A Postcard From: Akili Davis ’20

Name: Akili Davis
Class Year: 2020
Major: Sociology
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.

Internship Placement: Till Arts Project
Job Title: Gallery Assistant
Location: Philadelphia

What’s happening at your internship?

My role is really dependent on the day. My boss makes sure that I see all sides of the arts field, so they make sure to have me complete lots of different tasks! One of my favorite things to do is help artists set up their exhibits. A few weeks ago, I was able to help curate an interactive exhibit. I’ve also been networking around the city in meetings we set up so I could meet people in different areas of art in Philadelphia.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I love working in intimate spaces, and my internship site is a grassroots organization headed up by one person. My boss is a former Bryn Mawr McBride, and they are very knowledgeable about so many different fields. I was interested in working for them because they see things from a social science lens, just like me, because they were an anthropology major. I also wanted opportunities to meet people in the city because I am confident that I want to stay in Philadelphia after graduation.

Living in a new city? What has that experience been like for you?

I absolutely love Philadelphia. This was the first time I had actually lived in the city, and every moment of it was great. I love being in the center of everything that is happening, and West Philadelphia is such a cute neighborhood. There are always lots of people around, and I love exploring new neighborhoods I never had a chance to see while out at Bryn Mawr.

Can you give us three adjectives and three nouns that describe your internship experience?

Adjectives: Inquisitive, trying, joyful
Nouns: SEPTA, snacks, sewing machines!

A Postcard From: Viktoriia Borodina ’21


A typical FACS analysis procedure.

Name: Viktoriia Borodina
Class Year: 2021
Major: Biology (prospective)
Hometown: Novosibirsk, Russia

Internship Location: Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Title: Research Intern
City: St. Louis, Mo.

This summer, I was privileged to be selected for the Leah Menshouse Springer Summer Opportunities Program that allows undergraduate students to pursue research in various biomedical fields. I was assigned to work at the Dr. Pachynski’s lab that is focused on cancer immunotherapy research.

As a part of the internship, I had a chance to develop and work on an independent research project which was also focused on cancer immunotherapy investigations. Specifically, I investigated whether the CMKLR1 receptor (chemokine-like receptor for which chemerin serves as a ligand) may be induced on T-cells and NK-depleted splenocytes in the presence of various factors present in the tumor microenvironment. The field of cancer immunotherapy has been rapidly developing in the past decade, as it allows to use patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Some of my daily responsibilities included obtaining splenocytes and isolating various immune cells from mice to plate in various factors, stain with fluorescent antibodies and analyze those cells later on.

I applied for this internship to gain first-hand research experience in the area of medical research. Further, I have worked on various immunology research projects in Spain before, and was thrilled to apply these skills to the oncology research.

My biggest challenge was working independently in the laboratory – while I had research experience before, I always had a research supervisor closely working with me. This time, however, I had a chance to develop and carry out a research project in a new area for me. While working with various reagents and equipment on my own was challenging at first, this experience had truly made me a better scientist.

Dr. Pachynski’s Lab group photo.

The skills I learned at the lab are much more universal than I have expected them to be. While I have learned the basic molecular biology and immunology laboratory techniques, there were many other skills that are easily applied outside of laboratory. I have frequently used data analysis software for large amounts of data, as well as enhanced my knowledge and proficiency in the Office apps and online research. Besides, developing a project allowed me to develop critical thinking, persistence and being comfortable with risk.

Working in a hood.

A Postcard From: Linghan Mei ’19

Name: Linghan Mei
Class Year: 2019
Major: Biology and German
Hometown: Urumqi, China

This summer I worked in a transporter biology lab at the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. I applied to this internship because I had hoped to experience biomedical research in a slightly different capacity after working in the Brodfuehrer Lab in the Biology Department on campus for a whole year. It was a refreshing change of scenery living in the Midwest, and working in a large medical center provided me with excellent mentorship and opportunities to attend lectures given by top-notch clinicians and researchers.

Working in a lab where the mentors have less pedagogical responsibilities is interesting since everyone in the lab is fully devoted to pushing the research progress forward. This was initially challenging to me as the pace at work can seem very stressful, and it’s not uncommon to have a full house in lab even on weekends. Nevertheless, my mentors provided us a conducive environment for learning. My peers and I were required to present on our individual progress every week at lab meeting and participate in seminars given in the department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering. I was encouraged to question the approaches that we used in the project and think critically about the strengths and limitations of different approaches. I also attended weekly mini-lectures on physiology of the kidney and urinary system which gave me a taste of the density of lectures in graduate school.

What I enjoy the most was working with both young and experienced researchers with diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. I was drawn to engineering because of its ability to translate knowledge into solution and this process of translation takes expertise in almost all the fundamental sciences. The effective integration of different ways of thinking always proves to be the key to success.

The graduate school played an important role in supporting us by organizing various panels and networking events that connected us with clinicians, researchers, and graduate students of diverse backgrounds. As a rising senior, their great advice and fascinating stories helped me put things into perspective and feel more confident and assured about my career path.

A Postcard From: Sophie Webb ’19

Name: Sophie Webb
Class Year: 2019
Major: Sociology
Hometown: Durham, N.H.

Internship Placement: HeadCount
Title: Music and Politics Intern
Location: New York, N.Y.

My internship at HeadCount is a nice combination of work in the office and work in the field. HeadCount is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that sends volunteers to concerts, festivals, and community events. I spend Monday through Friday at the HeadCount office in midtown, and attend concerts on the weekends. Occasionally I go away for a long weekend to a music festival to register voters. I was able to attend the Bonnaroo music festival, the Peach Music Festival, the Newport Folk Festival, and the Lockn’ Music Festival.

At the field events, I spend my time engaging concert goers by registering them to vote or getting them signed up for election alerts. I’ve met a lot of cool people through this, both fellow volunteers, and people registering to vote! At the office, I process the voter registration forms and send them to the appropriate states, assist with artist relations, and basically do anything that is helpful!

I happened upon this internship randomly when I was searching for music industry internships online. When I read the description, I knew I immediately wanted to apply because it is a marriage of two of my passions, music and activism. The internship seemed like it would offer me the perfect mixture of fun and work, while allowing me the opportunity to engage in work that was meaningful.

My favorite part of the internship has been all the amazing people that I have met and gotten to work with. Everybody that I work with at HeadCount has been incredibly welcoming and kind. I felt respected as an important aspect of the team, even though I was just an intern. I feel like this summer has expanded my entire world, and it feels incredible to have so many new friends and connections.

Living in a large metropolitan area for the first time in my life was a bit nerve-wracking but ended up being amazing. It was really fun and empowering to learn my neighborhood and start to feel a little bit like a New Yorker! I got extremely lucky with my roommates and apartment, and that made all the difference! Getting to experience the city this summer has made me realize that living in the city after I graduate is something that I may be interested in pursuing.

A Postcard From: Zainab Batool ’21

Name: Zainab Batool
Class Year: 2021
Major: Physics
Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan

Internship Placement: Photonics Center, Boston University
Job Title: Undergraduate Researcher
Location: Boston

I worked as an undergraduate researcher at the Photonics Center, Boston University, from May 21 to July 30. The project I worked on is under the domain of CELL-MET funded by an NSF grant and involves assembling high-resolution magnetometers. The aim of the project is to then use these magnetometers in cardiac disease detection as they were able to detect micro magnetic fields produced by organs in the human body, as well to create functionalized fabricated heart tissue patches (“heart on a chip” technology). It is not only interesting due to the various techniques involved but also because of its relevance to human needs where millions of people worldwide suffer from cardiac diseases such as heart arrhythmias.

My tasks included assembling these magnetometers by modifying a cheap, widely available accelerometer produced commercially and then further characterizing it. I also had to give bi-weekly presentations on research papers printed in many different physics/engineering fields.

I and other undergraduate researchers at the center also had different meetings and activities during the week, some of which involved nanofabrication sessions in which we prepared gold plated silicon wafers as well as talks on entrepreneurship and resume building, among other things.

I applied for the Bryn Mawr Summer Science Research program to work under the supervision of Professor Xuemei Cheng from the Physics Department and expressed an interest in biophysics in my interaction with her. When I got into the program she suggested the opportunity for me to work at Boston University and I jumped at the chance to not only work at such a top-notch research university but also to be able to experience life in Boston for a full 10 weeks!

Apart from all the academic takeaways of this summer I also fell in love with Boston during this time. It seemed to me the perfect mix of busy and happening and yet also peaceful. The best thing about the city is how expansive it is in terms of what it has on offer — all you need to do is take the “T” and you are free to go on a “duck tour” or try out Turkish cuisine or just head over to the beautiful Boston Public Library.

The most rewarding aspect of the entire summer for me was the ability to live independently — I was surprised how good I was at “adulting.” From cooking my own food to taking care of the apartment I lived in to silly roommate spats, it wasn’t as hard as I had expected it to be.

My internship can be summed up well with the adjectives independent, busy and educational, while the nouns that pop into my head for it are lots of reading (and then some more), magnets and microscopes.

A Postcard From: Joy Rukanzakanza ’19

Name: Joy Rukanzakanza
Class Year: 2019
Major: International Studies
Hometown: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Internship: BlackRock Inc.
Title: Aladdin Client Services Intern
Location: New York, Summer 2019

When I received my internship offer from BlackRock last fall, I had mixed emotions. I was ecstatic for a golden opportunity to engage a firm which is the world’s largest in the asset management industry, given my non-traditional academic background. However, my emotions were vacillating owing to this overwhelming inherent fear of failure. I would have to move to one of the most expensive cities in the world, get affordable housing, figure out my way around the city and find a group of friends to ensure I keep my sanity during the summer. All of this was worsened by the fact that I am not a finance major, neither am I an economics guru nor a computer science student and here I was, about to pursue a 10-week program at a Wall Street firm with a role that integrated my Achilles heels — finance and technology.

It wasn’t until my internship commenced that I realized that no amount of preparation could have readied me for the summer, because even if one had vast backgrounds in both finance and technology, BlackRock was still a new company with different subject matters and different ways of tackling different challenges. The first two weeks were extremely challenging because we underwent intensive coding drill sessions, which exposed me to so many new ways of solving problems and still enlightened me on how much I did not know — which meant sleepless study nights during the summer.  Instead of that demoralizing me, it prompted me to develop strategies on how to be an excellent performer despite having minimal resources and background knowledge. I found myself strategically devising ways of not only being a good fit for the role but of making the role a good fit for me as well.

At the BlackRock Office — New York.

I looked no further than my major. Being an International Studies major meant that I had enjoyed the benefits of pursuing a plethora of disciplines in the social sciences field — from studying ethnography in anthropology to learning about the impact of power struggles in political science. This course load helped me develop a holistic view of the world, shape different patterns of thought around issues that affect us on a daily and consolidated my presentation and teamwork capabilities since there were group presentations on almost every course I took. I therefore applied my presentation skills which were constantly sculpted during my academic career at Bryn Mawr during the internship, which worked in my favor since group presentations formed the core of my internship experience. As an intern in the Aladdin Client Services (ACS) division, a role which requires one to constantly communicate with clients and tackle challenging problems with the most professional demeanor, applying that skillset helped set a solid foundation for success during the summer.

Apart from learning about the business of the firm, the internship proffered me opportunities to establish professional and social networks through avenues such as coffee chats, firm-wide social events and volunteering opportunities. Most importantly, I was honored to be part of an organization that not only cares about delivering high-quality service to its clients, but also cares about the communities those clients come from as well. It is such principles, coupled with a fulfilling summer experience, that therefore aided my decision to return to BlackRock for a full-time opportunity next year.

Community Service Day — Governor’s Island.

With some of my intern friends at the firm-wide social event — Boat Basin.

That joyful moment when you have just finished your capstone project presentation.

A Postcard From: Jasmine Mirfattah ’19

Before I tell you about what I did this summer, let me ask you a question: have you heard of “Where’s Waldo”?

Okay, so for those of you who haven’ t, it’s a children’s book where you have to find this dude named Waldo in an image of a crowded scene.

The reason why I brought up Where’s Waldo is because trying to find him can be just as difficult to find as a white-fingered mud crab, which is native to the Chesapeake Bay and what I spent a lot of time working with this summer while I was interning at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

The work I did for my independent project at SERC revolved around the Chesapeake Bay Parasite Project, which is a long-term study that takes population data on these mud crabs as well as various other organisms; the way that it works is that we take collectors filled with oyster shells and deploy them in various locations around the Chesapeake Bay and, after 2 months, retrieve, dump the contents onto a screen and place all the crabs into a bottle. And they can be very difficult to see, as they can range in size from the size of a bottle cap to as small as a tick. Also, it is important to note that there are a total of 72 of these collectors in five different estuaries, with 10 locations in each one, with one to two collectors at each location. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of crabs.

The only way we would be able to complete this every year in a timely manner is with volunteers, or as we like to call them, citizen scientists! We have people work in teams to collectively find and collect all the crabs. However, a big concern that comes to mind when working with volunteers is their data quality, which is a recurring and understandable concern. These data that the citizen scientists collect are used for real science research, so it is important that they do it systematically and thoroughly. Because of this, after each team is finished sorting, we have them switch screens and verify another team’s collector to find any missing crabs, which then becomes the original team’s error rate.

Thus, the main question that is often asked, and the question that I tried to answer with all this information, is whether different groups of people collect data differently. And to answer that question, we needed to have information on the people that participated in the project; since 2015, volunteers are asked to fill out a voluntary survey that gives information like the person’s age, level of education, profession and experience in this or related projects as well as an informed consent agreement that allows us to use that information in this study. With that information, the volunteers can then be appropriately grouped by their various demographics. I have since take that data and integrated it with the crab data to create a database using the programming language, R, to do statistical analysis on their data quality. Now that the database is complete, the actual analysis can begin; in the coming months, I will do this analysis to hopefully answer our main question and related questions of volunteer demographics and data quality.

A Postcard From: Amanda Xifaras ’20

Name: Amanda Xifaras
Class Year: 2020
Major: Growth and Structure of Cities
Hometown: Mansfield, Mass. 

Internship Placement: Philly Office Retail
Job Title: Real Estate Development Internship
Location: Philadelphia

What’s happening at your internship?

At my internship I worked on a variety of tasks while working for different departments of Philly Office Retail, including working for the Jumpstart Germantown Program and working with the CFO on accounting projects. While working on the Jumpstart Germantown Program, I performed loan underwriting of 25 loans, maintaining internal client databases and communicating with clients as well as facilitating site visits, settlements and draw requests. While working with the CFO, I was responsible for preparing payoff statement invoices and bank reconciliations as well as maintaining financial records in QuickBooks. In addition to working on the program and with the CFO, I conducted research on President Ken Weinstein’s properties in Germantown to reduce taxes, to request zoning changes, and to apply for grants to eliminate brownfields. I also shadowed the president in various meetings both in the office and onsite with lawyers, clients and other real estate professionals as well as attending variance and historic preservation court hearings.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied to this internship because I am passionate about real estate and wanted to learn more about real estate development. I’m trying to find my niche within real estate and getting work experience through internships are the best way to do so. What I liked about Philly Office Retail is that it does progressive real estate development. They try to build wealth within low-income areas through their Jumpstart Germantown Program.

Living in a new city? What has that experience been like for you?

Living in Philadelphia has been wonderful. I lived in West Philadelphia near Penn’s campus. Having a 9-to-5 schedule everyday gave me a taste of work life after college. Completely living on my own meant that I was responsible for cooking all of my meals, shopping and cleaning up after myself, which took planning in advance in order to fit everything that I had to do into my schedule. In addition, having to figure and rely on public transportation was something else to consider while planning my day. I feel that I have really increased my time-management skills this summer. I definitely feel that I have developed and matured because of my internship experience.

What is most rewarding about your internship?

The most rewarding part about my internship was all of the impacts that were made. I was proud to work for a company that invested $10 million into revitalizing Germantown. Through the Jumpstart Germantown Program, over 90 loans were granted by Philly Office Retail to first-time real estate developers who used the loans to revitalized over 90 properties in Germantown. Over the summer, I worked on 25 of these loans. When properties were first purchased, I went on initial inspections with the president. Throughout the renovation process, I would go on draw inspections with the project manager and see each property develop. Being able to see the change within Germantown was especially rewarding.

A Postcard From: Ellen Wright ’19

Name: Ellen Wright
Class Year: 2019
Major: Sociology
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.

Internship Placement: Global Fund for Children
Job Title: Intern
Location: Washington, D.C.

My project supervisor Kim approached my fellow Bryn Mawr intern Meagan and I a few weeks into our internships about us facilitating parts of the Latin America and Caribbean team’s annual retreat. She explained that the goal of the retreat was for the four members of the LAC team to assess what their priorities would be for the coming 19th fiscal year of Global Fund for Children, and us serving as facilitators would not only give us a chance to involve ourselves but also allow her a chance to focus on participating in the meetings. Meagan and I were both happy to opt in, and to raid the office supply room for markers and sticky notes.

Meagan and I were placed in charge of facilitating three sections of the week-long retreat—the after-action review of the Novo Migration project, as well as the issue and country prioritization sessions.

For the after-action review, all staff were invited to participate in an assessment of how the work was going as GFC entered the second year of the three-year project. The Novo Migration project represents one of the latest pieces of GFC’s developing mission and model. Since its founding in 1997 by Bryn Mawr alum Maya Ajmera, GFC has been a grant-making institution funding nascent grassroots organizations dedicated to a range of topics relating to children and youth, from encouraging children’s development through sports to helping survivors of child trafficking. The Novo Migration project, however, would be one of the first efforts of GFC to combat challenges at a structural level, by building a cohort of partners all dedicated to a single goal of serving adolescent migrant girls. This meeting was an opportunity for GFC to reflect on what had gone well, and what could be improved as similar projects roll out.

It was exciting as a sociology major to witness GFC not only consider the larger systemic issues confronting adolescent migrant girls in addition to addressing their immediate needs, but also evolve their grant-making to thinking of affecting greater structural change with more advocacy-focused work. This type of structural-based thinking was echoed in the issue and country prioritization sessions Meagan and I led.

During the retreat, the team identified LGBT+ youth in the LAC region as a target population they wanted to prioritize, and as an intern I had the opportunity to draft the Issue Strategy Report which will eventually be realized as the latest cohort organized by GFC. As a sociology major concerned with developing intentional programs designed to address larger social change, I helped to locate potential partners and identify both the challenges confronting LGBT+ youth in the LAC region as well as the responses we hoped to see from the grassroots-level. I had applied for the internship at GFC because I believed strongly in focusing change around the grassroots-level, and getting to be a part of their next project on a topic I care deeply about was an unbelievable experience.

Learn more about Bryn Mawr’s Department of Sociology and LILAC Internship Partners.

A Postcard From: Valeria Aguilera Avila ’20

The day I landed in Santiago, Chile, was the moment I realized what REAL jet lag felt like. Sitting in a plane for more than nine hours in one position is pretty intense, but so worth the trip. My name is Valeria Aguilera Avila, I am a junior sociology major at Bryn Mawr College and I went to Santiago, Chile, for a two-month long summer internship!

My internship was focused on creating a better business for Chilean women who work in the informal economy. My supervisor, Professor Karin Berlien, is one of the co-heads of the PRODEMU nonprofit organization focused on women’s rights and equality in Latin America. I worked with a small group of 12 women who enrolled in this program in order to learn strategies to improve their business, especially since they came from low-income backgrounds and live in a developing country. As an intern my duties were:

  • Attend and take notes for each class the PRODEMU women had at the Universidad de Valparaíso (Campus Santiago)
  • Read feminist papers about the informal economy in Chile
  • Help facilitate activities and discussion with the PRODEMU women
  • Conduct research on feminist economics in Latin America

Although my internship was full of great opportunities, there was a downside. The University of Valparaíso was actually on strike, along with several other Chilean universities, for women’s equality. The feminist movement is taking a stance against patriarchal forces in their institutions. The women in the university took a stance against the president of the college due to some sexual assault accusations from students. They hung up several banners around the campus and chairs covered the entrances. Due to this, the number of meetings with the PRODEMU women were cut. Even though this made my internship site inaccessible, the significance of the strikes empowered me to feel thankful that I was allowed to be a part of this movement in a slight way. (The picture reads: CAUTION! MACHISMO KILLS)

In addition, the IES Program was part of the reason why I had such a great time in Santiago because they introduced the students to the active social scene in Santiago. Some of the things we explored were Cerro San Cristobal, a hill many people hike up in order to visit the statue of Santa Maria; another was Barrio Bellavista, a night and day time socially inclined town where people eat, drink, and dine. Furthermore, I also took a seminar course at the IES center that helped me gain some cross-cultural analysis strategies to understand, compare, and contrast United States culture to the one in Chile.

Being given this opportunity to work in a different country has been such a fulfilling experience because I got to explore a different culture and immerse myself into an internship that captured my academic interests. I am beyond thankful that Bryn Mawr College gave me the opportunity to travel and broaden my experiences and do some hands-on work related to my interests in Latin American studies with this internship!