Derek, can you give a bit of background about your Reed experience?
I got interested in physics in high school, and the decision to major in it at Reed was a bit arbitrary. At Reed, I was drawn to music, and spent a lot of energy there. After graduation, I spent a lot of time doing music, played in bands, worked hard to establish a career and finally decided that music wasn’t a life that I imagined being able to sustain. During the time doing music, I was in NYC, working a job I hated, playing music. The joints in my fingers swelled and I couldn't move them. I had a two-week period where I couldn't play. I decided to leave New York and headed to Los Angeles.
Aaron at work at Sigenics
Greetings from Sierra Madre, California, where I am currently interning at Sigenics Inc., a company excelling in the creation of custom silicon devices. When I first read the name ‘Sigenics Inc.’, I pretty much expected to find myself working amongst bustling lab-coated technicians scurrying around a clinically clean facility maintained by Wall-E-esqe robots... As it turns out, the Sierra Madre branch of Sigenics Inc. is more low-key—including me, it's a 3 man operation here, stationed in the guest house of my boss, the venerable Douglas Kerns. As far as bosses go, he’s awesome, the atmosphere is always relaxed, perhaps a side effect of working in this beautiful Los Angeles suburb. Doug tells me the Sierra Madre branch formed because he didn’t want to move out to Chicago—where the main facility of Sigenics is located—because the weather in SoCal was too nice to leave. Amen. Even after spending nearly every summer of my life here, I still don’t tire of it. Not long ago a Reed friend asked me, “Aaron, how come you never stay in Portland for summer? It gets so nice.”
“Well,” I replied, “it’s like that in L.A., too, we just call it ‘normal.’”
It’s hard to believe that nearly three weeks have passed since I wrote my last blog post for Works and Days. Here in San Francisco, time has been flying by, and the workshop I’ve been participating in at the SF Conservatory of Dance is almost over. When I last wrote, I was nearing the end of the first half of the program, and had been busily taking classes in a variety of different contemporary dance idioms. In the second half of the workshop, the focus has narrowed and my classmates and I have been immersed in the improvisational and choreographic techniques of choreographer William Forsythe. While we haven’t been working with Forsythe directly, our exploration has been guided by a trusted representative of the choreographer (and a brilliant artist in his own right), Alessio Silvestrin. Having studied Forsythe and his choreography extensively for my final paper in Professor Hannah Kosstrin’s Dance 201 class, I had some idea of what to expect going into this part of the workshop, but it has still been incredibly challenging.
Fluorescence image of Drosophila wing disc in cross-section. Cell nuclei in blue, membranes in red, and a protein complex unique to Wnt signaling in green.
After several weeks in a fruit fly lab, I now feel quite confident in my ability to dissect larvae, create new crosses from different fly strains, and prepare tissues for microscopic imaging. Although I had never performed these techniques just two months ago, I now carry them out from memory on a regular basis. Without realizing it, I have learned how to identify many of the common Drosophila mutants that are used to create experimental crosses. I am also learning how to combine various protein or RNAi constructs in a single Drosophila line in order to interrupt or better visualize components of the Wnt signaling pathway. However, the most amazing thing to me is how much my dissection skills have improved. On my first day, I was shocked that I would be expected to remove organs from a larva only two or three millimeters long. Now, I can perform the task readily, although not nearly as quickly as my more experienced co-worker, Misha. I still have a lot to learn about the mechanisms involved in Wnt signaling. Understanding the research is far more difficult than simply carrying out the procedures. While I now know quite a bit about working with fruit flies, the complexities of the signaling pathway still elude.
Volunteer Jimmy Villafranca (Reed '12) talks with the kid of a vendor before market begins Sara Post
I remember going to farmers' markets as a kid in central Pennsylvania. I remember being six and sulking at the knees of my father. Being at the market meant being stuck in a wave of grown-ups watching the straw bag at his side fill with green foods that I did not yet know how to convert into meals I would want to eat.
Working actively to reverse this—to get kids excited about farmers' markets and fresh vegetables on a large scale—is a worthy mission I have the opportunity to take on thanks to Reed’s Internship Advantage program. Reed has partnered with Zenger Farm to find a seasonal intern to develop the brand new “Food Scouts” program at the Lents International Farmers Market each Sunday. Geared for youth ages 5-12, Lents gifts each Food Scout with two $1 tokens to spend on vegetables, fruit, or food producing plants. Meanwhile, the scouts hang out at the Food Scout booth and participate in activities. They also get journals to take home and write or draw about produce. Underlying the play, the goal is the engage kids in the market—teach them why to care about plants, how to spend wisely, introduce them to other youth of the community.
With funding from the Reed College Internship Advantage Initiative, for eight weeks this summer I am working as the social media and outreach intern for the 501(c)3 non-profit organization Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), started by the inspiring Reed alumna Sasha Kramer. SOIL uses methods of ecological sanitation (EcoSan) to mitigate the ongoing sanitation crisis in Haiti that was only worsened by the 2010 earthquake. One of their most promising projects is the implementation of EcoSan toilets that turn human waste into much needed compost for sustainable agriculture.
Haiti came into the international limelight after the earthquake, and it seemed that every journalist and pundit felt entitled to present the public with their half-baked theories about why poverty persists in Haiti. International commentators have gazed at the Haitian poor with a mixture of disgust, pity, and fascination for centuries. In a 2010 New York Times article, David Brooks suggests that “Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences.” And although he does recognize that Haiti has “a history of oppression, slavery, and colonialism,” he points out that “so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well.” His analysis, like too many others, blames the victim and clearly ignores the particular history of colonization, slavery that has brutalized so many Haitians, starting with the indigenous population that was decimated by the Spanish in the mid-sixteenth century. Brooks cites the “progress” of Barbados without explaining who is benefiting from that “progress.” Barbados has been hospitable to tourism and transnational capital, but their economy still favors accumulation of capital with the elite classes and the benefits of tourism are not necessarily distributed equitably. It is not justified for arrogant observers like Brooks to patronizingly define universal “progress” and dictate what that should mean to Haitians.
Works & Days is a blog created to highlight the adventures of Reed students and alumni in the world that lies beyond campus. By featuring first-person experiences in externships (job shadows), internships, work during the school year and during breaks; through engagement with the Portland community, with the northwest, and far beyond, Works & Days may be a How To and sometimes might tell a cautionary tale. Lessons learned, challenges overcome, amazing experiences longed for and unanticipated will make their way to this blog.
When I initially read the SVP internship description on the Reed Internship Advantage page, my first reaction was, “That looks like a really interesting project!” My second reaction was, “I’m definitely not qualified to do any of that.”
I am currently an intern at Commerce Kitchen, a web development and marketing company in Denver. My fellow intern (and fellow Reedie) Rebecca and I get to work there, and explore the city in our free time, for nine weeks this summer. The experience marks many firsts for me. First time visiting Denver. First summer living away from home. First paid internship. First experience working in marketing. And here, my first blog entry; it only makes sense to talk about my first impressions.
My internship at De Paul Treatment Centers is a non-profit development (fundraising) internship made possible by Reed's Internship Advantage Initiative.
My first week at De Paul Treatment Centers was mostly filled with getting familiar with the office and who works there, and what their philosophy is. The orientation I attended really brought home their message of treatment for everyone. Although anyone can receive treatment at De Paul, their biggest mission is providing treatment to those who cannot afford it and who would otherwise go without treatment.
The context for my President's Summer Fellowship engages three distinct elements, which combined, will serve to inform the final goal, the production of a new, peer-reviewed journal that will engage the diverse voices of Reed’s students, faculty, and staff, spanning all departments. The elements include: To work as an intern at one of the seven internships at both literary magazines and publishing houses to which I have applied, in order to acquire the necessary skills to develop the foundation for a journal of this nature and to become well versed in the responsibilities of managing a publication. Secondly, I will conduct research at various colleges like Sarah Lawrence and Goucher College, who are already producing similar successful publications, and lastly, I will return to propose and implement my work here at Reed.
Growing up, Japan was always a large presence in my life. My mother made sure that I spoke Japanese fluently, and filled our household with the food, music, and traditions of her world. She also enrolled me in a Japanese school system in Eugene, Oregon, where I was able to continue learning about Japan outside my home. The result was a life suspended between the country of my heritage thousands of miles across the Pacific, and the American culture surrounding me. I am in Japan to learn the craft of traditional woodblock printing, an art that holds a vital place in Japan’s history, and has fascinated and influenced me for several years. Richard Steiner, an artist who resides in Kyoto and has taught for more than thirty years has agreed to teach me a seven week course on the art form. While in Kyoto I will also educate myself by fully engaging in the Japanese community to grasp what it means to be a part of the culture in a way I haven’t previously been able. I want to share and help pass on this rich traditional craft and opportunity for creativity. To do so, I will create an introductory art course on woodblock printing and offer the class in Portland where students will create their own Japanese prints and learn about the history of the art form.
For my President's Summer Fellowship, it is my dream to collect the stories of the Cuban people before the huge political changes soon to occur in Cuba actually take place, including the oncoming takeover of a new president in five years, and the consequent ending of the famous 60 year Castro dictatorship. Soon the political climate will undergo enormous changes, taking old Cuba with it; and the generation that lived through the Cuban revolution will be gone, taking their stories with them. This is a critical time in Cuban history.
The goal of my project is to document as many stories as possible from the dying generation in Cuba that lived through the Cuban revolution in the 1950s; and as many Cuban perspectives of present conditions as I can.
Halfway through my freshman year at Reed, I decided, after much deliberation, to major in studio art. My initial reluctance stemmed from a fear of the impractical and individualistic nature of an arts-oriented career, which I believed would limit my ability to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. That is, until the moment I seriously reconsidered my lifelong interest in architecture. Suddenly, years spent meticulously constructing houses in The Sims and wandering unknown neighborhoods ogling Craftsman bungalows became the solution to my dilemma. I realized that, as an architect, I can utilize my artistic skill and appreciation of the built environment to effect meaningful change in the world. Post-Reed, I plan to complete a masters program in architecture and embark upon a career in humanitarian design. For the moment, I am trying to gain the experience and knowledge necessary to facilitate my vision.
Through my President's Summer Fellowship, Reconstructive Improvisation, I intend to transform my relationship with dance through participation in the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s (SFCD) 2013 Summer Workshop. This workshop explores the work of choreographer William Forsythe, a preeminent contemporary choreographer who has radically re-configured classical ballet.
I think it’s safe to say that this project is turning out to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Going from nine hours of studying a day to nine hours of dancing has been a pretty drastic shift. My whole body aches, and when I get home at night my brain is a slushy mess of musings on energetic pathways, bodily syntax, and corporeal architecture. I’m currently about halfway through my project, and have been in San Francisco studying at the SF Conservatory of Dance for several weeks. Along with my 26 compatriots I spend from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday and 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturdays in the studio.
For my President's Summer Fellowship Award, I undertook to pinpoint the geographical origins of a medieval French manuscript and to thereby develop a novel philological method of inquiry that could hold great promise for medievalism, art history, and for my development as an individual and a scholar.
I have been in Washington, DC since the beginning of June, and can hardly believe I am finishing my fourth week interning at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Thanks to the PSF, I was able to sublet a great place near a metro stop, in a quiet neighborhood, with a grocery store, a few restaurants and a park nearby. But, I don’t spend much time at home. During the week I leave my place by eight in the morning and usually don’t return until nine at night.
I am currently working at OHSU in the lab of Marcel Wehrli, Ph.D. The lab studies development in Drosophila (fruit flies) and focuses on the Wnt signaling pathway, one that features prominently in developmental biology research. My first week at OHSU has introduced me to a completely new area of biology. Most of my prior research experience has been in plant physiology. I have never worked with Drosophila before and know almost nothing about their development, so I am guaranteed to learn something new every day.
As a novice in the field, I learn from both Marcel and his research assistant, Misha (also a Reedie). I don’t yet have a project of my own, so I usually assist Misha with her experiments. Some of what I learn is completely new – techniques that I have never seen before.
In the past week, I have learned how to distinguish between male and female flies, how to tell a virgin from a fly that has never mated, how to dissect a fly larva, and how to identify the imaginal discs within the larva that eventually develop into various appendages. Other things are familiar but must be re-learned, as different labs carry out basic protocols in different ways. Antibody staining fruit fly larvae is very different from staining plant tissues!
Maya with lab partners
This is the first of a series of blogs about the adventures of a Reed President's Summer Fellow. I am a student of philosophy learning the ropes of interdisciplinary studies for two months in Paris, France. I am focusing on the philosophic implications behind scientific research in a microbiology lab at ENS-Cachan led by Dr. Bianca Scalvi. The research at this lab is based on trying to understand the initiation of DNA replication.
I am neither a scientist, nor a philosopher. I am simply someone who wants to understand the way our society works. I have a background in chemistry, and spent a summer synthesizing organic compounds in a lab directed by Dr. Youngblood at UNT. That experience offers me an advantage in the microbiology lab. I am familiar with the environment of a laboratory and I am able to understand the basics of the research without too much trouble. My background in philosophy seems to have been with me since I was a child, yet I have only come to realize how much I enjoy the discipline when I started at Reed College two years ago. I have taken some courses in philosophy at Reed, and I try to approach each situation I find myself in with an open and philosophic mind.