A Postcard From: Ralitsa Mihaylova ’21

Name: Ralitsa Mihaylova
Class Year: 2021
Major: Physics, Math
Hometown: Bunde, The Netherlands

Internship Placement: Bishop Lab, Photonics Center
Job Title: Research summer intern
Location: Boston University

Hi there! My name is Ralitsa and I’m a rising sophomore, planning to be a physics and mathematics major. Over the course of this summer, I had the honor of joining the Bishop lab at Boston University’s Photonics Center in one of their projects––namely, building a magnetometer to be used under the newly-awarded Cell-Met NSF grant.

Now what does this all mean? And what role did it exactly play? Professor Bishop was one of the few professors amongst many partner schools who received the above-mentioned grant, which has the objective of being able to make personalized heart tissue within the next 10 years. Cell-Met plans on doing this by relying on two key inventions: the first being the 2009 Nobel Prize in biology which found that one could take any cell from your body––be it a skin cell or a lung cell, for example––and “reprogram” it to become a stem cell again (meaning it can become any type of cell). The second imperative finding used in Cell-Met is the use of millimeter scale “pools” with two little pillars in them, in which these newly-programed stem cells can become not only the cell that the lab desires them to be, but also make them form a uniform tissue.

This personalized tissue, which in our research is predominantly heart tissue, has a promising future in treating the leading cause of death for Americans: heart disease. My very small role in this was building the apparatus necessary to understand the behavior of these new heart cells, called a magnetometer. A magnetometer is a device which measures the magnetic field surrounding it with a certain resolution. Although in the Cell-Met grant the definite setup is yet to be determined, the use of magnets and magnetic fields to characterize these cells and tissues is indispensable––which is where my device came in. My task for the summer was to make a magnetometer through the modification of an accelerometer––a device that measures acceleration––by using micro-gluing techniques to make a tripod of micron-sized spheres and then deposit a magnet on top of it. In essence, the magnet will react to a surrounding magnetic field, making the already constructed accelerometer sense the magnet’s responding movement, which makes the device read out a value that can be used to understand the behavior of said magnetic field.

Looking back upon this experience, it gave me more than I could have hoped for when I was deciding to apply. Back in spring semester, the opportunity seemed appealing as I had a rising interest in engineering and the idea of seeing physics being applied in other fields was something I just hadn’t had much experience in before. But, now, I realize it gave me much more than just a summer filled with engineering and biological applications––from learning more about different applications of magnetometers and other micro-electromechanical devices, to challenging my own critical thinking with every sub-project I undertook––it gave me a feeling of being part of a bigger cause that could really do something incredible.


A Postcard From: Anna Huang ’19

This summer, I participated in the Clinical and Translational Science Award Internship program at the University of Pennsylvania, and I was matched to a lab studying the lipid metabolism and cardiovascular disease. My experiments use both GC-MS and mathematical model so that I could use skills and knowledge from both my chemistry and mathematics major. Basically, I am assessing the effects of a new drug on lowering lipid levels in patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, which means those patients have unusually high LDL-cholesterol level compared to normal person due to a rare genetic disease, and they do not respond to regular drugs to lower plasma lipid level like statins. Along the process, I understood more about how the education from BMC empowers me in the outside world.

I definitely benefited from the training for research I got in Bryn Mawr College. Back at Bryn Mawr College, I have been working with Dr. Monica Chander for almost two years. I think her strict requirements and guidance prepared me much better than other students from big universities. I am more confident in planning my experiments independently, conducting experiments efficiently and not making basic mistakes. Due to such efficiency and carefulness, I actually got three projects along my internship instead of the originally planned one from my mentors in UPenn.

Also, the close contact with professors in BMC helped me to understand more about establishing and maintaining the mentorship. One important thing I found in this internship is that a good mentorship is more precious than anything else. Before the internship started, I emphasized to my program director that the specific topic of the research is not very important to me at all but a good mentor matters. A good mentor can open the possibility of hundreds of fields to you. And luckily, as I required, my program director got me two really good mentors, who are willing to and feel the need to spend time with me. They respect my time and try to maximize my gaining. They do not only guide me in the lab, but also give advise my future and career goal. The atmosphere in Bryn Mawr teaches me not to be afraid of asking for support and opportunities. This is really useful in a big place like UPenn where there are a lot of opportunities around and you can only ask to grab them by yourself. With this in mind and good mentors, you can really get access to a lot of things. One of the mentors introduces me to some other clinicians and let me shadow the clinical part of the research so that I can understand the whole picture of translational research. The other mentor found me some more projects that I can work on and introduces me to know about other people’s research in the lab. My life is much more colorful than I expected it to be and I enjoy it a lot.

I still have a month left for this internship and I believe that I will enjoy it. I hope what I gained from this summer will accompany me for the rest of the college life.

A Postcard From: Junyan Duan ’19

Name: Junyan Duan
Class Year: 2019
Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Nanjing, China

Internship Placement: SMALL Undergraduate Research Project at Williams College
Job Title: Student Researcher
Location: Williamstown, Mass.

Williams College campus

Williams College campus

What is happening at your internship?

SMALL at Williams College is a 10-week program that provides research opportunities for undergraduates in math-related fields. Together with three other undergraduate students, I’m working on two mathematical ecology projects: One focuses on the spread and control of white nose syndrome in bats and the other focuses on ecosystem federalism.

Caused by a fungus called P. destructans, white nose syndrome (WNS) constantly wakes up hibernating bats, and this leads to drastic depletion in fat storage and then starvation-related death before spring. WNS was first detected in New York in 2006 and has spread out in the U.S. Because the rate of disease-induced mortality is so high, ecologists predict that some bat species will go extinct by 2023. As it’s not reasonable to do large-scale experiments on those bats, using mathematical models to simulate the situation is a better choice. We have updated the model and tested several potential control methods suggested by biologists and ecologists according to their data collected in labs.

For the ecosystem federalism project, we focus mainly on disease outbreaks. We developed SIR models to study disease dynamics and to see how different levels of government influence the outcome.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship because of my passion for both biology and mathematics. At the end of my sophomore year, I settled my mind to focus on applied math, especially mathematical biology, which is the overlap of the two fields. After going through a list of REU programs, I applied to several that offered research opportunities in mathematical biology (or mathematical ecology).

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

Williamstown is surrounded by mountains and the closest airport is in Albany, which is about 30 miles away. Williamstown is small but filled with fun activities in the summer. Williams College Museum of Art offers free lecture series and music events in July and those talks are always fun and inspiring. Clark Art Institute is an art museum within walking distance and SMALL students often go there on weekends. MASS MOCA is another art museum nearby and it’s a good place to go to as well. Williamstown Theater Festival started around the beginning of July, and this year Matthew Broderick came and performed in one of the comedies.

Williams College Shop

Williams College Shop

SMALL students also organize fun activities such as hiking, movie nights, ballroom dance and game nights.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

Besides what I do every day, such as researching, developing models and analyzing results, going to science lunch and talks as well as math department tea events and talks is my favorite part of this internship. The talks expand my knowledge not only math, but also in various fields such as material science and ornithology. Tea and lunch events allow me to communicate with professors and students and learn more about other students’ research.

A Postcard From: Sorenie Gudissa ’20

Name: Sorenie Gudissa
Class Year: 2020
Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Internship Placement: The Glenmede Trust Company
Job Title: Manager Research Intern
Location: Philadelphia

Sorenie Gudissa and other Glenmede interns at Escape the Room Philly

A team building activity for Glenmede interns at Philadelphia’s Escape The Room (We weren’t successful in escaping.)

What’s happening at your internship?

As a Manager Research Intern at Glenmede, I assist the department in the evaluation of external investment managers whose investment strategies the company utilizes to provide the best financial planning for its clients. The tasks of the department I directly work with (Manager Research Group /MRG) include monitoring, researching, and selecting managers based on their statistically measured long standing performance and qualitative analysis of the team making the investment decisions. Additionally, I work with the Manager Research Group to provide analysis on the different available securities that Glenmede could potentially invest in.

By being part of the internship program at Glenmede, I am also participating in the Glenmede Intern Challenge in which I work alongside six other fellow interns to formulate and present a plan that the company can implement to further differentiate itself as an investment management company in the industry. The plan is to be presented to the company’s management committee and board members at the end of the internship.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied to Glenmede because I wanted an opportunity to gain experience in the corporate world and in the financial industry that I believed would be valuable in my professional life after Bryn Mawr. I knew Glenmede would help me decide whether a career in finance is the right path for me.

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

The biggest challenge of working at Glenmede for me has been learning how to use the different software programs that Manager Research Group employs to keep track of and evaluate the financial markets and the performance of investment managers currently hired by the company. I also found making up for my nonfinance background by familiarizing myself with finance terms and concepts somewhat tasking. However, as I near the halfway point of my internship, I believe that I have learned and gained so much experience and understanding that has made my time at Glenmede worthwhile.




A Postcard From: Namrata Basu ’19

Name: Namrata Basu
Class Year: 2019
Major: Mathematics

Internship Placement: MathILy
Job Title: Program Aide

For a part of this summer, I’m working with MathILy (Mathematics infused with levity), a residential summer program for high school students. It takes place on Bryn Mawr College’s campus.

Being a math major at a liberal arts college, this program fits right into that experience. Students from different parts of the country, and the world, come to learn and grow not only as academic scholars, but also as individuals. The program is five weeks of looking at mMath and at life through different lenses, which is similar to what I’ve experienced at Bryn Mawr. It’s not just plugging numbers into a formula or rote learning a theorem; it’s questioning, analyzing, reading and writing!

I’ve always loved math and being in conversations with like-minded people was great. My position is a program aide. My duties include being a residential counselor, supervising and supporting students, managing logistics. All the duties mentioned above relate to the on-campus positions I hold. So, it’s a good opportunity for me to grow in those positions and hone the skills I’ve developed at Bryn Mawr.

I also like interacting with high school students; they are at such an exciting age where they are eager to learn and to try new things. I like the idea of being able to contribute to their learning curves. It’s also nice to see the community we have even if it’s only for five weeks. Bryn Mawr provided me with a community that’s there for me when I’m trying to figure out who I am, and I see that with this program, too. It’s a community of people from different walks of life who want to support you in whatever you’re doing.

This experience has given me the chance to think about life after Bryn Mawr — what it would be like to have a “real” job. It was also interesting to see Bryn Mawr in the summer. It’s a different vibe. Overall, these five weeks have been a huge learning curve!

A Postcard From: Romy Dangol ’19

Name: Romy Dangol
Class Year: 2019
Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Lalitpur, Nepal

Internship Placement: LITS, Bryn Mawr College
Job Title: Digital Curriculum Intern

What’s happening at your internship? 

I am working as a Digital Curriculum Intern with LITS (Library Information and Technology Services) this summer. It has just been a couple of weeks at work, but I am already involved in new and interesting projects like designing online interactive digital competencies training activities; designing an augmented reality library scavenger-hunt game for students; assisting faculty with seed grants on blended learning resources; and creating and editing Moodle activities.

I have also done research on designing digital assignments. I have organized and managed data on digital competencies that the students have gained in the past summer, and I have learned to create Moodle features like quizzes, lessons for adaptive learning, and feedback surveys. As part of my internship, I have been doing a lot of problem-solving through testing and re-testing. Other interns in the room also volunteer to run and assess the new Moodle activities and give immediate feedback, which is very helpful. We often bounce ideas off one another and incorporate them to create a better version of the model we are currently working on.

It has been a great learning experience so far and I am looking forward to the rest of my summer here.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship because I was interested in learning more about the digital competencies and also in developing my own digital skills further. In addition, I wanted to explore the different types of technological advances in the education sector and use these tools to create digital content to engage learners.

Was there anything special about how you found this internship? 

I was actually presenting my work from last summer’s internship during our Bryn Mawr and Beyond presentation in 2017. There I got the chance to meet Jennifer Spohrer and share my summer experience as a Data & Strategy intern with her.  After learning about my interests in data and technology, she told me about the LITS summer internship opportunities. Here I am now.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

I knew coming in that I would learn about project management because of the various projects that I was going to be involved in. However, I did not expect to gain intensive knowledge about managing project constraints, design thinking, planning, and communicating the projects efficiently. These are all valuable skills and I am glad I received the chance to participate in different workshops to hone my skills.