keep us happy! I also got the chance to attending a NAFTA 101 Briefing at the House of Representatives! It was in a small conference room and the panel was mostly talking to a room of interns sent by various higher-ups, but it was still very exciting to be a part of! I took notes and later sent out a write-up to my team.

Working in an office is definitely a different experience than attending classes in a university setting. Because it is a longer stretch of working hours, 9 hours with a one hour lunch break, it requires a more long-term form of concentration than focusing on a 50 minute lecture. It is sometimes a challenge to stay focused on a single, perhaps tedious task for hours on end. Conversely, sometimes there are gaps in projects where there is nothing to work on and we have to be able to use our time productively on our own while waiting for an assignment. Both of these skills take focus and practice, and I am glad I am getting a taste of what that can be like before I head out into the workforce permanently. On the other hand, I really appreciate the lack of homework and being able to truly be done with work for the day once I return home. I don’t have to worry about completing an assignment late at night, and I never have to sacrifice sleep for work.

I truly feel like I am getting a lot out of my internship this summer. I am

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking at a Planned Parenthood rally!

learning a lot of valuable skills, such as streamlining research, becoming more comfortable talking on the telephone, and learning more about how to use excel spreadsheets. I am also learning a lot about politics and legislation, even though I am not working directly with the government. I look forward to being able to bring these skills back to Brandeis with me when I return in the fall. I plan to use my more advanced research skills, honed over this summer, to my advantage in my classes when I have to do research projects. I plan on using my acquired skills in excel and data processing particularly in my Econ classes in addition to being a marketable skill for my resume. Since I will be applying to jobs before I know it, I think getting more comfortable on the telephone will really help me in the interview process. Most importantly, I believe I will take away a better sense of my interests and what I might like to do as a career. I am especially enjoying the research aspect of my internship, and I think that is a good thing to know about myself. On the other side, I know I will not want to pursue a career in field organizing, it is just not for me! This already has been such a rich summer and I look forward to what else is in store.

Our website

Watch this video of Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, talking about our work!

CHIBPS – Final Reflections

I have spent a lot of this summer realizing how impactful research can be for social change, and how many vastly different ways there are to serve socially just causes. There are so many channels: conducting research, participating in community activism, working on political a campaign, working at a non-profit, becoming a social worker (to name a few). Considering the multitude of ways that people fight for progressive change and justice, particularly through their careers, is mostly exciting, from a social perspective, and somewhat daunting career perspective. When I started this internship, there seemed to be two clear career routes within the realm of public health: being an epidemiologist or other type of researcher, or working in policy and advocacy. While this internship has taught me so much about how research contributes to social justice and serves as a tool for improving public health policy, it has also made me question whether I would like to conduct research for the entirety of my working life.

As the CHIBPS summer internship program has started to wind down, the staff has organized several career-related talks for the interns. Yesterday, I attended the masters in public health seminar. One of the directors of CHIBPS discussed her trajectory through public health, her schooling and various jobs. It made me feel even more indecisive about my career path. But at the end, she left us with one last piece of sage advice. She said, “everything is public health.” This means that every industry and field of work has an impact on public health. In addition, all social justice work relates back to health, even if it is not explicitly discussing the physical or mental health of the people it is fighting for.

Public health is a prominent topic in the mainstream political discourse at the moment. For instance, the senate’s turbulent plans to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act that potentially threatens 22 million Americans’ health insurance coverage. Or the recent tumultuous debates surrounding women’s reproductive health and Planned Parenthood funding.

These issues are obviously explicitly public healthcare related, and thus the social justice activism surrounding them is focused on the goal of improving (or preserving) the health of at-risk populations. However, social justice activism aimed at issues related to LGBTQIA rights, police brutality, sexual violence, immigration, the environment, etc., are all tied to health. This is because identity greatly influences people’s access to healthcare, and how the healthcare system and healthcare providers interpret individuals. As for the environment example, it should be obvious that without a healthy environment, there are no healthy people (not to mention environmental racism’s impact on negative health outcomes, i.e. Flint, Michigan). Outside of activism, industries have a massive impact on the public health both economically and culturally.

From this standpoint, the biggest piece of advice I would give someone looking to pursue a social justice-related job or internship is to keep this in mind and consider how your career passions might work to serve causes you are passionate about. Consider the ethics of organizations before you apply to them. Decide how closely you would like to work with the community you are working with. I am lucky to have found an organization that improved my research skills and allowed me to interact with community members. However, the downside of research is that the results of our labor are not immediate and that is something that I sometimes struggle with. Despite that, I am happy to have interned at CHIBPS and so thankful that the WOW allowed me this formative summer in New York.

-Alex Shapiro

ETE Camp 2017 Open House

Greeting from the ETE Camp students and staff.

We’ve always referred to Brandeis University as a school that is strongly based on social justice due to its dynamic history and population. We have a culture at Brandeis where we serve the underprivileged and give them opportunities that otherwise, they would not have access to. Many students at Brandeis are involved in social justice work in one way or another. My passion to be involved in work that fights for equal rights is what attracted me to Brandeis.

At Brandeis, I am not only seeing other people do social justice work, I am also able to do my own work. “Empowering Through Education” Camp offers children a quality curriculum that they do not find in the schools in their community.  Many schools in Haiti require a fee for attendance.  Families that cannot afford this payment are not able to send their students to school and these children miss out on the opportunity to attend school. Also, the more elite schools have higher fees so families who do have some funds might elect to send their children to less elite schools because of the cost.  ETE camp is making sure that all students, no matter what school they attend, are given the same education and materials as their peers so all are able to equally enjoy the camp experience.

Me (with the yellow shirt) at the ETE Camp Open House giving parents information.

On Sunday, July 2 ETE Camp had an open house as the program started on July 3Parents and students were extremely excited to have the opportunity to be at the camp during the vacation because otherwise these students would not do anything during their summer break. During the open house, unfortunately, many students had to be turned away because camp is limited to sixty children.  It was really hard to see some children cry and many parents go home very disappointed.   Even though we are aware that all students deserve a quality education, our capacity is extremely limited due to resources and funding.

Brandeis University and ETE Camp in Hinche Haiti are both working to achieve a social justice mission by providing a quality education to unprivileged children. As ETE Camp is in its 9th consecutive year, we have alumni that are starting to give back to the camp and it is amazing to see how the work of social justice and equality is really working within the Hinche community. It is a powerful to have the opportunity to do work like this and I am very passionate about carrying the Brandeis University legacy through this work. I thank all of you who share my vision and have helped make this work possible for me.

 

CHIBPS – Blog 3

The Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies primary social justice goal is to “improve the lives of those affected with or by HIV, substance abuse and mental health burdens through the rigorous application of social science and public health research paradigms.” CHIBPS is identified as “a leading HIV, substance abuse, and mental health, behavior research center that is focused on the well-being of all people including sexual, racial, ethnic and cultural minorities and other marginalized populations.”  While this goal sounds broad, its vastness allows CHIBPS to create research projects that are focused on wide ranging issues relevant to the communities we aim to serve. Currently, that includes studies of men who have sex with men, and a study of older HIV positive men who identify as gay.

As I hinted in my previous blog, CHIBPS recognizes the important role researchers play in furthering knowledge on issues of public health to better our cultural understanding of HIV, and to destigmatize the mainstream narratives which thus influences policy. However, one of the things that I find most challenging when attacking issues of social injustice from a research angle, is that researchers do not witness the immediate change and cannot influence or bias the results. In the context of our research projects, this means that we are not able to tell people that they should be changing their behavior to lower their risk of contracting or transmitting HIV. We can offer resources if they ask, but we cannot influence their behavior in any way. In addition, the American healthcare system is extremely complicated and bureaucratic. Therefore, policy or innovation moves rather slowly. Research, particularly on human subjects, is a lengthy and messy process. And it looks different depending on which study we are working on.

This summer, my role in the study of older HIV positive, gay identified men is centered primarily on study recruitment either online, in community centers or at Pride events around the city. The goal of this study is to understand how psychosocial factors such as homophobia, ageism, etc., impact the process of aging with HIV. Thus progress in this context looks like identifying those factors and understanding what it is like for the first generation of people who have aged with HIV as their life expectancy now matches the rest of the population. Progress in this context looks like deepening our knowledge of an older HIV positive gay man’s experience, in the hopes of both humanizing them and improving their quality of life.

 

In the longitudinal study that has been following young men who have sex with men in the New York metropolitan area, the goal is to understand the development of both maladaptive and adaptive behaviors and to further develop a theory of syndemic production of HIV. This would, again, further our knowledge of HIV to help improve HIV related policy and hopefully decrease the rate of transmission among men who have sex with men. My involvement in this study entails interviews of subjects surrounding their sexual behavior and substance use. The fact that this study is longitudinal implies that it is a long, evolving process. To summarize, the broad goal of our behavioral research is to find results that deepen our understanding of HIV, and lead to tangible progress for the communities we serve.

-Alex Shapiro

Exploring Providence and Learning at RIIFF: Blog Post #2

Walking through Providence everyday on my way to work feels refreshing. The combination of a once unfamiliar place beginning to feel like home, and of a transition into a truly vibrant city with new people, has made my summer exciting. I’ve grown to appreciate Providence and all that it has to offer, as well as accept that there is so much more to see that I have yet to explore. As a Sponsorship and Development Associate at RIIFF, I have become acutely aware of just how many more dining hot-spots and local tourist attractions I should check out in my quest to feel more of the Rhode Island experience. I have been able to see the buildings that host many of the major events of Rhode Island through my sponsorship work. One such building is the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), a gorgeous building that will be used for our Opening Night.

My time during this summer at RIIFF is much more focused than when I am full-time at Brandeis, by nature of being able to truly  focus on my internship itself. At school, I juggle a multitude of commitments, ranging from academic pursuits to social activities, including work, community service, athletic teams and classes. During this summer at RIIFF, I have not had to balance so many of those obligations, so my time at work is truly the main receiver of all my energy. I am able to come to work each day with a fresh mind without many distractions. This is something I have truly come to appreciate in the day-to-day lifestyle I am able to live this summer.

Standing in front of the location of WaterFire, a Providence attraction!

One of my favorite aspects of this internship is engaging in interviews with our favorite filmmakers. It is so rewarding to be able to talk to and learn from some of the best in the industry. I have the opportunity to interview one of my favorite interviewers on his documentaries regarding the impacts of prison and necessary reforms surrounding the system. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so, particularly given my long-standing appreciation for this filmmaker and my passion for the topics that he covers. In addition, the ability to view so many different films from all over the world is invaluable, and I feel as though I have learned so much from watching them.

I have loved immersing myself in the world of sponsorship work. The skills I have learned here at RIIFF are those I could certainly apply in other aspects of my life. I feel confident in pursuing sponsors, should I need to, for clubs I am involved in on campus now. While many of the interactions I have with potential sponsors take place over the phone, I have come to realize that in-person meeting is a much easier way to specify exactly what is wanted so that I can persuade potential sponsors to provide that. Communicating over the phone is very important in my role here, which is a skill that I will be able to apply in almost all of my future endeavors. It is rewarding to focus on being charming while communicating over a medium which is often seen as impersonal because of its lack of face-to-face contact.  

View of Downtown Providence

I am looking forward to seeing all of the work completed by RIIFF staff come to fruition during the festival. We already are anticipating the business of that week with much excitement! If you are interested in attending, please feel free to click here to purchase tickets!

-Anna Craven

My reflection on MPHA

Front door of the Congregational House, which is where MPHA is located along with many other nonprofit organizations.

Now that I only have a few weeks left of my internship at the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my experience. A significant thing that I’ve learned is that everyone’s duties align with each other in that each person’s job is significant for another person to be successful in their own job. I spoke about this in my third blog post, which spoke on the process of my organization and how they achieve their goals. Also, since MPHA is a nonprofit organization, many of the staff members will help another staff member in need since the staff size is so small. For instance, when the Events Manager needed some help with the Spring Awards Breakfast, other staff members were able to help. The community is strong and everyone is okay with helping other staff members because they know how important the work is.

Throughout my internship, I’ve interviewed different MPHA partners to then create a story about how MPHA has positively impacted their organizations and communities where these organizations are located. Before I worked on this project, I helped MPHA with their spring awards breakfast during the month of May. I created posters, contacted potential guests, updated the salesforce database, made trips to Staples, and more. This was a big payoff for me because by the day of the breakfast, I was so proud to have played a role in its execution. It was a beautiful breakfast and I was able to listen to the speeches of the different public health honorees at the breakfast. One of the honorees Dr. Megan Sandel, who wrote a study that I analyzed in my Epidemiology & Biostatistics class that I took this past spring semester.

Something that I wish I knew when my internship started is that I should expect to have responsibilities in many different areas rather than just the one area that I was expecting to. Like I said earlier, since the staff/organization is so small, staff members will offer their hand in help for activities that other staff members are doing. This is why my responsibilities varied from interviewing public health professionals to entering data on the salesforce database. I wish I knew this when I first started so that I wouldn’t be surprised when I would spend the day doing something other than what I was originally told I would be doing prior to when my internship started.

I would tell people to keep this in mind if they will be interning for MPHA or another nonprofit organization. I also recommend to take advantage of all the connections that you will make throughout the internship. It is so important to have connections to land you a job after graduating college. Make sure to build a relationship not only with the staff members of the organization, but also with the professionals that you will meet outside your organization during your internship. Finally, I would recommend taking advantage of bigger assignments that are offered to you so that you can gain more experience and build your resume. But most of all, enjoy your time as an intern because it is your opportunity to immerse yourself in the workplace while still having the experience of being a student in college.

Take-aways from an Incredible Internship at PDS

Are you interested in an investigative internship at PDS? Do it. If you’re thinking of going into law and want an experience that requires you to think on your feet, this internship is for you.
Is there anything I wish I knew at the beginning? Not really – this experience was a process that had to happen to me in due time. I’ve seen things, I’ve heard things, and I’ve felt things that I would have never expected. This summer I was born like a giraffe – dropped straight to the ground and quickly taught how to stand. That isn’t to say there isn’t training – we’re taught from the very beginning how to take statements, serve subpoenas, etc. But the advice I would give to someone pursuing an opportunity at PDS is related: expect the unexpected. Sure, it’s also good to read up on the criminal justice system, the lifetime of a case, etc., but ultimately there’s no real way to prepare for intensive experience that is the criminal law internship at PDS.
The lobby at PDS, where we take walk-ins.
In terms of social justice, my eyes have been pried so far open I’ve been blinded by the sunlight, so to speak. I’ve seen poverty–real, awful poverty–right here in DC. Like the kind of poverty where children don’t have mattresses to sleep on, where flakes of paint containing lead regularly chip off the walls, and where corn flakes are for dinner without debate. I’ve seen segregation, both by race and class – segregation so stark it makes you cringe, segregation so stark that you question whether the era of Jim Crow already ended. Within DC in particular the disparity could not be more obvious. In certain neighborhoods in the Northwest quadrant, you see enormous mansions, and white people predominate. It’s rare that you seen a black person. Cross the Anacostia River south and that world flips on its head: everyone is black, the poverty rate and crime rates skyrocket, and life-expectancy nearly cuts in half. It’s a sad, sad reality.
I’ve also learned about the horrors that constitute our jails and prisons. I’ve spoken to inmates, listened to jail calls, and heard less-than-flattering stories – stories you can only laugh at or else you’ll cry. I’ve seen autopsy reports. Crime scene photos. Gruesome, sickening wounds no one should ever have.
Most of all, I’ve learned firsthand about the systemic cycle of injustice that the invisible people of our communities continue to endure, even now, into the 21st century.
A housing complex my partner and I drove by in the field.
Whatever I end up doing, my career must involve helping these neglected people. That I know for certain. Often in their darkest hour, just charged with a crime, I want to be there to affirm to clients of a public defender office: You are not alone. Someone cares about you.
 
That brings me to the Free Minds Book Club. If nothing else, look them up and see the incredible work they do. Free Minds is an organization that facilitates the reading of books and writing of poetry by juveniles who are charged as adults (usually for a severe crime) and incarcerated in jail or prison. It turns out writing is a powerful, powerful medium for people to express themselves. Free Minds came to our office this week, and we got the opportunity to offer compliments and feedback on inmates’ poems. It was moving to read the poems of incarcerated children – to see them reach such depth and become so vulnerable for the strangers who they knew would read their poems.
In closing, I thank you for reading. This summer has been a whirlwind. If you’re thinking about law, intern at PDS. ​

Skills I’ve gained at MPHA

Now that I have been interning at the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) for nearly three months, I’ve developed various skills that I did not have before. My main responsibility at MPHA is to interview different MPHA partners about the positive impact that MPHA and its programs has had on their organization and the community around their location. I then writes stories about their experiences, which are then uploaded to their website and included in print materials. This responsibility has helped me gain skills in creating interview questions, conducting a formal interview, and writing stories that will appeal to everyone, whether they are in the public health field or not.

Interviews that I have conducted and have yet to conduct have been/will be with staff members at Groundwork Lawrence in Lawrence, MA, Healthy Community Initiatives in Revere MA, Fitchburg Community Connections Coalition in Fitchburg, MA,

Revere City Hall, which is where Healthy Community Initiatives is located.

Edward M Kennedy Community Health Center in Worcester, MA, The South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA, and Berkshire Interfaith Organizing in Pittsfield, MA. I research the organization and the person that I’m interviewing prior to the interview so that I will know how to create the questions.

This has been very beneficial to me because I have the opportunity to meet with different professionals. Since I am a rising senior, post-graduate life has been on my mind a lot, and I am always thinking about my future job. My career will be very different from my life now. Right now, most of the adults that I speak to are my teachers. However, I need to gain experience with professionals in the workplace since that is where I will be after I graduate. Therefore, talking with professionals in my field at this internship gives me a head start in feeling comfortable with talking to these people when I’m in the workplace. This experience has also provided me with important connections with people that can potentially help me in obtaining a job post-graduation.

Throughout this internship I have been imagining my future career and what I would like in my ideal workplace. I feel that sitting in an office 9-5 is pretty unavoidable. Luckily, I don’t seem to mind it. I think that what will be most important for me in my future career is that I am working with individuals that I get along with well and add some excitement to the office. I believe that anything can be much more enjoyable when you are with people that you like. I also appreciate working in a city rather than the suburbs because it is convenient, and I also appreciate my mid-afternoon strolls when I start to become restless sitting at my desk all day.

 

Me helping with MPHA’s rally for the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund at the State House.

Finally, I learned that I really enjoy meeting new people and gaining connections throughout the city. I’ve met people at my workplace, in the State House, and in many different cities across Massachusetts. Meeting these different people has given me inspiration and always makes me excited to go back to MPHA to fulfill my own duties after hearing about the impact these professionals are making in their own community.

A Taste of Research

I am halfway through my internship, and yet I feel like I have so much still left to explore and accomplish. This is my first time in a research environment that is not directly relevant to my main focus of computer science, however computer science plays an integral role in the research I’m currently a part of. Our center studies the neurological consequences of neuropathic pain through quantitative analysis of the sciatic nerve, and the technical side makes it possible to conduct our research. This reinforces the idea of how my areas of interest computer engineering can be applied to enhancing and that sometimes it’s just a matter of creativity.

One of the ways that this experience has impacted me is the way I approach computer science related problems. In contrast to the methodical approach to solving a problem taught in classes, I am learning that not every factor can be put into a simple sequence of steps. Rather, research is complex and it is difficult to consider all the factors that can affect our approach – unlike controlled scenarios in school when multiple factors are ignored for simplicity. There is no set algorithm to solve something, especially in the biomedical field. While research can be fun and serve as an outlet for creativity, it can also be quite frustrating when you have to work on the same thing for long periods of time often just trying to correct a mistake.

Most of the work I’m doing so far pertains to diffusion tensor imaging. One of the things that I have had the opportunity to learn about is the different algorithms out there in implementing diffusion tensor imaging. Often with MRI scans in the lower extremities, many artifacts can produce lower image quality can make MRI scans more difficult to analyze. For example moving blood vessels might create a strip of noise and blur out the image in certain areas, which is especially true for axial weighted T2 images. One way I have learned to get around this issue is to use diffusion weighted imaging.

Diffusion weighted image of the brain (Fiber tractography)
The ADC is one of the maps produced from diffusion tensor imaging. The b1000 is the b-value that indicates how much the image is weighted by the diffusion. The T1 and T2 images are MRI scans and it can be difficult to locate a nerve with such image quality especially when it is small. DTI is used to highlight the mass on the leg scan.

Water molecules in the body go through random motion, and by applying a special diffusion from encoding gradients, the MRI can now be sensitive towards this motion. This is known as a diffusion weighted image. When we apply the diffusion gradients, it is necessary to calculate a diffusion tensor to each pixel in the image. After extensive calculations, you get color coded maps that describe the diffusion anisotropy which provides a better idea of the different nerves in the body. This technique is used to grasp a better understanding of the white matter tracts in the brain, and in the study that I’m a part of this method is being applied to see if it is an efficient neuroimaging technique for the lower extremities.

The coolest part of my internship is that nobody has really attempted to improve neuroimaging techniques to capture the nerves below the spinal chord. While this is exciting, there are unique challenges I face since very little research exists for me to draw on where someone has attempted a similar approach. Overall, this experience has introduced me what research in academia actually entails – both the advantages and disadvantages that research poses – and has introduced me to new ways to think about how to use technology to develop novel approaches to solve problems.

To learn more about the research:

http://www.childrenshospital.org/research-and-innovation/research/centers/center-for-pain-and-the-brain-pain-research-group

www.painandthebrain.org