Over winter break, I was an extern at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience under Dr. Sharon Thompson-Schill at University of Pennsylvania. My co-extern and I spent our days at Sharon’s lab talking to her and other researchers about their research.
One of the topics that Sharon is interested in is cognitive control. This refers to the executive control of the prefrontal cortex on cognitive processes such as rational thought, task flexibility, and working memory. Interestingly, when the human brain is developing, the prefrontal cortex grows much slower than the rest of it—as a result children exhibit the traits of someone with a damaged prefrontal cortex for many years. This quality has inspired much research into ways to accelerate the prefrontal growth of children, to make them “mature” faster.
However, Sharon points out that there are some important tasks that children are better at than adults, like learning and creativity. Their prefrontal immaturity may actually aid in these tasks and the cognitive control that adults have inhibits them. I observed a tDCS experiment in the lab that either increased or decreased prefrontal activity in participants while they performed tasks that require learning and attention to see if their performance was affected by the changes in prefrontal activity. The idea was that participants with decreased prefrontal activity were more like children and would do better on the tasks without the control of the prefrontal cortex in action. Therefore, it may be inadvisable to hasten the prefrontal growth of children without fully understanding the benefits of slower growth. Perhaps it is most efficient for children to have underdeveloped prefrontal cortices to learn more fully and to develop flexible learning and rational thinking later as adults.
This winter break I had the pleasure of visiting Sam Groveman, an alumnus who is currently getting his doctorate in radiochemistry at Hunter College in New York City.
The radiochemistry program that Sam has been tirelessly campaigning is in its first few years of operation, and Sam is hoping that more Reedies will become interested in applying. The program lies at the intersection of two pre-existing groups, the City University of New York system (CUNY) and the NSF funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program (IGERT). This allows for extensive collaboration with other groups within the CUNY and IGERT systems, including several prominent universities around the country, as well as national laboratories such as Oak Ridge and the prestigious Memorial Sloan Ketterin Cancer Center.
To get involved with the program one has to apply to the graduate center for CUNY, and get accepted into the chemistry program. The first two years of the program are spent taking graduate classes and rotating through various labs in the CUNY system. One of those years will be spent at Hunter, if the participant knows he or she wants to be in IGERT. For the first two labs, the particpant receives a stipend. Then the last three years are spent doing research and dissertation work.
I’ve loved animals ever since I was a little girl. Bugs, lizards, squirrels, frogs- you name it. And of course, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied that I wanted to be a veterinarian. After all, what job could be better than one where you got to play with animals all day and make them feel better? Once I turned thirteen, I left this childhood dream behind for more realistic pursuits. Like becoming a physicist (hahaha). I couldn’t dissociate being a vet from my childish (and therefore naïve) fantasy of it. It took me a while before I started listening to that little girl again, but this time I was determined to base my decision about what to study and do with my life on something more substantial than “really liking animals”. This is where Dr. Chris (a Reed graduate!) at the Gresham Animal Hospital came into play.
I participated in an externship with Moira Tofanelli. Moira is a School Psychologist at Creative Sciences School in Portland. She was very accommodating and tailored the experience to my interests. I learned that a School Psychologist spends their time focusing on the kids who are not doing very well in school, either academically or behaviorally, and try to determine if they need special educations services. I was intrigued that this was not an exact science; there are many circumstances making it it unclear what is causing the issues for the child and what steps should be taken to help correct the problem. This was highlighted for me when I did a case study of a sixth grader who was undergoing an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services. Overall, my externship was a very rewarding and interesting experience.
The Reed Financial Service Fellowship was an engaging experience where I got to explore questions that have been at the back of my mind with regards to a career in the Financial Sector. I aggregate these questions into two: “what does it means to work in the financial sector?” and on a more reflective note, “Am I cut out for such an industry?” It is accurate to say that my intent to find answers to these questions gave structure to my fellowship experience. This trip to New York happens to be my first ever, and it was an incredible experience. The buildings were so tall that even a complete upward tilt of my cervical vertebrae wasn’t enough to show me their apex, and in a day I saw as many people in the subway as I had seen in a year in Portland! That was my level of bewilderment when I got to New York.
There aren’t too many externships where they strap electrodes to your head. Not on the first day, at least.
But here I was, at 11 AM on a Thursday, listening to a cheerful senior rattle off instructions while gently attaching two large rubber pads to my scalp. While this may sound eerily like the start of a ‘50s science fiction movie, I was actually just a participant in a tDCS experiment, a form of neurostimulation in which constant, low-level current is delivered to the brain via small electrodes. tDCS changes the resting potential of neurons, making it harder or easier for them to fire. As a result, it can be used to temporarily increase cognitive ability in areas like memory and language.
Although my externship at Crossroads Community Services was short, just four days, it was an extremely enriching experience. I saw the organization both from an administrative perspective by attending meetings, seeing how food for the soup kitchen, shelter, and pantry is acquired and organized, and how guests at the shelter are selected. I also took a volunteer's perspective, by participating in helping the shelter, soup kitchen, and pantry programs. Additionally, I was able to learn from my externship sponsor about the ins and outs of the shelter system in New York. I became aware of the factors that can lead to homelessness, and about some of the potential solutions.
Crossroads Community Services consists of three different programs. The women's shelter gives up to ten women dinner and a warm place to sleep every single night. The food pantry acts somewhat like a grocery store with free items for families having trouble making ends meet. Their soup kitchen serves dinner to homeless individuals every night and serves a full, restaurant style breakfast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Additionally, the soup kitchen hands out coats and other donated goods before dinner some days. The three programs complement each other well, each providing vital resources to individuals in different situations of need. The three programs are able to support each other, because one often is able to make use of leftover or unused resources from another of the programs.
My first experience was with the soup kitchen, working with other volunteers to go on what are called "food rescue missions”. These “missions” consist of picking up the day's unsold, leftover foods from stores and company cafeterias (CCS is in midtown. I had no idea that businesses were a source of food for soup kitchens, and found it really interesting and inspiring that for-profit companies were willing to be so generous. Also, the food we were able to scrounge up was really tasty! The guests who come to the soup kitchen for dinner every night really seemed to appreciate it.
The Reed College Financial Services Fellowship is a career exploration program funded through the generosity of a Reed trustee with support from the Reed College trustees' investment committee. Students interested in financial services and/or quantitative fields compete for the fellowship and are interviewed by the College trustees’ investment committee. Fellows have the opportunity to gain insight into career options in the financial services industry through a short-term field trip to New York City. The trip includes business dinners with alumni and trustees of the College; an opportunity to shadow professionals in the workplace to get a sense of day to day operations, to discuss specific jobs and careers in the field, to take a tour of a trading floor. Pre-departure workshops on networking, resume writing, and intro to markets will be held as well. This is the first reflection from the 2014 Financial Services Fellows, Sanjeev Verma.
Financial Services Fellowship: Fact & Fiction
You might expect that as good Reedies we shook hands with all of the "evil" people on Wall St. in a detached manner with a heightened sense of irony. Au contraire! I put down my metaphysics book for a week and fully immersed myself in their world. Turns out, a job in finance does not amount to the death of "life of the mind." Finance is very much an intellectual profession; it is a technician's sport that requires both brains and creativity. I know that I went in with a few preconceptions too, but please allow me to dispel some of the common myths about finance. Of course, finance is not a perfect industry, so I will also share some of the unfortunate truths that I confirmed while on the trip.
Hearing Tests, Ear Wax, and Tonsils, Oh My! Thoughts from West Suburban ENT Center and Hinsdale Hospital
First arriving in Chicago, I was very nervous. Being in a cold and foreign city, I wondered what the winter externship would be like. It turned out that externing for Dr. Mahoney, an otolaryngologist at the West Suburban Ear Nose and Throat Center and Adventist Hospitals was an amazing and eye opening experience worth above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Dr. Mahoney and her family were welcoming and wonderful. They opened up their doors and provided me with an opportunity to share in their daily life for the week of the externship. On the very first day, we arrived at the Hinsdale Hospital around 7:30 am to meet her pediatric patients for surgery. On days that she does surgery, she’ll impressively and safely complete a number of tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies, and tympanostomies (ear tube surgery) in only a few hours! It was amazing how she so skillfully blended efficiency with patient and parent relations, making sure that everyone was well informed and provided the best care possible. In all surgeries, especially pediatrics, and even the non-invasive ones, safety is key. Having the opportunity to observe a team of skilled health professionals at work, whether performing surgery or checking up on a patient, reminded me of the rehearsal and production process for theatrical performances. Success in even the smallest things was impossible without the dedication and skill of everyone working together. It’s amazing the effect that one small surgery can have on someone’s life.Though the surgeries and checkups that she tends to perform are more for improving quality of life, in the long run, something as simple as removing your adenoids to lessen middle ear infections and fluid, snoring, or even sleep apnea, for example, pays back tenfold, especially during the developmental stages of a child. For many children, excessive ear infections can prevent proper hearing of stimuli in one’s environment, inhibiting or stunting a variety of developmental functions, most importantly included among these being successful language acquisition.
After a few routine surgeries, Dr. Mahoney and I traveled to other hospitals that she is affiliated with to check up on other patients, whose ages ranged from recently born to middle aged, and perform tracheostomy tube changes. Then we went to Grand Rounds and listened as the keynote speaker discussed their research and current developments on the use of Gabapentin for radiation induced oral mucositis, a common complication of radiation therapy, to reduce the need for high total doses of narcotics and unplanned treatment interruptions during chemotherapy. Following this, we went to the clinic to meet with patients, where I also met and observed the work of wonderful medical assistants, secretarial staff, an allergist, a pediatric endocrinologist, and two audiologists, who very kindly let me shadow them during hearing tests and discuss experiences and educational opportunities pertaining to the field of audiology, which is a career I’m interested in pursuing. Over the course of the week, the above schedule outlined was somewhat routine, but the number of opportunities to meet and learn from professionals was endless, and there was even time to visit the Oriental Institute and Art Institute of Chicago! While my original learning objectives were to gain a better understanding of the field of otolaryngology and audiology and to gain contacts and references. The opportunities available went above and beyond what I could have hoped, and my personal and professional objectives for this experience helped me to explore not only these fields, but also the health care field at large.I gained a better understanding of what being a doctor in both a clinic and hospital setting Rachel Ellinger Winter Break Externship Blog Post West Suburban ENT Center is like and found out more about various other careers both that I have considered and that I never even knew existed in hospital settings, such as nursing, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychiatry, and theological counseling. I also learned more about what medical employment in the military and navy is like, which is another path that I’ve been interested in.
Working with Dr. Mahoney and meeting with various other professionals, I realized that every profession requires dedication and love for what you do, because success in any career whether it be a baker or a doctor, requires hard work and devotion. And, it's very difficult to do anything that becomes such a big part of your life unless you love it, so it's very important to follow what you're passionate about and what makes you happy.
The camera pans across the office and lands on a young ingénue. She weaves between the various secretarial desks arranged in the large central space of the office, clutching a small box of personal possessions with which she will adorn her own desk. The men of Sterling Cooper gather around the perimeter to gawk at Peggy Olson, who is unaware that this will be her first day as Don Draper’s personal assistant--
Okay, so my externship experience was by no means analogous to Peggy Olson’s introductory scene in the premiere episode of AMC’s Mad Men. But it is approximately representative of my familiarity with advertising when I applied for a winter externship with Cooke & Co., a marketing start up located in Brooklyn, New York and founded by the supremely cool Steve Wax ’65. My existence is surprisingly divorced from the deluge of advertising media some people may experience. There are no commercial breaks on Netflix, I was an early adopter of AdBlock, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a physical piece of print media. Figuratively, I was Peggy Olson on her first day at Sterling Cooper, and literally, all that I knew of advertising was Peggy Olson’s character arch from secretary to senior copywriter.
I can tell you now that Cooke & Co. is nothing like Sterling Cooper, and modern marketing has come a long way since Don Draper. The scope of marketing has expanded from print, radio, and brief television commercials to websites, social media, and beyond. In many ways, advertising platforms are more accessible to brands than ever before, and perhaps as a result, the “market” is a bit saturated. Thus, the need for brands to differentiate both themselves and the ways in which they engage with their audiences has become extremely pronounced.
David Smirnow and his family are fabulous hosts. They let me stay in their home for five days while I shadowed different doctors including David at the city hospital. I was able to see the beautiful Montana landscape every morning on my way to "work" with David. I say "work" because I got to watch everything but did not actually have to do anything. After all I am not certified to cut someone open, not to mention it was too much fun to be called work. David was invaluable in setting up day for me to shadow in pathology, radiology, anesthesiology, and surgery. I had the opportunity to see cancerous cells under a microscope, bones and the womb through CT, MRI, and X-ray scans, brain surgery, and more. The doctors were friendly and full of information to help lead me along my path to medicine. I was also able to see an autopsy, which I admit was a little unnerving but very educational. It was like an anatomy class but more smelly. Overall, definitely an experience not to be forgotten!
It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting with my chair swiveled to the center of a room in “Silicon Alley”, New York City, in a recap-of-the-week meeting. Very quickly, lists of tasks completed and accounts secured turn into talk of what the next steps are, who the next clients are, and eventually, what the next ideas are. How should we design this particular feature of our app? How will we deal with the millions of people that lack addresses in the traditional sense? What kinds of services will our app be facilitating? Once our product is streamlined, how will the information seekers interact with the information finders? Should we buy up this domain name too, in case we expand the franchise in this direction?
I don’t know much about the business world, but it’s my understanding that CEOs don’t usually hash out ideas about the fundamental next steps of their company with low-level employees, let alone interns. And yet, here I am, on the last day of my two-week stint as an intern at Frontier Data Corp, not only listening, but actually being asked to participate in a company brainstorm alongside the CEO, CTO, CFO, and other employees who don’t yet have titles with acronyms. Of course, seeing as the company is 6 members strong (myself included) a meeting with only senior staff members might be somewhat lonely—but still, I can’t help but think how rare, how adrenalizing it is to get to play an active role in coloring what is now only the outline of an application with aspirations of becoming as big as TaskRabbit, Uber, maybe even Facebook. I remember reading an article in The New Yorker this summer about the infectiously optimistic attitude that is pervasive in Silicon Valley tech startups, and at the time, I rolled my eyes; it seemed to me unbelievably naïve and arrogant to think that the world’s problems could be solved by a bunch of programmers working in a bubble perhaps thicker than Reed’s.
Yet here I am, a more-cynical-than-average college student, in a city that is distinctly not warm and fuzzy, unable to shake this feeling of excitement, even hope, at the possibilities for the future. I can feel my future-self cringing.
I participated in my externships to explore career options. I chose one mentor, alumnus Lucas Carlson, class of ’05. He works at CenturyLink in the private sector. My other mentor, Jim Quinn, ’83, works at Metro in the public sector. I enjoyed both of the externships. Based on my experience, I’ve observed the private sector moves faster, for businessmen have less bureaucratic regulations. The public sector, however, seems to have a more multifaceted agenda: while the government works hard on the economy, the environment, and the public's health, a private corporation works almost only on profits. This externship helped me experience the differences between the sectors, though still remain unsure as to which sector to join for my career.
Luckily, my externship offered other insights. My IT executive mentor had me shadow him in order to learn how to communicate with people. It seems like executives spend most of their time communicating with people. He also gave me great advice. He clarified that one should communicate information through stories, as human brains are wired for listening to stories. This mentor also gave me food for thought about how important being present-minded is. He told me not to let my thoughts run my life. This externship was a great way to reflect on the current trajectory of my life, and where I would like to see it go.
At the governmental externship, I had two mentors. One of my governmental mentors, Sabrina Gogol, ’05, had a list of several of her colleagues for me to talk to. During these meeting, I learned a lot about how governmental projects work. I also made contacts in both the clean energy and the agriculture industries. Hopefully I will be able to utilize these contacts for summer work!
The heavens had already started to rumble and give the East Coast a hard time as I flew into NYC a few days after New Year. The first day of work I took the wrong bus and ended up walking 31 blocks down Madison Avenue. Although it wasn’t the most pleasing thing, it was an experience on its own – weaving my way through herds of humans that flock midtown Manhattan every morning. Seeing those skyscrapers tower above me, the financial powerhouses of the world, was an enthralling sight.
I strode into the Conquest Capital office and all I could hear was the buzz of CNBC market tickers signaling stocks, futures, currencies, commodities and what have you. Conquest is a hedge fund involved in trading futures and currencies based on signals from the mathematical mazes underlying their strategies. As a result, most of my work was based on grasping the very elements that make up a trading strategy. I was using a combination of MS Excel and Visual Basic (VBA) to build my model which revolved around what is called a “moving average” in the financial world.
Another part of this great experience was observing traders strike out deals and place orders depending on market conditions. The release of job numbers and retail industry figures for the holiday season coincided with the time I spent there, and I got to see Economics 201 (which I had taken in the fall semester before) at work. I got a real sense of market volatilities and how significantly market indicators can impact trades in S&P 500 and the world currency market.
Michelle Drumm, class of '95, wrote an engaging article on women's involvement (or more accurately, lack of involvement) in technology. Read her article here: http://www.commercekitchen.com/2014/02/women-in-tech/
Michelle is the moderator of Women in Tech at Reed's Working Weekend 2014.
Last Wednesday morning I hopped on my bike to head to Portland Waldorf School for an externship opportunity allowing me to job shadow Alynn Nelson, a 7th grade teacher. I have felt a calling to become a teacher and knew this externship would be a great chance to explore an alternative approach to education, as well as help me explore different subject and grade levels to possibly teach. After an initial mishap ( I turned west down the Springwater Corridor and biked nearly all the way out to Gresham before realizing that I was supposed to turn east and head towards Milwaukee) I finally arrived at the school eager to learn about the philosophy and unique teaching styles of Waldorf Education.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked in the school was the absences of the color white. Paintings and art projects covered the blue, purple, and yellow walls creating a stimulating mosaic of color. I soon came to learn that the colorful environment wasn’t the only unique thing about Waldorf schools.
Alynn Nelson explained to me that Waldorf schools were started in the 19th century by Rudolf Steiner because he was worried about everyone becoming a monotonous factory worker so he created a new type of school to ensure children had the opportunity to receive a creative, enlightening, and spiritual education. When I entered the classroom, I saw 17 students dedicatedly writing and drawing pictures about Michelangelo. She explained that what the students were working on was another important feature of Waldorf education; students did not use textbooks but rather created beautiful pages, that captured the essence of their lessons, which were later bound into a book that reflected all they had learned that year.
I have long believed that nature is the best remedy and that modern medicine needs to become a more holistic process that heals through natural plants and herbs. Despite this conviction, naturopathy was not a term I was familiar with until I came to Portland and came across multiple naturopathic health clinics. I soon learned that the philosophy behind naturopathy shared my beliefs about what was the best treatment for patients. My research into naturopathy left me with an intense desire to find out what attending a naturopathic healthcare clinic would be like.
Then, like fate, Reed posted its available externships for winter breaks and one of the opportunities was at a naturopathic clinic. Therefore, my first day back in Portland was spent fulfilling my wish of learning about working in a naturopathic doctor’s office.
In the electronics lab, five guys huddle around an oscilloscope, a breadboard, and a computer. Writing code down to the metal, our circuit on the breadboard submitted to all of our orders, as servants to a benevolent king or to a ruthless dictator.
For a week I was an extern at Sigenics, a company that designs and supplies application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Sigenics has two facilities. The main headquarters is located in Chicago and an additional branch is in Irwindale, California. I worked at the California branch with Douglas Kerns* (parent of Lydia Kerns, '16) one of the founders of Sigenics, Marcus, the senior technician, and fellow externs like me.
ASIC chips have many uses. For example, there are special ASIC chips in bitcoin miners, cellular phones, electronic sensors and timers. Companies and researchers contact Sigenics to make ASICs, or custom electronic parts for them.
Briana Foley, a junior religion major, chased her newly kindled passion for ceramics to the edges of the earth. She spent four months abroad through the Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples SIT program. She concluded her trip by pursuing independent research in the settlement of Old Thimi in Kathmandu Valley. The indigenous settlement is home to the Newa people, an integral part of whose culture and lifestyle is ceramics.
Briana “became obsessed” with ceramics after taking an intensive course at Lewis and Clark. She also knew she was interested in traveling to South Asia after taking classes on Hinduism with Mari Jyavasjarvi, a visiting religion professor. These were her loves, and through the SIT program she was able to find a way to synthesize the two and create an original, exhilarating, and rewarding experience for herself.
She glows when she speaks of her time in Old Thimi. Her smile is radiant as she describes living with the community of potters, and the way she came to love the noise and chaos and the rawness of land and the people. Her eyes are alight with memories and every word about her experience and what she learned is bursting with unveiled excitement.
Lydia Kerns, class of 2016
Reedies: Intellectuals in a purified form, dedicated to study and learning for its own internal value, blissfully segregating education from career, and proud to scoff when asked to justify their investment in learning with some claim to its practical application. For four years, Reedies live in a sanctuary where the transcendent value from sharing of ideas is reward enough, and any mundane outcome of education beyond the pleasure of pursuing knowledge is of secondary importance. That’s the stereotype, at least.
The question, often posed by parents, “But what are you going to DO with that major?” may be met by a shrug or a sigh, but the undertones of the question carry the notes of a larger question, one that lives in the minds of Reedies and uncertain friends and family alike: How are you going to be successful?
The question is complex and subjective but also universal, held by a majority of Reedies and associated parties. What does it mean to be a successful Reedie? How can we make the most of our scholarship at Reed, staying true to our love of “learning for the sake of learning,” while also growing into individuals who can consider ourselves successful in the world beyond Reed?