Works and Days



Astronomy at the University of Michigan: Lizzy Arellano, Winter Shadow 2016

Going to dinner

The winter shadow that I had the pleasure of going to was far more fulfilling than I ever thought it could be.  My hosts were very kind.  Their homes were beautiful and their hospitality was very much appreciated.  Ann Arbor, Michigan, was one of the most beautiful and easy to get around towns that I’ve ever visited. Mario Mateo’s house was about 2 miles from the University of Michigan, where Sarah and I worked most of the time.  We found ourselves really looking forward to the walks every day.  Not only was it really nice to pass through the urban and suburban areas of Ann Arbor, but it also gave us an opportunity to explore the downtown more.  The food was delicious, the sights were see-worthy, and the snow was puffy. I feel so grateful to have received this externship because I will have otherwise never been able to visit Michigan.

As for the actual project, it was a great experience overall. Not only did I learn a lot of Python, a coding language, but also, I gained experience as an intern. I learned about the actual process of working with a data set and getting real results from my work that could actually contribute to scientific process.  Because we were using data from the Magellan Clay Telescope in Chile, where each fiber attached to a plate referred to a specific star in the star cluster, Omega Centauri, we were working off Mateo’s idea of a new way of star cluster analysis. We had to be very careful with our calculations, checking and rechecking for the expected results. We had to generalize our coding, so that when new data comes in, it could be analyzed using the same programs and so that people all over the world would have the opportunity to do the same type of analysis. At the end of our externship, our work rewarded us with a complete spectrum of the stars we analyzed, which allowed Mateo to analyze the spectral lines for different elements contained in the stars.

Presidents Summer Fellowship 2015: Haley Tilt, Visual Memory and Livy, Part 3

Haley Tilt, '16, Classics, is adventuring in Rome, tracing and chronicling the geography described by the ancient historian Livy. She plans to create a virtual, interactive map of ancient Rome, based on Livy's depictions. 

The last couple of months have seen me ceaselessly behind my computer, tapping away at my keyboard (and more often, my delete key). Working in combination with the SDS was decidedly a good idea. It gave me access to support I couldn't have done without and a group of other folks equally confused as I. Working in combination with others held me accountable for explaining my ideas, for slowing down and dedicating time to decision making, and it allowed me to bounce a quick--or significant--question off someone else. Strangest thing of all, after two months, I am able to answer other peoples’ questions.

And I am able to build a website. It hasn’t been released yet, and probably won’t be until it’s endured a bit more tinkering, but Livy doesn’t come up on the Hum 110 syllabus until Spring, and I have a few more features I want to add. Things moved more slowly than I anticipated, and I learned that web development is actually rather difficult, a good deal more difficult than I anticipated. Just to give an idea of the breadth of concepts I had to explore: there was SQLITE, the language I used to talk to the database containing all of my images, notes, textual selections, etc., there was python coding, to build the web server, there was HTML/CSS, to build individual web pages and style them, and there were javascript and jquery, to handle all of the ‘interactive’ elements of the site. Although I had some experience with python and javascript, everything else was completely new to me, and connecting all of the pieces, passing packets of information between components and learning to unpack those packets at their final destination, was hard. Some of the features whose implementation I thought would be trivial were actually beyond the scope of my current skill-set, so in addition to learning how to develop my project, I also had to learn to think in stages. This particular instantiation of the project will allow people to view a map side-by-side with the selection of Livy’s text that is relevant to the location they have clicked, and to view images of that location today. As I move forward with the project, I want users to be able to do side-by-side comparisons between modern images of sites and reconstructions of those sites, and I want to bolster the research I’ve already done to better document how each of the sites Livy discusses have come to look the way they do today.

Reed Winter Externship Reflections 14: Number Sixteen, Method, Isabella Jorissen

David Lipkin, Reed class of 1991, is one of the co-founders of Method, an experience design firm, which was founded in 1999.  Method currently has offices in San Francisco, London, and NYC. I spent two weeks at Method as an extern in the NYC office. While at Reed, David majored in history and also focused on anthropology. Currently, he manages the strategy and business development of the NYC office, though he also maintains an active role in many of the projects.

Despite all of the projects, clients, initiatives, and goals that Method juggles, it doesn’t come off as a stressful place to work. Their fifth floor space is open and well lit; nobody has an office. There’s a basketball hoop mounted on one of the walls, and I quickly learned that late afternoon breaks to play games of dice were commonplace. Everyone was friendly, and interacted with each other as peers.  Until I spent time at Method, I didn’t fully appreciate how valuable a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere is to facilitating creativity in the workplace.

With that said, I confess that when I arrived at 9:30 on the first day, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing for two weeks. I felt like I didn’t have any design skills to speak of, and my front-end development skills definitely didn’t seem up to par.  But everyone welcomed me and it was fine, I suppose. One of the best parts about my experience at Method was that there was so much going on- and so much that I could do- that I had to let go of the uncomfortable feeling that I was an intruder very quickly. After the morning standup, I was invited to observe one of the project meetings.  I stood in the corner of the area watching when the project lead turned to me and said, “Feel free to jump in with any ideas or questions you have.”

Commerce Kitchen Final Reflections

I’m running a little late with this blog post – school has been in session for two weeks already, and my internship ended over a month ago – but I wanted to share this last reflection, even if belatedly, on my summer experience with Commerce Kitchen, a web development and marketing company in Denver. I said in my previous blog post that this internship marked many firsts for me. Consequently, it has posed many opportunities for learning.

Some things I learned were specific to my work, like how to create a successful infographic or how to track visitors to a website using Google Analytics. (Here is a link to the infographic I created on biking in Seattle:

Other things I learned were generally useful career skills, like business networking and project management. I also learned some things that I wouldn’t directly list on my newly created Linked-in page, but that are just as valuable for my career and life. I lived on my own for the first time, learned to navigate the very important challenges of finances, cooking, and shared cleaning duties with a housemate. I also learned to recognize when I needed to rely on my roommate and when I just needed alone time.