WoW Blog Post #3

I met my academic learning goal of writing ten statistical programs in R. I integrated Google Analytics with RStudio and analyzed the website data using my programming skills. This data mining allowed me to evaluate the long term trends of the traffic and engagement on the website. I also wrote several programs in the statistical program STATA when analyzing the EdTech industry as a whole and collecting key information about company competitors. 

 I met my personal goal of having twenty virtual meetings with colleagues. Each week there were three meetings on Microsoft Teams where I learned how to sharpen my professional communication skills and plan the next steps with other members of the team. In addition, I had some one-on-one meetings with individual team members to discuss the progress of projects we were working on. 

 I did not meet my professional goal of gaining one hundred followers on each of the company’s social media platforms. Working at an early stage startup often means that the needs of the company can change drastically over time. At the beginning of the summer, it seemed as though social media management would be one of my responsibilities but later it became clear that more work needed to be done on market research. Hence, my goal changed to writing ten statistical programs in STATA to gain insights about the competitor landscape; I met this goal.

I would say this internship helped clarify my career interests significantly. I learned that I am highly interested in working in roles related to statistics and data science. Additionally, I am now more aware that I work better when I have periodic meetings with team members to discuss progress on our projects. These meetings give the projects more structure and allow people to give valuable feedback.

 If I were to give advice to a student interested in interning at my host organization, I would tell them to strive to ask more questions to their colleagues. When you run into a difficult problem, it is often very helpful to message your colleagues and ask for their thoughts. They will often point you into the right direction. Additionally, it is important to ask questions to your supervisor about assigned tasks in order to ensure you have a better understanding of their expectations. 

If I were to give advice to a student interested in interning in the EdTech industry, I would recommend using and familiarizing themselves with the current most popular EdTech tools. This helped me gain a deeper understanding of the industry and become aware of the technology-related problems faced by students, parents, teachers, and administrators. EdTech is a rapidly changing field and it is important to understand the users’ perspective when it comes to analyzing the industry, engineering the product, marketing, etc. 

This summer I am most proud of how my data analysis skills improved because these are skills that have many real-world applications . At the start of the summer, I did not have a very good grasp on using STATA but during the course of this internship I taught myself how to conduct Monte Carlo simulations and other techniques. Generally, I became more familiar with R, STATA, Excel, etc. and discovered new functions for these tools. 

 

The End of My Internship With EMA

While I still have several more weeks of my internship, I know the bittersweet ending is surely nearing as I am now working on my final tasks.

Reflecting on my experience, I now understand a crucial thing about the entrepreneurial environment: the only constant is complication. No matter how simple, small or inconsequential a Salesforce or Excel task may have seemed at a first glance, it always took longer than I could ever have expected. Due to the fact that every system and process was uncharted territory for EMA, everything required multiple iterations and everything took time.  Naturally, this changed how much I ended up completing versus how much I expected to complete. However, this does not mean I didn’t learn as much as I expected to. If anything, it forced me to find alternative solutions, rethink my approaches, and ask my advisors more specific questions than I would have had to if all went according to plan. I gained a far deeper understanding of the different software I worked with, and in this sense my internship was a huge success. I will surely be more confident going into a technical business role than before my internship.

 

The one goal I was unable to accomplish was being able to interact and speak with attorneys from EMA’s network. I did not have opportunities to speak with lawyers about litigating; however, I was able to speak with EMA’s in-house attorney and gain some insight into what it is like as a startup business attorney.

Overall, I would say I am most proud of myself for rolling with the punches. I was given tasks that I had no idea where to even begin looking, but I eventually figured out each task. I had to stretch my resourcefulness as far as it could go, and along the way I gained a working understanding of a software I had no prior experience with. I have finally gained the confidence that I can handle whatever is thrown at me, all I have to do is find a starting place.

This internship has clarified my career interests because I now know the kind of work I do enjoy and the work I don’t enjoy. For example, I absolutely loved discussing the pros and cons of one system versus another with my advisors. I really enjoyed talking about the customer experience and how we can tailor their website to be even more appealing. On the other hand, I wasn’t as fond of repetitive tasks like creating dozens of new entry fields. I learned that I derive a lot of satisfaction from working with people and brainstorming solutions to problems. This knowledge about myself will surely be useful when choosing what jobs to apply for and which ones to pass on.

EMA falls into two categories: a startup business and a litigation-based business. For any future startup interns, I have several pieces of advice:

  • Your job description may say one thing, but you will need to wear many hats. Embrace the learning experience rather than fear the different kinds of thinking you may need to do.
  • Simple is elegant. Extraneous pieces and details of a system will only serve to complicate your task as well as the business’ operations. Make a product or system as simple as you possibly can to suit their goals.

I also have some advice to any future EMA interns:

  • Work closely with the in-house lawyers. While your tasks might seem much more on the business side, EMA is a litigation-based business so much of the business tasks are only there to best fit the needs of the lawyers in preparing client documents and litigating for clients.
  • Your supervisors are very experienced and knowledgeable; don’t be afraid to ask them any questions that you are curious about.
  • Visit their website to get a better idea of who they are and what they do. Their business isn’t simple so learning more about them will give you a much clearer understanding of what they may ask you to do.

Final thoughts on the Summer

This summer, I met most of my learning goals with Health Innovation Capital. I had initially hoped to garner whether or not law school was the right path for me in reaching my ultimate goals. Thankfully, this experience has confirmed for me that it is the right choice. I have greatly enjoyed meeting with our counsel, discussing legal issues, working on contracts, and more. I hope to continue to pursue my passions by attending law school in the future. This internship has given me some invaluable experience which could help me in meeting this goal. I had also hoped to become more proficient in understanding legalese and language when reading contracts. I now have a better grip on the way that professional contracts are written and structured, along with an understanding of how to go about writing them and referencing necessary information like statutes and laws. I have absolutely achieved this goal as well, with a much more comprehensive understanding of how contracts work and understanding their purpose. Overall, my goals did not really have to change. While there may have been some challenges in other aspects of the remote work environment, the content of my work and their interaction with my goals was met.

As previously mentioned, this internship has confirmed my anticipated career path. It is my overarching goal to become an agent and represent athletes in both club and endorsement settings. While contract work is obviously key, and the work I did this summer was invaluable with them, I also learned how to approach meetings with potential clients, administrators, etc. This skill set was something I honestly had not used much in the past. However, I was able to build and refine these skills over the summer, which also could be invaluable if I am fortunate enough to achieve my goals. Aside from this, I realized that I am very good at independent work. Once given a task, I take it and run. I am not afraid to ask for help, however, and when I get stuck, I have no problem approaching a superior.

Some advice I would give to a student look at a potential internship with HIC would be to prepare to work hard and be given more responsibility than one might expect for an undergraduate intern in the venture capital space. HIC is small, and therefore you will be utilized to your fullest potential. I unlocked skills I didn’t even realize I had, but the challenge of HIC made them come to life. I also recommend catching up on the Healthcare industry and exploring ESG as they are an impact fund. For those interested in venture capital in general, I’d say to be prepared for a super fast-paced environment. Companies move quickly and there is big money involved in the space. Be prepared to work late hours and be challenged, but it will be worth it.

Overall, this summer, I am most proud of my adaptability. I mentioned in a previous blog post how remote work was a challenge. However, I made it my own and was able to adapt to the new workforce. While I struggled at first, my ability to make the best of it made me proud, as I have also had challenges in being adaptable when it came to working with others. I overcame it however and had a great summer.

WoW Blog Post #2

Working remotely has strengths and weaknesses relative to in-person work. A large advantage of in-person work is that you can ask questions to your coworkers and receive the answer immediately or relatively soon by simply visiting their office or workspace. However, when working remotely, you may only be able to send them an email and then you might have to wait longer for their answer. On the other hand, our company uses Slack as a communication platform so I am able to get answers much faster since Slack notifies my coworkers instantly if their names are mentioned. Overall, I enjoy this internship because there are several weekly meetings where you have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about what other coworkers are working on.

 

World of Work has differed from academic life because it is less predictable. Academic courses have a structured syllabus with the list of exams, projects, meeting times, papers, etc. However, the tasks and nature of my internship can change significantly from day to day depending on the needs of the startup. People who work in startups frequently have many different roles since resources are often scarce. One day I am working on updating the website and increasing my knowledge of PHP and the next day I am researching social media influencers in the EdTech space for each market segment. 

 

In addition, my internship is more reliant on other people compared with academic life. In courses, most of the time is spent doing assignments and studying alone (although working with others is sometimes permitted). However, my role for this internship relies on other coworkers. For example, it is necessary to have one-on-one meetings with a coworker to brainstorm ideas on how to move the project forward. 

 

This summer, I have been improving my skills with the statistical programming language R. I learned how to integrate R with Google Analytics and get more in-depth information about website metrics and Google ad campaigns. This will be transferable to a future career in data analysis because R is a very important programming language in this field. Additionally, Google Analytics is a crucial skill for any business with a website.  In terms of academics, R is a widely used language in many economics and statistics courses such as Econometrics and is often used for research purposes. 

 

Another skill I have been working on this summer is academic literature review. In an effort to learn more about the EdTech industry and the company’s target customers, I have searched for related papers on Google Scholar, Library OneSearch, and ResearchGate. I read these studies and learned how they could be applicable to the company’s objectives.  This will be transferable academically because literature review is important when writing a paper for a class as well as when conducting academic research for a professor. In terms of a future career, reading academic studies is a useful skill because it reinforces statistical concepts such as Chi-Squared Tests, Analysis of Variance, etc. since these tests are used in the literature. 

Blog Post #3 End-of-Internship Summary

My personal goal for this internship was to deepen my understanding of the struggle for racial justice in the United States, which I have achieved. During my internship, I conducted in-depth research on several important events in the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Freedom Rides, Nashville Student Movement, and the March on Washington. When I looked at the pictures of the Freedom Riders being beaten by the white supremacists, I not only learned history, but also sympathized with the Riders. In the meantime, I found that history is always repeating itself. Recently during the pandemic, Asian Americans were randomly attacked on the street — like the Freedom Riders, they did nothing but were beaten because they had the “wrong” skin color in society.

My academic goal, enhancing my understanding of the Cold War, was also fulfilled by researching the international influence of the Civil Rights Movement. I conducted research on China in order to find how the Chinese government published the Civil Rights Movement. I also discovered that Chairman Mao, the most influential figure in early China, once met with civil rights leader Robert F. Williams and offered his support for the Movement. Through the encounter of this special relationship between Chinese government and the Movement, I also learned international relations from a unique perspective. In terms of my career goal, this internship overall helped me comprehend American history more deeply, and how legislative changes were made under the pressure of civil rights movements; although my research actually reveals how slow legislative changes could be.

(Photo description: Chairman Mao signed Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong “the Little Red Book” for Robert Williams on the national day of People’s Republic of China in 1966. CR: Wikipedia)

For students who would like to apply for a research assistant internship, particularly in humanities, the first thing is to learn basic research skills. Those skills could be how to use Brandeis OneSearch, using the Brandeis library database to search for useful websites, how to get access to the books in the library, or how to submit a request for a book that is not possessed by Brandeis library. Although your UWS instructors have taught you that, it is important to remember those seemingly “useless” skills. Next, you should be familiar with the basic search engines on each website; they all look familiar and have the same techniques. You should grasp the key words of your question and find other specific information about the topic that could limit the search. For example, when I am looking for primary sources for a historical event, I often frame the publishing date to several years around the time of the event. What is more, being a research assistant requires people to be meticulous. Attention to detail is necessary for many jobs, so it will not harm if you start to train yourself to be meticulous; watch every word, every space, every punctuation in your writing and be used to double-check carefully. 

Elan’s Mid-Summer Progress

Conducting my internship virtually has certainly introduced both benefits and hurdles, but overall I am extremely happy in the company where I am working. One of the hardest things about remote work is that, naturally, all communication and interactions has to be virtual. I have found this to restrict group problem solving; I can’t just pop into the office of a colleague or supervisor to ask them quick questions about the project, and I also try to avoid spamming their phone with emails every minute of the day. As a result, I end up having to condense a lot of my questions and comments into our periodic conversations. Also, being virtual means conversations have to be scheduled. Consequently, conversation about non-work related topics is slightly less organic.

That being said, virtual work has offered me a great work-life balance. Rather than being evaluated based on daily hourly dedication, I am evaluated on pace of completion. Although this distinction seems subtle at first, it does make a great deal of a difference in practical matters. In a normal office setting, it is considered odd and often unacceptable to simply not show up any given day. On the other hand, working virtually enables me to do a lot of work on one day and none on a day in which I have other matters to tend to. Orienting my internship in this way enables me to be both happier and more productive.

In addition, my internship has undoubtedly furthered me towards my goals to strengthen both technical and social skills. In academic contexts, I have total control over the direction of my papers, essays and projects. The success and failure is based purely on my planning  and execution of  tasks. This is not the case in my internship. My supervisors, my coworkers, and I all have our own opinions of how a project should proceed, so the outcome of any given project is driven far more on the ability of the group to coordinate their ideas and efforts, as opposed my own motivation of for any task I have for school. With this comes an entirely different set of skills. Rather than being able to quickly process information and arrive at a conclusion, much time is spent on articulating ideas and balancing concessions.

Additionally, I am finally becoming functional in Salesforce and Excel’s Power Query. It has taken a lot of trial and error, exploration, and informational videos, but I am now able to comfortably navigate and solve business problems on EMA‘s digital platforms. Given the nature of work in business and law, the technical and social skills I am learning will be crucial in any kind of work environment I may encounter in my future career.

Blog Post #2

Working remotely requires a more efficient and straightforward way of communication which I have acquired during the first week of my internship. Because I only report to one supervisor, who also has other research projects going on and other assistants to supervise, sometimes he cannot respond to my messages immediately. In order to avoid wasting time waiting for him to tell me the next task, I always let him know about 15 to 30 minutes in advance before I finish my current task. In this case, my supervisor will have time to arrange my next task. If I feel that the current task will take more time than usual to finish, I will also let him know about my progress.

Although some people find working from home really comfortable, I think a remote internship is actually more exhausted both physically and mentally. Although this internship is my first remote job, this is not my first time working with a laptop during 90% of the working hours. Sitting in a chair for at least 5 hours a day makes my back ache, and I had to go to a chiropractor for treatment. What is more, I am not fond of video chatting and zoom meetings — I prefer in-person conversation. At first, it was a little depressing for me to stay in front of my laptop all day and barely talk to anyone in person. Then, I quickly adjusted myself with regular grocery-shopping and in-door dining, conforming with COVID regulations.

Despite the fact that many research assistant jobs are very similar to the research we do when writing a research paper, there are some notable differences between a research job and schoolwork. All of the research papers I have written have word limits, but my current job on researching the Freedom Rides does not have a “limit.” I need to dig into the historical event as detailed as possible.

My academic life has not been vacant for the summer. As an international student, I must take INT 92G (Summer Internship) in order to be legally working off-campus. The course requires all students to complete a number of tasks to get credit. At the first glance, taking an “internship” class during the summer would seem boring and exhausting, but I found some of the readings really helpful, especially in coping with remote work. An article from the New York Times, Struggling to Disconnect from Our Digital Lives, offers a great perspective on how to deal with being dominant with electronic devices and online work. As working from home has been gradually considered into many companies’ long-term policies, this internship could help me adapt to the new work style and be ready for the uncertain working styles in the future.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I conduct research on the Civil Rights Movement and the life of Congressman John Lewis. Beyond the American history knowledge I learn from this internship, I also realize the present significance of the Movement and better comprehend the struggle of African-Americans.

(CR: New York Times)

When the New York Times reported that the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus was arrested on Friday for protesting against the languishing of John Lewis Voting Rights Act, I felt that I was not reading a piece of news, but witnessing the effort that present activists spend to continue fighting for the systematic inequality that I have spent time researching. Learning and researching historical events is not only a skill but also a way of gaining another perspective to comprehend American politics and present-day racial struggle in the country, which could be helpful for my future career in the legal field.

Summer Update with Health Innovation Capital

As this is now my second summer doing a virtual internship, I did have some expectations going in, especially having a full school year online in between. However, I have noticed drastic changes in the way this remote internship works, and to be honest, I am not sure my past experiences had set certain expectations, or if this internship is very demanding. Either way, I have confirmed that I prefer in-person work over remote work . There are many challenges of virtual work such as keeping a schedule and sticking to it, along with setting boundaries. My company is small, but we have people around the country. Here is our team. Many of my co-workers have other jobs and educational responsibilities, so it is hard to find time for all of us to meet and due to the different time zones, meetings are scheduled fairly late. While I’ve learned to adapt and draw lines, it was hard at first to set those boundaries and have my day end at a reasonable time. I’ve also discovered that cabin fever is exponentially more real in the summer and staying in the house all day and not getting out into the world takes its toll. Zoom fatigue is very real too.

The world of work also differs greatly from academic life, even online. During the semester, we are mostly free aside from class and extracurricular time constraints. I mostly do work on my schedule and I am really in control of how to use time most of the day. Work has proven to be far different. I’m mostly told where to be and my whole day is nearly scheduled out with projects and meetings. I also have to work around the schedules of others and take a lot more direction than I’m used to in academic life. School feels far more independent surprisingly – I know what I have to do, and I make the time to complete my homework, tasks, studying, etc. At work, things are very structured for me, and I’m told what to do more often than not.

This internship so far has taught me great professionalism in communicating with prospective business partners. This is absolutely transferable to almost any industry, as cold calling and sales skills are great to have. I also have learned new skills in being attentive and paying attention to details. In my perspective industry, contract law, you must read with great care and notice the little things, otherwise, you could make a big error. I have gotten better at noticing small issues and making my work perfect, the first time. I’ve also learned how to schedule demos and properly choose business administration tools such as CRMs, data rooms, and other necessary software which help the company run. I am better at asking necessary questions, garnering information, and making decisions that are right for us. I hope to soon get into more legal work which will improve my skills and give me more exposure in those areas.

My Summer Goals with Health Innovation Capital

This summer, I am working virtually as a legal and administrative intern with Health Innovation Capital (HIC), a Chicago-based venture capital impact investor targeting the unmet innovation needs of pediatric patients within oncology, infectious diseases, and select rare/orphan designations. We are among the only independent U.S. Impact venture capital firms that maintains such an integrated investment thesis, impact strategy, and return model. Our mission is stated as follows, “HIC is committed to ensuring that the health innovation and impact investing that the firm pursues improves the quality of life and outcomes for the most vulnerable and at-risk patient populations. We evolved from the belief that there is no silver bullet to creating a sustainable, medicinally relevant, commercially viable and investor worthy medical innovation company that is patient and outcomes driven to the core.”

While HIC follows the format of a typical venture capital fund, (fundraising through limited partners and investing in growing businesses) we have a focus on impact. To ensure that all patients have access to care regardless of income, location, or another factor, HIC has established a not-for-profit organization that partners with centers of excellence around the world and donates an estimated 10% of the general partner carry allocation or 2% of the firm’s overall performance back to these centers of excellence.

As this is only the firm’s first fund, it could be considered a startup. Therefore, I have been involved in helping set up and choose many of the business administration tools our whole fund will be using such as our Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM), our fund administrator, and our data room provider. Through meetings with different representatives taking notes, comparing and contrasting functionality, and discussing with the general partners we have made decisions and hope to get all three fully set up by the end of next week. I also have helped create and organize our company’s digital filing system and created Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for sharing and saving data, which has streamlined communication and organization for us. On the legal side, I have had the opportunity to help read and even write up employment agreements for some of the fund’s new hires. Not only this, but I have created and sent out many non-disclosure agreements to be executed by those with who we begin to do business. This has not only taught me how to better read and understand contracts and legalese but has helped the partners and general counsel by speeding up business processes.

My learning goals for the rest of the summer are to continue working in lockstep with the general partners to continue gaining experience in the field of venture capital and transaction law. I will continue to work with legal counsel and the general partners to help revise and finalize different legal documentation such as term sheets and private placement memorandums with the final goal of being able to create and execute them independently. I will also undergo training on how to evaluate new investments and learn, from the ground-up with senior partner mentorship, how a sector-specific venture investor identifies, evaluates, and executes investments in a diverse set of companies. On occasion, I may also support a General Partner and HIC portfolio company’s executives (CEOs, COOs, etc.) to employ a revised investment and operating model to drive investor returns.

 

 

1st WOW Blog Post

This summer I am working as a research intern for the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard School of Public Health. The goal of this program is to improve the lives of people in all buildings and indoor spaces by conducting and conveying research regarding public health and building science. I am responsible for three projects this month. The first one is creating the layout for a website for an extensive three-part research regarding the impact of green buildings on cognitive function. The second project that I am a part of is called the “healthy homes app” where I am able to work with a very innovative and diverse team. The purpose of this project is to create a mobile application in order to raise awareness of the existence of and harm related to indoor air pollutants on human health. We are trying to develop a digital solution to reduce the effects of indoor air pollutants. In order to do this, effective background research is necessary which is what I have been focusing on. The third project that I have dedicated my time to is translating various scientific papers in order to make it more accessible to the public. I truly believe that all the work I do this summer will contribute to helping the program rapidly make progress in the world of research and bringing real- world change. 

As my background is in Environmental Studies, this internship directly aligns with my interest and the type of higher education I plan to pursue in the future. I am very passionate about sustainability and have started developing greater interest when it comes to the built environment and its impact on people. My work to help conduct more research regarding this subject and translating the findings to make it more accessible to the general public is definitely a substantial learning opportunity. Throughout this internship, my goal is to learn more about the correlation between the built environment and the impacts on human health.

Blog post #1 — Yuezhu Chen

This summer, I work as a Research Assistant for Kogan Communications, where I report to the owner of the firm, Dr. Kogan, every workday. Our research topic is mainly about the Civil Rights Movement; the most consequential moral movement of the last century, and how civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis contributed to the movement and to American society.

During the first several days of work, I mainly conducted research on some clips of the Civil Rights Movement that John Lewis was actively involved in. For example, I tried to find detailed information as much as possible for the First Freedom Ride. The First Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961, when 13 freedom riders (7 blacks, including John Lewis, and 6 whites) left Washington, D.C., on two buses, aiming at New Orleans. The intention of the ride was to test the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boynton vs. Virginia (1960) which ruled segregation in interstate buses unconstitutional. One of my jobs was to conduct research on the ride and write a detailed chronology — where the riders were each day; if they were attacked, the reaction from the governmental officials and the public, etc.

During the research, I found several websites and books that depict Freedom Rides in detail. One of the most notable books is John Lewis’s memoir, Walking with the Wind in which Lewis narrates his experiences during the Movement along with his physical and mental feelings. While closely reading the book, I not only understand the courage of the freedom riders but also the importance and greatness of non-violence means of fighting. I listened to the interviews that John Lewis had in the 21st century where he not only talked about the Movement but also juxtaposed it with recent events. The role that John Lewis played in the Freedom Rides and the Movement was notable, and his experiences and leadership could serve as a model for present civil rights activists. In addition to John Lewis’s memoir, I hope I could have more narratives on the practice of nonviolence. 

John Lewis, left, and Jim Zwerg, a Fisk student, checks out their injuries after been beaten by a mob after they arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, May 20, 1961. (cr: USA Today)

Conducting research on the historical events triggered by racial segregation also has significance today. The Civil Rights Movement shows how structural racism was handled in the U.S., which is also a learning goal of mine doing the research. The leadership of John Lewis is also inspiring for people of color, like me, who want to fight for racial equality in the country.

Other than the Freedom Rides, I also conduct research on China and USSR’s propaganda to the Civil Rights Movement in the Cold War era when the triangular relationship of three countries (U.S., China, and the USSR)  was subtle but sensitive. My native proficiency in Chinese also enables me to analyze the primary sources in Chinese, thereby get more access to a variety of materials. In the recent future, I hope I can deepen my understanding of how international relationships influenced the Civil Rights Movement through research.

Work documents snapshot

 

Post 3: Wrapping up the Summer at the CARE Lab

Interning at the CARE Lab this summer has been a really educational experience for me, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work there. The two goals I set for myself in my initial post were both very much met—the first was to gain career related skills and experience, especially first-hand through my own research project and by working on other ongoing research projects, and the second was to hone my collaboration skills and work with (and learn from) experts in the field I plan to pursue. For the former, I have already begun an independent project looking at the relationship between distress intolerance, affect, and cognitive control. Through this process, I’ve been getting first-hand experience in how to brainstorm and plan a project, conduct literature reviews, formulate aims and hypotheses, and more. I’m still in the early stages but will be continuing through the rest of the summer and into the fall semester. Additionally, I’m still working on the cognitive control training study (which is where the data for my independent project comes from) and have almost finished aggregating data; I just have two more cognitive tasks to comb through and then it’s on to more analyses! It’s been really interesting to be able to learn by doing during this internship, rather than learning the theory or general how-to from a course. As for the collaborative goal, I’ve been meeting regularly with my supervisor to discuss the work I’m doing, next steps, professional development, etc., which has been really helpful and has certainly fulfilled that for me.

My work at the CARE Lab has made me more interested in impulsivity and cognitive control, especially in a clinical population like the one at McLean.  This is likely an area that I would pursue in a lab when I apply for graduate school, so it’s been awesome to begin to refine what part of the field I want to research later on. I’ve also come to realize that I enjoy statistics and data analysis more than I thought I did; I never disliked it, but I’ve learned that it’s actually something I’m good at and want to do more of. I’ve been doing a lot of coding in R this summer which has been really fun for me, and because of all of this I’ve decided to take Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) Application this fall semester to learn another statistical coding language. But overall, working at the lab has confirmed my interest in getting a PhD in clinical psychology and going into the field.

One piece of advice I would give to someone pursuing an internship at the CARE Lab, or the BHP at McLean in general, is don’t be afraid to ask for more to do! There are always  many tasks that need to be done, and it’s good to take the initiative to ask for more rather than sit and wait for a task to be given to you after you’ve finished whatever you were doing. I would also say that it would be helpful to come into the internship with some level of statistics knowledge, as that will make performing data analyses easier. In terms of advice for someone pursuing in internship in  psychology research, I would recommend getting experience in both a clinical setting and a non-clinical setting, as while they are related, they have different focuses.

Out of everything I’ve done this summer, I’m most proud of the analysis work I’ve done for the cognitive control training study, as it has earned me the ability to be a co-author on the journal article once we start the writing process. This means that, depending on when the paper is submitted/published, I’ll have the opportunity to be published before I graduate, or right after I graduate, which will be an accomplishment to be proud of.

Post 3 – Interning at Image Insight Inc.

I set out into the summer with what I thought were some fairly broad and undefined learning goals: I wanted to gain experience doing machine learning, and I wanted to experience a professional environment, particularly a software development-oriented one.

Although the remote nature of my internship did not allow me to become as intimately acquainted with office life as I would have liked, I was still able to learn a lot about what day-to-day interactions are like, what working as a team in this kind of setting is like, and, most importantly, about machine learning. Being given the opportunity to push my own boundaries regarding this particular skill was really rewarding, as these are industry skills that will greatly benefit me going forward.

This internship provided clarity in terms of my career interests. I have been interested in software development for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to see how my academic interests would transfer to the real world. I have learned how to interact with both peers and supervisors in a professional setting, which will greatly benefit me in the near future, as I progress along my professional journey.

To a student intern who was interested in obtaining a position with my host organization, I would advise them that even if things seem like they’re moving fast at first, it’s only a matter of time before your level of relative unfamiliarity wears off. Once I figured out my place and role on the team, I was able to quickly move forward with my personal project, which furthered my understanding of what I was supposed to do. 

To someone interested in a computer science internship, I would advise them to keep their head above the water. The field itself moves fast, and changes can be both imperceptible and sudden at the same time. There is enormous demand for computer science jobs and interns, so if you pay attention and are competent, plenty of incredible opportunities will come your way. 

This summer, I’m most proud of the contributions I’ve made at Image Insight. I had hoped to bring new insights and methods of analysis by reinventing their wheels, and I think I’ve done precisely that. One regret I have is that I was not able to fully finish one component of my assignment using machine learning, and had to implement a statistical approach to overcome this roadblock. Yet, by and large, this has been a summer of exploration and of learning. I’m very proud of my learning and contributions, and excited to take this experience with me moving forward.

Me working outside

Post 2: Impressions of Working Virtually

Working virtually this summer, for me, has been somewhat bittersweet. On one hand, since my internship had to be adjusted to fit a more remote setting, I lost some of the duties and experiences that I would have had in-person. For example, one of my original tasks was going to be running participants through study sessions for two ongoing impulsivity studies – the cognitive control training study I mentioned in my last post, along with another study using a mobile EEG headband – but that part of my summer wasn’t transferable to being online. I was also going to learn how to do EEG cap recordings, which I had been looking forward to, but again, that is something very hands-on and so unfortunately had to be cut. I also work alone in my room now, which is a lot different than what I’m used to; when I was doing this internship during the spring semester, I was in a room with other interns and research assistants and was able to talk and interact with them throughout the day. Now there’s very little of that outside of our weekly lab meetings, which is a bit of a bummer.

An example of what an EEG cap can look like

On the other hand, having to work virtually has actually expedited some opportunities that I may not have had until much later. For example, for the cognitive control training study, my supervisor had originally wanted to collect data for 15-20 more participants than what we have as our current sample size, but given the uncertain circumstances of Covid-19, he decided to wrap up the study early. This meant that it has now moved into the analysis stage earlier than was initially planned; it also means that it’s almost time to start writing up the article to be submitted to a journal. I’ve been working on a lot of the preliminary results/analysis for this study, and because of the all of the work I’ve done (and continue to do), I will be a co-author on that article, which is a really exciting outcome of having to work virtually this summer.

The World of Work has differed from university/academic life in that the former is much more hands-on. Since I’m majoring in psychology, the content of my courses is relevant both to my future career, as well as any field-related experiences (like this internship) that I have along the way. However, there’s only so much one can learn and understand without actually doing; the best way to gain knowledge about the World of Work is to actually work in it, and that’s exactly what my internship is allowing me to do. I have a foundation of psychology knowledge from my classes (abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, personality, research methods, and more) that has allowed me to jump right into being a research assistant in a clinical population. However, I’m learning so much that I would never have been able to learn just sitting in a classroom, like how to collaborate with experts, how a psychiatric hospital functions, how research works in a clinical population, etc. Beyond that, in the World of Work, I’m part of something much bigger than myself. University/academic life is highly individual, so working in the CARE lab has shown me just how collaborative my field actually is.

In terms of skill-building, three main ones that I’m building are understanding the process of writing an academic journal article, how to conduct my own independent research, and how to analyze data, all of which are transferable to different situations. For academics, the skills will allow me to do better research when it comes to writing literature reviews or just general research papers for any of my classes. For future career plans, the skills are highly relevant to what I will be doing in grad school when I go to get a clinical psychology PhD, and what I will be doing as a job after I graduate. Overall, my internship thus far has been a really invaluable experience, and I’m excited to see what else is in store for me to learn this summer!

Post 2 – Interning at Image Insight Inc.

Looking back at the first half of the summer, it’s crazy how fast time seems to fly. It seems like my internship started yesterday and feels like it has only been a week or two since I came home from school in mid-March. Yet, in the span of these few short months, I’ve learned a lot about working.

At first, I had mixed feelings about having a virtual internship. I wondered if it would be possible for me to get all my work done without constant live access to my supervisor. I asked myself if I would really be able to experience what work is like as a software engineer without the actual work environment and the human interactions around me?

As the summer progressed, I found myself answering these questions without the need for physical interaction. Don’t get me wrong. I would prefer the live interaction, but I was able to experience much of the day-to-day interaction of a cohesive team without actually being physically in-person, including large group calls, progress updates, and screen sharing code. Developing technology requires teamwork, and I have begun to learn how to collaborate virtually as a software engineer. Our work ends up being located in the cloud regardless of whether we gather in person or through Zoom.

Halfway through the summer I have also experienced significant differences between the work environment and academic life. At school, professors are generally much more prepared to handle mistakes one might encounter, having anticipated their occurrence and frame of reference. Furthermore, in the classes I’ve taken so far, the path set for us by the professor is also one they have experienced and determined.

In contrast, in the real-world there is no rubric that will give an exact output or desired set of parameters. Multiple times during my internship, when stranded with a foreign error message, I had to go diagnose the root of the problem myself by drudging through thousands of lines of documentation that my supervisor and I had’t written to find the root of a single problem. This is not exactly the work that is the most intriguing and inspiring to do, but it is required to achieve our goals. I have also experienced times during the first few weeks of my internship when problems were not as well defined. Grappling with these more vague problems has been an interesting challenge, and they have taught me to work through ambiguity.

I have built a lot of valuable skills this summer, most importantly a much deeper understanding of machine learning. Although I felt reasonably comfortable going into my summer role, this internship has both pushed me to learn much more and expand my boundaries beyond where I previously felt comfortable. Now, with a much higher level of understanding, I am beginning to see the forest through the trees. This skill will be immensely useful, as machine learning and artificial intelligence are growing fields, and my developing talent and experience will be in very high demand in the near future. 

Blog post 2 – Virtual internship

The COVID situation has brought unprecedented circumstances and seemed surreal for many of us. One of the changes includes working my internship virtually. So how exactly is a virtual internship different from a regular internship? I’ll share my own experience, comparing with that of my internship last year at AIAcademy?

Virtual internship means building your own schedule. To many, that could feel liberating to not follow a rigid schedule and do what you want with your time. Personally, I find more value in a predictable constant schedule. With all these distractions at our fingertips, it is super easy to burn a couple of hours watching Netflix or playing video games. To that my solution is (the same as during the academic year) to build a schedule on Google Calendar and try to follow it as strictly as possible. So far that has been working out quite well 😀

One difficulty to a virtual internship is the limitation of communications with one’s supervisor and peers. In an on-site setting, it is as simple as turning your chair 90 degree to ask a question, have your supervisor look through your code and try fixes. Now, if I were to ask my supervisor for technical help, I would have to schedule a meeting and have him look through my shared screen and tell me what fixes he might implement. However, even facing these differences, I think communications amongst the team are being done quite effectively and effciently at Nobee using Zoom. Clearly, working remotely has notable distinctions compared to working on-site. Still, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to work remotely and highly reduce my chances of contracting the virus.

During my internship at Nobee, I focus on building my back-end web developing skills with Ruby on Rails. I’m hoping by building functions for Nobee’s website, my Ruby on Rails skills will be sharpened. Getting through the beginning is always the hardest, but once one gets a hang of a language or a library, it’s becomes a lot quicker to learn it further. I’m hoping that Ruby on Rails will enhance my resume and skillset and better equip me for the daunting job search. There are currently 8,888 job search results from Indeed when I searched for “Ruby on Rails” in the United States (305 were entry level)! Given the economic impact of the pandemic and not prime recruiting period, it seems Ruby on Rails is quite in-demand in the job market and possessing this skill will be a great advantage. Also, working at Nobee has opened  a new path for me in my tech career – backend web developing that I am enjoying more and more every day and I look forward to making it my Computer Science specialty.

Post 1 – First month at Nobee

During my sophomore year when I took Software Entrepreneurship, I got a chance to meet Danny Nguyen and heard about his company Nobee. Nobee seeks to connect landlords to tenants without going through brokers and as a result saving both the landlord and the tenant from exorbitant brokerage fees. Having been troubled with broker fees myself while on my search of off-campus housing, I think Nobee would be absolutely useful not only for me but everyone else during their search for housing. For that reason, I would like to be a part of Nobee to help realize their goal to help eliminate broker fees once and for all. And so, I applied and gladly accepted their internship offer.

Nobee Inc., a startup based in Boston, is currently building and maintaining a web application on Ruby on Rails platform. The team is made up of a few software engineers and a few people on the business side, all are Brandeis and Northeastern grads. While working remotely does present some problems regarding communications and planning, Nobee still works together like a well-oiled machine.

Looking for a new place to call home? Check out Nobee at https://www.rentnobee.com/

 

My main responsibility at Nobee is to conduct research on the functionalities of the deployed app on a few different metrics. Essentially, I make sure that everything is running smoothly, the connections to the servers are quick and reliable, and should there be any issue or blockage, I research a possible solution. I am also working on a side project in Ruby on Rails, aiming to create a responsive application that can handle adding, editing, and deleting content in real time.

My goals at the beginning were to learn practical programming skills, build functional projects, and get hands-on experience on the software developing cycle and the housing market. While the work can be demanding, it is absolutely worth it being part of this energetic and hardworking team. I look forward to my remaining time working at Nobee!!

Post 1: My Internship at Wilson, Brock & Irby, Law LLC

Hello! My name is Roland Blanding, and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University. On campus, I am the president of the Men of Color Alliance, and the issues facing communities of color are of tremendous importance to me. One of my goals is to find a way to reverse the displacement of gentrification and find innovative ways of building mixed-income residential neighborhoods. I want to break the generational pattern of poverty by giving diverse communities access to home equity. Given that mission, I pursued and began my internship at Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC in my hometown of Atlanta under Larry Dingle, one of the most prominent black lawyers in Georgia.

Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC is a small law firm specializing in commercial real estate. They are based in Atlanta, but operate through the entirety of the state of Georgia. Their work ranges from massive infrastructure and commercial development contracts with the city of Atlanta to volunteer representation for small business owners and homeowners that would not usually be able to afford their fees. One of the reasons that the firm initially stuck out to me was their commitment to help service organizations find venues. For example, Mr. Dingle represented the Community Food Bank in their suit to open a new facility a few miles away from my home. Much of the work consists of understanding the intersections of government and businesses. This means conferencing with commercial clients, meeting with city officials, and drafting contracts that allow both parties to benefit. The goal of these conferences is often to rezone property, for example, from residential to commercial to allow the construction of a multifamily unit within the inner city. Conversely, for some especially unique tasks, like building a cell tower in the middle of the town—which would typically violate several building height limits—the firm requests to open a lease with the city, because municipal governments are immune from their own zoning rules. Every case is fresh and brings a new set of challenges.

This summer, my goals are to prepare for the LSAT and familiarize myself with case law, especially in the state of Georgia. Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC gives me unique access to their library of cases at the district, state, and federal level that revolve around contracts, real estate, zoning, and land use. My day to day consists of video conferencing with the partners at the firm to review case law and the cases they are actively working on. I also manage the delivery of documents to and from the offices of officials in city hall and participate in conference calls with clients. Working at a law firm during coronavirus has been unique compared to last year because a lot of the work that lawyers do is in person, face-to-face. As a result, almost all the operations in the firm are being carried out through video conferences, to maintain the health and safety of the firm as well as their clients.

Post 1: Interning at the CARE Lab

My internship at the Cognition and Affect Research and Education (CARE) lab actually began in January, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to continue what started off as a spring position into the summer. The lab operates within the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program (BHP), which is an intensive day program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA for those seeking treatment for various mental health issues, including mood, anxiety, thought, and personality disorders. It uses a behavioral therapy approach that provides comprehensive, skills-based treatment aimed at reducing a patient’s symptoms, improving their functioning, and transitioning to outpatient treatment, with the average length of treatment being three to ten business days.

The BHP

Besides the program itself, the BHP conducts extensive research (of which the CARE Lab is a large part) to improve the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. It uses an integrative approach where research informs clinical practice, and clinical practice informs research. The program’s research focus includes predicting who will respond best to treatment, understanding why the treatment works, and developing new and innovative interventions based on that information. Patient data is collected through daily computerized self-report measures and a diagnostic interview, and this information is used to inform individualized case conceptualization and treatment planning, as well as assess treatment outcome, symptom severity, and more. The CARE Lab, which is more specifically where my internship is taking place, conducts research to identify cognitive and affective mechanisms underlying emotional disorders, translate those findings into new treatments, and implement those treatments in real-world clinical settings.

One of the projects I’m most involved with this summer is a cognitive control training (CCT) study for urgency. Urgency is the tendency to respond impulsively to strong emotions, and it’s closely tied to cognitive control, or the ability to resist impulses and make decisions based on one’s goals. The main aim of the study is to investigate whether a CCT intervention, involving brief computer tasks to improve memory and self-control, is feasible in a clinical setting and accepted by patients, as well as whether it improves cognitive control and impulsivity. While I was in-person during the spring semester, I was running participants through the study sessions, but over the summer I have already started to help with some preliminary analyses and aggregation of data in R and SPSS, which helps move the study toward the full analysis stage.

Another thing I’ll be working on this summer is my own independent project. It will likely evolve over time, but as of now, it will be looking at the relationships between distress tolerance, current emotional state, and cognitive performance. I’ll use data collected from the CCT study (both self-report and task data) to investigate whether distress tolerance and current emotional state independently or jointly relate to one’s performance on cognitive tasks involving working memory, response inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. Currently I am just at the beginning stages of it, doing reviews of the literature to see what’s already been studied, but as the summer progresses, I’ll progress in this project too.

In terms of my goals for the summer, I have two main ones. First, I plan to get a PhD in clinical psychology and eventually become a clinical neuropsychologist, so I hope to gain career related skills and experience, especially first-hand through my own research project. Second, I want to hone my collaboration skills and work with, and learn from, experts in the field I plan to pursue. I have one-on-one meetings with my supervisor and will also attend lab meetings, so that, combined with the actual content of my internship, will give me plenty of opportunities to achieve both of these goals.

– Jenna Sandler

Last week at Hariri Imaging Lab

After eight weeks at the Hariri Imaging Lab, I think I can say that I was able to meet my defined learning goals. My goals shifted as time went on, but overall remained similar to what I originally set out to achieve. My academic goal to further understand the respiratory system most definitely was achieved. I learned the anatomy of the lungs and bronchioles, gained a deeper understanding of the alveoli, and saw many stages of different diseases in the lung. After observing many sign outs and running analyses on digital biopsy slides, I can even point out certain features of the lung at the cellular level! A second goal of mine was to be exposed to the life of an MD/PhD. I was able to see how the research conducted in the lab directly applies to the process of prevention and diagnoses of disease in the clinical setting. I think that interning in this translational medicine lab gave me good insight to the field, but I also think that it is only one of the many different types of research out there. Lastly, I wanted to gain confidence as a woman in science. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the doctors and researchers that I interacted with were women. Thus, I was able to learn first-hand the experiences of being a woman in science and medicine, as well as gain multiple perspectives on my future career path.

3D printed lungs!

I have learned so much from this internship about myself and my future career. I have learned that I, without a doubt, want to be a medical doctor and apply to medical school this upcoming year. I consistently found the tasks we did and the topics we discussed that related to the diagnosis process or regarding lung diseases to be extremely interesting. I also learned that I do not want to solely be a researcher- I like the integration between being a researcher and a doctor. During my gap year, I plan on doing more experiential learning so that I can decide if I would like to apply for an MD/PhD program or just an MD program. Additionally, I discovered I would like to work in a field that has a lot of human interaction. Although I interact with the other members of the lab each day, a career with more human/patient interaction would be more enjoyable for me.
After this internship, I feel as though I have a more open mindset about research. Before this internship, I had never worked in a research lab and thought of it as intimidating. I expected the environment to be very structured and intense, however, this lab environment was collaborative, and the research team worked efficiently both individually and as team members. I think if I had known this earlier, I would have tried to work or intern in a lab earlier. This experience has taught me that labs offer a great setting to learn and to feel comfortable with asking questions.
Something that I am proud of from my internship this summer is my increase in self-confidence and adaptability. I am someone who prefers schedules and clear guidelines. Many of the tasks that I was working on this summer were new to me and came with minimal instruction. At first, I was nervous about not being told exactly what to do. However, over the time of the internship, I learned that the lack of instruction increased my creativity and growth. This exposure made me more confident in my abilities. I am glad I interned at the Hariri Imaging Lab because I am better prepared for my next challenge.

  • Ashley Bass

Surpassing Expectations

My summer internship at the New England Aquarium has wildly surpassed all my expectations and goals. When I first applied as a Marine Mammal Research and Education Intern, I had a broad understanding of what I would be able to accomplish in a single summer.

Dross Breaching

Contrasting the lack of Brandeis’s marine science curriculum, I originally hoped to academically broaden my marine science knowledge. During the last few months in a fieldwork setting, I have learned so much about whale behavior, physiology, as well as threats that they face every day from humans. After these few months I have a much more holistic understanding of the impact that anthropogenic activity has on marine life.

I also hoped to gain techniques and skills in the field that I could use in future research. I have become proficient in recording information such as weather data or distinguishing different behaviors of various marine mammals. This internship has taught me how to multi-task while consuming large amounts of observational data, overall teaching me how to better observe as a field researcher.

Taking a Humpback Vertebrae around the boat to Discuss Conservation

Finally, I hoped to progress in my articulation of environmental conservation. On the boat, I dealt with passengers from all over the world, with varying degrees of English proficiency, age, and understanding of marine science. When I discussed environmental conservation, such as the threats of Red Tide or Entanglement, I learned how to simplify complicated biological and environmental terminology into information that was digestible by a broad audience.

This internship helped solidify that I want to pursue a career in environmental conservation and marine science. I learned that I was incredibly passionate about marine conservation, and loved working in a flexible, dynamic, hands-on environment. I loved working outside conducting fieldwork, solidifying that I want to pursue a career where I can eventually conduct my own research. During our internship, we did a short research presentation about the impacts of marine debris on marine mammals, finding that many feeding behaviors that humpback whales exhibit in their feeding grounds (such as lunge-feeding) put them at direct risk for ingesting marine debris. I am incredibly passionate about the animals that I saw and am considering using the data I collected this summer to write a thesis for my senior year. I don’t know exactly the path that I want to take after I graduate, but I do believe that I want to take a year off in between graduate school to conduct research and broaden my field experience with marine-science.

Clamp Lunge Feeding

To any future interns that apply to the New England Aquarium, or specifically as a Whale Watch Intern, I recommend to fully take advantage of the amazing opportunities around you. The NEAq is an amazing institution that provides amazing resources, from career planning to monthly lectures about recent research. You have unbelievable access to so much information about the marine world, don’t be afraid to explore the aquarium or talk to people outside of your department. The naturalists that I got to work with on the boats are all amazing individuals; never be afraid to ask questions and take advantage of the amazing learning opportunity you have in front of you. Finally, allow yourself to become adaptable! Working with wild animals outdoors on boats with 300+ people means that no day is “normal”. Be ready for every day to be different and to expect the unexpected!

My amazing co-interns and naturalists!

 

Hornbill Upside Down!

I am genuinely sad to leave my summer internship. As the last few weeks wound down, it felt that the whales were exhibiting some crazy new behavior every day and I saw animals like Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin that I hadn’t seen previously in the summer. I was very proud to watch my own progress in identifying individual humpbacks from each other throughout the summer. Towards the end of the season, I was able to identify various humpbacks from simply their tail pattern or dorsal without the help of a camera.

My last day was bittersweet, but it was one of the most magical days on the water – with a fitting rainbow and crazy surface activity in the distance. However, I am thrilled to say that I was invited back in the fall! During the fall semester, I will help train the new fall interns and intern on the boat sporadically.

  • Kate Laemmle
Final Day: A lone Flipper Slap by Quote

NYU School of Medicine Journey Comes to An End

August 2 was the last day of my summer at NYU School of Medicine where we presented our research analysis studies. While I am upset my internship has come to an end, I have gained a vast amount of knowledge beneficial for my future endeavors. Before my internship, I had goals to expand on my research data analysis skills and I have done so as an intern,  a member of the Database for Research on Education in Academic Medicine (DREAM) Team. 

In the DREAM Team, I collaborated with a multidisciplinary research team on education of physicians and healthcare professionals. I also analyzed quantitative datasets of patient surveys between a patient’s first visit vs. the second visit with residents in the USP Program using SPSS and R. The USP Program evaluates providers in Bellevue Hospital Center and Gouveneur Health from the perspective of a patient. Actors portray as a standardized patient with a certain medical concern and fill out a checklist evaluating the provider’s performance, patient experience, and functionality of the medical team. The conditions that are reviewed are: asthma, back pain, fatigue, hepatitis B, shoulder & knee pain, well visit. Often providers receive the same case twice over the time period they are with NYU Bellevue and Gouveneur. Actors evaluate their experience with the provider and at the Hospital Clinic. The goal is to see an improvement in performance from the provider and the clinic between the first visit and the second visit. My project was to analyze the USP data per case for providers who received two visits for certain domains: Communication, Patient Activation, Patient Satisfaction.

One additional project I worked on was evaluating OBGYN residents’ performance on Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) by conducting statistical analysis via R and SPSS. OSCE’s are an examination in the Simulation Center (NYSIM) between a learner and a standardized patient (typically an actor) The learner is assessed on their performance and the learner receives feedback via performance-based assessments. OSCE cases cover a variety of situations providers face in the hospital daily. I conducted data abstraction, cleaning, restructuring, merging various datasets, developing infrastructure within the database and calculated summary scores of communication domain. 

Throughout my experience at PrMEIR Scholar Summer Intensive Program, I have developed strong research skills in the field of medicine using my programming knowledge. I have also built a strong network of peers and mentors at NYU School of Medicine. As I embark on my last year of university, I have gained a lot of advice and skills on how to go about finding a career within my interests of Medicine and Computer Science. Working at NYU School of Medicine, I enjoyed the work environment and would love to seek an opportunity in Software Engineering Research in the Department of Medicine. 

If I were to advise students commencing on an internship, I would say to try to find an internship you know integrates your passions and interests. You should work in an environment that allows you to showcase your skills, but also teaches you new techniques in your field of study useful for your future career interests. Also, it is important to make connections in your internship, so you have mentors to help you with your future goals. My summer at NYU School of Medicine PrMEIR Program has come to an end; however, the knowledge and mentors I have attained during my time at this program will stay with me.

Innovating Medical Education and Research

A lot of pre-medical students are eager to delve into the life of a doctor. I have had my share of experiences where I worked and volunteered in hospital environments alongside doctors to understand the daily life of various physicians. However, I was always eager to learn about the process students and physicians have to undergo to be where there are. While, I have heard from many doctors and current students about their experiences in medical school, there are many aspects of medical school I was unaware of until I began my internship at New York University School of Medicine. My internship at PrMEIR Scholars Summer Intensive Program (PSSIP) has allowed me to witness the operations and management behind how medical schools run. I have learned about the array of people required from various backgrounds and the years of research that the Medical School puts into ensuring their students receive the best medical education. I am grateful to have an opportunity to observe and work within the department that oversees the faculty, residents, and medical students to provide them the best medical education to become the best physicians.

The night before my internship, I was nervous and anxious because I had a brief idea of the program I was a part of; however, I was unaware of the vast knowledge I would attain from just the mere first few days of my internship. The first few days I was introduced to the department and team I would be working with. The team is composed of people that have studied research, business, public health, computer science, statistics and many other specialties. I have also met my fellow interns who are from various universities and study different things. We learned that all of our backgrounds are an essential asset to the workings of the PrMEIR program.

Like many medical schools, New York University School of Medicine has a Program for Medical Education Innovations and Research (PrMEIR). This department’s mission is to institute the best practices of medicine for the students to create a hospital environment best for patients and workers. The research the department conducts helps strengthen the tie between healthcare providers and patients’ well-being. The PrMEIR program is composed of many departments; I am specifically a member of the Database for Research on Education in Academic Medicine Team (DREAM). With my academic background in Biology and Computer Science, the DREAM Team has allowed me to showcase my knowledge and skills from both of my fields of studies, but also learn a lot of skills useful in medical education research.

My role in the DREAM Team has been to assist my co-workers with data cleaning and programming to analyze results from research studies conducted on residents and medical students. These studies are known as the Objective Structured Clinical Examination where residents are tested on how they treat and care for patients medically and socially. Moreover, my role is to assist with analyzing medical records by residents who have had a patient that was meant to be an anonymous actor. The interns also are required to speak with patients to understand their experience with residents and attendees. Overall, my favorite part of the experience is being able to apply my knowledge in coding, but also learn about coding in the medical education environment.

I am amazed by the intensive studies and organization the PrMEIR program does to ensure the students are receiving not only one of the best medical education, but to learn how to grow as a person and to be aware of their role as a physician in society. I look forward to the immense opportunities this internship has to offer me to learn about my passion for medicine and computer science. I hope to learn of careers and departments in this program that allows me to intertwine my two fields of interests.

 

Post 2: Lessons from the Field

Working on a boat is incredibly different than sitting in a traditional classroom at school. My internship is tied to the weather and the behavior of unpredictable wild animals. Often times, thundershowers and torrential down-pours do not stop our whaling adventures, and I have come to learn to be ready for anything. Recording data in brutal wind conditions or spotting for whales with reduced fog visibility has honed my observation skills and my adaptability in the field. That being said, occasionally work is canceled due to massive sea-sick inducing swells and brutal wind, and I feel like I do in school when we get an unexpected snow day.

Sunset Whale Watching

Whales are wild animals and therefore unpredictable; every day I get to observe them in their natural habitat. As much as we can make predictions about where the whales will be and what they will do, I have been shown many times this summer to never take anything for granted. For example, one day a whale named Diablo appeared right outside of Boston Harbor, 10 miles from where we expected to see her. Another day, we went to an area where whales had been feeding for weeks and found absolutely nothing.

Clamp Lunge Feeding

Visitors will sometimes come with sea-world assumptions, and an important takeaway from my internship is to understand how to balance expectation versus reality. While I get to see amazing behaviors frequently, such as breaching or open mouth feeding, some days the whales are less surface active.

An important part of my internship has been learning how to articulate critical messages of environmental conservation about these spectacular animals, and to treat each day as an opportunity to learn something new. Understanding marine mammal physiology and behavior has not only broadened my academic understanding but has allowed me to better understand why whales will behave in certain ways on certain days. Even on “average” days, my internship has provided me opportunities to learn something new every time I go out on the water. For example, just today I got to see a Mola mola for the first time! Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish, are huge bony fish that look like big dinner tables in the water.

Mola mola (They’re super weird)

Over the last few months, I have seen myself expand in my comprehension of marine conservation and marine mammal behavior as well as gain field skills, technique, and knowledge through data collection and observation. One of the coolest ways I have been able to track my own progress is through the identification and behavior of humpback whales. I now can recognize many individuals by eyesight. By discerning individuals from each other, I have picked up on subtle behavioral distinctions between humpback whales that I would never have been able to recognize without spending months in the field. The Aquarium has provided an amazing opportunity and network, and I am so happy for this internship that has provided resources for my interest in a marine conservation/biology career.

Fan (One of my favorite whales!)

– Kate Laemmle ’20

 

 

American Enterprise Institute: Russian Studies

NB: A Russian text version of this post should be available shortly on the Brandeis GRALL website.

My name is Micah Pickus and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University majoring in Russian Studies with a double minor in Politics and Islamic/Middle Eastern Studies. Next semester, I will begin working on my senior thesis, which will focus on arms control and

nuclear weapons (more specifically) in the late Soviet era, as well as the modern era. This summer I am interning under Dr. Leon Aron at AEI in Russian Studies. AEI is located in DuPont Circle, and is just a few blocks from where I am living this summer. AEI is a very busy, bustling place with a wide variety of disciplines studied. Every so often, AEI brings in some notable speakers. Most notably, IMF Director Christine Lagrande came to give a talk a few weeks ago.

My primary task each day is to compile a Daily News Packet for Dr. Aron. This consists of identifying different analytical prose in both Russian and English regarding the current situation in Russia (especially with regard to Putin), as well as analytical pieces discussing the international or Eurasian political climates. From time to time I also help Dr. Aron with his travel logistics, as he is about to depart on a 3 week business trip to the Baltics.

Work station with two computer screens
My workspace at AEI.

Even with Dr. Aron leaving for three weeks, I am confident I can make a lot of progress in continuing to improve my Russian throughout the course of the internship. Luckily, the place where I am staying this summer happens to have one Russian-speaking resident, and that has enabled me to practice conversation away from work, which is really wonderful and beneficial to maintaining and improving my Russian language skills.

Conducting open source research in English and Russian is a great way for me to broaden my horizons and gain greater control over the subject material. The most exciting part of the internship by far is that it is entirely possible that in Dr. Aron’s next publication, he will cite a news article or op-ed in English or Russian that I was responsible for finding in the first place. Dr. Aron is a well-respected member of the scholarly community on all things Russia related, so the chance to assist him with his research is a great honor and I am certain that by working with him, I will only learn more about the field.

By itself, my work is hardly impressive, but it has significantly reinforced my Russian-English translation, reading, writing and speaking skills in just the first few days. Considering the fact that improving my Russian skills across the board is a primary goal of mine for the summer, I think as long as I can continue to speak with Dr. Aron and the one Russian resident at my summer living residence on occasion, I think I will meet my goal for the summer.

Summer of Whales

 

A Double Breach

 When I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist. This summer I get to live out that reality as a Marine Mammal Research and Education Intern at the New England Aquarium. The New England Aquarium employs approximately ten whale watch interns over the summer, who are part of a team of hundreds of other volunteers and interns dedicated to the NEA’s mission to protect the blue planet. Every day, my work on the whale watch boats has direct implications to ensure the conservation of these amazing animals.

A single breach

 

Note the counter in my right hand, I use it to get a passenger count every day during boarding!

I go on one or two whale watches a day, each lasting 3-4 hours. My “office” is the wheelhouse of boats with grand names such as Aurora, Sanctuary, or Asteria. My coworkers include a naturalist, who is not only my supervisor on the boat who oversees the data collection, but also the main scientist/researcher.

After the boat leaves the dock in Boston Harbor, it takes us 1 – 1.5 hours to see the whales. During this time, I begin the first part one of my internship: educational outreach. The interns discuss in person with the passengers information about our destination (Stellwagen Bank Natural Marine Sanctuary), or the most common species we are likely to see (humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales). Most passengers have never been on a whale watch, and I spend a large part of the ride explaining questions like why we may see White Atlantic Sided Dolphins, but not orcas, or why Humpback whales only spend time in the bank between mid-March to mid-November

Once we begin to approach the whales’ feeding ground, I run back upstairs for the second part of my internship, grabbing a GPS and compass for data collection and research. We don’t use radar or sonar to track the whales as it is harmful to the whales’ hearing. Instead, we find the whales simply using our eyes and the word of other whale watching boats. The naturalist and I stand from an elevated observation area and spot.  Once we see the whales, I record preliminary data like weather, as well as information on the whale’s behavior, location, and identification. When a humpback whale shows its

Triple Fluking Dive

tail (or fluke), we can actually identify individuals from each other. Their tail pattern is unique like a finger print, enabling the ability to identify individuals from each other using a large naming cataloging system

 

The data and research we collect helps scientists better understand and protect these animals. For example, boat strikes is the major cause of death for the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales. Using data on population density collected on whale watches, Boston Harbor moved its shipping lane one degree north, reducing the probability of boat strike by 80%. I plan on potentially doing my own research during this summer, such as studying mother-calf relations or the impact of local marine pollution.

Open Mouth Feeding

On the way back, I give a more specified talk around the cabins about general conservation. Passing around baleen (what humpbacks use to filter their food) or a vertebra, I answer and discuss questions about biology, hunting policies, climate change, conservation, and history.

I absolutely love my internship. I get to see breath-taking whales every day exhibit amazing behaviors. My goals in the beginning of the summer were to expand my marine science knowledge, gain applicable fieldwork skills, and improve in articulating environmental conservation that I am passionate about. Even in the first few weeks, I have already begun to succeed in my goals through the education of marine mammal biology as well as learning practical skills like LCDing a whale from two miles away.

My mom and brother came to visit me on the 21st! Cajun’s 2019m calf did a lot of cool behaviors that day.



 

Some photos and a brief summary of all my trips can be found under recent activity on our blog. 

 

Chapter 1: The start of a great learning experience.

With nervousness, anticipation and excitement, I finally started my summer internship at Blueport Commerce! At first, I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never had real-world experience related to computer science and I didn’t know if what I’ve learned so far at Brandeis would be enough. However, with the warm welcome I received and the great support my manager has been giving me, the apprehension is slowly drifting away.     

A welcome card which all the employees signed before I joined!

Blueport Commerce is a leading cloud e-commerce platform for furniture, used by the largest retailers in North America. They are located in Boston, MA and are a small company with 51-200 employees. Their main mission is to help furniture retailers grow sales online and in stores as well as provide a better shopping experience for their customers. My main tasks this summer are to implement automated tests with the QA automation team and get exposure to Blueport’s agile work environment and collaborative atmosphere.

So far I have just been getting introduced to what QA is and how test automation works. I have already learned so many new things by working with git and bitbucket, realizing the importance of an agile work environment and engaging myself in the day-to-day tasks of a real company. The QA team is very important in preventing bugs and defects in the product, so I am glad I get the chance to impact the company in a helpful way.

One of my favorite things about Blueport is the people and how friendly and collaborative everyone is. When I first joined, my team took me out for pizza and everyone else also introduced themselves and made me feel welcome. Many people also bring their dogs to work which of course is such a pleasant surprise 🙂

One of my academic goals for this summer is to learn a new programming language and implement a product feature that uses this language. I will achieve this while working with the QA automation team. The engineers at Blueport commerce use C# in their projects so this will be a great opportunity to code in a language I have never worked with before.

Another goal of mine is to strengthen my professional relationships. The people I have met at Blueport have all been very friendly and positive. I am excited to get to know them more by asking about their experiences and career paths. Along with this, a few more interns are joining the company next week so it will also be nice to get the chance to work with other people with a similar path in mind.

I hope to continue to work towards these goals throughout the summer and make full use of the opportunity given to me. Stay tuned for chapter 2!

Do the Best to Enjoy the Moment

The early morning following the day that I submitted my first blog post, an earthquake happened in the northern area of Osaka City, a region right south to Kyoto. The magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit Osaka and Kyoto was significantly affected as well. Japan is known for frequent earthquakes, but it was my first time experiencing an earthquake at this level. The earthquake itself lasted approximately 30 seconds, and it took me about 10 seconds just to realize that it was an earthquake.

I was at home while the ground suddenly started “jumping” up and down, and then, moving horizontally. In fact, some of the lab members and I were planning on heading to Hiroshima for an annual genome editing conference at around noontime that day, but all available public transportation  in the region was completely stopped. I managed to get to the lab on foot as usual to meet up with the other members. I did not observe much panics from the faces of people passing by me on the streets. While the lab members were in the lab waiting for the updates on public transportation, we were even talking about staying over in the lab and leave for Hiroshima the next day as it was unknown when the transportation will return normal.

On the Platform of Hiroshima Railway Station
Arriving in Hiroshima in the crowd after 8pm on the day of earthquake

The Materials and My Name Tag for the Conference

The 3-day conference was shortened into 2 days due to the earthquake


The earthquake was not the end of the story, a heavy and constant rainfall hit western Japan beginning on July 6th. Kamo River and Katsura River in Kyoto were severely flooded and so did many other rivers in western Japan, especially those in the south-western region. A significant numbers of people lost their lives due to the flood and the sequential sediment disaster. According to the news, it was the most devastating rainfall and flood since Japan entered the current era, “Heisei period,” which means it was the most severe flood on record in the past 30 years.

Flooded Kamo River Next to CiRA on July 6th


While I am writing this blog during this long weekend, the famous Gion Festival is going on just outside of the window despite of the record-breaking high temperature these two days.

Besides the busy laboratory work, all these unexpected or expected events have become the spice of a monotonous daily routine. Though I have felt the significant personal growth in a lot of dimensions because of the laboratory part of this experience, the other parts were also the essence. They certainly added diverse colors and flavors to this unique cross-cultural and cross-field internship experience.

For every day I am at work, I tried my best to enjoy and make the most out of it. Indeed, I started my independent works last week after only a month of “intensive training.” Still, I cannot believe that half of my internship has passed already. I am definitely going to miss my life here in Kyoto and at CiRA a lot.

A reflection of my time at the Farm

The last day of my internship has gone and past but I can’t help missing the daily routine of working at a place that I have grown to love. With this being my last post, I think it’s appropriate to take a step back and look at the history of the farm and its mission.

During the last few weeks at the farm, we interns got to learn about the history of the farm and the ongoing volunteer efforts from Drumlin’s Volunteer Coordinator. I was fascinated to learn how Drumlin Farm came together from the foresight and charity of a single woman with a dream to keep nature alive and thriving. The story of how Drumlin Farm came to be is a significant and interesting piece of the town of Lincoln’s history. It all started with the building of Gordan Hall in 1915 as a summer home to Louise Ayer Gordan and her first husband. Louise later remarried and became Louise Ayer Gordan Hatheway and willed the property, farmland and surrounding lands to the Mass Audubon society in 1955 with the wish that it would remain a working farm and nature sanctuary in the years to come. From then on, the farm has kept its promise to Louise and is continually advocating for the protection of wildlife and providing local agriculture.

Picture of Gordan Hall, Image courtesy of “Images of North America: Mass Audubon”

Drumlin’s Volunteer Coordinator also explained how Drumlin Farm has grown with Louise’s mission in mind. She has helped to coordinate various volunteer opportunities within Mass Audubon and the Bobolink Project. The Bobolink Project is a Mass Audubon effort to help protect grassland birds and recuperate their population numbers. Many of these birds are disappearing in the Northeastern U.S. due to hayfield mowing during the Bobolink nesting season. The Bobolink Project provides farmers the financial assistance to delay their crop mowing until the Bobolinks and other grassland birds are fledged (out of the nest). This project is just one example of Mass Audubon’s mission to help preserve and educate about nature.

Picture of a male Bobolink, image courtesy of ‘All About Birds’

I feel incredibly lucky to have played a part in this institution’s mission. Drumlin Farm’s Wildlife Sanctuary has taught me how to face my fears and to come to the realization that a future in the veterinary field is possible. With the finale of this internship, I have come out with more knowledge about wildlife care, made connections to help me in the future, and have discovered how to take action in preserving wildlife and nature in my local community. My advice for those of you who haven’t quite figured out what path you want to take when you leave college: I would say to go and explore any internships or volunteer opportunities that even remotely interest you. You never know if an interest is a passing fad or something waiting to be explored as a future. So, go out there, explore your passions and thank you for following our stories throughout this summer!

Photo of Drumlin Farm Staff and Summer 2018 Interns

It takes life-long passion to be in academia

 

My teammates and I (third person from the left)

Many people think that doing research in the medical field is about constantly gaining more knowledge, keeping up with advances and new findings in the field, and coming up with the meaningful unanswered questions. Research is also known to involve continuously doing experiments, analyzing and gathering data. From my personal perspective, I have discovered that research is a great learning environment. In order to contribute to any research project, the learning process never stops. The deeper your understanding is, the better your hypothesis will be. You are constantly learning while doing experiments and looking at your data. The hands-on experience is a crucial part to help me understand the projects.

In the Lichtman lab, people learn from each other on a daily basis: when the principal investigator and the postdoctoral researcher teach students new techniques or when students discuss underlying concepts with one another. It takes kindness to spare time to help other people learn. It takes cooperation and effort for everyone to be involved. Most importantly, it takes passion to keep all of this going.

The World of Work is not like university life. At school, students are taught by lecturers, assigned homework, get checked on for completion of homework, and get tested during exams to be evaluated. In the World of Work, how much you can learn and how much you can achieve entirely depends on you. There isn’t any limit about what you have to learn. There aren’t any criteria for you to be evaluated upon. People will not tell you what you should be doing, and they will not keep track of your work. However, they will evaluate your performance. They will want to know whether you can set up and carry out experiments independently, whether you can generate accurate data, and whether you can effectively analyze data. Furthermore, your performance is not the only thing that will be taken into consideration. It is also very important to maintain a good relationship with other people in your workplace and to be helpful to team members.

The most important skill that I have learned this summer is how to do research. I have learned how to come up with a question and how to set up the experiments and different techniques that can be used to do research. This will help me in the future whether I take lab courses at Brandeis or I do research as part of my career in the medical field. Besides my passion in patient care, I really appreciate the enormous impact of research in medicine. It may take a lifetime effort of scientists to do research, but the impact could be life-changing for improving patient treatment and health care services for all people. The World of Work has also taught me a lot about what I should do in order to be a worthwhile person and valuable team member. It’s all about having the passion and the resilience to pursue your passion.

Learning more about the Farm and Sanctuary

Hello again! It’s been a while since I last posted but my internship is halfway over and I have learned so much in the past few weeks. Besides the daily routine of cleaning animal enclosures and preparing diets, I have had the chance of learning about a lot of other different aspects of wildlife care, education, and conservation.

I spoke last time about my part in an internship project. I decided to focus on designing and building new enclosures for some of our species here on the farm. Our American kestrel needed a new enclosure design because we had moved some of our animals around into more suitable enclosures. I got the chance to research and design all the new perches and the layout of the interior of the enclosure and then with some help, built them. I learned that the falcons needed flat perches to rest on as well as rounded perches that mimicked what they would find in nature. Our kestrel at the sanctuary had a prior wing injury so she has limited flight and needed a lot of low lying perches in order for her to climb around. With all this new research about enclosure designs, I have come to appreciate how difficult it is to keep captive wildlife and be able to care for them so that they are able to live comfortably.

Left: A picture of the kestrel enclosure I designed. Right: The American Kestrel, photo courtesy of Mass Audubon.

One amazing opportunity that this internship allows for is the chance to handle some of the animals at the wildlife sanctuary. All the interns that come through Drumlin’s Wildlife Care get a chance to do some

Handling one of our screech owls who was molting. Below is an audio recording of an Eastern screech owl’s call. Audio courtesy of National Audubon Society.

raptor handling under the supervision of our amazing Wildlife Program Coordinator, Flavio. Raptor handling entails being able to take a bird of prey or a raptor out of their enclosure and keep them on a gloved hand for educational presentations and then bring them back into their respective enclosures. I have been able to work with one of our broad-winged hawks and a screech owl here at the sanctuary. These birds have all been trained to be handled in such a manner and we always handle the animals with their safety and level of stress in mind.

In our downtime, interns also get the chance to learn more about Drumlin Farm as an institution and all the different fields of study and professions that go into the everyday management at Drumlin Farm. We got the chance to meet with Senior Naturalist, Tia and Visitor Education Manager, Sandy.

Talking with Tia, we learned about the efforts of conservation, especially in the lens of keeping invasive species in check. We helped clear out black swallow-wort, an invasive species native to Europe, in a small field on the farm. Tia explained how the swallow-wort plants were outcompeting and reducing the number of local species in the area. Swallow-worts are especially detrimental to monarch butterflies as female butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed which looks remarkably similar to the black swallow-wort, but monarch caterpillars cannot feed on black swallow-wort, leading to declining monarch populations.

A picture of Black Swallow-wort, an invasive species.

We also met with Drumlin Farm’s Visitor Education Manager, Sandy. Sandy walked us through the daily programs that happen on the farm and what a schedule for teachers that work with the farm looks like. Visitor education programs often showcase conservation and biodiversity efforts that the visitors do not immediately see. There are programs about different bird wings, the different weasel species of America and, of course, animal exhibition shows in which a teacher will take out one of our wildlife species and talk about that animal’s habitat, eating habits and their importance to the New England ecosystem. It was a very enlightening experience and Sandy even hinted at having the interns do some animal showcasing in the future as well!

Being able to see all the different parts of how the wildlife sanctuary work and how the farm functions has been extremely educational and I’ve had so much fun learning and gaining experience working in this field.

The Woods of Weston, MA

I’m am at the midpoint of my internship with Brandeis Professor Eric Olsen, studying the relationship of deer, ticks, and Lyme disease in the city of Weston, MA. I have learned and experience a lot since my first days with the tick surveys. When I first came into this internship I viewed it as being a traditional internship where I would just be doing minor things like helping prepare the tools that we needed for a routine survey, assisting in the input of data, filing things etc. Now as I am in the midpoint of this internship I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The way that Professor Eric Olson coordinated the internship, it was as if I was conducting my own research. We both did the same amount of work, followed the same procedures, and both worked towards a common goal. After a regular day of collecting and looking at the information I collected, it left me with a feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that I was finally getting the resources that I never had leading up to my involvement in the WOW fellowship program is like a feeling of liberation.

I have also been learning about different tick species, the history of our seven different locations, how certain terrains form naturally and other interesting facts. It’s is weird seeing how different it is learning things about nature from a professor outside a classroom setting. It’s a lot less stressful and more like a gift rather than a chore. I found myself listening to what he had to say and retaining the information more than I would have in a classroom. I started to see myself noticing different types of plants like bedstraw, and milkweed. While my knowledge on how to identify the all the different types of plants there are, it has gotten a lot better just hearing him talk about them.

This internship also allowed me to really see how much I love being in nature. The city of Weston has some of the most beautiful forests I ever have seen. Just walking into one you can see the lush green vegetation of the forest, the smell of pollen and wildflowers, hear the scuffle of animals in the leaf litter, and think about just how peaceful it is being in the woods. It’s sort of a distraction from our daily lives and to just become apart of an ecosystem that many of us have lost touch with.

It reminds me of a class that I took during the fall semester of my freshman year where we had to observe a specific place in the woods that we chose and just try to connect the place as much as possible. We were told to observe the trees, notice if anything change, to use it as something therapeutic in our lives, and this internship is just like that. I have been able to use this internship as a way to take time away from working two jobs, having to worry about paying for things and helping my family.

All in all, I have really been enjoying the internship. It has been a good experience so far and I have been able to learn about many different things that I probably wouldn’t know about if I didn’t do this internship.

The People First

Working at ImprovBoston has taught me that the most important aspect of any job is the people you are working with. I have the pleasure to work on a team of funny, easy going, and passionate people who are so supportive and make even the hardest days enjoyable. It has been incredibly reaffirming to work at ImprovBoston because it has shown me that comedy is not just about the art you are making but the people you are making it with. I now know that I want to be part of teams that are supportive and push me to think more creatively.

The infectious creative energy that permeates through the staff of ImprovBoston is what makes this work different from my university and academic life. There is a professionalism to the creativity at ImprovBoston that is not present at my life at Brandeis. For example, a creative project to start a new musical improv group goes through all the steps to find a director, music director, and producer so the results are professional and polished. At Brandeis, I have started many a creative project that has been missing the key components of professionalism and follow through. I hope to take these skills to projects at Brandeis. The WOW experience has also differed from Brandeis and academic life because I live in an apartment and cook my own food. I love it and it will be very hard to go back to living in the halls because the independence I have found in my life has made me happier and more confident.

Not only have I built on my skills of professionalism, follow through, and independence but also in networking. In comedy, networking is closely tied to being friends with folks within the community. During my semester in Chicago, I got the note that I should be confident and take up more physical and emotional space. I have been going to shows and hanging out with people before them to really connect and forge friendships. By fostering friendships with the people I work and perform with I am hopeful to create more opportunities for creative collaboration. I have more fun performing and working with people when I also know them as friends.

The most important thing I have learned at ImprovBoston and through working in comedy is that you have to, “be around.” Being around means reading everything; going to shows; staying up to date on global and local current events; and collaborating with as many different types of people as possible. I will transfer this to my academics by collaborating with my classmates, seeking more reading on the subjects I am studying, and going the extra-mile to connect my comedic work to what I am learning in the classroom. My work has also proven to me that for my future career plans it is essential I work with people who challenge and support me, while also being enjoyable people to spend forty hours a week with.  On and off campus I want to be part of projects that challenge and excite and have a level of professional organization and pride in the work they is doing.

– Mina Bond

 

One step closer to the world of medicine

This summer, I have the opportunity to work in Dr. Lichtman’s Immunology and Cardiovascular research laboratory of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Pathology.

Me (right) and my coworker (left)

I have never worked in a lab before. In my mind, I thought working in a lab would be similar to my experience in college’s lab courses. However, the first day I came to the lab, I was amazed by how basic science research can potentially lead to huge development in the medical field in terms of diagnosis and treatments for patients. As the post-doc, Eva, I work with briefly explained to me the projects that were going on in the lab, I realized that I needed to read and self-study much more so as to be able to understand the research and ultimately to be a part of it. My impression about the lab during the first week is that doing research is challenging, but at the same time very intriguing and that I would be able to learn so much from not only my supervisor but also from other talented people in the team. The picture above is me (right) and one of my coworkers who is actually a Brandeis alumni (left).

As I get a better idea of the lab, I have set some goals for this summer:

Regarding academic goals, I want to establish a solid background in basic immune system functions, and how such immune responses can cause diseases. In preparation, I have discussed the basic science underlying this project with Dr. Lichtman and spend a portion of my free time on the weekends reading and taking notes from the textbook he published and recommended to me. I was surprised to learn that the book is also used as a learning tool in many medical schools!

Furthermore, I also aim to master the molecular techniques used in the lab and in day to day research, such as immunohistochemistry and tissue slicing on the Cryostat. This will allow me to not only make progress in my project but to effectively assist other team members in their research by generating accurate data.

Thus, I will learn how to use empirical scientific research in order to contribute to the medical field by learning from the PI and other team members.

Considering career goals, I plan to pursue a career in medicine that includes patient care and clinical or lab-based translational research. As I work in a clinic-based laboratory as a summer research internship, this experience will also allow me to explore different aspects of medicine. As I will attend department conferences and seminars throughout the course of the summer, I will be able to develop a more well-rounded understanding of medicine and the interconnection between its different aspects. I can furthermore establish a professional network at Brigham and Women’s Hospital by meeting with the professionals such as physicians, researchers and educationalists who make enormous impact on people’s lives and on the community in their everyday work.

As for my personal goals, I hope this summer experience will help me to grow intellectually, think scientifically, and be able to contribute to important work relevant to human diseases. I look forward to emerging myself in the Longwood medical area – a hub of biotechnology, of research and ultimately of medicine.

-Phuong Anh (Phoebe) Le-

Post 2: Clinical Research at SERI

Driving in the simulator. Taking an exit off the highway to our digital ski resort – see the snow-capped mountains on the right?

Here at Schepens Eye Research Institute (SERI) in Boston, I have been working on four research projects. In the first project, we are investigating the relationship between visual impairment and auditory distraction as well as the effects of age on these interactions. In order to test this, we have subjects from two different age groups (young = 20-40, old = 60+) drive in our driving simulator (see picture above) while wearing goggles that simulate visual impairment and performing an auditory distraction task. The visual impairment goggles use dispersion filters to blur vision and simulate eye conditions such as cataracts. The auditory task involves listening to an audio book and repeating back certain words (such as “the”) every time they are said. This is a lot harder than it seems. Try it at home! But not while driving. During these drives, pedestrians appear, and the driver must honk each time they see one. Response times are recorded as well as data about the control and motion of the vehicle. [Note: If you or someone you know is a current driver in the Boston area, age 60+, you qualify to participate. We are still recruiting. Contact me.]

The second project I am helping with is related to the first. In this project, we use the same auditory task, but we leave out the goggles so that we can track head and eye movement. Our eye tracking device is unable to track eyes through the dispersion filters on the goggles, so in order to examine the effects of auditory distraction on gaze movements we must do without the goggles. The eye tracking device utilizes six cameras and infrared lights around the simulator. The data we receive from this is in the form of graphs of head and gaze movements surrounding pedestrian events. Here is an example of one of these plots:

This plot shows the head and gaze movements surrounding the presence of a pedestrian. The red line represents head movement, and the blue line shows gaze movement. Yellow and green lines along the blue line show glances. The two black vertical lines indicate the time that the pedestrian is on screen. The green dash at the top is the moment the horn is honked.

The third project I am helping with involves driving with a bioptic telescope, a device attached to glasses that people with visual impairments may use to help them drive and read street signs (see picture below). Unfortunately, the telescope creates a ring-shaped blind spot around that impairs vision. Therefore, during our experimental drives, we have signs that participants look at through the telescope and honk at pedestrians they see. We then examine the timing of how the head and eyes move to look through the telescope as part of a bigger study that examines the effect of this blind spot on pedestrian detection.

Bioptic telescope

In these three projects, I help to run subjects through our experiments, which involves obtaining consent, doing vision measures (including visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and central visual field), and running them through the drives in the simulator. I also help to process and analyze the data we collect.

The final project I am working on is a telephone questionnaire that we are designing in order to gather information about how much drivers with visual impairments use in-vehicle assistive technologies (such as cruise control) and whether or not these devices are helpful. This project is in the beginning stages, and I have been helping to design the questionnaire, fill out paperwork, and pilot the questionnaire to make it clear and usable.

So far, I have been having a lot of fun and have learned a great deal about each step of the clinical research process. During my final few weeks, I hope to continue running subjects and learning more about data analysis.

For more information about the lab, visit the lab’s website here: http://bowerslab.eye.hms.harvard.edu/

If you are in the Boston area and are interested in participating in experiments here, let me know!

Post 1: Seeking Justice in Worcester County

My name is Andrea Bolduc and I am a rising sophomore studying Politics, Legal Studies, and French Language. This summer I am interning at the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office in Worcester, Massachusetts. I am working in Community Outreach and have also been paired with an Assistant District Attorney.

The DA’s Office has two missions: to seek justice for the victims of crime through fair prosecutions and to prevent crime through community outreach programs.  The DA’s Office prosecutes felonies and

This internship is especially important to me because it is a way to serve my community in Worcester County.

misdemeanors, such as arson, homicide, domestic and/or child abuse, gang activities, and financial crimes. Several specialized units, led by Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs), work together to prosecute cases in court.  The DA’s Office is active in community outreach programs and offers quality victim advocacy efforts.

 

 

For community outreach, myself and several other interns contact schools and police stations across Worcester County and try to establish outreach programs for all age groups on topics ranging from bullying prevention to the opioid crisis. This past week, we traveled to a local Boys and Girls Club and helped the Outreach Coordinator give a presentation on bullying prevention and cyber safety to several groups of kids.

It was interesting to see how, even though the message (follow the Golden Rule, telling a trusted adult is not the same thing as being a “tattle-tale”, never disclose even seemingly insignificant information about yourself to a stranger online, etc.) was consistent across age groups, the delivery evolved as the audience matured. This demonstrates the importance of reaching out to community members of all ages as a means of prevention. By establishing a positive relationship with the community, the DA’s Office is able to equip even the youngest child with the tools to keep themselves and others safe.

The exterior of the Worcester County District Courthouse.

 

I also serve as an aid to an Assistant District Attorney. Their job is to prosecute cases on behalf of the Commonwealth. My ADA focuses on cases that appear in the Central District Court. Each ADA will be assigned around 200 cases per year, so there is a lot of work to do to prepare for each one. I assist my ADA in pretrial preparation, where I help them organize discovery (police reports on the incident, relevant documents and information about the defendant), and evidence. Because a fair trial is essential, the prosecution and defense are in constant communication with one another during preparation. If my ADA doesn’t need any specific task done at the moment, I can assist other ADAs, which means that I have been getting exposure to a breadth of different cases. I can also observe different proceedings around the courthouse, such as arraignments, trials, and sentencing. The amount of work that goes into ensuring a fair trial for each defendant, while also maintaining a commitment to the laws that make our society safer, has given me a greater appreciation for our legal system.

My goal for this internship is to develop an understanding of how the law works in practice. By helping lawyers conduct research for their specific cases, it is my hope that my time at the DA’s Office will also provide me with some direction in terms of the careers through which to pursue my interests. I have always wanted to be involved in an actual case, and this summer I have the opportunity to immerse myself in legal research and trial preparation.

Stay up to date with the work that the DA’s Office does in the community and read up on cases currently making their way through the court!

 

 

A Dream That Finally Come True

After being involved in undergraduate research for almost three years, working as a Japanese peer tutor for 2 years, completing a clinical research project abroad in Denmark, and browsing and researching different websites for hundred and thousand hours, I am finally here: Center of iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University in Japan.

Outside View Of the 1st Building of CiRA


I arrived in Kyoto on June 8th, the Friday before the week I officially started my work at CiRA. My mentor, Peter Gee, offered to pick me up on the platform of the Kyoto Railway Station even though it was past 9pm right before the weekend. He walked me to the hostel that I booked for a temporary stay before I moved to the long-term apartment the next morning. He was so nice that he even bought me a bottle of iced tea and some snacks in case that I was thirsty or hungry. I was so grateful for his help that allowed me to settle in a new city very quickly and smoothly.

On Monday morning, Peter came to the place that I will be staying at for the next 2-months and we walked to CiRA together. Everything that I have seen in documentaries and on TV numerous times were all right in front of my eyes. Peter quickly showed me around the building and introduced me to the other lab members in the Hotta Lab. Everyone I met on the first day, including those from on the labs, was very nice and gave me a warm welcome. Indeed, I was very nervous going to work on that day. I was stressed about meeting and remembering a lot of new people while getting oriented in the lab in order to start working as soon as possible. With lots of new information and knowledge, that day definitely turned out to be intensive and heavy-loaded for me, but I was glad that I was able to start the experiments and to work with actual cell lines that we will need data from on the first day.

I felt extremely supported and trusted being the youngest student researcher in the lab. Peter carefully went through the possible projects and experiments I could do in these two months and asked for my thoughts and opinions on the first day. He said that the lab hopes for me to have an experience where I learn the knowledge and techniques that will be the most useful and beneficial for me. We decided that I will be working on not only the main focus of the lab,  the induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)  patients, but also on differentiating cortical neurons, which is closely related to my neuroscience major, previous research experience, and the research that I would like to pursue in the future.

One of the Exits of the Closest Station Next to CiRAMany People Working at CiRA or Other Facilities of Kyoto U as well as Students of KU Get to School from Here Every Morning


Starting from the second day, the remaining 4 days of the first week were all packed with experiments, but I was much more relaxed compared to the first day. Surprisingly, while I still felt like I was dreaming, I adapted to life in Kyoto and in the Hotta Lab quickly.  Although I received extensive mentorship and support from the lab members throughout the week, I was also given significant freedom to think and work independently just like an experienced researcher. It was a great research, academic and cultural environment where everybody is open for discussions and different opinions. I could hear active conversations not only in Japanese but also in English as a significant amount of people working at CiRA came from all over the world.

Along with Dr. Akitsu Hotta, the principle investigator in charge of the lab, the lab held a welcome party for me on Wednesday night. It was a casual pizza night where we got the chance to learn about each other a lot outside of work。

Part of the Drinks and Pizzas from the Welcome PartyIt has only been a week since I started my work at CiRA, but I have learned so much academically and experienced many new things in daily life as well.

– Xiou Wang

Week One at ImprovBoston

I just started my internship at ImprovBoston and it has been a wonderful experience thus far. ImprovBoston is a nonprofit located in Cambridge, MA whose mission is to serve the community through laughter. With a regular performance selection of New England’s premiere improv, sketch, and standup and an acclaimed comedy training program, the theater dedicates itself to inspiring, developing and sharing comedy in all its forms. Through exploring the many important applications of the creative process, ImprovBoston seeks to improve the lives of diverse audiences both onstage and off. To accomplish this goal, ImprovBoston offers classes in sketch, standup, and improv as well as workshops addressing workplace success and anti-bullying. 

My title is “Comedy School Intern,” and, as the Comedy School intern, I will communicate with current and incoming students; assist with the registration of classes and Comedy Clinics; build and maintain logistical paperwork; schedule make-up classes; and manage the distribution of performance records of the student showcases. In addition, I will assist my supervisor in new Comedy School initiatives such as assistant teaching, taking classes in the curriculum, and a new project called “S.H.E” (Sisterhood.  Humor.  Empowerment.) to support women in comedy. In fulfilling these responsibilities, I will learn about the importance of arts education, and the connection between social justice work and comedy.  

 My academic goal for the summer is to connect my learning from WGS to comedy and arts education. My supervisor started S.H.E. at Second City in Chicago, and is now hoping to launch the program at ImprovBoston. I will be conducting outreach to introduce people to improv comedy as a way of promoting mindfulness and confidence building.  In this way, I will be achieving my goal of connecting feminist theory to real-world applications.

 My career goal is to figure out if I would like to teach comedy after graduating. I currently perform at ImprovBoston and love that, so I want to see if I also enjoy teaching people how to perform. By shadowing teachers at the Comedy School and doing administrative work for the Comedy School I will learn about comedic education, working with aspiring comedians, and the Comedy School’s initiatives to support all students especially women and persons of color. The Comedy School internship is a perfect fit for me because it focuses on teaching students to find their voices and gain confidence.

I want to make connections with comics in the Boston community. I am a current cast member at ImprovBoston and despite this I still do not always feel confident or like an important member of the community. Success in comedy is all about confidence and networking. By taking on a bigger role in the comedy community I will be connected to comics who are working on projects which I may have the opportunity to join.  Ideally, I will become much more confident and consequently a more respected member of the Boston comedy community.

– Mina Bond ’19

 

Week One at Schepens Eye Research Institute

Outside of Schepens

This summer I am doing an internship in clinical research at Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston. Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and one of the largest research organizations in the nation. Their mission is to eliminate blindness, and their labs perform research on all aspects of vision and vision loss. I am interning in a lab that researches the safety and considerations of driving with various visual impairments, particularly hemianopia (loss of vison in half of each eye). I am currently being trained to help with a project investigating the effects and interactions of three factors on driving: age, visual impairment, and auditory distraction. Experiments are conducted using a very realistic driving simulator. Before learning how to help run the study, I got to be a participant. Here is a picture of me cruising down the highway on the simulator:

Me driving the simulator

The simulator consists of five giant monitors giving it 220° of view surrounding a genuine car seat, steering wheel, pedals, and dashboard. It contains all of the components of a real car, including working digital rearview mirrors and speedometer. The seat moves to mimic the physical effects of turning or accelerating in a real car. The scene portrayed on the screens is from a virtual world where conditions can be manipulated, such as weather, time of day, and the presence and actions of pedestrians and other cars. These conditions are controlled in specific ways depending on the experiment being performed. The simulator is also equipped with cameras that can track head and eye movement data.

This week, I read articles to become familiar with this field of research, and began learning how to perform vision tests on subjects, how to run the driving simulator, and how to process data. Eventually I will be performing all of these tasks on real subjects in order to collect and process data. For this study, we perform two visual tests on all subjects: visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Visual acuity is the overall accuracy or sharpness of one’s vision (a normal acuity is 20/20), and is measured by reading a chart of different sized letters. Contrast sensitivity is how well one can distinguish between light and dark, and is measured by reading a chart that has gradually fading letters.

Chart used to measure contrast sensitivity

 

Eye chart used to measure visual acuity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From this project, we hope to gain valuable information about the interactions between visual impairment and auditory distractibility. This information could be useful in the consideration of the safety of visually impaired drivers, or those considering obtaining a license.
I have known since high school that I have a strong interest in pursuing a career in ophthalmology. I hope that this internship will give me the opportunity to learn more about ophthalmology in both a clinical and research perspective. My goal for this summer is to gain experience that will affirm my decision to pursue a career in ophthalmology, and provide insight to help me to refine and discover my interests.

– Eliana Ellenberger

 

 

Finishing up at Encyclopedia of Life

Through my internship at Encyclopedia of Life, I gained great insight into biodiversity documentation, project management, and real-life work experience. I learned a lot about citizen science through classes at Brandeis, but I had not had many opportunities to see the behind the scenes operations of a citizen science organization and learn how these organization use their platform to engage the public. Interning at EOL provided me with a great opportunity to see these things first hand and make an impact in the organization.

Some observations from our August Monthly iNaturalist challenge!

My favorite part about my internship was taking everything I learned in my environmental studies classes and working with a great group of people to increase environmental education and documenting the biodiversity living around us. Although just in the beginning stages, the Boston challenge that I am helping to plan will bring together people from all across the area and get people outside to observe the nature around them. Last year’s challenge was a success and I hope to continue that trend and see Boston as a front runner.

For students interested in interning at a citizen science organization like EOL, I would recommend really taking ownership of projects assigned to you and making the most out of the experience. One of the great things about working for a smaller office is that there is a large opportunity to work on projects that interest you, and it is easy to communicate with different members of the team. Whenever I had a question, other team members were really receptive and helpful. Also, even though I was intern, the work that I was doing had an impact on the organization and I know it will help their current efforts. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn on a job and the people in the office where more than willing to provide advice.

I enjoy looking at images on EOL of species I like

I am most proud of working with a wonderful group of Boston area organizations invested in increasing biodiversity documentation and environmental education awareness. Working with these organizations allowed me to see all the different opportunities that are available in the citizen science field and what goes behind making these projects possible. It also helped increase my confidence when running meetings and learning how a small office setting works.

Even if I don’t go into the citizen science field, I will still take away an appreciation for the Earth’s biodiversity and EOL’s mission to capture as much of it as they can. I am appreciative to have had this opportunity and the real world experience it gave me.

Gerrianna Cohen ’18

Last Reflection on My Summer at Yale

As a psychology major, my academic goal this summer in my internship was to expand my knowledge of developmental psychobiology and psychopathology through understanding the current state and gaps of the clinical and developmental neuroscience literature. In the weekly lab meetings and clinical case conferences that I attended, there were presentations by lab members on articles on psychopathology and current projects. I reached my goal through exposure to current research in these meetings as well as through engaging in discussions with lab members and academics. I was assigned to present a research article in one of the lab meetings, which gave me more exposure to the literature, and helped me improve my presentation skills. I thought the experience helped me grow so much that I requested to present another article, and it really helped me with gaining confidence.

Clinical assessment is a very essential part of child clinical psychology and this internship gave me the opportunity of training in clinical assessment and administering tests which is very rare for undergraduate students. I administered and scored the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence-Second 
Edition (WASI-II) to children, adolescents, and adults as well as administered questionnaires about anxiety. I definitely reached my goal through this exposure to clinical assessment questionnaires and through entering information collected from clinical interviews. I was exposed to patients with different levels of affective symptomatology, trauma exposure, resilience, emotion regulation, stress, family functioning, and executive control. Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illnesses, and being exposed to diagnosis, learning about assessment tools, and contributing to the research for a very promising future treatment method for these disorders was very exciting and useful for my future career. Through participation in this internship I realized that I am specifically very interested in diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders and depression in children and adolescents.

Through administering intelligence tests, helping anxious and non-anxious children, adolescents, and adults feel comfortable, working directly with participants to ensure positive experiences throughout their participation, and through phone screens I reached my goal of improving my communication skills with people in general.

I would advise anyone who is looking for a Research Assistant internship in the field of psychology to email the Principal Investigators of labs.   You should choose the area that you are the most interested in and make sure you reflect your enthusiasm about the research and the lab in your email. When you are working in the lab environment, I learned that it is very important to look for more responsibility and to ask for the specific things that you want to be exposed to. I really liked working at Yale University as an institution because they really cared about the interns in terms of supervision and in terms of becoming a part of the culture of the university. They were also very careful about patient/participant confidentiality, which made me feel like a part of a serious health care facility. I would recommend this internship and I would love to do it all over again! Thank you Hiatt Career Center for giving me this opportunity!

Selen Amado  ’18

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

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

 

 

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!

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.

Setting up a challenge

For the past couple of weeks, I have been diving deep into planning for the City Nature Challenge for 2018. The CNC is a week long competition between cities across the nation to document the most biodiversity in their area. It is an exciting way to get the public outside and observing the local life around them. This year, the competition is expanding all over the world with participants in six continents in over 60 cities. I am confident the Boston area will be a top contender.

Ending a successful day at EOL

For the Encyclopedia of Life, we are focusing on creating educational materials to support high school educators and students during the challenge. The Learning and Education group at EOL has developed many resources throughout the years focused on getting students involved in citizen science and open science. My personal favorite is the species cards that can be used out in the field or in EOL created lesson plans. The hope of getting students involved is to spark interest in the environment and become inspired to change some of the issues facing us today. If students can feel a connection with nature then they will feel more likely to protect it.

Our goal for the CNC is to create a comprehensive source of materials including lessons plans, species cards, and tutorials that formal and informal educators can use to get their students outside making observations that contribute to science. With these materials, students will feel empowered to make meaningful observations and contribute to a larger database of species data. Scientists then can use this data in research and published papers, which I think is pretty cool.

Logo from the 2017 CNC

One of my favorite moments so far from my internship was leading a group meeting with three other Boston area organizations. I have been communicating with this group throughout the summer and it was exciting to talk with them again. Our role as a committee in the CNC is to generate interest in the Boston area and get people excited to participate. We have to think about things like communication, fundraising, and outreach to other local organizations to make this year a success. It is fun working with them and learning about how a committee works.

Overall, I have been enjoying my time here at EOL and am looking forward to my last few weeks of the summer. National plans for the 2018 CNC are on their way and I am making sure the Boston area is prepared and ready to go. As for the education plans, I am excited to see how many students and educators we can reach to use our materials!

Gerrianna Cohen ‘18

 

The Final Metamorphosis from Caterpillar to Butterfly

Jacksonville, North Carolina is home to more country music stations than all other radio stations combined, has the best fast food chain in the world, Waffle House, and is also known for its most beloved non-profit, Possumwood Acres. The two months that I spent there were filled with a million new experiences–I tasted grits for the first time, learned how to determine if a bird is dehydrated/emaciated, and saw a wild horse colony on an island. Now that my experience is quickly coming to a close I can say that I was really lucky to be exposed to the inner workings of a non-profit, the techniques necessary to take care of injured wildlife, and the “southern mentality.” It’s amazing what one person can do when they set their mind to it. Or when they get an unpaid internship and want to get as much out of the experience as they can. Either way you can’t go wrong.

Baby birds cuddle up really close to keep each other warm

Having completed a whopping 245 hours at Possumwood Acres, I am really proud to say that I learned beyond what I initially anticipated. I met all of the requirements for the “General Checklist” and went on to begin to complete the “Advanced Intern Checklist,” a fact of which I am very proud of. I am extremely satisfied with the experience I got interning at Possumwood Acres, and I can most certainly say that it helped me determine what I want to do with my future. Although I very much enjoyed my involvement in animal care (despite the stress associated with the job), I can honestly say that though I will not be continuing this specific avenue for a career, I am definitely invested in continuing my path in the environmental field. This internship has solidified my interest in protecting the environment in the many forms that that may come in. From this experience I learned that I am even more passionate about animals than I originally anticipated and that I am capable of learning a great deal in a short period of time.

A juvenile American Robin excitedly hops out of the incubator every time I open the door

For anyone interested in getting an internship, I would apply as early as possible. I managed to get this internship in early November. The earlier you start looking for internships, the more likely it is that you’ll actually get one. Employers will also be more likely to hire you for the job because the application pool is much smaller in early November and December. I would also try to narrow down your search to a specific type of internship, so you aren’t wasting your time applying for a position that you aren’t interested in. I knew that I absolutely wanted to work with animals so I bypassed anything that seemed like a glorified office worker position.

An osprey gets a physical examination by some of our experienced staff members

I think I am most proud of myself for doing something that was outside of my comfort zone because although I knew that the work would be tough, grueling, and hard at times, I also knew it would be extremely satisfying.

Sabrina Pond ’18

Halfway Through (well a bit more) and Still Having Fun

It is a bit more than halfway through my internship and I have been enjoying my time at FCD immensely. As mentioned in my first blog post, for the first half of my internship, I worked with Client Relations and Administration. One of the main things I did for my supervisor in Client Relations was look for community coalitions in different parts of the U.S. FCD has worked with substance abuse prevention community coalitions in the past, but they wanted to expand their relationships and see if they could cultivate more contacts with these different groups. I focused on finding groups in New England, New York, California and the Chicago area and tried to find their contact information and contact person for my supervisor in Client Relations.

In Administration there were a few projects that I was involved in. I consolidated line items on their financial statement that Hezelden sends over to them monthly. I did that for 2016 and part of 2017. That involved spreadsheets and moments of panic when the totals I found for each month did not match up to the financial statements we received, which led to backtracking and trying to see where I entered the wrong amounts. I was also tasked to do was create a form for interns to evaluate their internships and to foster discussion between a supervisor and their intern. FCD has had interns in the past but had never had that many. This year, there were three interns including me. Two of them have left but two high school interns will be coming in. The director of FCD wants to make internships more systematic and to create a way to evaluate both the interns and allow interns to evaluate their experience at this organization. I was sent a few links that had information about evaluation forms schools used and some other examples that businesses had. I did some of my own research and then created an evaluation form based on these examples. It is still in the working stages but they have used it with the two interns that have left and we will see if they have any comments on it.

The second half of my internship I will be working with Program Services and Surveys. From what I have been told, I think I might be helping with the editing and updating of some of the educational materials they use in the classroom and I might be working with the high school interns.

Posters that have been presented

I worked with Surveys this past week. The first day, I was introduced to the survey they give to students whose school opt to do it. After the data is collected, the results are given back to the schools. I learned about how it was created and how schools might use the data. I also looked at some of the posters they have presented at the APHA using data they have collected. One of the first assignments I will be doing is a literature review. Individuals at FCD have presented their findings about adult supervision when using alcohol and other substances and how that affects usage. It seems that contrary to what is widely believed, adult supervision may be protective in short term effects but long term effects of usage are not protected against. Their findings are summarized here. I will be looking more in depth about this and hopefully do a literature review about it.

Interning at FCD is different from school and it so far has been a very good experience. I like not having a structured day and just having a list of tasks that I have to do per day. I can divide up my own time much more easily and it just feels easier as time management goes. There is also a lot of collaboration in this organization. It might be because it is a smaller one, but I often hear people calling to each other from their rooms to ask questions or solicit advice from each other. To me it is just interesting that individuals who specialize in different departments and areas can come together and drive FCD’s mission forward. Being only one of the three interns, and for a week, the only one, I also feel like they give me a lot of time and space to ask them questions. I can just walk into their office a lot of the time, or they will come visit mine, and we can just sit down and talk. I ask them about FCD, about public health issues and even about how they got to where they are and they are always so open and encouraging. I never feel suffocated here, or mollycoddled, but I never feel intimidated when I have questions to ask; I really enjoy the freedom I am getting at this internship to not only do the tasks I have been assigned but also to ask questions and learn from them.

Some research for the lit review

I also have felt immediately welcomed into their group. During a few of the group meetings they have once a week, I have sat in and the director of FCD has always asked how I was and for my opinions about different topics or problems they are discussing. I am always allowed to jump into the discussion if I have any input or questions and it has made this internship a very comfortable experience. I have been even allowed to sit in on in person interviews and a phone interview for prevention specialists. They have asked for my opinion about each one, and if I don’t talk, the director will ask me to speak and give some feedback.

At this internship, I do think I have been learning and gaining some new skills that I can definitely use in the future. In general, I do think my organization skills have increased so much after having to keep track of so many files and line items when making spreadsheets. I also have learned how to be more deliberate and precise with my wording when creating documents for them. When I listen to how they talk about things, they pay so much attention to the wording of what other people say and how they say things. Having a proper tone and using the right words is not some new idea for me exactly, but the precision they have makes me think twice about how I word things now; it just never hit me exactly how much it can affect how something is seen or presented. I also think that sitting in on interviews has given me evidence that being deliberate and precise is so important. Being able to sit in on these interviews has enlightened me on how interviewers look at a potential candidate during an interview and what things are liked and what things are frowned upon in this setting. A bit more than halfway through my internship, I am having an incredible time at FCD and I definitely believe that the rest of my time will be just as enjoyable and will be a great learning experience.

The Panacea for Obesity: Fat!

Hello fellow science lovers!  Since my last blog post[i], I have been quite busy and have generated exciting and perplexing data.  As a brief reminder, I am working within the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School[ii], focusing on hydrogen sulfide signaling using genetic knockout mouse models.  In particular, I am focusing my research on a knockout (KO) mouse strain for the major hepatic (liver) endogenous hydrogen sulfide producing enzyme, cystathionine gamma lyase (CGL). When I wrote my last blog post, I was beginning to examine key gene expression and protein expression levels between wild type (WT) control mice and CGLKO mice by reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR)[iii] and Western Blots[iv] respectively.  I continue to rely on these powerful molecular biology methods, where I attempt to connect the dots between differential gene and protein expression levels.  Recently, my data has lead me towards a nutritional framework, where I have been particularly interested in dietary-induced and dietary-resistant obesity.

Pictured on the right is the ob/ob mouse strain compared to a normal, wild type mouse strain on the left. Ob/ob mice are deficient in the feeding inhibiting hormone leptin, and thus are used in obesity and diabetes research [vii].
Given the pervasive rise in obesity and diabetes within the United States (US), therapeutic targets for dietary-resistance to obesity are a “hot” research topic within the field of Endocrinology and Metabolism.  In a special report published in 2005 within the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the authors predict “that as a result of the substantial rise in the prevalence of obesity and its life-shortening complications such as diabetes, life expectancy at birth and at older ages could level off or even decline within the first half of this century.”[v] This stands in stark contrast to human trends, where human life expectancy has steadily increased over the past thousand years [v].  Thus, the need for breakthrough research discoveries regarding obesity, metabolic disease, and diabetes has never been more imperative.  A major research target in recent publications has been the heat-generating, master energy consuming mammalian brown fat, or brown adipose tissue (BAT) [vi].

In mammals, BAT is a major tissue site for chemical production of heat (thermogenesis) from fats, which has made BAT a promising target to induce weight loss[vi].  Traditionally, when exposed to cold temperatures, humans generate heat by shivering [vi].  However, mammals such as mice and human infants possess vast BAT depots, allowing thermogenesis during cold exposure to be driven by the chemical uncoupling of cellular energy production, oxidative phosphorylation [vi].  This chemical uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation is achieved in part through expression of uncoupling protein-1 (Ucp1) [vi]. Additionally, white fat or white adipose tissue (WAT), the classic form of stomach fat we all attempt to minimize, can be induced into a BAT like state, known as “beige” or “brite” fat [vi].  This beige fat has thermogenic capacity, and because thermogenesis relies on the breakdown of fat depots in order to generate heat, beige fat has the ability to burn excess fat depots and promote a healthier metabolic system [vi].  Countless studies have demonstrated that “expanding the activity of brown fat, beige fat or both in mice through genetic manipulation, drugs or transplantation suppresses metabolic disease.”[vi] One such stimulus for expanding beiging of WAT is dietary control.  Thus, because of the vast therapeutic potential of beige fat and BAT, I have been particularly fascinated by diets that can induce beige fat and or increase BAT activity.  Such a diet could have broad reaching implications for metabolic disease, and could help reduce the estimated 300,000 deaths per year related to obesity [v].

Here, major anatomical depots of brown adipose tissue (BAT), white adipose tissue (WAT) and beige adipocytes are depicted. This figure portrays differences between fat locations in (a) mice and (b) humans.   Genetic markers are given for each adipocyte type in the lower right hand corner  [viii].
Compared to my classroom studies at Brandeis, working in a biomedical research lab allows me to explore complex physiological topics that I would never confront in an undergraduate class, such as BAT and beige fat thermogenesis.  After running experiments on RNA, DNA, and proteins extracted from both control (WT) and CGLKO mice, the results almost always spur me to read a slew of research papers and reviews, which guide me towards a holistic understanding of what is occurring inside my mice. For example, I have examined Ucp1 expression levels in my mice, leading me towards reviews regarding thermogenesis. This ability to read beyond only what is assigned to me is a wonderful aspect of research which is mostly absent as an undergraduate at Brandeis.  I find this freedom allows me to become more excited about the material, and often causes me to gleefully share theories of mine with my co-workers, most of whom are post-doctoral fellows.

Similar to last summer, I am loving the environment of working in a basic science research lab.  I am continually refining my molecular techniques, learning new assays weekly, such as the protein concentration quantification bicinchoninic acid (BCA) assay[ix].  With each data result or conversation with the post-doctoral fellow I work alongside, I learn new complex signaling pathways within mammalian physiology.  After each biweekly lab meeting, I learn new elements of modern thyroid research, continually building upon my knowledge base of intricate thyroid endocrine regulation.  These molecular biology techniques combined with novel biology concepts will serve me well both in my future Biology coursework at Brandeis and in my future pursuits in and after medical school. Who knows, I may even end up a practicing Endocrinologist and participating in BAT thermogenesis research!  Only time will tell.

– Josh Lepson

[i] Brandeis University Hiatt Career Center. 2017. World of Work (WOW) Summer Internship Blog: Harnessing Science for the Common Good. Accessed on July 2.

Harnessing Science for the Common Good

[ii] Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 2017. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. Accessed on July 2.

http://www.bidmc.org/Centers-and-Departments/Departments/Medicine/Divisions/Endocrinology.aspx

[iii] ThermoFisher Scientific. Basic Principles of RT-qPCR: Introduction to RT-qPCR. Accessed on July 2.

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

[iv] ThermoFisher Scientific. Overview of Western Blotting. Accessed on July 2.

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

[v] Olshansky, S.J., Passaro, D.J., Hershow, R.C., Layden, J., Carnes, B.A., Brody, J., Hayflick, L., Butler, R.N., Allison, D.B., Ludwig, D.S. 2005. A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N. Engl. J. Med. 352(11): 1138-1145.

[vi] Harms, M., Seale, P. 2013. Brown and beige fat: development, function and therapeutic potential. Nat. Med. 19(10): 1252-1263.

[vii] The Jackson Laboratory. B6.Cg-Lepob/J. Accessed on July 2. https://www.jax.org/strain/000632

[viii] Bartelt, A., Heeren, J. 2014. Adipose tissue browning and metabolic health. Nat. Rev. Endocrinol. 10(1): 24-36.

[ix] ThermoFisher Scientific. Pierce™ BCA Protein Assay Kit. Accessed on July 2.

https://www.thermofisher.com/order/catalog/product/23225

Getting started at Encyclopedia of Life

Outside of the MCZ where EOL is located

This summer I am very excited to intern at Encyclopedia of Life’s Learning and Education Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts. EOL encourages discovering biodiversity on Earth and their mission is to generate an encyclopedia of all the living species on Earth. One of the great things about EOL is that it is an open platform that can be used by anyone. I enjoy looking up my favorite plants and animals on the EOL website and finding out some pretty cool facts and figures. The Learning and Education Department utilizes a lot of this data to develop tools and applications that support educators, citizen scientists, and students when using EOL.


For my internship, I am working on the City Nature Challenge for the Boston area, which is an annual competition between cities across the nation and around the world to find the most biodiversity in their area. This is a great way to get people outside and engaged in science as well as increase data on the different species. Last year was the first year Boston was involved and we observed over 740 different species over a period of 5 days! I am looking forward to seeing Boston as a top runner in next year’s challenge.

Open science and citizen science, both large aspect of EOL, are great ways to engage the public in science projects through data collection, education, and advocacy. I am interested in it because it has so much potential to raise awareness and educate people about environmental issues facing us today such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. By participating in projects, people can get hands on experiences that relate to these issues and the data collected can be used for scientific research or even impact governmental policy.

eol.org

My first day at my internship, I walked through Harvard Yard to get to the Museum of Comparative Zoology where EOL is located, and a huge turtle shell welcomed me into the building. Right away, I got into what I will be working on for the next couple of months and got familiar with EOL. Throughout the summer I will be reaching out to engage naturalists, educators, and environmental enthusiasts in EOL as well as map out the 2018 challenge for the Boston area. So far, I have contacted and met with a number of great organizations in the Boston area that work together to engage the public in science.

My goal for the summer is to develop and implement recruitment efforts for the 2018 challenge and help strategize ways to get EOL materials out on a national level. EOL’s goal is to have materials used by educators and students all throughout America during the city nature challenge as well as part of other community engagement efforts. Overall, I am very excited to see how the summer develops and what I am able to accomplish.

Gerrianna Cohen ’18

My First Week at CANDLab

My first week at Clinical Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab at Yale University was amazing. On my first day, after a 15-minute walk from my apartment through the beautiful buildings of the Yale campus, I arrived at the Psychology building on Hillhouse Avenue, a street so charming that both Charles Dickens and Mark Twain have described it as “the most beautiful street in America”. I went in and met the lab manager, Jason Haberman, who is a Brandeis alumnus, the graduate students and the interns. The lab environment was very nice, with two rooms for running participants and a waiting area, a common area for working, computers for the research assistants and graduate students, and the office of the lab manager. Everyone gave me warm welcomes, and introduced themselves. There were students from many different colleges and backgrounds; together to help understand the brain circuits underlying anxiety disorders to enhance the treatments for these disorders.

Psychology Building, Hillhouse Avenue

Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illnesses, and very little is known about the brain circuits underlying these disorders. In these two months, I will be working on the lab’s main project: “Novel Mechanisms of Fear Reduction Targeting the Biological State of the Developing Brain,” which is funded by two grants received by Dr. Dylan Gee, my supervisor, the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award and a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Award. The project aims to examine the neural and psychophysiological mechanisms of safety signal learning. Learning of safety signals encompasses learning processes, which lead to the identification of episodes of security and regulation of fear responses. So to put it simply, safety signals inhibit fear and stress responses, and inability to produce these signals are related to excessive anxiety. This study adapts a paradigm used in animal studies to test the efficacy of safety signals across development in healthy children and adolescents and those with anxiety disorders.

My first week was a week full of training, and I learned a lot of exciting things. I got trained on building participant packets and binders, which included the clinical interview questionnaires that are used to scan for the various anxiety and other disorders that the participants might or might not have. Then, I learned about the questionnaires that are administered to the participants and their parents for different things like emotion regulation, anxiety, depression, resilience, and trauma exposure. Later in the week, I was trained on administering the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, which is an intelligence test that we administer to all participants to make sure our subject pool has a an average or above the average IQ. The test takes 1-2 hours depending on the participant’s age, level of anxiety and other factors. It was my first time learning about WASI, and it was very exciting to see how a standard intelligence test is administered for different age groups. After the training, I administered the test to myself, and another intern later in the week. To be able to administer it to participants, I need to administer it to the lab manager successfully, observe a graduate student, score the test and discuss the scoring. I am looking forward to going through these steps and administering it to an adult participant, and eventually administering it to child participants.

Photo by: Rebecca Crystal

As a psychology major, I want to expand my knowledge of developmental psychobiology and psychopathology through understanding the current state and gaps of the clinical and developmental neuroscience literature. In the lab meeting, the clinical case conference and the journal club meeting that I attended this week, there were discussions on current projects, articles about related research on psychopathology and on cases of participants. It was amazing to be in these discussions with such knowledgeable students and Dr. Gee who is a very experienced researcher. I am looking forward to having these discussions every week, to improve my eloquence and discussion skills and to leading a discussion next week.

 My personal goal for this internship is to build on my existing communication skills with children, adolescents, parents, and adults. Through administering intelligence tests, helping anxious and non-anxious children, adolescents, and adults feel comfortable in the fMRI scanning environment,  and working directly with participants to ensure positive experiences throughout their participation, I hope to reach my goal of improving my communication skills with people in general.

 I have learned so much already in my first week and I can’t wait to learn more and apply my knowledge and training! It has been an amazing week and I’m sure the following weeks will be no less!

Selen Amado, ’18’

Once Hopping Half-haphazardly, Now Hopping with Purpose

No matter what time of day, concerned citizens holding small, injured mammals make their way to our doorstep at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary. The admissions are non-stop this time of the year, and the circumstances surrounding the entry oftentimes tragic: a bunny that was run over by a car; baby birds that fell from their nest; a juvenile pigeon that suffered a dog attack. Or even more concerning yet, a pet owner who became “bored” with their animal and doesn’t know what to do with their pet. Though I am frequently face-to-face with animals that are in dire need of care, I’ve come to a wonderful conclusion about human nature. Humans have an amazing capacity to take action when it comes to the welfare of others, especially animals. No matter how serious the case, or unlikely the recovery, we get animals that thereafter have a fighting chance. Now that’s something to be proud of. It also proves how necessary our services are to the public, and how our founder, Toni O’Neil, really did fill a need in the community when she founded the non-profit.

A baby bunny with its eyes still closed after a syringe feeding.

Having interned for a whopping four weeks at Possumwood Acres, I’ve gained a great many new skills: how to feed baby bunnies, why we “piddle” them once they’ve eaten, how to weigh Barred owls, how to tube feed pigeons and mourning doves, and the many reasons why we administer certain medications, as well as how to administer them. I’ve also become acquainted with a good number of interns and volunteers, and I’m always amazed at their know-how and desire to provide the best care.

Goats “maxing and relaxing” despite the overwhelming heat of summer in North Carolina.

Although it can be rather stressful in the animal care room as we struggle to make deadlines and provide good quality care, making sure to feed, clean, or administer medications to animals, there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment. I’ve come a long way in four weeks—no longer am I constantly asking questions about how to do something or where things are located. I’ve never felt that kind of satisfaction from taking exams or attending classes.

Nika, Possumwood’s resident Mississippi Kite, patiently waits for her hand-fed dinner of delectable meal worms

If I’ve already come this far, I absolutely cannot wait to see where the pieces will fall at the end of this internship. The confidence and authority that wafts off the more experienced interns is inspiring; only a few weeks ago they were in the process of learning the ins-and-outs of the job. Now they know exactly what to do when someone admits an injured, juvenile mockingbird, or what medication to give an adult bunny that appears to have suffered brain damage. Now that’s something that I can aspire to.

Red, the Red-Headed Woodpecker, tries not to look suspicious as he plans his ultimate escape from Possumwood (how original–he’s going to use his beak!)

Sabrina Pond ’18

First weeks on the job post

FRED.GIAMPIETRO Gallery

Hello everyone! I am so excited to keep you all posted about my incredible summer internship! I am an intern at the FRED.GIAMPIETRO gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, right across the street from the Yale Art Gallery and the British Art Center, where all the museums are in dialogue with one another. The Giampietro Gallery is an incredibly special kind of gallery, which unfortunately is fading in the art world. All of the artists represented, and the pieces in the collection, are carefully, and lovingly handpicked by the owner, and he specializes in discovering up-and-coming and local artists, as well as folk art. The gallery’s vision merges folk art with contemporary art, to reintegrate contemporary art with art that has traditionally not been recognized as Fine Art, and giving these artists a place in the art historical conversation.

I was very excited and nervous to begin working at the Giampietro gallery, because my plan has always been to work in the art world as a painter, and potentially open my own gallery, however I did not know how these two could merge, and even if the gallery world was the right place for me. After working two weeks at the Giampietro Gallery, I can confidently say that the gallery world, and opening up my own gallery someday, is exactly the place for me! I have already learned so much. I have mastered the inventory program used by most galleries and museums in the country which is an incredibly beneficial skill to have upon entering this world, learned the cataloging system, have formed relationships with many of the artists and other well respected gallerists, updated the website and artist’s pages, managed the press and publications for the Gallery’s blog, learned the intricate process for packaging and shipping art, and even played an integral role in the installation process, as a new show just opened last Saturday! All of these skills are CRUCIAL when working in the gallery world, which is an intimidatingly elitist industry.

As sad as it is, art and artists really do not receive press, and therefore, much respect in this world unless they are in New York, but Giampietro gallery is the only gallery in Connecticut, and one of the only galleries outside of New York that is honored to participate in many art fairs in New York.

I have learned so much about the art world’s atmosphere, and about which kinds of galleries or museums I would best fit in, and I can clearly say now that I have a vision for what I want to do when I graduate, which was my biggest goal for this summer. I am so incredibly excited to continue throughout the summer and gain more and more experience and responsibility in the gallery! I already have a key and have been trusted with opening and closing the gallery, and I am so excited to take on even more responsibility and absorb as much information as I possibly can in order to open my own gallery, and learn the next steps for me.

Here’s a sneak peek at the show that just opened on Saturday with artists: Becca Lowry, Elana Herzog, and Jane Miller.

Olivia Joy ’18

Harnessing Science for the Common Good

Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School

Working in a basic science biomedical research laboratory within the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School[i] has been an incredibly exciting experience.  I started to work in the Lab two weeks ago, located within the Center for Life Science in the heart of the Longwood Medical area.  Since I worked in this same Laboratory during the Summer of 2016, I was welcomed into the research environment, and was able to pick up where I left off last summer.  After recently completing animal research facility training, I began working with laboratory mice, focusing on a knockout (KO) mouse strain of the major hepatic (liver) endogenous hydrogen sulfide producing enzyme, cystathionine gamma lyase (CGL).  The Lab I work in is interested in the regulation of human metabolism by master endocrine regulator, thyroid hormone.  Thus, I have been investigating the relationship between thyroid hormone and endogenous hydrogen sulfide production capacity, with an emphasis on extension of longevity using mouse models.

Inside the laboratory, much of my work consists of analyzing key gene expression and protein expression levels between wildtype (WT) control mice and CGLKO mice through various physiological states.  My research consists of dissecting mouse tissue ex vivo, performing an RNA extraction from that tissue type (i.e., liver tissue, brown adipose tissue, etc.), running a reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR)[ii] using several key gene markers, and performing statistical tests on differences in gene expression levels between WT and CGLKO mice.  For proteomic analysis, I perform Western Blots[iii] and statistical tests to establish potential differential protein expression in CGLKO mice.  Once I have gathered meaningful data, I present the results informally to the post-doctoral fellow I work alongside and to my Principal Investigator (PI).  However, living systems are complex, and bewilderment can punctuate results.  At these times, I turn to scientific journals for answers.

Pipettors and laboratory reagents (Sigma-Aldrich, Fisherbrand by ThermoFisher Scientific): friends of the biomedical researcher.

Biomedical literature publications, such as Brent et al. 2014[iv], have guided me through the complex physiology of thyroid endocrine regulation.  As an incoming third year undergraduate student, dissecting complex signaling pathways with my current learning foundation is a daunting task, especially considering the wealth of knowledge and graduate degrees that my co-workers possess.  However, my co-workers and PI have been and continue to be excellent learning resources.  Bouncing theories back and forth with the post-doctoral research fellow I work alongside is a daily occurrence.  This collaborative environment is characterized by persistent questioning of results and interpretations, which has filled my scientific soul with joy.  This stands in stark contrast to undergraduate classes, where the measure of performance is reflective of the individual, rather than a research team.

Looking forward, the skills I am learning, both in molecular methods and thinking as an experimentalist, will bolster my ability to succeed as a Biology major at Brandeis, and as physician scientist in the future.  I wish to exit this summer with the framework to think as a biomedical researcher, with the ultimate goal of generating meaningful research that can mitigate human suffering.  This can be easy to lose track of in the busyness of a lab, but I hope this goal remains tethered to my being; science for the common good.

[i] Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 2017. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. Accessed on June 4.

http://www.bidmc.org/Centers-and-Departments/Departments/Medicine/Divisions/Endocrinology.aspx

[ii] ThermoFisher Scientific. Basic Principles of RT-qPCR: Introduction to RT-qPCR. Accessed on June 4.

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

[iii] ThermoFisher Scientific. Overview of Western Blotting. Accessed on June 4.

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

[iv] Mullur, R., Liu, Y.Y., Brent, G.A. 2014. Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism. Physiol. Rev. 94(2): 355-382.

Josh Lepson

Beginning at the Benson-Henry Institute

Hello all! I am excited to be sharing my journey interning at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. BHI, an MGH affiliate, rallies around the Relaxation Response: a technique that teaches people awareness techniques and coping skills to combat everyday stress and more challenging situations when they arise. BHI’s mission is to encourage the incorporation of the Relaxation Response into all forms of healthcare worldwide, through research and clinical practice. The majority of their work is done through research and clinical trials and providing individuals with tools and methods to reduce the impact of stress on their lives. And it’s working! In fact, a study BHI recently conducted shows that “BHI Participants Reduced Doctors Visits by 43%.” If you’re interested in reading more about this study please click here.

(Image from: Mindful.org)

In my first two weeks at BHI I have become deeply immersed in the clinical trial process. Currently, we are working on two big groups of studies that I am part of. The first, a pair of parent studies, are evaluating the efficacy of the Relaxation Response through a BHI-developed Resiliency Program on reducing stress in two parent populations. The studies are virtually identical procedurally, and they are wait-list control group trials which means participants are divided randomly into either a wait-list or a control group and their stress levels are compared before and after they undergo the program. What I find to be really interesting is the way BHI measures stress. For this study, they use both self-reporting measures through a series of surveys as well as biological indicators of stress through quantitative measures.

 

The second type of study is still in startup, so while I  participate in the recruiting process firsthand for the parent studies, I also  see what goes into a startup for a study before it even begins. For our study in startup,  I  participated in a full study run-through where I acted as the patient and we tested the electronics and walked through the entire study visit to ensure it will run smoothly when it begins.

A diagram of the Resiliency Approach our Program Teaches (Smarthwp.com)

I have done so many things during my short time here already. I have learned to read and understand study protocols, recruited on a large scale for the final cohort of the parent study, learned to converse over the phone with potential interested participants and explain our programs as well as answer questions, and I have  interacted with numerous clinicians including physicians during research team meetings. I have undertaken the important task of writing detailed SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to aid in the training of future interns. I have participated in an RR session, where we lead relaxations for hospital staff to elicit the Relaxation Response during the workday, and I hope to lead one of these sessions during my time here. I now have a good understanding of the importance of the Relaxation Response and I hope that by leading an RR session and learning more about the detailed practices which we teach in our programs I will be able to implement the RR into my daily life and teach those around me to do the same!

 

I have already learned so much in my first two weeks at BHI and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead! I have BHI to thank for welcoming and teaching me, and I have much more to learn. I’ll be back with another update in a few weeks!

-GP ’19’

Broadway Awards Season with DKC/O&M

I am spending my summer working with DKC/O&M. DKC/O&M are the press representatives for many new Broadway shows, along with many longer running shows. They also represent some off-Broadway shows, theaters, and people. It is difficult to learn about public relations in an academic setting because so much of it is hands on work. Luckily, DKC/O&M is giving me the opportunity to explore the world of public relations on Broadway and allows me to better improve my interpersonal skills in a business setting.

My commute to and from work is just under two hours – if my train is not delayed. However, I spend the train part of my commute studying up on shows my company represents that I do not know very well. Once I arrive at work, I sit down at my desk and immediately start working on the Web Clips I have been sent. This will sometimes include Broadcast Clips and Paper Clips that I compile, format, and save for future reference.

Broadcast Clips are made after there has been any mention of one of their productions on a television network. I am able to anticipate when I’ll have a Broadcast Clip to work on if I know that there is an actor being feature on a talk show. For example, Brendon Urie is joining the cast of Kinky Boots with his first performance on May 26th. He was featured on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” the other evening, so when I arrived at work the next morning, I had a Broadcast Clip to prepare. Paper Clips are similar except are created when a show or actor is featured in a newspaper.

Throughout the day I will be assigned tasks from various people in the office which can range from proof reading press releases to picking up tickets at a theatre to working on press blasts. It is awards season on Broadway so the work we are doing at DKC/O&M is even more important and time sensitive, so I have to learn quickly. My notebook is quickly filling up with information on how to do different tasks and anything else I might need to know.

Marc J Franklin

Since it is award season, I have the opportunity to attend the Audience Choice Awards Winners Reception with DKC/O&M this week! I am so excited for this opportunity because I never imagined I would be at one of these types of events! Most people know about the Tony Awards but there are so many other awards given out throughout Broadway’s award season. On Friday we waited anxiously in the office for the announcement of the Drama League Awards and were thrilled when Dear Evan Hansen, Hello, Dolly!, Bette Midler, and Ben Platt (the youngest actor to ever receive the Distinguished Performance Award) were given their awards. I am looking forward to Tony Awards week and I am extremely hopeful for the shows that DKC/O&M represents. O&M has many shows nominated for various Tony awards such as A Doll’s House, Part 2 (8 nominations), Dear Evan Hansen (9 nominations), The Glass Menagerie (1 nomination), Hello, Dolly! (10 nominations), and Present Laughter (3 nominations). I expect many wins for these shows and am so excited for the work I will be doing around the Tony’s weekend.

 

A Bird in Flight: My First Week at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary

Having just studied abroad in Australia, I assumed that I wouldn’t see the interior of an airplane for a long while. Traveling back took approximately 24 hours, including layover time, so I grew weary of flying and the stress associated with traveling and jet lag. I couldn’t have been more wrong; only two weeks after making the trip back home, I found myself separated from my hometown once again. The location this time: Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Little did I know before coming that the U.S. Marines are stationed in Jacksonville, NC. Nor did I realize that the only reason this town exists is because of the Marines. I found myself going in and out of the military base, and every person I met was somehow involved in the Marines; either they were married to a Marine, had a family member in the Marines, or were themselves in the Marines. I was struck not by the incessant humidity and ungodly heat, both of which I anticipated, but more so by the immediate differences I noticed, as if there was a strict line between North and South. I encountered people who took serious pride in their right to carry arms, heard the beginnings of a southern accent, and realized that “southern hospitality” was not just a stereotype, but a real-world phenomenon. NC also turned red for the past election, so I started to have firsthand experiences with more conservative sentiments, something I couldn’t really say before.

The highlight of my excursion is that my internship at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary challenged and excited me; I spent my first week learning about animal care in all the ways that were advertised. I walked through the main door to the animal care room and without a moment’s pause the volunteer coordinator, Ellie Althoff, said to me, “Okay then! Let’s get started.”

The view of the animal care room from the front door, and from that first moment onward I knew that there was a lot that had to be done.

My first day was busy and hectic as I exclusively worked with the birds. Because it is currently baby season, the animal care room is extremely packed and the phone rings off the hook; every day there’s another possum, bird, or duck that gets taken under our wing. As of now, that basically means that we have what feels like a trillion birds, almost all of which need to be fed every thirty minutes. I learned quickly how to feed these differently sized birds using syringes, including proper techniques, the different kinds of food they required, and how much to feed the different species.

House sparrows, chipping sparrows, and finches sit majestically next to each other on a branch, waiting semi-patiently for the next feeding.

Almost everything I was told ended with “and if you do this wrong, you’ll kill the [insert animal here].” Although those words did strike fear in my eyes, I was surprised how welcoming and understanding the volunteers were when I had questions. They never once made me feel terrible when I made a mistake. And mistakes I did make. My first day I accidentally let two birds out of their cage and almost killed a bird because it swallowed a syringe tip. I was lucky that another intern managed to get the bird to spit out the syringe. Despite my incompetence, the other volunteers’ gentle reassurance and constant support never ceased and even though I had fallbacks, my determination to learn more never wavered.

Baby turkeys relax under a feather duster having already made a mess of their cleaned cage.

Compared to Brandeis academics, it is immediately apparent that my internship is more demanding, requires hands-on experience, and will ultimately teach me more in a shorter period of time. I enjoy this kind of experiential learning because although knowledge is great for a foundation to understand a topic, doing something firsthand is the best way to become well-versed in a field. I expect that that’s why residencies exist. For this reason I believe that this internship is teaching me valuable skills that I can apply to an occupation in animal care.

Four juvenile barn swallows and one juvenile rough-tailed swallow gleefully look at the photographer (me).

One basic thing I learned this first week that I implicitly already knew but didn’t understand fully is just how rigorous animal care can really be. So many things need to be considered for the animal’s welfare, and for that reason it can sometimes be overwhelming to work in the animal care room. Even so, I have never felt so tired or so satisfied because of the work I completed. And that’s why I look forward to another week at the animal haven known as Possumwood Acres.

Sabrina Pond

First week at FCD

My office for the summer

This summer, I will be interning at FCD Prevention Works located in Newton, MA. FCD stands for Freedom from Chemical Dependency and it is a substance abuse prevention organization that has an international reach. Started as an independent non-profit, it has now merged with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which itself is a merger­­—the Hazelden Foundation and the Betty Ford Center—and operates addiction treatment centers across the United States. Although having slightly different missions and goals, these two organizations connected through their overarching desire to reduce the effects of substance abuse.

 

FCD accomplishes its mission of prevention and education largely through its classroom and school visits, where they interact with both students and the adults at the school and the surrounding community. Not only do they work with schools in the US, they also have a global reach, working mostly with American International Schools in different countries across the world. To teach these programs, FCD utilizes their Prevention Specialists, a group of individuals they find through interviews and who they personally train. These Prevention Specialists are also required to have gone through some sort of addiction and be in healthy recovery so they are able to teach using personal experience and stories. A recent Today Show, segment on addiction featured FCD Prevention Specialists in the classroom and family members of one of the employees working in my office, whose family has a history of addiction. That seems to be one reason why FCD is so successful in what it does; because these individuals have gone through some type of addiction or personally know people who have, they know what it is like and can speak from personal experience about what addiction and substance abuse can do.

FCD also uses the social norms approach to encourage prevention of substance use. They attempt to show students that what they think is the “norm” in terms of alcohol and drug use may actually not be the case in order to dissuade them from use. They use data from surveys and assessments to try and give children and adults actual facts about usage, which many of the students they talk to actually find very useful and interesting.

Joseph Kennedy III featured in the Spring 2017 edition

This summer I will be working at FCD’s administrative office that does much of the behind the scenes work so that everything runs smoothly when the Prevention Specialists are out working with the clients.

There are four main departments—Client Relations, Administrative Services, Surveys and Program Services—with about one or two people in each. The plan for me this summer is to hopefully be able to assist in each department. The first half of my internship will be working with Administration and Client Relations. I have been helping HR with organizing and making employee personnel files and cataloging what each file has on a spreadsheet. I have also been updating some of the educational documents they use and emailing clients back student survey answers after they have completed the program, which hopefully shows schools how useful and engaging these programs are. I have also sat in on one of their administrative team meetings to see how everyone collaborates on projects. Later in the summer, I should also be working on the surveys and some data analysis in order to create some handouts and learn more about how clients view FCD. I may also be working on their social media platforms and some research to contribute to their training curriculum.

As an HSSP major, I hope to learn more about addiction and the public health issues that surround this topic. It is a contentious issue that inspires political action (Joe Kennedy III once participated in a FCD program when he was in school and is now a huge supporter of mental health reform) and being part of an organization that has such a deep connection to this will hopefully provide me with a better understanding of the complexities surround it.

I also hope to learn more about what non-profits are like and gain more hands-on experience with health administration as well as apply the skills I have learned in my HSSP classes to real world problems and assignments. Finally, I want to practice my communication skills, both in writing and speaking because I do think these are things I need to work on and improve upon before I leave school and go out into the real world. I am so excited that I have been given this opportunity to intern at an organization with so much influence across the globe and with individuals who are so fiercely passionate. Hopefully I will learn more about addiction and gain some experience while helping this organization further their mission and goal.

Wrapping Up the Summer

In these last couple of weeks, I made so many new friends and really got to explore the character of San Francisco. Now that my internship, along with the summer, has come to an end, I’m so grateful for the time that I got to spend there. At times it was hard and tedious scripting inside when I knew that the weather outside was so nice, but the sense of accomplishment when you finished a project was more than enough to fuel my progress.

13957631_1242979135764364_2011057101_n

I would say that I’ve met my learning goals because I have learned so much in terms of information extraction from working with sources with all sorts of formats and different languages; and source analysis, especially since the projects that I was working on were a part of a much large collective project to collect and document linguistic information. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to learn as much about the translational algorithms that we use as I would have liked because of the time constraint, but it was still interesting to argue and research about semantic ambiguity and sense disambiguation in order to provide the best translating through our database. But, I think that I learned the most by absorbing information from the collective experiences of the wonderful staff that I worked with.

I think that this summer has made it clear that I am capable of data extraction work, but I also learned that if the sources are too similar to each other, the work eventually became tedious to do because at that point, you aren’t writing code but rather changing variables and conditional statements. I tried to combat that by switching which types of sources that I was working on as well as the language that I was processing through so that the challenges that I would face would be different. This internship has shown me that I am still very interested in how a computer understands languages, but I would rather process information that is not as regular as the dictionaries, webinaries, and sources that I have been working on over the summer. I’ve learned that I’m also very much into researching different ways to tackle a problem and debating with someone the pros and cons of implementing within a system.

2016-09-05 18.17.08My advice to anyone who would be interested in working at PanLex is to be really interested in the work that they are doing, and to take initiative to research and bring up projects that you would like to do with the staff. The staff is very open to different views and ideas as long as you can support why this would be more beneficial than the current way. Furthermore, take advantage of all the resources and opportunities that come with working for a branch of a larger parent organization, and the fact that you are in San Francisco. I went to talks that were held by the Long Now Foundation, including one on Quantum Computing and the Rosetta Project, and have gone to different conferences, such as IMUG, with PanLex. As for the field, at some times, the work will be tedious, and others you will be trying to debug a problem for hours without making progress. Take it one step at a time, and try to set mini goals for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask someone to look over your code, and most of all, don’t be afraid to take breaks. Sometimes, it’s a matter of being in a different mindset, and looking at the problem with fresh eyes.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.11.16 PM

I think that the projects that I’m most proud of are the ones that focused on lesser-known, endangered, or extinct languages because I feel that by adding them to our database, we are doing our part in trying to fight against language death and proving a resource for languages that usually don’t get funding for translational programs such as Google translate. My favorite moments included when our database could translate something that Google translated as question marks, and I added linguistic data of a language into our database that was not supported by Google.

Sooyoung ’18

Kids and Cataloging: Where did the Summer Go?

It’s mid-August and my internship at the Swedish American Museum has finally drawn to a close. I can’t help but wonder where the summer went! Even though I learned and accomplished so much, I still feel like there’s so much more to learn, somehow. I set out this summer hoping to advance my research skills, get practical experience that will help me become a historian in the future and to hopefully connect with my past by learning what it was like for my Swedish ancestors. To an extent, I accomplished all of this. I researched for a practical purpose – every now and then, a guest will come through the museum and recognize someone in the old photos on display; usually, the only information we have in regards to the photo is whatever the donor supplied, which isn’t always enlightening. On several occasions, I helped to dig to see if anything more could be found. There was also a lot of research involved with several projects for the children’s museum such as a self-guided tour. This last was probably the most beneficial for my career goals. In the beginning, I had hoped that observing guests in the museum, taking note of the most common questions, would help me better direct and focus any writing I would do for my audience; this was something I really had to work on when creating the tour guide. As for my personal goal involving my own Swedish heritage, while I gained knowledge on Swedish culture, I can’t say it was the right time frame to relate to my immigrant grandparents.

It was weird closing down my work station for the last time... Although I won't miss that loading screen!
It was weird closing down my work station for the last time… Although I won’t miss that loading screen!

While a curator’s job and a historian’s job are quite different, I can say that I now have a different view on the final product of a historian’s work, as both rely heavily on the presentation of the facts learned- historians via writing and curators via the display of artifacts.

If you ever find yourself interning at any small to medium sized museum, take into account that it’s not likely to be adequately funded or staffed, so everyone shares the work. Chances are, you’ll end up helping out in the store for a day or preparing crafts for the education department (or doing something like this: http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/museuminfo/news/event/pioneer-the-world-day-camp-%E2%80%93-session-i/) instead of working directly with the material and the artifacts. It may not be what you expected, but being shuffled around like that, you learn a lot; it’s up to you how you decide to apply that knowledge.

The children's museum comes complete with a ticket booth for kids to get their "passports", but I guess I'll need to buy my ticket back to Brandeis, huh?
The children’s museum comes complete with a ticket booth for kids to get their “passports”, but I guess I’ll need to buy my ticket back to Brandeis, huh?

I’m rather proud of this project: my supervisor, had received an email from a real estate agent, asking if we could tell her anything about the history of a certain building in another neighborhood. All she provided was an address. Not even knowing what connection this building had to the museum, my supervisor asked me to look into it. Naturally, the building wasn’t in our records, so I turned to Google; I dug and dug, flipping through real estate sites, census records, building codes, anything that came to mind. It wasn’t a particularly famous building, a small music venue, so there wasn’t a whole lot to be said, but after following dozens of links and Google searches, I found out that the architects of the building were a relatively famous Swedish duo (http://rpwrhs.org/w/index.php?title=Michaelsen_%26_Rognstad), known for their work in Chinatown. After finding that connection, researching was a lot easier and I was able to provide a fair bit of information. I guess the reason that moment sticks out for me is because it’s closer to what I was expecting/hoping to do this summer and I enjoyed using and proving my research skills for a practical purpose, outside of school.

 

Finishing Summer at SACHI

Leaving any project is difficult, especially ones worked on exclusively for an entire summer.  It seems like the finished product is rarely what was initially planned. I believe this is because better ideas have organic growth during the maturation of a project. The summer and my internship finished before I knew exactly what was happening.  There were twists and turns, and here I am with a finished project and a head full of knowledge and experiences.

I learned how to use the javascript library D3 (https://d3js.org/) to build my visualization, a standard in the industry, and improved my programming skills in general.  During my internship, SACHI began a reading group to discuss important foundational papers in Human-Computer Interaction and to keep up with the current research being conducted in the field; we would read a paper every week and discuss its contributions to the field and its research methods.  These discussion groups provided me with insight I didn’t plan on receiving.  Analyzing the research methods of other people (especially groundbreaking research) provided me with a strong foundational understanding of the field and its methods.

Photo: http://www.wired.com/2013/12/tech-time-warp-engelbart/ From “The Mother of All Demos”
Photo: http://www.wired.com/2013/12/tech-time-warp-engelbart/ From “The Mother of All Demos”

This additional understanding, along with the work I completed this summer, has helped me cement my interest and future goals in Human-Computer Interaction and more specifically Information Visualization, as well as helping me plan potential future research of which I wish to be a part.

This summer also helped me through a great deal of self-reflection.  I had never traveled to a foreign country alone, and living in Scotland for three months was a sink or swim exploration into the daily reality of adult living.  While at work I learned the power of persistence (if I don’t fix this bug, nobody else will) and how to work a full day in the lab, I would go home and learn the amazing power of a grocery list before going shopping (I have a problem with impulse shopping when alone).  At the beginning of the summer I was terrified I was unqualified for my position and unqualified to be a functioning adult.  But I did it!  It was difficult, admitting sometimes that I didn’t know what I was doing and asking for help, but that’s universal.  Very few people are experts at everything, and most people are glad to help.

That’s been one of my huge takeaways and something I’d recommend everybody take advantage of no matter their field.  Talk to people! To anybody working in a computer science or any research lab like SACHI:  Ask people about their research.  People are all doing incredible things, but people rarely share their work without prompting.  Now, most people in the lab are working towards publishing for the biggest Human-Computer Interaction conference, CHI (https://chi2016.acm.org/wp/).  I’ve learned so many things just from casual conversation, and in turn, getting feedback from somebody else on my own work is useful when I’m stuck or frustrated.  Sometimes I forgot the big picture can be groundbreaking when I’m stuck on one piece of the puzzle, and that’s how to keep motivated.

To anybody working in research, design, or even just computer science as a field, I would highly suggest exploration in your work.  When there are multiple ways to accomplish a goal, don’t just choose the method that first comes to mind, spend an hour or two (or more), following other trains of thought.  When facing a problem from multiple directions, you get a more clear view of what the solution needs to include.

And so now I’m done.  That in itself feels like an accomplishment.   But even more than that, I’m proud that I get to continue.  The work could still be improved, and that’s the plan.  I hope that my visualization will reach a point that it’s publishable.  This summer was absolutely fantastic, and I’ll not only look back on the memories, but forward to what I can now achieve.

One of the SACHI weekly meetings
One of the SACHI weekly meetings

–Katherine Currier

Post 2: Keeping On At SACHI

For the last month, every conversation that goes on long enough will eventually reach the topic of politics, except rather than American politics, which I’m confident speaking about, these conversations tend to involve British politics. This is in the wake of the recent referendum in which, with a margin of two percent, the UK voted to leave the European Union (I used this to help understand what happened:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887).  The aftermath has been chaotic, and despite my opinions on the topic, the experience has been a crash course for British politics.

These conversations mostly happen over lunch or coffee breaks, during which one person will stand up and ask everybody else in the office if they would like to join for tea or coffee.  The huge group that would then migrate to the kitchen includes people of all different levels in the “hierarchy” from the undergraduate researcher to the post-doc or lecturer.  It was difficult getting used to talking so casually to supervisors, but getting to know everybody has made me more comfortable with my position in the group and I’m not as nervous speaking with the supervisors.

The coffee machine
The coffee machine in its natural habitat

And of course, I work and have my weekly meeting with my supervisor.  Our meetings have progressed since I first started working. What began as brainstorming sessions, taking influence from similar projects like http://mariandoerk.de/edgemaps/demo/, have become more status update sessions and refocusing my direction as I take some form of ownership over the project.  Though, obviously, she has the final say, I’m not worried about bouncing different ideas by her or disagreeing with her.  

Because I work on the project every day, there are occasionally unforeseen issues that come up.  And if these issues are small, I manage them myself according to my own judgement, which is unfortunately occasionally flawed.  I enjoy the weekly meetings for the feedback.  While most of the time the feedback involves smaller tweaks to the work, sometimes we come to the conclusion that I’m going in the wrong direction (such as when I wanted to incorporate a timeline into the visualization).  That was difficult at first, taking a chance and being wrong, but I’ve stopped seeing these ventures as wasted time.

Very rarely are ideas entirely wrong, they’re mostly just inappropriate for the problem I’m solving or the current situation.  I’ve begun to write down most of my ideas for later use or to use for a different project. I’ve come back to some of the first ideas after I hit a wall. Even if I don’t use the exact idea, it puts me back in the mindset I had when I was first coming up with the concept, which is nice when I forget the idea and focus on some tangential part.

Here’s one of the earlier sketch ideas that were scrapped, but later used for parts of other parts of the project.

Sketches

I’ve started to use this “write down” thought process for things outside of work.  Here’s the page for this blog post:

Blog
Very few of these notes made it into this post

 

–Katherine Currier

Future Profession: Working with Cornerstone Church of Boston

I have just begun working with Cornerstone Church of Boston. It has been such an amazing and eventful internship thus far. Already, I have gone to Bridgeport, Connecticut to work with Habitat for Humanity to create homes for families that will impact their communities. We landscaped lawns and yards, and painted walls and doors. Although it was tough and dirty, the reward of seeing people’s lives changing was worth it. I was there for about 3 days and 3 nights, and wound up bonding with my team. With all the work, we also visited a few places in Connecticut in our downtime and ate amazing food. I learned through this small trip that service was not just supposed to be a 9-5, once a year kind of activity, but a sentiment to carry on in our daily life. Whether that be as a person of a faith or not, helping others should be something we as humans should strive for. Relating to my internship, it opened my eyes to see that working in a church ministry setting isn’t just at a local level, but outreaching to communities nearby.

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In terms of getting my feet wet, I would say that it has been fairly easy to get into the swing of things with the staff team. I have attended Cornerstone Church in Boston during my time at Brandeis so I knew the pastors on staff, and I just met the other intern. We attend a weekly meeting on Tuesday and the interns get to see how some decisions are made for the church community, and we also get to see how relationships work between coworkers in a non-cubicle setting. During the second half of the meeting, we discuss our lives and get to know each other more on a personal level. The meetings have really connected me with the pastors and allowed me to feel a lot more comfortable with them and with the new environment.

In terms of duty and responsibilities, they have presented a lot of opportunities for me to lead the community and get hands on work to learn what it feels like to be a pastor and leader within the church. I have been given tasks to lead college ministry events, a weekly community group, and also to lead music ministry, also known as worship ministry. I have had experience leading, but I have never had the responsibility of logistics and seeing how these ministries fit into the bigger picture and vision of the church. It has been easier than I expected, but challenging as well because it is a lot more responsibility to handle. Thankfully the pastors have been by my side the whole time training me and giving me constructive criticism to allow me to improve! I cannot wait for what the rest of the internship holds.

Daniel Choi ’18

Photos Library

Week One at SACHI

It had just finished raining when my plane landed at Edinburgh airport in Scotland; the runway was covered in small puddles and the air felt damp with that after rain musk. But the sky was clear and blue and a wonderful signal that my drive to St Andrews would be dry and my luggage wouldn’t get soaked. And that’s when I learned that the Scotland sky is a liar. It can always rain.

But St Andrews is old and beautiful, home to the ruins of a castle and the creatively named University of St Andrews. The university has a long list of titles (the oldest university in Scotland, Prince William attended this university and met Kate here, etc.), but most importantly (or at least most relevant to me and you the reader), they also house the SACHI research group in their School of Computer Science. SACHI is a catchy acronym for St Andrews Computer-Human Interaction, where they perform research into innovative technologies to aid in the daily life of people. Computer-Human Interaction, or HCI, is the “people-person” of computer science; we focus on the applications of developing technology rather than the theories and algorithms behind much of computer science.

This summer I’m working with Dr. Uta Hinrichs on updating the Speculative W@nderverse, an international research project between computer scientists and literary scholars at the University of St Andrews and the University of Calgary. This project explores the potential impact of early science fiction stories on the development of the genre through the use of digital visualization tools. Its focuses on the “Bob Gibson Anthologies of Speculative Fiction,” a unique collection of thousands of sci-fi stories. I’m designing, implementing, and evaluating a novel interactive web visualization to help literary researchers investigate the role of pulp magazines and periodicals within this vast and unique collection.

To summarize, I’m developing a visualization to explore and understand all of these hundreds of anthologies. Information (or data) visualization is the limbo between the intersections of computer science, graphing, statistics, psychology, and design. Robert Kosara explains it more eloquently in his post.

Dr. Hinrichs has been developing the Speculative W@nderverse long before I arrived here; here’s a screenshot of the interactive visualization:initial

 

My work is going to be added to the existing site. Here is a very preliminary exploration of the data that I created in this first week (showing the categories of science fiction themes and each anthology’s inclusion of these themes):

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It certainly fulfills the graph aspect of visualization (and has wonderful colors), but is useless for exploring the data in terms other than the themes of each anthology. But I have two and a half months to go, so I’ll improve my design and software development skills during this time. I’m excited to work alongside experts in the field and become more familiar with research practices in computer science, human-computer interaction, and information visualization. And while I learn from the graduate students and faculty here, I hope to make more personal connections and friends. And hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll learn how to understand the temperature in Celsius.

Katherine Currier ’17

 

 

Kids and Cataloging: My First Weeks at the Swedish American Museum

I’ve already been at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago for two weeks, although it feels like a lot longer! The Swedish American museum is a mid-size museum in Chicago that tries to connect people with their Scandinavian heritage as they educate both children and adults on what it was like to be a Swedish immigrant in the United States, describing Swedish-American culture from the nineteenth century to the present. They operate a children’s museum that aims to detail the difficulties and dreams of people who arrived in Chicago (here’s the website: http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/childrensmuseum/). Although it’s called a museum, it’s really more of a playground for the kids- with hands on play, they explore what life was like for a Swedish American in the late nineteenth century. However, the museum doesn’t concentrate on solely the past, as they also endeavor to present modern Swedish-American culture, such as the exhibit currently in the gallery, which is about Scandinavian drinking culture (you can check that out here: http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/exhibits/currentexhibit.php).

The Swedish American Museum Brunk Children's Museum
This is the outside of the model stuga, or Swedish farm house, that kids can play inside. There are even smocks and work shirts so the kids can dress up like nineteenth century Swedish kids.

At the museum, I’m a shared intern between the Collections department and the Children’s Museum. My first day, I was dropped head first into my project for the summer in the archives; basically, I’m digitizing records associated with different artifacts. It’s giving me an in depth look at how the cataloguing system at a museum works, which will no doubt be important for my future career as a historian. For the museum itself, though, organization right now is key, as they are in the process of reorganizing the archives. By digitizing these documents, I’m making it far easier to locate forty years worth of information, so that anyone looking can find a description of the artifact itself as well as its history.

When I’m a Children’s Museum intern, I’m actually working on several different projects, such as a revised self-guided tour for adults in the Children’s Museum. Many grown-ups are put off by the sign on the door that says the museum was designed primarily for kids between 6 and 12, even though there’s so much more for people of all ages to learn. I’ve really enjoyed this project because it’s allowed me to explore the Children’s Museum more and get a close look at all the objects that the kids are allowed to handle and play with; it’s helped me build up a cache of facts so I can answer questions by the kids and the parents when I act as a docent. I enjoy this part a lot because it outlines what people are most curious about; since I want to be a historian one day, it’s important for me to know what people are interested in and how they best react to that information so I know how to share what I’ve learned as a researcher.

I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to explore my chosen career field more and I’m really looking forward to getting more involved in my projects throughout the summer, as well as getting to know all the super amazing staff and volunteers at the museum!

The Children's Museum is basically a playground, including a model American cabin and farm that the kids can play inside.
The Children’s Museum is basically a playground, including a model American cabin and farm that the kids can play inside.

 

 

Saying GoodBye to Cofradia and the Dominican Republic

As I am writing this post a nostalgic feeling consumes my body. What I learned and experienced exceeded my expectations and goals.  When applying to the World of Work Fellowship, I wrote about my desire to understand better the Afro-Dominican traditions as one of my main goals. I never imagined how immersed I was going to be in the process of learning about it.

Throughout the summer we had seven projects to work on, one of them was the “Escuela de Atabales” in the Romana. During that project we worked together with a Portador de Tradicion, a person in charge of preserving and continuing the traditions in the community, to inaugurate a school that teaches how to play different rhythms of Palos and Gaga as well as its history. It was the first time I visited the Romana. The specific place where the school was build is an impoverished community, which means that it has little or no space for investing in the youth people living there. Therefore, the Escuela de Atabales served as tool not only to pass information about history and tradition but also to organized the youth into something positive. When I first joined the organization I never imagined how impactful the projects I would be working on were to the target communities.

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After spending my summer working with Cofradia I understood that I want my work as an artist to reach beyond a museum or gallery space. I want to share my skills with communities that are underrepresented and with the help of others create spaces for healing and learning throughout different artistic practices. Many of the artists that I met during this summer share their skills with underprivileged people, especially young people. For instance, Camilo Rijo Fulcar who with a group of other musician started giving free music classes in the Conde. Although the lessons were open to everyone they focuzed more on the children who work in the area as boot cleaners. Eventually, this idea turned into an organization call Asoartca, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Asoartca/1595308404051068?pnref=lhc.  I found this very inspiring, as I saw the great impact it did on the children. In a system that makes childhood available to only those that can afford it, creating a space for learning, play and community is an essential for our future generation.  

If someone is interested in working with Fundacion Cultural Cofradia or in a field that requires the interaction with people from a range of social class and customs one has to be open and respectful towards people’s believes. You do not have to agree with everything you experience but you have to leave your pride outside the door. At the same time be ready to manage the frustration that comes with trying to reach out to government sites in charge of supporting the advancement of these communities. Other than that be ready to step out of your comfort zone, the Fundacion Cultural Cofradia wants you to learn, explore, and experience everything the the Afro-traditions in the Dominican Republic can offer.

What I am the most proud this summer was my willingness to challenge myself. I traveled to different parts of the country to collect information for the organization. In many instances I thought I was not ready for the job. Then I understood that there is not a special manual to do new things, you just have to bring your knowledge and an open heart and mind to make mistakes and learn from them.

  • Daniela Marquez 17

Traditions that Survive and Inspire

They invited you to dance merengue and eat mangú. Come, consume us, and believe that you are getting the full package. You will leave satisfy and ignorant because what was sold to you as our culture it is only the surface of the richness that exists in the Dominican Republic.

I am not talking about the beaches in Punta Cana but the Gagá of the Hermanos Guillén in Yamasá. A celebration in where the whole community gets together to commemorate the only black San Antonio de Padua. In here people dance, eat, talk and sing but the party really starts when the Gagá arrives.

Gagá, one of the many cultural traditions we enjoy thanks to the ever-going interaction and relationship between DR and Haiti. Just like the Gagá, there are a variety of rich traditions, carried by communities that despite past and current oppositions by the church and some government officials, it breathes in the hearts of those that still practice them.

Unfortunately, these traditions lack the support from governmental sites in charge of investing in the arts and culture of the country. Making it harder to get recognized and survive and get passed to future generations. Fundación Cultural Cofradía is a non-profit organization that promotes and preserves the afro-Dominicans and Dominico-Haitiana traditions in the Dominican Republic. They work closely between the members of the community in charge of keeping these traditions alive and the Ministerio de Cultura, to create programs, events, and workshops aim to maintain and ensure the passage of these traditions to future generations. At the same time these programs becomes a positive and productive outlet to express the youth in these communities.

My responsibilities vary depending the project I am working on, but generally it is a combination of office and fieldwork. As part of the office work I am in charge of keeping in track with the projects set up for the following months. This means researching and communicating with different companies that could facilitate materials for the workshops or schools, keep files organized and develop a new website and plan to get the organization more active in social media. Then, the field work is where I have the most fun. I get to take pictures to of the celebrations to keep it as records so the organization can have material to present to the Ministerio de Cultura for future projects. I travel to different parts of the country to interview people and gather information about their traditions and how we could provide support.

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It is important to point out that on my first week in the organization I was given a series of books and research about the places we would be going to recollect information. I am still flipping the pages and I am grateful to experience with every single part of my senses what I have been reading.

My goal this summer is to acquire a deeper understanding of the afro-Dominicans and Dominico-Haitiana traditions and communities. I want to learn the ways one can provide visibility to these communities and maintain the traditions alive. Furthermore, I want to expand my artistic knowledge and incorporate new elements to my art practice.

  • Daniela Marquez ’17

Looking back on my time at Tip

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At an event for one of our clothing brands!

After an amazing summer of learning and working, I finished my internship at Tip Comunicación. Friday the 21st was my last day, and as I closed the door I felt a combination of pride, sadness, and excitement.

Pride, because I am so happy with all that I have accomplished this summer. I started my internship with the goal of learning more about the world of Public Relations and whether it was the field I wanted to pursue after graduation next year, and that goal was most certainly met. I am leaving Tip knowing that I want to work in communications after college. I am also proud of how far my writing skills have come. I am now more able to put myself in a brand’s shoes and write with their voice rather than my own. I have a much greater understanding of what Public Relations are and how they work.

Sadness, because I am going to miss going there every day. I learned so much from my coworkers and supervisors, and I wish I could continue to learn even more from them. I am so grateful for the time they put towards helping me grow, and it’s always sad leaving places where you’re treated with respect.

Excitement, because I know I will continue to grow within this field and that this experience was only the beginning of a long path. There is so much more for me to learn and I can’t wait to learn it!

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A beautiful Buenos Aires sunset on one of my days off

Anyone who would be interested in an internship at Tip should a) make sure they speak Spanish 100% fluently, and B) reach out to the organization and ask. To those interested in the world of PR in general: put yourselves out there! Tell everyone you know that you are looking to work in PR and would love an internship. You never know who could be able to help you. You should also go online, research the different agencies, and send out your resume to the ones that appeal to you the most. Join LinkedIn and contact Brandeis alumni.

I am now beginning my senior year, and I am very happy that I am able to bring everything I have learned this summer back to school. I know that having seen a little bit of the real world will enrich my classroom experience so much and allow me to make a more seamless transition into post-college life next year because of it.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone at Brandeis and the World of Work program for allowing me to do this internship and get this amazing experience! It is such a helpful and important fellowship, and just another way in which our university is helping us grow and succeed.

Mijal Tenenbaum, ’16

My Final Blog Post

Since completing my internship at AEI, I have had some time to reflect upon my experiences, all I learned, and what my next steps may be. It is surreal to know that my time in DC this summer has come to a close, but I know that I will be back one day. I set out on this adventure to learn all I could, but I had no conception of the breadth of knowledge I would gain—knowledge that is applicable both personally and professionally. I went in with a series of goals, but my primary goal was to learn as much as possible. Therefore, for my final blog post, I’ve highlighted a few of these lessons I have learned. I hope that these lessons may serve as advice to future students planning on interning in this field, and I hope that by recording them, I, too, will remember to live by them.

Lesson 1: See the value in learning outside of your comfort zone.

What I mean by this is simple: When you have the chance to learn something, learn it. It can be totally unrelated to what you want to do, but take the chance and learn for a little while. Ultimately, regardless as to whether or not it ends up being relevant to your career path, it will be another skill in your proverbial tool belt.

For example, one of my co-workers this summer specialized in graphic design, and offered to teach me a few tricks. I accepted skeptically, letting her know that the extent of my knowledge in graphic design was limited to scribbles in Microsoft Paint. A few short weeks later, a vector I designed using Illustrator was featured on AEI’s social media platforms. I was hooked. I even began formatting simple memos in InDesign! Even if I never design another graphic, I am so happy I learned to do something outside of my conventional learning path.

The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument

 

Lesson 2: Make your coworkers’ jobs’ easier.

It is all well and good to be the first one in in the morning, and the last one out at night; however, none of that matters unless you are excelling. One of my fellow interns this summer who had just graduated from college left the office almost daily for job interviews. Although he rarely put in a full day of work, I could see from the way his department treated him that he was a well-respected and valued member of their team. This was because during the time he did spend in the office, the work he did was exceptional: He made his coworkers’ jobs’ easier.

 

I decided to incorporate this observation into my daily work pattern. For example, instead of just updating the website’s home page and sending it off to the editor, I would take the time to edit my work so that the editor had less to fix. Even small moments of effort, such as this one, can add up.

I applied this same logic to larger tasks, as well. For instance, I took the lead on creating AEI’s Instagram account. AEI had, for some time, considered creating an Instagram account; however, the process took more time than my co-workers had, and it required research to develop a solid marketing strategy. I offered to take on the project and within the month our Instagram account was up and running. In doing so, I was able to alleviate a good deal of stress within the department while AEI settled into the new platform.

Lesson 3: Figure out how to do the things that scare you.

This is not just a re-wording of the classic advice “take risks.” To me, figuring out how to do the things that scare you means to make what is scary into something manageable. Flip it around and do what you have to do.

For example, something I am not entirely comfortable with is DC networking events. The awkwardness of mingling is something that I feel will never leave me. I found myself faced with the necessity of figuring out how to make these events manageable. I realized I was most comfortable when I studied up on a ‘default topic’ for the night. This meant that I always had a topic of conversation to fall back upon when I was at a cringe-worthy loss for words (which was often). Usually my ‘default topic’ was some aspect of the host organization or perhaps a Supreme Court case; regardless, it worked like a charm every time.

All you really need to make something scary into something manageable is an understanding of what makes you feel more secure. Sometimes, this can even make the terrifying a little—dare I say it—fun!

 

These three tips represent my best practices and experiences from the summer.  Each of these lessons allowed me to do my best work, from creating an Instagram account to snagging the right business card. As long as I remember to learn outside of my comfort zone, make my coworkers’ jobs’ easier, and figure out how to do what scares me, I think I’ll be fine. I am proud of what I accomplished at AEI in terms of professional development, I am already looking forward to next summer!

 

Margot Grubert ’17

 

 

Summer has ended, but my work at he AGO has just begun!

Although the summer is ending, my internship is not! After the amazing experience I’ve had these last few weeks, I’m grateful, humbled and excited to be able to say that it is not yet over; I will be continuing my internship for the rest of this semester in conjunction with a Brandeis internship seminar.

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It seems it is not yet time to part with my intern badge!

While there is plenty to look forward to, it is crucial (not to mention enjoyable) to retrospectively analyze the crucial changes I have undergone by taking on the challenges that have accompanied this internship. These challenges, ranging from getting a taste of what it is like to be alone and away from home to forcing myself to gather my confidence and approach the inspiring lecturer who, within an hour, changed my outlook on my future career and built my character in a way I could not have foreseen. Looking back at my summer experience at the Criminal Bureau of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, I find myself to be an adult, a proud servant of the Commonwealth, and a fervent advocate of self-exploration via internships.

From among the main goals I outlined for myself at the beginning of my internship, I have truly surpassed the most important ones. I originally aspired to “mold myself into a meritorious and ‘civic-ly’ aware adult.” I could not have imagined the extent to which my dedication to civic engagement would solidify during my time in the AGO, but here I stand, a matured version of the person I was at the end of the school year, convinced that my career path would feel empty without some sort of community service which would allow me to benefit the society to which I belong. I hoped to “forge new connections,” and I am now fortunate enough to include a group of talented interns, law students, paralegals, lawyers, officers and financial investigators in my ever-growing network. I realized through my exploration of “the intricacies of my passion for law” that I am most interested in civil rights and anti-discrimination efforts within the context of the law and I know that the next steps I take towards my future will involve the study and promotion of diversification and acceptance. With all of these goals realized, I look forward to expanding my knowledge of myself and the legal world as I return to the office this semester and as I take on future internships.

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A pleasant intern lunch organized by a charismatic and involved lawyer at the Criminal Bureau (I’m the third person from the right!). I’m lucky enough to have these future lawyers in my career network.

https://www.ted.com/talks/verna_myers_how_to_overcome_our_biases_walk_boldly_toward_them?language=en – The AGO organized an event during which dozens of office members watched Vernā Myers’ inspirational TED talk about overcoming subconscious biases and then discussed the video to deepen our understanding of how it applies to us.

I am most proud of my work combating  human trafficking and my new interest in this field, which evolved from my involvement in the Human Trafficking Unit. My extensive involvement in the unit’s developing policy-implementation plan, which spanned almost the entirety of this internship, started with a request that I create a simple excel document and developed into an enriching and layered experience in the art of networking. The creation of the spreadsheet was an opportunity for me to aid the AGO’s Director of Human Trafficking Policy, Programs, and Education, who specialized in a field which I was eager to explore. My scrupulous efforts, paired with a genuine interest in the unique and kind woman I was helping, resulted in a rewarding networking connection which I now cherish. This woman mentored me by taking me to observe meetings with outside organizations, looking out for different events I could attend, and even asking me for input on how to move forward with the implementation of the policy I helped to create. I am both proud of and thankful for the working relationship I now have with her, and I look forward to collaborating with her in the coming months.

http://www.polarisproject.org – A wonderful anti-human trafficking organization which shares many of the same goals of the AGO’s Human Trafficking Division

http://www.polarisproject.org/storage/documents/hotelindustryfactsheet.pdf – a trusty reference sheet for the AGO’s Human Trafficking Division in its effort to increase human trafficking awareness in the Commonwealth

Thus, my advice to students interested in working in this office is to take this opportunity by the reins and make the most of the resources around them, be it the esteem of others, the unique events and presentations, the work experience, or just the boundless advice of the good, hardworking people of the AGO. In any internship context, including this one, my greatest piece of advice is to balance challenging oneself by stepping outside of one’s comfort zone with being conscious of oneself in one’s work-environment context. Branch out, but don’t seem too haughty; be confident but don’t forget the value of humility. While it is important to be sure of one’s merit, there is no disadvantage to asking and asking again to gain a complete understanding from those who have been doing this way longer than any intern. Remember that being memorable (in a good way) also requires being personable and receptive. This balance has helped me grow from this amazing opportunity in ways which, only three months ago, I did not believe to be possible. Though I am still perfecting this equilibrium and will continue fine-tuning it this semester in this familiar context, it has been my greatest ally and will continue to be in future classroom, recreational, and professional experiences.

Lilly Hecht ’18