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: 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: 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!

A Postcard From: Catherine Tsai ’20

Name: Catherine Tsai
Class Year: 2020
Major: Biology
Hometown: Wayne, N.J.

Internship Placement: University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Job Title: Research Assistant
Location: Philadelphia

What’s happening at your internship?

I am working in a skin cancer biology lab in the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of medicine. I am currently working with another member of the lab to investigate the role of BTG2, a gene that might play tumor suppressing roles in cancer. The BTG2 gene has not been studied in skin or melanoma, and the mechanisms by which it suppresses tumors are relatively unknown. We are using our findings about the functional role of BTG2 that we collected from in vitro experiments to guide more medically relevant experiments in vivo using mouse models. I am also working on improving 3-dimensional human engineered skin tissue grafts so they can be grafted onto host mice. We plan on engineering the grafts so that some of them will either have BTG2 overexpressed or knocked down. Hopefully this will help us further define the roles for BTG2.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship in order to gain more research experience in the biomedical field. I am planning on either going to medical school or taking up a career in research. Dermatology is the field that I am interested in if I decide to go into either field, which is why I choose this particular lab.

Was there anything special about how you found this internship?

Last semester I had trouble finding research in the biomedical field, especially in an area as specific as dermatology. I didn’t think I’d go as far as contacting a lab outside of the Tri-Co to do off-campus research during the semester, but I’m very glad that I was able to join this lab, and that they are allowing me to work with them for the next couple of years.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

My favorite part of this internship is being able to work in the lab day to day. Last semester, I was only able to come in about twice a week. It is much easier to stay up to date with everything that goes on in the lab now that I am here all the time. I have gotten to know the lab members a lot more, and have been able to get more involved in the projects that are going on.






A Postcard From: Esther Kim ’20

Name: Esther Kim
Class Year: 2020
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Gwangju, South Korea and Singapore
Internship Placement: Lewis Katz, Temple University School of Medicine; Shriners Pediatrics Hospital Research Center
Location: Philadelphia

How did you get connected?

I have a friend who used to work at the same lab a few years ago. He got me connected to the PI and they agreed to give a place for me to work for the summer.

What’s happening at your internship? What are you doing there?

There are many different projects going on the lab but their main focus of research is on gene therapy for spinal cord injury. It is a wet lab and there’s cool equipment I did not get to see in school labs. At this point (still the first half of the internship), I don’t hold a very important position in the lab, but I am helping here and there. A lot of the lab work consists of animal testing, so they require new lab workers a few weeks of training and lectures. There are lots of online courses and orientations to attend. It seemed more complicated than I thought. It was a good experience to witness that a lot of work and training is put into labs with animal testing.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I am a pre-med student, and eventually, I want to go to medical school. Not all doctors get heavily involved in medical research, but I wanted to discover if I liked it or not, and if I want to consider the research field as a possible career choice at all. After all, as a psychology student, getting involved in medical research is not easy. So when the opportunity came, I grabbed it. I think it’s important to try different things and find out what your interests are; you will never know until you try them!

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

Both yes and no. I knew that it was a wet lab so there were going to be the “typical” wet lab procedures that we do in school science labs. There are, however, differences. The lab is in a more professional setting and things are stricter and they take everything seriously and professionally. It made me nervous that if I messed up something, it would affect their research. I think there is a considerable responsibility to handling things in the lab even if it is a small thing because every work contributes to the research they are doing. I still have to do more training and learn, but eventually, I hope I get to handle more things. Also, I discovered that I do not hate research! I always had the idea that I would hate to be in the lab working alone all day, but it was rather therapeutic to concentrate and work on the samples.

A Postcard From: Jenisha Stapleton ’20

As an Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow at Fox Chase Cancer Center, I have been conducting epidemiological research in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program. I work specifically in a lab that conducts research that aims to better understand cancer disparities in populations of African ancestry. The principal investigator (my supervisor) is a cancer epidemiologist and specializes in the molecular and social epidemiology of cancers in the African diaspora. Together we designed the summer research project that I am currently undertaking. The goal is to assess the differences in cancer risk factors, risk behaviors and health-seeking patterns among the three black sub-groups of the African diaspora (U.S., African, and Caribbean origins) living in the Philadelphia County compared to those of their native countries using methods in statistical analysis, namely meta-analyses. Thus far, I have spent the majority of my time locating and abstracting data necessary for performing the meta-analysis. While I was initially overwhelmed with the amount of data I had to carefully examine, my commitment to the study has sustained through these tedious moments. My next step is to access the Philadelphia dataset and abstract the relevant data for comparative analysis. In addition to my primary project, I am also gaining exposure to epidemiology study designs and applications. I have been able to assist with recruiting and enrolling participants and collecting biospecimens for other objectives in the lab.

I was inspired to apply for this opportunity based on an experience last summer.  With support from the LILAC STEM in Society Fellowship, I returned home to intern with the Epidemiology Division of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health. I experienced how epidemiology is applied and how it informs public health strategies and communication.  After having conversations with my supervisor, an epidemiologist who had an extensive research background, my interest in participating in epidemiological or public health research was adequately stimulated. As a biology major, I was disappointed to learn that the department did not offer opportunities to engage in epidemiology. This, coupled with my desire to conduct research in this area, sufficiently motivated me to actively seek out this researcher, which resulted in this opportunity.

It has been a great learning experience! I am gaining skills in statistical analysis and exposure to study design which provides real world context of content taught in the Experimental Design and Statistics course I intend to take in the spring. In addition to learning and growing, I am grateful for the opportunity to receive mentorship and network with my supervisor and the lab staff. Their journeys to epidemiology and public health have informed my personal career path and have further influenced my decision to pursue research opportunities and also a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology.

Jenisha Stapleton

A Postcard From: Emma Hoffman ’20

Name: Emma Hoffman
Class Year: 2020
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Saratoga, Calif.

Placement: The School District of Philadelphia (SDP)
Job Title: GreenFutures Intern
Location: 440 North Broad St, PhiladelphiaSchool District of Philadelphia

I spent this summer working at the SDP’s Office of Environmental Management & Services as a GreenFutures intern. GreenFutures is the District’s first comprehensive five-year sustainability management plan and has five key focus areas:

  • Education for Sustainability (EfS)
  • Consumption and Waste
  • Energy and Efficiencies
  • School Greenscapes
  • Healthy Schools, Healthy Living

Whiteboard Planning

Most of my time was spent on Education for Sustainability, which focuses on implementing lasting and sustainable practices both inside and outside the classroom, and involves teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the greater community. It’s important to note that EfS is teaching for and not about sustainability. Unfortunately, EfS is commonly mistaken for earth science when in fact it is far more! It recognizes that teaching about climate change is important but setting up the framework for students to recognize patterns, take responsibility, and invision solutions is far more valuable. The core standards emphasize an understanding of and appreciation for systems, networks, social responsibility, and cross-discipline communication, and can be applied to any subject area (just like the work I did in my Climate Change 360 program!) Throughout the summer I put together a slide deck to explain EfS to non-science teachers. Some other projects I got to work on included:

  • Interviewing current teachers on how they’ve “sustainablized” their classrooms using EfS standards (one of whom is a BMC alum!)
  • Researching and writing various posts for the GreenFutures blog (how to pack a zero waste lunch, what is Integrated Pest Management, natural alternatives to chemical bug sprays, etc.)
  • Consolidating a Community Partners list of helpful organizations and contacts
  • Promotional posters (+a blog post) about the Philadelphia Rodent Academy
  • Playing phone tag with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (and eventually locating the correct paperwork for the School District to apply as a business partner for a project on safe routes to school)
  • Writing a Scope of Work document for Student Driven Energy program proposals
  • Assembling sustainability themed book and movie lists
  • Drafting promotional tweets and contributing to the grant proposal for Litterati, a community litter mapping initiative
  • Editing the 2018 GreenFutures Annual Progress Report (look for my name at the end in Acknowledgements!)

In addition to working at the 440 building (named for the District’s street address), I also got to see more of Philly. I met the Philadelphia Eagles at the annual Eagles Playground Build (probably the coolest first day of work an intern has ever had), got a private tour of environmental art included in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Modern Times exhibit, and explored the catacomb-like basement and future vermicomposting site underneath Reading Terminal Market.

Mural This summer was an incredible opportunity that I would never have experienced without Bryn Mawr’s connections to GreenFutures. As a student studying the environment and living with the short-sighted stance of our current federal government, it was relieving and inspiring to see forward-thinking programs and people committed to improving our future. I don’t yet know exactly what I want to be doing with the rest of my life, but I am glad to see that there will be plenty of ways to be involved for sustainability.

A Postcard From: Creighton Ward ’20

I spent my summer as an intern at the Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic (FLAC) at Villanova’s Charles Widger School of Law. Overall, it has been an illuminating and enjoyable summer, and I’m extremely grateful to my supervisor and coworkers, who have shown me so much about the legal world. In the clinic, I was able to gain first-hand experience of community lawyering, work with clients, and learn more about the politics of immigration law.

I was drawn to a legal internship in immigration because it satisfied an interest in social justice and gave me the opportunity to explore a possible career in the law. To fulfill the requirements of my Political Science major, I took a class on race and law during the spring semester of my sophomore year. In that class, I was able to understand how contemporary narratives that criminalize immigrants are continuous with a longstanding history of homegrown racism and xenophobia in the United States. Laws and public opinion are powerful and mutually reinforcing, and it was in that course that I understood how important activists and organizers are in influencing national discourses. At my internship, I understood this much more acutely, as I saw lawyers collaborating with community organizers and local organizations to defend clients and improve their practice.

Understanding the legal obstacles that undocumented immigrants face in the U.S. has sharpened my feelings about local politics and the current administration’s strengthening of Customs and Border Protection. This was a politically significant summer for the city of Philadelphia, as people mobilized and called for an end to the city’s sharing of the PARS database with Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). When the news broke that the Occupy Ice protests had been successful, and Mayor Kenney announced that Philadelphia would not renew its data-sharing contract with ICE, it was a reminder of what can be achieved when people—not just those experienced in the law—stand together to protect vulnerable communities against injustice. This was achieved through the hard work of immigrant rights organizations such as Juntos, VietLead, and others who have been fighting to end the contract with PARS for years. The clinic has collaborated with some of these organizations and continues to explore the ways that it can support advocacy groups and learn from them.

Working at the clinic often challenged me to do things that I didn’t have experience or background knowledge in, and gave me many opportunities to work on my interpersonal skills in client relationships. There were many times where I observed things—interviews, oral arguments, teaching moments, for example—but there were also times where I was given responsibility to contact clients on my own time. I lack confidence in most situations when I’m talking to people I don’t know well, so this was an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

My internship experience was made special not only because of what I was able to do and observe but also because of the people I spent most of it with. My coworkers, who are law students and undergraduates like myself, are hard-working, intellectually curious, helpful, and friendly. My supervisor, Professor Caitlin Barry, is nothing short of incredible. Her commitment and knowledge shines in her work as an educator and advocate. These people have provided me with valuable guidance this past summer, and will continue to be a source of inspiration in the academic year to come and beyond.


A Postcard From: Elizabeth McGuire ’20

Name: Elizabeth McGuire
Class Year: 2020
Major: Anthropology and Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology
Hometown: Veazie, Maine
Internship Placement: Transylvania Bioarchaeology
Job Title: Student
Location: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

What’s happening at your internship? 

My field school is currently working in Jucu on a rescue excavation. Although the land is protected, companies are developing the land and the construction is subsequently destroying the burials. This summer, we have been working to recover the remains and associated material culture.

Dig site in Transylvania

Students participating in this program alternate weeks on site and in lab. At the beginning of the field season, we spent the majority of our time on site doing heavy excavation using mattocks (similar to pick axes) and shovels to get down to the archaeological layer. That proved to be very difficult! After mattocking back a layer, we would use trowels to clean the area and look for signs of grave cuts and fill. Once the layer had been identified we began fine excavation using trowels, brushes, and small wooden tools to carefully uncover the individual buried below.

On lab days, we start with lectures on topics ranging from human osteology, archaeological theory, and paleopathology. Students taking part in this program have varying levels of experience and are at different points in their education, so lectures are crucial at getting everyone on the same page. As the youngest and least experienced student here, I definitely appreciate them! After lecture, we spend time in the lab applying what we have learned, including identifying pathology and determining age and sex of fragmented skeletal remains.

Archaeology students

Why did you apply for this internship?

After taking Professor VanSickle’s bioarchaeology class last year, I discovered my interest in biological anthropology and how it relates to archaeology. It was important to me that I spent some time this summer becoming more familiar with the discipline in order to make more informed decisions about graduate school. As a Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology major, I have taken a lot of classes that focus on material culture, so it has been interesting to study the primary sources that inform our understanding of the past—the people themselves. There is a lot that we can learn from them!

This program has given me exactly what I was looking for—proper field training, a crash course in human osteology, and experience handling and analyzing fragmentary remains. Although it is difficult to identify bone fragments first, it is important to practice doing so. More often than not, fragments are recovered rather than perfectly preserved bone. It has also been great to talk to professionals in this program about how they chose their areas of focus.

Learn more about Bryn Mawr’s Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology Department.

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

Living in Cluj has been amazing! The program accommodations are about a 25-30 minute walk to the main square—the city center.  I have been enjoying trying out different coffee shops with some new friends before lecture on lab days. We recently discovered iced lavender lattes and have been hooked ever since!

There has been a city sponsored event every weekend we have been here, including Jazz in the Park, the Street Food Festival, and most recently Electric Castle.

The program also takes us on a short field trip throughout Transylvania, highlights including Brasov, Sibiu, and of course, Sigisoara, the birthplace of Dracula.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

Learning objectives of this program include becoming familiar with methods of skeletal analysis and assessing their strengths and weaknesses, identifying and recording pathological conditions, and practicing proper methods of excavation. Before coming to this field school, I had limited experience with archaeological excavations and no experience working with fragmented bone. This has been an incredible experience overall! I have learned so much over the past five weeks and I am looking forward to applying these skills in my praxis next semester.

Elizabeth McGuire digging at site

Another important aspect of this program have been our discussions about bioarchaeological theory and ethical considerations. Although we can learn a lot from the human skeleton, there are limitations to our methods. We have to be careful about making assumptions about individuals past activities and lifestyles because we should not be giving them new identities. I think one of the most important things that I will take away from this experience is knowing what we can learn from archaeological remains and what we cannot. That knowledge is going to help me critically approach bioarchaeological research and literature in the future.

Learn more about praxis courses.

A Postcard From: Katherine Sweasy ’20

Name: Katherine Sweasy
Class Year: 2020
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Guilford, Conn.

Internship Placement: Kwan Lab, Dept. of Psychiatry, Yale University
Job Title: Research Assistant
Location: New Haven, Conn.

What’s happening at your internship?

This summer I have been learning about brain cell structure, and how it relates to schizophrenia. I have been spending my time analyzing brain cell images. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assist a postdoctoral associate with his ongoing project in the lab. I mainly analyze the brain images of several different mice with differing experimental manipulations. One of these manipulations, is a mutation of the Shank3 gene that is highly significant to schizophrenia. This gene is responsible for building a protein that aids in neuron development, and mutation of this gene is highly penetrant; it hugely increases a diagnosis for schizophrenia. The second manipulation takes a pharmacological approach. The lab utilizes ketamine injections with the mice, as there is literature that suggests that when injected in mice, it is effective in modeling observable symptoms that are similar to schizophrenia in humans. One of these symptoms, the one that I’ve been focusing on, is hyperactivity in the brain cells, more specifically in dendritic spines. This is a part on the neuron that is heavily associated with synaptic transmission, the mechanism by which neurons communicate with each other. In the experiment, the mice have their brain activity imaged in vivo, while they are alive. I look at recordings of these in vivo brain images through a program in Matlab. As I go through the frames of each recording, I indicate the neuronal spines that are located near the dendrites, which are long white branches in the images. As a brain cell activates and calcium is released, a protein that’s used to visualize calcium releases called GCaMP6 makes the dendrites and its accompanying spine “light up.” Hyperactivity means there is an overrelease of calcium by the neuron, which can be the cause of many brain dysfunctions. Making note of the differences in brain activity between the mice help understand the role of communication dysfunction in schizophrenia.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I’ve been a psychology major since the beginning of my time at college, but only since sophomore year have realized my interest in neuroscience. More specifically within neuroscience, I wanted to learn about neuronal structure and development, and thus sought out to do so in a research setting. I’ve had limited experience in doing research in something that interested me, and so I wanted to see what research in neuroscience looked like, and if it was something I wanted to do more of as a career.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

When I had come to the lab, I had taken a few neuroscience classes before, but they did not prepare me for the level of understanding needed to comprehend the research going on in the lab. There was definitely a bit of a learning curve as my postdoc and I figured out where I needed more background information. I wanted to be able to understand my role in the research and how his project fit into the research in the neuroscience field as a whole. I got into the habit of asking as many questions as I could, and the experience has definitely influenced me to take more biologically based classes, which I wouldn’t have thought to do before.

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

Definitely not. It required me to have more of a reflective mindset and a self-motivated mindset. From day to day, my job was to repeat the same task over and over, analyzing data set after data set. I was responsible for one small part in a large project, and so I had to really motivate myself to stay with it. In order to get what I wanted out of the internship, I had to reach out to the people around me. My supervisor and PI have been really supportive and great resources for exposing me to other research that is going on and giving me information about graduate school. I was also surprised by how much the environment impacted me. The lab is structured in a way that focuses on the member’s independent projects and so there aren’t many instances of intentional collaboration that I observed. After a while in the lab, I was surprised to realize that having an aspect of collaboration and communication in the workplace was something I really valued and missed at my internship. People have told me that internships are just as important in informing what you don’t like, and that has been well articulated to me this summer.

Diagram of Neuron

Diagram of Neuron