Monthly Archives: August 2014

Goodbye Boston

It’s sad to say but summer is coming to an end. It is ridiculous to think that I have been working here at Dana-Farber for over two months. It is safe to say this summer is going to be hard to beat. So many adventures, so many new friends, and to top it all of, I have learned more about Ovarian Cancer than I ever thought I would. The research was unbelievable. This opportunity taught me how to perform protein assays, Western Blots, Immunofluorescence, siRNA knockdown, and proliferation assays. Within each of these I learned so many little techniques and tricks-of-the-trade. I mean, just learning proper aseptic technique for cell culturing was interesting. Hopefully I’ll be able to use my new skills in the labs at school. The project as a whole did have some progress. We were able to successfully identify a protein that is translated and secreted by Ovarian Cancer cells and not by healthy Fallopian Tube cells. Based on previous knowledge, this is the first step to finding an early detection biomarker for Ovarian Cancer. I was also able to located where within the cells this protein resides. Interestingly it is highly developed so there is going to be some more work done with this project once I leave. Unfortunately my last few experiments didn’t work out so well so someone else will have to repeat them.

I did speak to my principal investigator and he said that these results are going to make their way into a paper so good news is I will be publishing a paper, which is something I never thought would be possible in just one summer. This has definitely taught me to never slow down. Also keep persevering because in the end it will reward you. It may take longer at some times but giving up will 100% lead to nowhere.

As for Boston, can I say that it is a great place to live! There are so many college students everywhere and the city is just so full of adventures. I was able to go to all the suburbs and explore. I made it to the North End to have dinner in little Italy. I walked around Harvard Square and tried candlepin bowling for the first time. If you ever have a chance to come up here I would definitely recommend the bowling because it was a blast. Since my last post I also made it to New York City and Maine. New York was wild. I’ve only every been there one other time but I don’t remember it too well. The city was packed and people were moving fast just as I pictured. Maine was incredible. The mountains were beautiful and the people were so nice. I went to a friend’s house up by Bar Harbor and went hiking in Acadia National Park. The hikes were a bit intense. The first day we did a 7-mile hike over 5 mountains. It was nothing too intense, just long. The second day, we did a very scary hike. We basically walked on a foot of rock directly next to a 500-foot cliff for about 1.5 miles. I was petrified but in the end we made it out all right.

I’m sad to say I am leaving but it’s time to head back to Florida and then New Orleans next week. Thank you to everyone who helped me with this summer for making it possible. This was truly an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Hope to be back one day. Signing off!

Half way done

I can hardly believe it’s already been four weeks here in Boston. I’ve already had an amazing time and I still have another month and a half left. Last week my friend and I went to the North Shore to a small beach town called Marble Head. It was absolutely beautiful. Beaches and harbors for miles. We went to visit a friend of ours and stay on her boat in Salem Harbor. That was quite the experience. We stayed up all night on the harbor and slept in the boat’s cabin. It was some fifty-year-old wooden boat… very cool.

Two weeks later we were off on another adventure. It was my first time ever going to the Hamptons. An old friend of mine had invited us out to her mansion with a dozen other people for Fourth of July weeks. I had never seen a house like this. She had literally everything you could think of: pool, tennis court, bachi ball, chipping greens, putt-putt, and waterslide. We sat around by the pool all weekend and had an endless supply of good ol’ American Barbeque. It was really great seeing her cause it has definitely been a while. She was actually a Tulane student also but graduated this past year. Definitely a memory I would never forget.

Now I know it’s the reason I came to Boston, so I should probably fill you in about my summer internship. The research job has been going great. I have almost complete autonomy. I would say about 90%. I get to make my own hours, run my own tests, and determine the direction of the project. It’s a lot of responsibility but I definitely love the challenge. My problem is that I know my expectations are probably unrealistic. I would love to do everything but time is just a factor I can’t control. I am going to try and do as much as I can though in the next six weeks. I don’t remember if I spoke about my research in the last posting but the project I am working on is an Ovarian Cancer Biomarker project. My job is to do background literature searches on each of 50 different proteins found to be in Ovarian Cancer lines and purchase antibodies that I can use to study each of the proteins I’m interested in. Originally, I started with three proteins but my list has now grown to six. I ran western blots for each of the proteins in order to determine if the Ovarian Cancer cell lines we have in stock are expressing the proteins of interest. A western blot works by growing up cell lines and extracting proteins from the cells, which are then loaded into wells of a gel. Once set up, an electric current is applied to drag the proteins through the gels. Each protein moves at a different rate based on their size. A molecular ladder is used to determine the size of the proteins. The proteins are then transferred onto a membrane, which can then be probed with different antibodies that recognize each specific protein. Membranes are exposed to chemoluminescence cameras and the image is then analyzed and recorded. So far I have done half of the proteins so I still have some more to do. Overall, this project is getting more interesting everyday and I cant wait to see what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. Thanks for reading… Until next time!

My last days with Catholic Charities

My internship ended on July 31st, and already I have no idea what to do without my class! It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me, and even led me to pursue further internship opportunities with Catholic Charities’ Translation/Interpreting department in the fall.

The last day of class was very emotional for my students and me. We finished off the semester watching and discussing the Wes Anderson film “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and then we all played a slightly confusing yet still amusing game of Apples to Apples. My students all brought food from their home countries, including pad Thai, tacos, and pupusas (a dish native to El Salvador). I brought pizza, of course, a food very close to the American culinary heart.

My class was successful not only because I was able to eat amazing home-cooked foods, but because my students and I grew genuinely fond of each other. For instance, I have plans to attend a potluck with some of my students from Thailand and plans to tutor one of my Brazilian students and his wife in English this fall. What I loved best about the class was how familiar we all were with each other. My students often brought friends and family members to class, and on the last day there were several of my students’ children watching “Fantastic Mr. Fox” with us.

For me, the class was worthwhile both professionally and academically. I was able to practice my Portuguese, Spanish, and French language skills with my students and prepare for future language classes at Tulane. I was able to continue building my teaching skill set, learning how to teach students of varied language abilities and gather more teaching materials to take with me to Latin America when I graduate. But more than that, I was able to develop administrative and programming skills during my internship that I would not have been able to had I been merely an ESL teacher and not an administrative intern. I was given the task to set up a presentation about Adult Education classes in New Orleans, a task that was not easy to accomplish at first. When I first tried approaching language access/education groups in New Orleans, I didn’t get much of a response. After repeated efforts however, I was able to get in contact with a representative from Delgado Community College and bring him to our program site. Dozens of students attended the meeting and I was proud to find out that the Catholic Charities’ ESL program will continue bringing Delgado representatives to our program site because of my efforts.

I would like to reiterate how very beneficial this internship has been for me and how much I have learned through it. I know have more skills and ideas to bring back to Tulane and offer to prospective employers. If I had one piece of advice for future interns, not only with non-profits, it would be to be as proactive as possible and develop positions and responsibilities for themselves. No one will give you opportunities, you have to make them.

I would like to thank Dr. Thomas Allen and the Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching for awarding me a summer internship grant and my colleagues at Catholic Charities for accepting me as an intern and making me feel so welcome this summer.

Final Reflection on My Time at Peace Corps

 

I completed all four of my learning goals for this summer. I created well over 4 MRE Data Tools for Peace Corps, attended 25 professional development workshops put on by Peace Corps and/or other agencies, spoke with 5 professionals in the field of international development and read two Programming and Training manuals from the PC Knowledge and Learning Unit. In addition to completing my specific goals I worked on many other projects throughout my internship experience including: research, preparing materials for PC workshops, graphic design and Standard Sector Indicator revisions.

I will continue to use the knowledge I learned, through my internship experience, to enhance my education at Tulane. I understand how the fundamentals taught in my classes apply to real world experiences and situations. This has also shown me how important learning the fundamentals are.

I have only scratched the surface of monitoring and evaluation as a field through my internship. I hope to learn more about the different processes within M&E and continue to learn more about data analysis, data-driven decision making and application. My experience at Peace Corps has opened my eyes to a new side of international development that could be a very interesting career path in the future.
If a student is interested in getting an internship in this field I would suggest network, network, network. It pays to know people and sometimes that means either getting the job or not. I have learned how competitive international development jobs are and how useful it can be to make connections.
​In general, my view of social justice has been reinforced. My beliefs have not changed but rather strengthened. It is our civic duty to engage the world’s problems and to provide sustainable solutions as a citizen of the world. My internship has provided great insight into effective change, leadership and civic engagement.

Top of the Hill

CAROLINE LANFORD | Washington, DC

Can you spot me? Second row in the middle, just to the right of RBG!

Can you spot me? Second row in the middle, just to the right of RBG!

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called on me to ask the first question after her lecture to 160 of us congressional interns, I could barely contain the gratefulness I felt for having had such an absolutely amazing summer full of so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. After thanking her for forging the way for women in the field of law, I asked Justice Ginsburg what she saw as the most difficult challenges women will face in the future and what our generation could do to further all the important progress she has already made. Her advice really spoke to me as I reflected on my professional plans:

Artificial barriers no longer exist for you, but there still are a number of problems that laws cannot solve– they can help, but they cannot be the sole solution. Perhaps most important of these is the home and work balance… I think more and more men are realizing that they’re missing something when they give up time at home with their children to focus solely on a career… I see it with my son and my son-in-law… When or if you have a husband, it is important that he knows that his work is no more important than yours… No one has it all all at once. People look back and say, “Oh, you’ve had it all!” and I have, but I never had it all all at once. It is important to live a balanced life.

I felt that the advice she gave me (and my fellow interns) really was the perfect summation, both professionally and personally, to an amazing summer.

In this last half of my time at the House Committee on Homeland Security, I have gotten to work on a few bigger projects. These three have been my favorite:

  • Going on the House floor with Rep. Cedric Richmond (D- LA 2) as he argued in favor of five bills from our committee that were all eventually passed.

    I made it on C-SPAN! Life complete!

    I made it on C-SPAN! Life complete!

  • Drafting statements for Rep. Yvette Clarke (D- NY 9) to read during passage of six science and technology bills. You can see/hear Rep. Clarke’s floor statements here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4506155
  • Helping research and draft the fact sheet, section-by-section analysis, and op-ed for a bill that was finally introduced with a senate companion the week before August recess. You can learn about the CORRECT Act here.

From these projects I think I’ve gained a lot of practical knowledge on how to digest and gather information and then present it in a way that’s concise, informative, and convincing. I also learned a lot of very technical information about the

Branch 1: the judicial

Branch 1: the judicial

Department of Homeland Security and how it and Congress operate that might not be as immediately applicable to my university studies. But I truly believe that everything I’ve learned this summer will be useful as I continue to study politics and eventually work in the political field. I wasn’t sure if I would want to work on the Hill after I graduated, but now I can easily see myself working with the committee again next summer.

Branch 2: the legislative

Branch 2: the legislative

Branch 3: the executive

Branch 3: the executive

For those interested in getting a taste of the Hill environment, I highly encourage you to reach out to your local Representatives and Senators. Each office takes about 5 to 10 interns every summer, and, if a member of your state’s congressional delegation is chair or ranking member of a committee, committee staffs take interns every season as well. As most things in DC go, it helps if you know someone (or someone who knows someone) in the office so that your email doesn’t get lost in the heaps of communication those offices get every second. But asking around and being proactive is always a good strategy no matter what field you’re interested in.

There’s really nothing like being a part of the very process that I’ve been studying for so many years of my life now. I am so grateful for this experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in government, politics, or policy. I will be back in Nola soon, but, until then, I’ll just keep power walking. 🙂

A day of work at the ballpark – part 3

My internship with the New York Mets has come to an end — and if there’s one thing I can’t say enough about the experience, it’s that there’s nothing like working in a baseball stadium. Walking the empty concourses of a stadium on a non-gameday is a truly special feeling — even if you’re not a sports fan.

Interning in the Ticket Office was an eye-opening experience, and provided me with an unbelievable opportunity to work in the sports industry. From mailing tickets, preparing ticket exchanges, updating the sales board, learning how to use ticketing computer programs, inputting information in spreadsheets, delivering gift packages to suites, organizing/managing in-stadium events, etc., the work was always different and I always had to be prepared to do the unexpected. The work was incredibly fun, challenging and exciting — and though working in the sports industry means long hours, few free weekends and tons of baseball, it was absolutely worth it.

I worked with incredibly dedicated people along the way who really served as great role models for me, as they each showed me the kind of heart and effort that must be put into working in the sports industry. I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to have had the opportunity to intern for the New York Mets and learn from my mentors, and it’s an experience that I treasure and will never forget.

Of course, the internship has only reaffirmed my desire and commitment to work in the sports industry, and it was a tremendous step that has set me in the right direction to pursue my passion and goal. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with the people I met, searching for other internships with the sports industry and applying what I learned from the internship to my business studies.

 

 

Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

The primary takeaway from this summer, which I wasn’t expecting, was the way I viewed people with mental health problems and the issue of mental health in general. It quickly became clear to me that locking up a crazy person was not going to do much in terms of curing their mental illness. However, it also became clear to me that mentally handicapped people who commit crimes are often a danger to society. The sensible medium, which I saw many defense attorneys and many ADA’s advocate for, is to put mentally handicapped people in to some sort of program that actually works to correct the problem. In theory this all seems very easy but when you take in to account how often clients fail to rehabilitate themselves in these programs, a romantic outlook on this approach becomes harder and harder to maintain. We’re at a point in the young history of abnormal psychology where there are so many problems, so many questions, and so few answers. It makes me wonder where to draw the line between protecting society and protecting mentally challenged individuals. I have no idea what the answer is; in many ways it’s a problem that can only be solved by doctors. Public defenders, who play the crucial role of protecting those who cannot protect themselves, can only help this population on a short term basis. With so many different subjective opinions about how to handle this, I’m confident that there is at least one objective starting point and that is admitting that those who are mentally disable are in fact mentally disabled. I don’t know where to go from there, but I’m proud to say that this experience has at least taught me to be honest with myself and others about such a simple, yet difficult thing to admit.

Empathy For Police Officers and Criminals Alike

Being so close to the criminal justice system this summer has made clear to me many of the inefficiencies that are on the N.Y.P.D. level. I think back to one of my first investigations that took place in a Harlem N.Y.C.H.A. building that participates in the N.Y.P.D. “cleans hallways” program. The client was leaving a friend’s apartment and was stopped by police on his way out and accused of trespassing. Putting aside the many problems with having cops patrolling in the hallways of apartment buildings, this issue could have been resolved fairly quickly with a few questions such as “who were you visiting? Which apartment? Can they vouch for you?” Without saying that the police should be there in the first place, we can at least can say it’s the most efficient way to determine if the person is trespassing. Had this happened when my client was stopped, he could have brought the cops to the third floor, knocked on his friend’s door, had the friend come out, and had her explain that she lives there and that the client is always welcome. This would have wasted five minutes instead of however much time and money gets collectively wasted on a case like that. The police, however, did not take that route, they assumed guilt despite the client’s pleas to take the officer up to his friend’s apartment so that he could prove his innocence. Furthermore, while this was happening in the lobby, one of the client’s other friends who was visiting the same resident, and had stayed a little longer, came down to exit the building and saw what was happening. The cops allowed the client to hand over his skateboard and cell phone to the friend, effectively acknowledging that they knew each other and that the exiting friend was not breaking the law. This alone should have been enough to believe that the client was visiting a tenant of the building and not trespassing.
I didn’t really know how to explain this series of events. Was the arresting officer truly that much of a moron? I certainly didn’t believe that, even a small child could have put the logic together. Was the arresting officer out to get my client in particular? Probably not, if that were the case my client would have been inclined to say that he knows the officer or that they have some kind of negative connection. Was the officer out to get poor people or black people? Maybe, but why? Is he a racist or a truly evil person? Unlikely, because this sort of thing happens across the city so consistently, according to my attorneys, that I would have to assume almost every officer is racist and evil, which seems pretty unreasonable; this is a serious problem with minority officers as well. He may, however, have been out to get people for another reason. This summer I learned about the N.Y.P.D. quota system and it got me thinking. If an officer has to make an arrest to keep up his numbers and there is no one to arrest legitimately, what should he do? My initial reaction was to think that he should maintain his integrity and arrest no one in that situation. What if it effects his career and therefore his ability to support his family? I wouldn’t call a drug dealer who’s trying to support his starving family a terrible person. I wouldn’t call him a great person either because a great person would probably overcome obstacles and support his family in another, more legitimate way but, by definition, not everyone can be a great person. What if that drug dealer is not a great person? Let’s say they’re not smart enough or they lack the confidence; they’re average. What if they’re just like the cop in that they’re not willing to put their integrity above their family’s health and safety. Most people are brought up to believe that putting your family first is the most important thing. However, many people are also brought up to believe that drug dealers and unethical police officers are bad people. There are clearly philosophical issues with supporting impoverished criminals but not everyday police officers. Both groups, in my opinion, are victims of circumstance and institutional flaws.
I have no disdain for the officer who arrested our client in that lobby because I don’t know for sure that he could have done the admirable thing in that type of situation on a consistent basis and still taken care of his family. Maybe he’s just an asshole, that’s a definite possibility. Maybe every drug dealer on that block is a greedy pig who wants to see his community suffer while he counts his cash, that’s also a possibility too. Neither of those possibilities are proven and I can’t condemn one and not the other without being biased and unjust. Coming to this conclusion helped further my understanding that wrongdoing is often a result of circumstances, whether it be NYPD policies set by the highest bureaucrats or extreme poverty that’s been passed down for generations. Going back to the issue of the Eric Gardner’s death: before the officers chocked him out while he said he couldn’t breath, the officers made a decision to go after someone who clearly was not committing a crime. What caused them to do that and who’s fault is it that they did? I still don’t know. I was happy to see the Legal Aid attorney-in-chief describe Mr. Garner’s death as “a sad commentary on the N.Y.P.D. because it made clear that the institution is at fault. I think the individuals are also at fault and I’m glad Mr. James spoke on their liability as well, but to single them out without also blaming the institution for its role wouldn’t have sat well with me.

Equal Protection Under the Law

My experience as a Legal Aid intern has changed my understanding of the importance of “equal protection under the law” and fairness in general. I used to take in to account where I stood on societal issues when evaluating the fairness of a legal issue. For example, last spring when I was living in New Orleans I was outraged to find out an N.O.P.D. officer was able to plea out of a child rape case and receive a small sentence that included time served. I knew none of the facts of the case and was very biased against both police officers and those accused of sex crimes against children. This summer at Legal Aid I did not face only the types of clients who I am biased in favor of, such as drug offenders and people who may have been illegally searched. I worked for people who were accused of driving drunk, I worked for people accused of doing terrible things to children, and I worked for people accused of stealing from others. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one with these types of biases. People working within the system such as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and police officers actually feel the same way. It was when I saw it in them that I realized I could not allow myself to think like that.
For example, a client told me this summer about his interaction with a police officer before the cameras started rolling in the DWI testing room. The client told me the officer said, “you are a danger to my daughter and I’m going to make sure I protect her.” Despite how unprofessional that is, what really bothered me was that the officer said it before, not after, the client blew above .08 or failed other parts of the physical sobriety test. As a result, the client was intimidated and refused to take the test. Now, what could have been obvious guilt or obvious innocence depending on the result, is a potential trial based on almost no conclusive evidence. What a waste of time and money. Not to take away from the importance of going to trial from a defense standpoint, but trials should exist so that the peers can evaluate evidence, not because the system was unable to produce any real evidence to evaluate. Without bias, the officer would have been respectful and non-threatening and the chances of the client participating in the test would have increased greatly. The fact that “I didn’t take the test because I didn’t trust the officer” is actually a legitimate defense is a testament to how harmful biases are to a criminal justice system that strives to be efficient, fair, and productive.
Through meeting these clients face to face, talking about their cases with my attorneys, and doing investigations for them, I came to the conclusion that equal protection under the law is a timeless asset that the United States and the whole world should cherish. It’s not about choosing specific issues and fighting for them, it’s about protecting a system of justice because while it may seem righteous to ignore the laws to create what seems fair in an individual case, the sum of fairness to all is greater than its parts. What I mean is, you can’t bend the rules to make an example out of people because the negative results of that are not felt on a case by case basis as much as they are felt in terms of society’s belief that the judicial system is fair. This is supported by looking at the most and the least functional cities, states, and countries and noticing how lack of trust in the legal system’s integrity is correlated to higher crime rates and less economic stability. If an officer finds a mound of illegal things in someone’s house but the house was illegally searched, I believe we must think about how the court’s treatment of that person affects not just how effectively the individual is disciplined, but also the state of justice in society as a whole.

Mapping

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.34.34 PM

After hours of data entry, I finally completed my Food Banks of new Orleans Map. Development Services International is going to put it on the website and we will hopeful disseminate it to the food insecure around the city. My supervisor and I are brainstorming how to reach a wider audience, and what features we could add to the map to make it even better.

One idea was a complete community services map, with food banks, grocery stores, community centers, unemployment centers and more all in one place. It would be a tool that would help people capitalize on the resources that are already available in New Orleans. We are beginning to collaborate with other members of DevSI who are mapping sexual violence and racial crimes.

This project has opened many doors for the expansion of public service mapping within our organization and I’m happy to have been a part of it.