You do what? | #1

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2 weeks ago when I started my internship at MiHIN, I was shocked to discover how behind healthcare IT is in comparison to other industries like banking. I always assumed that there was a Google like system for health records. That all of my health data was in the cloud somewhere easily accessible by all of my doctors. I didn’t know that it can take over a month for my primary care physician to even know that I had gotten admitted to the hospital. I didn’t know that thousands and thousands of health records were lost during hurricane Katrina because health records were only stored on private computers that were ruined. I didn’t know that people die everyday because their health information isn’t available at the point of care. I didn’t know that billions of dollars are wasted each year on issues like re-admittance and mistakes like misdiagnoses because longitudinal health records aren’t available for proper care. I didn’t know that if I got hospitalized out of state how difficult it would be for those doctors to get my information from Michigan…

These are just a few of the challenges that Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services is working to fix.

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When I told all of my friends and family that I was interning for MiHIN, all of them had never heard of it or understood what it was. They didn’t know that it affected their everyday lives or that Michigan is a leader in healthcare IT. At the beginning I didn’t even really understand what I was doing. But now that I have been here for 2 weeks, I understand the impact that this organization is having not just in Michigan, but nationally, and I feel extremely lucky to be a part in revolutionizing health care.

As for my role as a desktop support intern, I have quickly learned how much I don’t know about computers (especially when I had to take apart one). The fun part about desktop support is that it’s a new challenge everyday. I have had so many great opportunities. I have been able to pick up new skills everyday as I learn from professionals who have been in the industry for years. Unfortunately, last Friday was my mentor’s last day, but my new mentor is just as great and eager to teach me the ropes. That’s my favorite part about the job. All of the interns here are truly part of the team and work alongside everybody else. Just these 2 weeks have been an experience unlike anything that I could get in the classroom. Most valuable are all of the career paths I have been able to learn about that I had never even heard about.

As for challenges, the office is very fast paced and busy. In a way I love it because it makes the time go by fast and keeps everyday interesting. But sometimes I wish I could pause to fully grasp what I’m doing. I also sympathize with dancamacho24 on the traffic. MiHIN is located right in the heart of East Lansing. Coming from Charlotte, I drive through downtown Lansing. In my 1st week I was in a hit and run. Fortunately I got the guys face and licence plate number. It turned out that he was wanted on other charges and I was able to identify him and help the police find him. While I’m glad that this ended well and that I have good insurance, I’m hoping the rest of the summer will go smoothly in terms of traffic. All in all it has been an unforgettable 2 weeks. I am excited for each challenge and opportunity that the rest of the summer will bring me here at MiHIN.CMH-Trademarked-2015-Logo-v2-300x143.png

 

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Week One at Issue One | Blog #1

Last week, I began work in the Digital Communications division of Issue One, a nonprofit nonpartisan interest group in Washington focused on reducing the influence of money on politics. To get a sense of how small our organization is, my hiring doubled the size of the Digital Communications department.

image1 (1)Issue One is one of a number of Washington-based interest groups that share the same goal of passing campaign finance reform. And while the groups span the partisan spectrum, most of the groups tend to align with progressive interests. Two other groups, Take Back Our Republic and the Campaign Legal Center, have more of a conservative focus, especially the former group. Issue One, by collaborating extensively with these two organizations, hopes to bridge the gap between the two parties. Much of our work relies on communication strategies, like choosing how to frame the issue (e.g. not using words that may appear to be toxic to conservatives) or how to implicate the issue (e.g. not arguing that passing campaign finance reform is a good idea because it could lead to more bills passing like those that address climate change). Naturally, communication and digital communication are increasingly important fields that the team will use.

During the internship, I’ll track the news for anything related to money in politics, and responding online by contributing to our blog. Already, I’ve written about some statements by congressmen decrying their parties’ fundraising schemes that price committee seats. I’ll also help run our new social media initiative, Right on the Money. The goal of Right on the Money (or “RON$,” which I initially believed to be money we owed a supposed “Ron”) is to showcase conservative and Republican personalities who have expressed concern for money’s growing influence in politics, the rise of crony capitalism, and the need for campaign finance reform. That way, we can expose those same individuals’ hypocrisy if they refuse to back legislation we support. I’ve also been able to write a one-pager, a short summary of a bill we support to give to congressmen we are courting for support. These three tasks require starkly different writing styles, and I’m happy I’m able to cover such a wide span already.

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I’m living on the campus of George Washington University, which, as those familiar with Washington will know, is known as having the greatest location of a college campus ever. Simply put, I can walk to the White House in under ten minutes, and I live on the corner of the campus furthest from it. I walk from my dorm to my office, about 20 minutes, changing my route every time. Meanwhile, I’m about a three minute walk to the National Mall, a two minute walk to the Kennedy Center, and Virginia’s just across the river.

I have three roommates, all of whom are older than me. One, who just graduated from Michigan State, works at the National Association of State Foresters, and two work in the Capitol, one for a representative from Florida and one for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, coincidentally Issue One’s mortal enemy as the leader of the anti-campaign finance movement in Congress. When the McConnell intern, Drake, brought some of his fellow intern friends back to our dorm, I expressed skepticism at first, not only as an Issue One employee but also as a solid Democrat and Merrick Garland-for-SCOTUS-backer. But the interns seemed genuine, simply interested in politics rather than the person they were serving. In fact, one such intern revealed to me she wavers back and forth between the parties and was working for McConnell because it was a part of a scholarship she received at her college. Additionally, a fellow intern at Issue One worked previously in the office of Senator Ron Johnson, an arch-conservative Tea Party caucus member from Wisconsin. Yet the intern is liberal. It’s comforting to know that my hope for bipartisanship through my work at Issue One isn’t just a cynic’s pipe dream; it’s a reality.

LSA Student → LSA Intern | Week 1

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As I am now into my fifth week of my internship with the LSA DMC (University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Development, Marketing and Communications department), I have the luxury of having already learned the ins and outs of my position.

I am really enjoying my internship thus far, but I envision a few challenges in the upcoming weeks. First and foremost, I am still getting acclimated to working in such a large and diverse office; there are lots of names to learn and office intricacies to understand.

Additionally, as a social media intern, I am still developing an understanding of our department’s creative strategy and approach. As with any creative role, understanding the product we are developing is important before creating myself.

Finally, I am still getting used to the rigors (and lack thereof) of an 8-5 position. Waking up early is still a struggle for me, but being able to relax in the evenings without homework is a beautiful experience.

Given these reflections, I think there are a lot of opportunities for growth over the coming weeks. Most importantly, I have the opportunity to develop my skills as a creative professional. However, I see the opportunity for my social and personal growth to be really exciting.

Tl;dr, I am really excited for the rest of my internship. And I’m starting to feel like an adult, which is cool!

I’m never leaving! – #1

I have been in Alaska for two weeks, at my internship in Northern Alaska for only one, yet I have already experienced more than I ever hoped. I can already tell this summer will be a defining one. My lifelong dream has been to move to the arctic,  and now I get paid to live in the woods, climb mountains, research, and explore the Brooks Range. Could it get any better?

  1. The Dalton Highway

The Dalton Highway spans from just above Fairbanks, AK to Prudhoe Bay. Public access is allowed, and it was officially built for multiuse, but it is incredibly important to the life of the Alaska oil pipeline. The Dalton is incredibly significant to my internship because it is the only road in and out of the North. Everyone you meet is traveling north or south on the Dalton, unless they have a plane, and it connects every being here. The few inns, gas stations, truck stops, and visitor centers are all along the Dalton. This highway makes it possible for us all to live and work up here, and connects us in ways you can’t imagine!

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2.  The Arctic Circle (The invisible line, not the sign itself!)

Being north of/within the Arctic Circle really defines every moment of living and working up here. Through the summer, the sun never truly sets, and we have 24 hour daylight! As you can imagine, my internal clock is running wild. People are awake at all times in the night, because there is no designated night-time when it doesn’t get dark. Some nights we just decide to go hiking despite it being 1 am.

In addition eliminating my sense of time, being above the Arctic Circle has introduced me to incredible scenery. Instead of grasses, everything is covered in moss and lichen. There is also little smooth ground. Some long grasses grow in mounds, halving your walking time. Permafrost has also been something I knew of, but never experienced for myself. The ground breaks up into different patterns because of the frozen soil underneath, leaving valleys nothing like the ones of the Midwest!

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3. Arctic Living – Photo of Toolik Research Site

The actual setup of living in the Arctic has been a significant adjustment. My goal was to be somewhere remote, and I am eager to spend the entire summer in my cabin, but it has been a constant adjustment. Platform tents, like the ones below, are what most people here live in (except for a few permanent residents). These tents house research labs and “dorms”, and most of the workers across the street from my cabin live in tents like these. My cabin has no electricity, no running water, and an outhouse for the bathroom. The truck stop and the center I work in provide showers, internet access, laundry, and electricity for us, but it is nothing like back home. I have few complaints, though, because living like this brings us down to earth. No one worries about how they look or what they are wearing, because most of us have not showered in days and have no more clean clothes by the end of the week!

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4. Exploring!

Exploring the mountains and tundra has been intense in this first week alone – who knows what will happen in the next four months! I took this photo at Galbraith Lake, which hosts a campground, DOT site, and National Park site on a small lot. We made a pit stop to clean up the trash that blew along the tundra, and I snapped this photo. The scenery is unreal. Miles and miles of untouched land, with no roads, and no people. My second day here I climbed my first Alaska mountain. My third day I saw my first Alaska bear. And by today I have hiked and cycled many miles, found waterfalls on an old gold mining road, and encountered countless wildlife. This land is the sole reason I am able to have this internship. Without federal protection through the Bureau of Land Management, National Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service, this wilderness would not still be wilderness, and there wouldn’t be anything left untouched to explore.

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5.  Wildlife

Disclaimer, I did not take this photo. I have had 3 bear encounters since arriving in Coldfoot, and grabbing my camera was the last thing on my mind!

The wildlife here is sometimes frightening, but also breathtaking. So far I have had the chance to see Musk ox, black bears, dall sheep, reindeer, eagles, and countless other birds. I have yet to encounter a grizzly bear or caribou, but I am positive I will see many as the summer continues. Unfortunately, the only moose I have encountered was one that had already been discovered by a bear. Wildlife has served as a reminder for me to constantly be aware. Even when walking to your outhouse, you must be scanning every inch of the wilderness to stay safe, because you never know where a grizzly bear or mother moose is hiding.

We have received thorough training on what to do when you are face to face with these large animals because chances are, you will stumble upon them. My second bike ride here, a bear sprang up for the ditch. A month ago, I would have expected to immediately start crying in fear, but it was an incredibly calm moment. My hands were shaking, of course, but I calmly talked to the bear, as you should, and it turned and walked away. Encounters like this one bring you back to reality and make you realize where your place as a human is, and it’s not always at the top of the food chain! Reflecting on the wildlife and wilderness requires also reflecting on yourself, and I am incredibly thankful to spend the summer doing so.

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Messages from Planet Mercury | #1

Located in the far right corner of the University of Michigan’s North Campus is the Space Research Building (SRB). While the physical facility is located in Ann Arbor, most of the work that goes on within the building takes places millions of miles away. Home to the Climate and Space Sciences Department, the SRB has been a place for some of the world’s leading scientists to create and implement new ways of understanding Earth’s systems and beyond. Down one hall you can meet scientists working on the space environment in relation to solar wind. Take a left turn and you can meet a team trying to discover life on one of Jupiter’s moons.

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However, if you could apply Einstein’s theory of relativity and figure out how to go back to the early 2000s, you would be able to see the instrument that collected the data I currently work with, the Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS). FIPS was one of seven instruments onboard the MESSENGER spacecraft that orbited planet Mercury. But why did we go to Mercury in the first place? Up until MESSENGER, the most accurate data on the planet was taken by the Mariner 10 probe back in the 70s. Mercury, at the time, was the inner planet we knew the least about (the inner planets are Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury). Consequently, our wonder and curiosity about the universe around us catalyzed the MESSENGER mission so we could discover more about the geological features, chemical composition, and magnetosphere of the planet. The hard work of the faculty at the SRB ensured that the University of Michigan would have an instrument (FIPS) on the MESSENGER spacecraft.

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Fast forward to present day, and as an undergraduate student I am now helping my research sponsor sift through the data FIPS took to search for meaningful observations. Currently, I am looking at time series that the instrument captured as it made its way through Mercury’s magnetosphere. A magnetosphere is a region surrounding an astronomical object that is created by the interaction between solar wind and the object’s magnetic field. If you have ever wondered how we are able to see the Northern Lights here at Earth, this is due to charged particles from solar wind entering Earth’s magnetosphere that then find their way to our upper atmosphere.

In order for us to understand more about the events that occur in Mercury’s magnetosphere, I first have to look through the data collected by FIPS in each orbit and indicate some of the different regions: plasma sheet, northern lobe, or cusp. Since the spacecraft orbited the planet a couple of times a day, for five years, I will have a large set of time series to go through. However, in the next few weeks I hope to learn more about the dynamic characteristics of the magnetosphere of our Solar System’s innermost planet.

First Day on the Job | #1

Topic: Share 5 photos that capture a day in your shoes as an intern and describe what those photos mean.

This summer I am interning at VOYA Financial West Chester Office in PA, as a summer actuarial intern in Life Product Pricing Team.

I lived with other 7 interns together in 2 apartments at Malvern Pa, and some of them are from UC Berkeley, Columbia and Penn State.

Why not post some picture to share my first day at VOYA? Let’s do it.

First of all, here comes the picture that the summer interns came early for work on the first day of work. We chatted and waited for the HR team to start the first day. We talked to the hiring manager about his weekend and holiday. The decoration of the building was classic and fresh!

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Then comes with the orientation. We signed some contracts, went through the colorful information sheets with HR, and had a little ice breaker to get to know more about each other. Everyone also got some swags from VOYA, like mugs, calendar, stationaries and all that sorts of useful stuff. Everything is orange here. Later, we went to get our badges and HR showed us around the office, we got a cafeteria and a small gym, which are handy.2

Later, I met my manager, Eric, and we had a nice talk. He is a FSA (Fellow of Society of Actuaries) who had been working at VOYA for 14 years, the gentleman in blue and well-trimmed beard. Heather is the head of life product team, Eric’s manager, and she is surprisingly approachable like a college student, (sitting at the first right) even though she is the leader of our team. My manager showed me around the office and introduced me to the whole team later. My teammates were pretty funny, and everyone are willing to teach. I felt lucky that I am the only intern in this group, and I believe that I can learn a lot. When it was about lunch time, Heather asked the whole team for a lunch with me outside together, and I got the only privilege that day(other interns ate at the cafe). Most of the team members brought their food everyday, so I felt honored to eat with them. I had an  cheesesteak omelette and it was tasty. We shared many stories about each others and had some fun.3

After the meal that we had, all the interns in every office were required to have a virtual conference together, with a senior VP announcing the beginning of the summer internship program. The SVP shared her advice with the summer interns and we introduced ourselves. There are Minneapolis, New York City and Jacksonville offices and so on. It was amazing to have a meeting through virtual conference. 4

Moreover, I went lucky that day. This was the day that Dave Wilken, president of Individual Life for VOYA Financial’s Insurance Solutions, went back to West Chester office and organized a happy hour within the group. I was the only intern who went to the event. It was held in Sheraton in West Chester. The food, drink and view were nice. I talked with Dave, and he was approachable and talkative. He shared his 30-years experience that he had in VOYA and chat with the team like a normal guy. Later, Eric sent me back to the office and my fantastic first day ends. 5The first day was great, and I got to network with many inspiring people.

Opportunities and Challenges at ECMI | Blog #1

This summer, I’m interning at the European Centre for Minority Issues – a research centre in Flensburg, Germany that focuses on national, ethnic, and linguistic minority issues Europe-wide. I’m working under Dr. Zora Popova in the Culture & Diversity section of the centre, and my current research focuses on laws and policies focusing on minority language use in education and media in Europe. I’ve also been able to complete some independent research on my Honors thesis topic of refugee issues in Scandinavia.

I’ve been at the Centre for roughly one month now, and I’m now starting to feel more fully settled into the position. One of my first challenges in the position was grappling with a loose assignment structure, as the project I’m working on is in its beginning stages. I also felt a greater pressure at the internship initially because I am the only Bachelor’s student interning – the Centre normally only hires Master’s students and the other 4 interns have finished their Master’s already and are working on PhD’s. However, even though the composition of the team is a little intimidating, it’s also an opportunity to learn from more experienced researchers and prove myself.

The work I’ve been doing has also been challenging, as I am charged with finding regional and federal policies on languages. Typically, the legal briefs on these laws are not provided with English translations, or the translation’s are not especially reliable. Still, I’ve been able to compile several reports on media in Kosovo, Turkey, and Macedonia and am working on the comprehensive European report as well. My contributions to the project are quantitative and qualitative, and I will be listed as a co-author and researcher on the final working paper/project report!

The internship also provides me the opportunity to travel a lot within Europe because Flensburg is so close to Denmark and quite close to an international airport as well. I have already made plans to travel to London, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Malmö and hope to see more if possible!

Attached is a photo of me and a coworker eating Fischbrotchen – fish sandwiches that are super popular here in Flensburg!

Weekend Adventures | #5

What a great weekend!

Saturday, although it didn’t go as planned was pretty cool. We were supposed to go to Brussels Saturday, but conveniently, the workers for Brussels transportation system decided to have a strike. I was kind of upset because I had woken up really early and bought my ticket. We didn’t want the day to go to waste, so we decided to go to Dusseldorf since it was free with our semester passes. We walked around for a bit, visited a museum, and talked. I saw some really cool looking modern buildings.20160528_122937[1]

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I also got a chance to be in three countries at one time and did a little bit of exploring in the Netherlands.20160529_145920[1]

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Week One Complete! | #4

As my second week here in Aachen is coming to an end, today marks the end of the first week of UROP International program. Tuesday was the first day of my German class, and I must say that I love learning the language. German sounds completely different than French, the language I am studying at the University of Michigan. It is not as rhythmic as French but is a very interesting language none the least.

So far being here, I have noticed quite a few cultural differences between Germany and America. For instances, the Germans are very anal about trash. Here in Germany, all trash is sorted into glass, plastics, paper, and general waste, and if you don’t separate here you are looked down upon. I have even seen a few places that separate glass waste by color. They also don’t have free grocery bags. Most people here have reusable grocery bags that are about one to two euros. When I first bought groceries, the fact that I had to buy bags seemed completely bizarre. The system that the Germans have in place made me realize how wasteful we Americans can be. Whenever my family and I go grocery shopping back at home, we receive a lot of plastic bags that ultimately end up in the trash. Once I return home, I want to try to be more conscious about my about how much I am wasting.

Getting water at restaurants is very different here too! When you ask for water you are given sparkling water. And guess what you have to pay for it! The first time I ordered water her I was completely thrown off guard. One because I was expecting flat water but was given flavorless pop! Two because I was told that I had to pay for this water. So from now on when eating out I ask for tap water. But the servers give me strange looks. I just want free water for crying out loud! I am a college student. I need to save as much money as possible. It’s a shame, too, because the beer they sell is usually cheaper than the water.

Here in Germany, smokers are everywhere. Young, old, or middle-aged people can be found smoking in bundles. Where I come from smoking is not that common for the younger generation. I don’t even know anyone my age who smokes tobacco. It’s not unusual to see Germans sipping beer while smoking cigarettes.

Additionally, in Germany, one does have access to American media such as music and TV via the internet. Hulu and Pandora won’t work here because of certain licensing issues, issues that I can’t even begin to understand. I also can’t access certain YouTube videos that I can back at home for the same reasons. It has been a little frustrating because I have not had access to the music that I do back at home.

With all that being said, the Germans are also very bilingual like most of Europe. Here it is not uncommon for someone to speak up to six languages. One guy I met knows Russian, Spanish, English, German, and a little bit of French. Back at home, most people I know don’t even speak two. My goal is to know at least four languages someday.

Culture differences aside, I have had a great first week. My fellow colleagues and I have already learned so much in the short amount of time we have spent in class. I may not be able to hold a conversation in German, but I surely can order what I want at a restaurant. We also learned about the structure of sentences, and it was quite interesting. I am looking forward to what we will be learning next week!

 

First Day As A Real Astronomer

So there I was, sat in my teacher from Winter Semester’s office with my laptop out trying to quickly get up to speed on just what I was supposed to be doing. She’s telling me things to download and I’m trying to pay attention to everything she’s saying. After she gives me a list of things to download and stuff to work on for the week, I go up to the office and begin my working.

Still to this day, I can’t help but find it ironic that astronomers do everything here in the morning; I arrived at her office around 1pm like we planned and she asked if I was in the office previously. I was all like, “LOL, no. I just woke up like an hour ago.” Of course I didn’t say that (at first) and it’s really annoying how against being up late all the LSA people are. If it was my way, I’d start the day around 2pm and get done at 10 so I can then go out and do stuff and get a lot of sleep.

Anyway, I was working for several hours before I got really upset and asked my CS friends for help with my project because it had been about a semester since I last had to do any coding and it was rough relearning all the python and whatnot. After a few hours, I got 1/7 things from the project completed and I had watched a lot of youtube while doing so. I was thinking, “Man, I get paid to sit here and google how to code stuff while watching youtube. Now I just need to find a way to watch anime while working without feeling like I’m perpetuating the stereotype of an astronomer/physicist.

After ragequitting/going to play magic for Modern Monday, I did fairly well and went 3-1 and then went back to my friends to do some more coding. It was a great day.