Reflecting on my summer of research

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be conducting a major experiment seeking to elucidate the effect of our experimental compound on the efficacy of the existing neuroblastoma immunotherapy. My entire summer built up to this experiment, and I am thrilled to report that the results were largely positive. We were concerned that our experimental compound might interfere with the effectiveness of the existing immunotherapy, an antibody that modulates antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (among other immune processes) against tumor cells. Therefore, we were ecstatic to discover that the experimental compound actually appears to increase the efficacy of this process – at least in our simplified, in vitro ADCC model. Of course, as I have mused, research is rarely a linear path. Although we repeated this experiment twice more with the same results, the findings provoked new questions about our assay that will require future experimentation to affirm the validity of our conclusion. And, most importantly, we still need to assess how our experimental compound works with the immunotherapy in vivo, as live animals are far more complex than any in vitro model. Still, I am quite satisfied with my work, our findings, and how the summer wrapped up.

Tumor cells that I maintained this summer in the incubator. As I’ve learned, in vitro models greatly simplify in vivo processes, which is both good and bad.

All in all, I do think I met my learning goals for the summer. I wanted to experience science in the “real world,” and this project, with its trials, challenges, and triumphs, definitely did just that. Participating in this project taught me how to transfer academic knowledge into a real-world context. I also wanted to learn more about biomedical research, as I am currently applying to veterinary school and am potentially interested in a career that combines clinical medicine and research. Participating in this internship opened my eyes to the world of research. I saw that even though research can be tedious and slow, it can also be incredibly exciting and fulfilling. This internship definitely piqued my interest in pursuing a career as a veterinary clinician-scientist.

There is something thrilling about producing data that both answers questions and sparks new ones.

To other students interested in pursuing a similar internship, I would stress the importance of patience. For most of the summer, the research seemed very slow-going. I took about six weeks to become comfortable with the techniques and protocols and feel competent in the lab. At the same time, for many weeks we were attempting to utilize an assay that was not sensitive enough for our purposes, and running failing experiments over and over again was disheartening. However, this is all part of research and the learning curve; perseverance is definitely a vital quality in any researcher, especially one who is new to the field. Additionally, I would stress the necessity of keeping an organized notebook, as carefully writing up all of my experiments definitely made it easier to keep details straight as we progressed throughout the summer.

All in all, I am most proud of how much I was able to learn this summer: about neuroblastoma, immunotherapy, research, and my own ambitions.

Michelle Oberman ’16

Internship Completion at Riverside Early Intervention

Friday July 25

Jean Perez, ’15

Days and hours at the internship site: From the day that I started my internship (Jun 2) until now (July 28) two whole months have gone by and I have successfully completed 200 hours at my internship site.

My internship at Riverside Early Intervention has given me the opportunity to achieve the three initial goals that I had at the beginning of this whole journey. My first goal had to do with academics. Initially I wanted to expand my understanding of topics covered in the course, Disorders of Childhood. During the internship I observed and got hands on experience with both psychological and physiological disorders in children with disabilities. The experience has helped me to understand that that these two aspects originate from many sources including environmental factors and family genetics. As I went through many of the readings that were assigned, I quickly learned new things and how to apply these new skills to the work that I was doing with the kids. For example, one of the things that I learned was that many kids have sensory needs and so by helping the children learn about different textures I was showing them how to explore the world and learn new information. This was a therapeutic way to experience the world around them and ultimately enhanced their learning abilities.

My second goal dealt with the career path that I am most likely going to be taking after I graduate college and get my Master’s degree. After my experience at Riverside Early Intervention, I am now considering becoming a developmental specialist for children with special needs. Also, my second goal was to be able to treat children with special needs effectively. By doing charts reviews, reading articles based on different disorders, and learning about the maturation process of children,  I have increased my understanding of child development. With the training and the knowledge that I have gained at Riverside from their team of specialists, I can now detect motor disorders and developmental disorders such as Autism with ease. I can also treat these disorders by applying the same techniques and concepts that developmental specialists, social workers, speech language pathologists and physical therapists use at the early intervention center.

My third goal was a personal one. I wanted to increase my understanding of the family dynamics and intervention methods that are used to assist children with different disabilities. In this internship I have learned that one of the most important factors that can help a child with special needs is to have a supportive environment both at home and outside the house. Many parents simply do not know how to properly handle a child with special needs. At Riverside, the work that I was doing with my co-workers offered parents help, and taught them how to properly interact with their child and further their child’s learning process. These proper interactions ranged from sign language for those children with limited vocabulary, to working with children and facilitating communication by getting at their level and coping with their needs instead of taking a hostile approach. Many intervention methods included communicating with children and engaging them by using simple and short vocabulary, usually one to three word phrases. Also, using visuals is an excellent way to communicate with children with special needs. Specialists at Riverside use a computer program called “Board Maker” with which they create a curriculum for kids using pictures and words to communicate the action of the picture. This way, a child can make sense of words by linking both the words and the picture. Other intervention methods include the social aspects of daily life. At Riverside, children are taught how to socially interact with others by simply saying their name. However, other intricate forms of interaction can include sharing and learning to say “thanks” and “excuse me”. As simple as it sounds, these kinds of methods are the ones that can help a child with special needs to do better later in life. Overall, my whole experience was a successful because I had fun doing it and I do not regret any of it.

A very valuable lesson that I have learned that can be useful in the classroom at Brandeis and beyond in the workforce is to always accept any good advice that others with more training and professionalism have to offer because that advice can help one to improve and to keep learning. It is important to also be patient and to reflect about how far one has come. It is impressive the amount of information that one takes in with such an internship. Overall, the biggest lesson that this whole experience has taught me is to never limit myself and to always think big because the world is full of possibilities and it is up to the individual to shape his own destiny and future.

Upon graduation, I want to get a job in the same type of environment as my former internship and work for a year so that I can gain more experience in the field. This way, I would be doing what I love the most—working with children—and I would be entering the workforce and learning even more. If I could advise any intern looking to work with children with disabilities, Riverside Early Intervention is a must go! Riverside became a second family for me in such a short amount of time. I would definitely encourage an intern to spend a summer working there! The only thing that I would warn a student about is that he must love what he is doing, be patient, have an open mind to learn new things, and be able to take advice from others to increase his understanding of child development. Lastly, I would remind any student that no one is going to get rich by working with kids. There is not a lot of money to be made in this industry or field, but it is a decent job and it is extremely rewarding.

Midpoint Check-In from UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana

The midpoint of my internship with Unite For Sight finds me just shy of four weeks in Ghana. Since beginning my internship twenty-six days ago, I have completed my rotation with Northwestern Eye Centre, completed my first rotation with Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic in Twifo Praso (Central Region), met the supervising ophthalmologist and medical director of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic, and observed the STNSC staff perform life-changing cataract and pterygium surgeries. I am now starting my second rotation with Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic in Denu of the Volta Region.

Introducing the outreach team’s best friend: the Sight Mobile!



Professional & Pink…who knew Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic had such bold style?


I am happy to say that I am making great progress with my defined learning goals. My overarching learning goal was to engage my HSSP background and coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. As a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, I have been blessed with the privilege of working with the most basic level of the local eye clinics: the outreach team. Everyday, I am on the ground with the team of optometrists, ophthalmic nurses, dispensing opticians, and local volunteers locating patients in need of quality eye care. I am constantly taking notes on what I see, reflecting on the ins and outs of the local health infrastructure, and developing strategies to improve the implementation and administration of our global health practices.

At this stage of my stay, I am most proud of my patience. I pride myself on being a very patient person, but I was still concerned with how challenging the language barrier would be, especially in a medical setting. English is the official language of Ghana, but it definitely isn’t the most widely spoken tongue amongst the populations I work with. Still, I realized my proficiency in Twi, the most prominent language amongst my regions, could only get better. So I practiced the phrases that I knew, learned several new ones, tried really hard to perfect the Ghanaian intonations, and leaned on my team too many times to count. A month in, I was able to conduct an entire visual acuity screening in Twi, an accomplishment that only bolstered my confidence going forward!

The academic skills I’m building are quite evident from my work within the internship. However, I feel that I am building life skills more than anything else. I’m starting from scratch and learning to immerse myself within an entirely different culture. I’m learning a new language, learning about new foods, learning new social cues and norms…I’m learning to be humbled. I’m building skills in teamwork, dream work, and the open mind. My skill set will be a testament to how amazingly beautiful the human spirit can be. I’m a cliché: living life to the fullest. And I am so honored to be performing justice work with an amazing group of health professionals for a nation that inspires me to want to be a better person each and every day.


To lean more about Dr. Baah, the founder and medical director of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic, please select the link below: 


To learn more about the importance of sustainable development in eye care, please select the link below: