Reflecting on my Summer Internship(s) | #5

I just arrived home in San Francisco in time for my birthday tomorrow! Although I have only been home for a couple of days, I have had the chance to reflect a little on my internships in Ann Arbor and Detroit that were made possible by the generosity of the LS&A Internship Scholarship donors.

In addition to my lab work, I shadowed Dr. Richard Santucci in the Department of Urology in Detroit. While the hour commute to Detroit was trying at times, by far the most challenging part of this internship was seeing the breadth of health issues that underserved patients in the greater Detroit area face. It was a stark juxtaposition to the patient population in Ann Arbor, and at times it was difficult for me to take a back seat and learn from my shadowing. I wanted to be able to do something for these patients right then and there!

I think this sentiment is one that is important to carry with me into my career as a future healthcare provider. It is equally as important for me to figure out ways to take a step back from these difficult interactions and try to treat patients as best I can and not let their tragedies take such an emotional toll on me.

As this is my final blog post, I want to thank all the generous donors and passionate directors of the LS&A Internship Scholarship. What an awesome summer!

Measuring Progress | 3

One of the most difficult aspects of my current position is determining the progress that I am making and have made over the past term. On one hand, it’s easy for me to look at where I am now and where I was two months ago and be despondent over the lack of results and data. I’m yet to see the results that we expect in my experiments, and have just recently found a reliable set of protocols for the work I am doing. Research carries no weight without data and quantitative conclusions, and I have not been able to obtain either of things yet.

However, as is often the case in academic and research settings, the final product I’m trying to produce is going to be the culmination of all of the failed experiments and wasted time that I have put into this project over the last two months, and even the last year. Every time an experiment failed, we’ve adjusted our plans and tried to improve the next time. In order to get the results we ultimately want, all of these failures were necessary and part of a very normal learning curve when projects are in progress and development. Often, I have found myself in a position where I have had to troubleshoot problems on my own, due to the fact that I am the only person in my lab who directly works on my project. This also means that I am essentially in charge of my own experimental design and schedule, which is typically a task reserved for graduate students, postdocs, and PIs.

Despite these setbacks and lacking results, I actually believe that I have made a tremendous amount of progress on my project over the past two months. At the beginning of this internship, I essentially lacked the skills necessary in order to make the project a success. There were countless skills, from microinjection to microscope operation to tissue dissection, that I was not familiar with. Over this term, I’ve been able to essentially master nearly all of the techniques that I will need in order to produce meaningful results moving forward. I’ve also become tremendously more knowledgeable in general biology techniques, which is an important skill for someone with my academic interests to have. In addition to all of this, I’ve been able to read a lot of recent research and background information on my field of research, which has enabled me to more effectively plan out experiments and predict future problems, as well as understand the quality of data and experimental results that are necessary for eventual publication.

Earlier this week, I was finally able to produce results that are worthy of some preliminary data analysis. Although I am nearing the end of my internship, having these results is extremely encouraging as it shows that all of the things I have learned and done over the duration have been leading to something that can be shown to my advisors as a definite sign of progress. I’m looking forward to my last couple of weeks of summer research and have high hopes for the future of this project.

First Day On The Job | #1

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This Monday was my first day on the job and I could not have been more excited and nervous all at once. Would I get lost on the way there? What types of tasks would my boss have me perform? Were there other interns working there as well? Was I underdressed? Overdressed? What if I missed my bus stop? These, along with other endless thoughts, are questions that raced through my mind as I made my way to the bus stop Monday at 7:30 AM.  Technically I was not due at the office until 9 AM that morning but if you have ever been in Washington DC, then you know that city traffic is not anything to take lightly. When the time finally arrived, I waited anxiously as the bus pulled up to my spot and I  like and official intern on the way to my job. I was so scared I would miss my stop to get off that I tracked the bus relative to my destination during the entire ride.  When I finally got to work, I had to first stop at the front desk for a name tag because the building I work in (Victor’s building) is exclusive only to registered workers. The fact that I would now be one of those workers made me feel special.

When I finally arrived at the suite I rang the door bell and one of my soon to be co-workers opened and greeted me very warmly. He is an expert in dealing with nervous interns so he assured me that there was nothing to worry about. As he gave me a tour of the office I started to become more at ease. Everyone was just as welcoming as Dave and invited me to be a part of their work environment. They seemed very impressed with me, and while I felt flattered, I was also confused as to why they were so impressed with me if they had yet to see me perform. It was not until I had settled into my desk that I realized that my boss had sent out a memo to the entire office with my resume attached. While I take pride in my accomplishments listed on my resume, I was also surprised that sending out my resume was such a normal thing to do. I felt that the office now held me up to high standards because they were aware of the fact that I was a high school valedictorian and had accomplished so much in such a little time.

As I settled into my new workspace, it began to dawn on me that I was going to be put to work relatively quick by the pace I felt going on around me. And, so it happened. Only fifteen minutes later, I was asked to sit in on the staff meeting and my boss told me to take notes. I had no idea of the terms they were talking about or the concepts, but I frantically wrote down everything I heard. As the day progressed, I was also asked to sit in on a conference call with the health care state leaders. I felt so official in such a setting. Everyone was friendly, yet they were getting so much done at the same time. I realized I would not be the “stereotypical intern” that gets coffee and makes copies. My new job would require a lot more thinking and skill than that. I realized that when I saw the agenda and noticed I was scheduled to sit in on a hearing the next day in the US Senate. At that moment I knew I was going to have a great summer. I could not wait to come in the next day!

Surprise Surprise! | #2

When accepting my internship with a congressional campaign, my head was full of the excitement and glamour that would surely accompany the campaign life. I imagined going to events, rallies, coffee hours, and meeting tons of people throughout my internship. While all of this has remained true to this day, there are still quite a few surprises I’ve encountered.

The biggest surprise came with the campaign structure. We have many different teams which function separately, but collaborate constantly. I am on the finance team, but others include political, field, communications, and events. At first, it seemed as if the teams were more like cliques and exclusive. But, after my first team meeting, that all seemed to change.

While each team has its own energy and silly inside jokes, everyone works together as a team. I’ve learned that almost everyone on the campaign has worked at least a few weeks in the finance department and everyone knocks doors at least once a week with the field department. I’ve even been recruited for some special projects with political!

The team really is a team! We have weekly team meetings where we break up into departments, but also discuss our progress as a whole and take time to reflect on our own personal lives for the week. I would have never guessed that even though every staffer or intern has their own job or duties, everyone really works together to collaborate and depend on each other.

To increase the inclusiveness of our campaign team, we have plenty of social activities and team walks. Sometimes our walks or “door knocking” can be daunting, but the campaign team makes them incredibly fun! After most of our team events, you will find us hanging out or grabbing food or ice cream.

For such a serious task, (getting a candidate elected), our team manages to work hard and play harder. I couldn’t have guessed that I would be having so much fun and making so many friends along the way!

Experiencing N Squared Time

As I come back now to this blog after several weeks of non-stop astronomy-ing (that’s not a word I know, fight me) I have finally experienced the toll that working in N squared time has on computers. For those who don’t know, N squared time is when something has through two loops to complete a task and the amount of time each run takes increases exponentially. If none of that made any sense, don’t worry, it’s pretty stupid tbh. But, imagine you have 100 apples at one end of a room and 2 baskets at the end of the room, one full with oranges and the other empty. Each time you start, pick an apple and eat it and then run to the other side of the room. Transfer the oranges over, run back, eat another apple, repeat until all apples are gone. That’s essentially what it’s like, and as you would naturally get tired/full, it takes more and more time to complete each cycle. Same goes with computers and for loops; except in my case it was like 225 apples and 20480 oranges.

I had always heard in EECS 183 that computer simulations take exponentially longer as more things have to be run, but I never experienced this with the relatively easy programming tasks that were given to us. However things slowly started to approach 20 minutes in some cases and that was quite frustrating/pleasing because then I got to just relax for a bit and wait. However, when there were problems with the data that was being outputted, it took another 20 minutes to fix it and that was really the only foreseeable problem with the past few weeks. Now I just have to survive Japanese at the same time as this internship…

頑張りましょう

Variety Show | #3

It’s been over a month since I started at Full Spectrum Features, and I’m now comfortably settled into my position as a producing intern — yet, I continue to learn more about the organization with each passing week.

A little bit about Full Spectrum: “Full Spectrum Features NFP is a Chicago-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to increasing diversity in the media arts by producing, exhibiting, and supporting the work of women, LGBTQ, and minority filmmakers. We also aim to educate the public about important social and cultural issues, utilizing the power of cinema to foster understanding in our communities.”(http://fullspectrumfeatures.com/contact/)

“So, how exactly do they do all that?” you might ask yourselves. Well, that’s exactly what I’ve been uncovering bit by bit as I work there.

During my first week, I was thrown into the promotional, logistical, and organizational chaos that is preparing for a premiere. To be specific, it was the Chicagoland Shorts premiere — a traveling anthology of films produced in Chicago. The series is curated to give minority voices a platform to share their work outside of mainstream media (which we all know doesn’t exactly provide for that). After littering every coffee shop, theater, and campus in Chicago with flyers detailing the date and time of the premiere, selling tickets, and helping coordinate the after party, the premiere sold out.

After getting to watch the collection myself for the first time, I understood why. Before that night, I’d never seen such an impressive range of content — from dance films to evocative experimental pieces — that highlighted the variety of experiences and talents of artists and people that don’t get exposure in mainstream media.

Working with Full Spectrum to bring these talented filmmakers’ works to larger audiences has been eye opening. I’ve realized that I often take for granted the kind of media that I and many like myself consume on a daily basis, without thinking twice; but, there’s so much more out there. Though the world around us is changing, our representations of it are a little slower to adapt, and that’s where Full Spectrum Features comes in.

But their work doesn’t end there. The staff has been working tirelessly to continue finding theaters to screen the collection at and to distribute DVDs of both last year’s and this year’s volumes — all while preparing for next year’s. Just when it feels like we’ve completed one job, we’re already thinking ahead to the next one.

Not to mention, we have to balance the various other projects we work on simultaneously — like developing short and feature length scripts into productions (that need to be subsidized by grants and donations and budgeted for accordingly), creating programs to educate youth, and more.

Though I was initially surprised by my own assumptions about the world of filmmaking after experiencing the exhibition of work I would have never been exposed to before Full Spectrum, I’m excited to continue reshaping my perspective through all the different (and unexpected) ways Full Spectrum establishes new concepts about the medium.

Phone Calls, Faxes and Mail

I have been on the Hill for a month now and it has been fantastic. Just being here exposes you to so many people, organizations, opportunities, briefings etc. This is an experience that I would recommend to anyone even slightly interested in politics. In fact, one of the interns here is a finance and theater major.

However, with the good comes the bad. As an intern, there is a lot of phone calls that you are responsible for answering. You also have to enter and respond to letters from constituents. The most mind-numbing thing we do here is enter faxes into a central system. Most constituents never write their representative. In fact, most receive letters from outside organizations then simply sign them and send them to us. So, we get many letters that contain the same content. This gets annoying simply because you are not reading original works.

There are plenty of opportunities though. I attended the Congressional Baseball game, played in the annual Senator Coats and Donnelly softball game. I have had a random lunch with a congressman, heard dozens of representatives talk and attended briefings or luncheons.

While the work can be repetitive and boring, the opportunities to meet people and learn the legislative process is priceless, kind of. I would recommend trying to get a paid internship, but unpaid isn’t so bad. The University of Michigan LSA really helped me in the process and with a scholarship. Living in DC is amazing and I have already met so many cool people. I truly hope young people are able to continue interning here in DC.

Once Upon a Gecko (Blog #2)

Well, what a past couple of weeks it has been!

2 weeks ago (week of June 13th), we were able to put the final touches on our survey and meet with the various clinics that we will be collecting data from, GAEC (Ghana Atomic Energy Commission…yes, it is a clinic) and Taifa. They are both in the Greater Accra area, most specifically the Ga-East district. I expect to hear quite different accounts from women in terms of their facility-based delivery experiences at the government clinics versus the university clinic we pilot tested, as there is a marked difference in quality. I really liked the staff at Taifa! When we first introduced ourselves to one of the officials, she asked me right away if I was a Nigerian. I asked her how she knew, because honestly my last name doesn’t actually sound all that Igbo (in my opinion). But she said she could tell by my last name! Not gonna lie, that felt kind of good to be known like that. Our translator, Mavis, is also super nice. We exchanged WhatsApp information and she always says good morning or evening and asks how Izabella and I are doing. She also often asks us what we had for dinner (I’ve noticed a lot of people do that here–I guess it’s typical!). She’s also hilarious. Her and another worker at Taifa, Bismarck, were joking around with us saying that we need to learn more Twi. The taught me the Twi words to use when negotiating a taxi (Teso-which means reduce the price). By the way, when I told my friend Rhoda (who is Ghanaian) that one of the first words besides hello, yes, or no, was “reduce the price” she KNEW the hustle was real. Taxi drivers hear the “accent” and wanna charge somebody an arm and a leg. Daabi, daabi! We will start actual data collection this week, so I am excited for that. Izabella and I printed about 50 paper copies of our 12-page survey and it took about 2 hours because the front-and-back printing had to be done manually.

Furthermore, on Tuesday, we went back to our “favorite” restaurant in Accra–BUKA! Our Michigan friends staying at Korle Bu invited people from Brown University’s MHIRT program as well as a grad-student at UC Berkeley. Izabella and I also invited friends that we met that are staying at the University of Ghana and are from Princeton. Oh, yeah, I should probably describe how I met them…it’s kind of a funny story…and also the inspiration for this post’s title!

SO, I was literally about to go to sleep. Like, about-to-put-on-my-headscarf-and-turn-off-the-lights kind of sleep! Suddenly, I see a small brown gecko jump out of the cushion in the armchair I have in my room. I could not believe my eyes, and you already know I wasn’t about to be able to sleep after such as sight! What if it climbed under my bed? What if it climbed under my pillow and would crawl on my face while I slept? Oh no no NO, those are not chances I want to take! I told Izabella, and I’m pretty sure she thought I was hallucinating. I can’t make up this stuff for my health! So we tried to look for it, and she gave me one of her giant Ziploc bags to try and grab it, to no avail (partially because I was shaking and we were both freaking out). I also tried looking under my bed. No sight of the restive reptile. But, I knew it had to still be around, and because of that I couldn’t sleep. I told Izabella I was going to try to find someone around the hostel who was awake and could help–the desperation was real…I needed to SLEEP.

I went to the upper floor and saw three people hanging out on the staircase. Two guys, one girl. They seemed nice, so I explained the situation to them. The two guys were down to help, and the girl came along just to watch and laugh. We brought the armchair OUT of the room and into the hallway (’cause if that thing scurries away, it better not scurry around my room) and the each tried to grab it. One of the guys almost got it, but then the gecko dissapeared back into the couch. The couch is dark, and it was also dark outside, so we couldn’t really see it again. I appreciated the help, though. After that, we just talked with them and found out they were from Princeton here for study abroad and that their names were Carrington, Stefan, and Chidinma (I knew as soon as she said her name was Chidinma that she was Igbo…yasss #IgboPride). They were super cool, funny, and down to earth so we invited them to a group dinner we were going to at Buka the following day. I guess we can thank the little gecko for Izabella and I being able to meet them!

Dinner at Buka was a lot of fun–we had a table of around 15! It’s amazing how many people we’ve been able to meet in our time here–people from the states and all over Africa alike. Just two Fridays ago, we had a party of around 13 at a nice outdoor restaurant in East Legon called Coco Vanilla. The people from Brown/UC Berk are pretty cool, and I see us hanging out with them more! Afterward, we went to Republic where there was karaoke going on. There were a lot of people from the Princeton program there, and we met a student named Blay who is teaching 17-18 year olds in a town in Ghana who have limited access to education. He seemed extremely passionate about the work he is doing, which was so nice to see. I didn’t partake in karaoke, but don’t think I wasn’t tempted to whip out my famous rendition of “Fergalicious”. It would have been my third time gracing the stage with the song (yes, I’ve done it twice in karaoke). I’ll get there at some point!

On Thursday, we invited friends from Princeton (Chidinma, as well as new friends Elena and Sophia) and our friends from Brown/UC Berk, plus Kofi from Korle Bu to a wonderful restaurant in airport city called Coco Lounge. It was a grand-ole time! Every Thursday, they give out free shots to all of the patrons (hey, don’t worry folks, it has a VERY low concentration of alcohol and is mixed with hibiscus juice. It honestly tasted more like juice. Plus, drinking age is about 18 (but I don’t really think anyone under that age would get turned away). Unfortunately, because we got there a bit late, they didn’t have enough for everyone at our table (because of course we were again a huge party–about 15 or so). That didn’t stop us from having fun, as most of us joined the conga line that was going on throughout the restaurant!

On Friday evening, we went to Shisha lounge and had some great pizza and met up with our new friend Nathan and some of his friends. Of course, their pizza was great. Afterwards, we went to a beachside bar called Sandbox. It was so beautiful! I wish I could have taken pictures, but it was night-time so they wouldn’t have come out well. It was surreal to hear the crashing of the waves as we sat in a beachside booth with ambient blue lighting, talking about everything from college to politics to race with a friend named Kwabena. It was interesting when one of the people in our group posed the question to Kwabena as to whether or not he believes that Ghana has a middle class.  In many areas, it seems as though there is not one. You see extremely well dressed people driving private cars, and then you see extreme poverty. However, he noticed that there have been many recent developments that show that a middle class is emerging, if not already present. Well attended shopping malls  are scattered throughout town boasting varieties of eateries, electronic shops, and boutiques. More and  more restaurants have also popped up. I’m interested in picking the brains of other Ghanaians as well to see what they think on that matter. After we were at Sandbox, we hit up Club Twist, suggested to us by a friend. They were a bit strict on the dress code, as it was almost an issue that I didn’t have heels (Hey, they are uncomfortable!!)

The following morning, yes, the following morning…14 of us went to the Volta Region to visit the Wli falls and the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary. It was about a 4 hour drive, but it was quite enjoyable to get to know the people from Brown/UC Berk a little better as well as a student from Morehouse University. I was surprised by how fast we got to Tema, and that for much of the ride the roads were well-paved. I kid you not–many roads were MUCH better than roads in Michigan. However, the minute you went into unpaved territory, the aforementioned statement becomes null and void. Deep pot-holes jostle your whole body like a ragdoll. Any hope of taking a nap is dashed, as a crater-like pothole will knock one out of even the deepest of slumber. Still, the conversation we enjoyed as a group kept me energized despite the bumpy ride and the lack of sleep (and hope of sleep).

Admiring nature (from afar)

Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary was an otherworldly experience. Seeing monkeys roam freely about made me feel like I stepped right into a National Geographic magazine. Their agility and precision as they climbed from branch to branch was impeccable. I just didn’t want any of them jumping on me. Anyone who knows me, knows that I can appreciate animals…but from a distance…a substantial distance. Once they jump/climb on me/invade my personal space…it’s game over. At any rate, many people in our group lured the monkeys with bananas to have them jump on their arms. The monkeys then (almost aggressively) would devour the bananas, all while making for a good ole photo op. I stayed back and watched, because…yeah personal space invasion. As we walked the trail and heard the story from our tour guide about the importance of these monkeys and how they are held sacred, someone in our group pointed out that there was stardom in this same forest. John Dumelo–famous Ghanaian actor–was there! He was flying drones with some people (which actually was frightening for the monkeys). But hey, at least I can say I’ve seen a famous Ghanaian while on my trip! Not too shabby.

Can’t see me, but the background is gorg!

Later, we were on our way to Wli (pronounced Vlee) falls. It’s the biggest waterfall in West Africa and it was actually breathtakingly beautiful. It was a decent walk, but the view was certainly worth it. All of us took off our shoes to take pictures in front of the waterfalls. Although the water may look dirty in pictures, it was quite clear actually. The “color” seemed to have come from the color of the rocks. A serene sense of peace overcomes me as I relish in the memory. There truly is nothing like being amidst nature. Something that was interesting is that a lot of locals wanted to take pictures with people in our group, almost like paparazzi. I wonder if this is how they feel. It was slightly uncomfortable to be honest.

Some of the squad!

All in all, this was all about two weeks ago. It was quite an eventful, jam-packed week to say the very least. Making around 11 new friends in a tiny amount of time …I’d say Ghana has been quite the horizon-opening experience.

**Just this past weekend we had a short weekend trip to the vibrant city of Kumasi, which I will talk about in greater detail in another post. For now, stay tuned–and thanks so much for reading ❤

Favorite Experience | #2

My favorite experience as an intern for Scout Media so far has been the daily conference call that occurs each morning. The call consists of all of the interns (both on-site and off-site) and a few of the site’s editors and supervisors. Each intern has the opportunity to pitch article ideas on the call. The editors offer feedback and the interns also interact and collaborate to make the most out of the day’s sports topics.

This has been useful for a couple of reasons. First, it allows the off-site interns (like myself) to work together with each other and with the on-site interns. This has helped me make some connections even without the benefit of face-to-face interaction. Second, it allows all of the interns to receive constructive criticism about content and ideas. It has been extremely valuable learning from people who have experience in the field about which topics are worth covering and which ones should be left alone.

The daily conference call isn’t necessarily essential since we use an online messaging site to communicate throughout the day, but it helps create an interactive environment that is difficult to create when there are interns checking in from all over the country. I look forward to it every morning!

Favorite Experience (so far….) | #2

Being new to a team of engineers can be a bit difficult. Sometimes you don’t know all the buzzwords or the myriad amounts of acronyms that everyone uses. But, then you get assigned a buddy or a mentor. Finally! All your questions and confusion can be answered! Being assigned a buddy at my internship gave me that person I can ask about anything with. Even if it is just, what should I do or where should I go to eat this weekend? I was extremely blessed to be paired up with my new work buddy Sandhya- an established programmer with a great sense of humor and undeniable talent of being able to explain specifics of waveforms in a way that anyone could understand.

Even though I was assigned a mentor, I thought, I better not limit myself to gain knowledge from all of the other engineers in the office- I just have to meet them all. Luckily for me, during my second week on the job, we had Harris Day of Caring. A day where, instead of going to work, our whole team went to a local park near the beach to do some “gardening” for the park rangers. This actually included digging out a large area of an invasive plant that was growing in the park. (And yes, a bunch of computer scientists and engineers doing physical labor is exactly what you picture it to be.) But, what a better way to meet people than pulling out weeds with them right?! This gave me the opportunity to really speak to the other engineers that weren’t necessarily on my team without bothering them during their workday. Even though we did get a bit of the southern Florida afternoon rain, our community service allowed me to build character and better relationships with my co-worker.

To wrap up this thought about one of my favorite experiences so far, building connections with other people is extremely important and rewarding. Not just the people you are directly connected with and spend a lot of time with each day or are assigned as a mentor, but everyone and anyone you have access to. Going with that, utilize these connections. Professionals love answering questions so I have been building up my notepad to fire away at any chance I have hoping for some diverse and creative answers!