~Service Learning Trip to Ho, Ghana through STEP~

Thanks to the STEP program, I was able to travel to Ho, Ghana for a service-learning trip through Cross Cultural Solutions. This was such an incredible experience that I expanded on in a reflection in the following link. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and I truly feel like it changed my perspective on certain aspects of life.

Service-Learning in Ho, Ghana

~Nationwide Children’s Hospital~

I began volunteering at Nationwide Children’s in October of 2017, and it has truly been an incredible experience. I am assigned to a floor in which  I go around and hang out with the kids who could use some extra attention. My floor includes a wide range of illnesses, from mental illness such as eating disorders and depression to babies with respiratory infections. My floor also includes the rehabilitation unit. What I do each time I go in truly varies based on the needs of the day. Sometimes, I spend the whole time playing with and comforting infants whose family members were not able to make it in that day. Other days, I hang out with toddlers or young children to give their parents a little bit of a break to go eat something or make some phone calls. The most important part of my position is making sure that every patient has some attention and is able to have a fun time despite the situation they are currently in. One of the experiences that has touched me the most was when I hung out with a young boy in the rehab unit who wasn’t vocal. Although there was an obvious barrier for communication, we were able to communicate in other ways such as hand motions and facial expressions. I felt as though I was able to make a real connection with him even though it was not through the traditional route of talking. Another experience that has stuck with me was also in the rehab unit, where I spent most of my shift walking around the floor with a little boy in a wheel chair. He was full of energy and so happy to be out and about. My experience at Nationwide Children’s has been an incredible one, and I look forward to the connections that I will continue to make with the patients and the nurses.

~Dr. Dana McTigue’s Lab~

I had the wonderful opportunity to work in a lab in the Neuroscience Department for about 6 months. I started in the summer of 2017 and was immediately intrigued by all of the projects going on. I was assigned to help a graduate student with her project involving the mTOR pathway and oligodendrocyte regeneration. She had several projects underway, which involved the spinal cords of either rats or mice. I was trained to work with the animals, and was even able to help prepare them for surgeries. My main duties in the lab included blocking and cutting spinal cord tissue, staining slides, and counting cells. I learned to identify and count several different types of cells, and mostly focused on counting the areas where two different types of cells were overlapping. I learned so much about the scientific process in this lab, and even gained some important skills in interpreting journal articles. Every other Wednesday, the grad students in my lab had a journal club in which I was allowed to participate. I would read the selected articles to the best of my ability beforehand, and listen as the grad students explained the figures and discussed the articles. This was extremely helpful for me because listening to their discussions clarified so much about the articles and figures that I was not too sure about when I first read them. Ultimately, this lab was a great experience, but a combination of several factors lead me to make the decision to step away from it in my second semester of sophomore year. I had learned so much about the research process, but I had also leaned a lot about myself, including the fact that this lab was just not the best thing for me at the time. I knew that there were definitely students out there who were 100% sure they wanted to pursue a PhD that would be ecstatic to be in my position and would be passionate about taking over the project that I was working on. This, along with my desire to become more involved in volunteering and other activities outside of research helped me make my decision to leave the lab. Despite this decision, I am so grateful for the time I spent in this lab and for all of the knowledge I gained from my incredible P.I. and all of the graduate students in the lab.

~Neuroscience Ambassador~

I have been a Neuroscience Ambassador for a little bit over a year now, and it has a great experience that has taught me so much and introduced me to so many amazing people. As a Neuroscience Ambassador, it is my responsibility, along with my fellow ambassadors, to represent the Neuroscience program at OSU. From working orientations, to events throughout the school year, to open houses, I am always available to to the new Neuroscience majors to answer any questions and to act as a mentor to guide them through their first year. Working as an ambassador is great because we get to make lasting relationships as we talk to some of the same students at each event. For example, the picture below shows me and a couple of my fellow ambassadors with a group of freshmen. We ended up making a group chat for the freshmen to ask us any questions they had throughout the year, which I hope was a helpful tool for them. At orientations, we helped each freshmen schedule their first semester of classes. At open houses, we talked to prospective students about the major and about OSU as a whole. Lastly, at events throughout the year such as the Pancake Break in fall Semester and various picnics on the oval we talked to the new majors and checked in to make sure everything was going okay for them in their first year. Being a Neuroscience Ambassador has given me so many great opportunities and connected me to some incredible people and I look forward to seeing what it brings in the future.

~Senior Prom~

In the fall of 2017, Buckeyes Against Alzheimer’s put on a senior prom for the residents of the Inn at Olentangy Trail. As a member of the board, we worked together to plan the best prom that we could. We decided to make the theme a masquerade, and had our members help to make masks for the students and residents. We invited the families of the residents, and worked with the staff at the Inn to make the event as comfortable as possible for the residents. We had a playlist of songs that we thought would be familiar to them, and we brought lots of good food. On the day of the event, we went early to set up and we went all out with the decorations. We had streamers, banners, masquerade themed posters, and LOTS of balloons, which ended up being a hit among the residents as they tried to keep them in the air and occasionally hit them right at the students with mischievous grins on their faces. We had the opportunity to talk to the loved ones of many of the residents as well as to watch the residents’ faces light up as they danced and talked to their family members. Overall, we had a great turnout at this event and the smiles on the residents’ faces were enough to prove that the prom was a huge success!

~Dr. Knopp’s Imaging Lab~

At the beginning of the summer, I started a position in Dr. Michael Knopp’s Radiology Lab.  Dr. Knopp is a radiologist with a PhD in Computer Science. Over the course of the summer, I have not only learned a significant amount about MRI’s, but also what goes into the organization and coordination of a clinical trial.  There are many projects going on in Dr. Knopp’s lab at the Wright Center of Innovation, but I specifically spent most of my time working on a Glioblastoma clinical trial, and some of it working on a Meningioma clinical trial.  My job was to look at patient scans as well as the parameters of their scans and compile the information so that a comparison could be done to see if all of the sites were sending in scans that were up to protocol.  Depending on the sequence of the MRI and the field strength of the scanner(3T or 1.5T), different parameters were laid out.  In these trials, the sequences looked at were T2, FLAIR, 3D T1 (pre- and post-contrast), DWI, and Perfusion (DSC for the Glioblastoma trial and DCE for the Meningioma trial). I learned the defining features of each type of scan, and which parameters are most important for each type.  One of the main goals of the compilation project was to use this information to decide how close the parameters of the scans sent in had to be to the protocol to be acceptable for the trial.  Different sites have different types of scanners, so communicating exactly what is wanted for each trial is extremely important for the trial to have accurate and comparable results.  So much work is put into improving the the protocol so that there are substantially less problems and disparities for future trials.  Since these trials use patients from different facilities throughout the U.S., it is very important to be clear and concise in communicating the specific scans that each trial requires. This research experience has not only given me a great foundation of imaging information that I will be able to use in the future, but has also introduced me to some incredible people.  Overall, I am happy to have helped out in a lab that has opened my eyes to a different side of the research process.

~Indian Run United Methodist Church~

I have always been extremely involved in my church, whether it is working in the nursery during church services or helping with Vacation Bible School. Both of these things have helped develop my leadership skills.  When I work in the nursery, I am the primary caretaker of children ages 0-3 years old. I usually have a couple of helpers, but as the most experienced, and typically the oldest, I am usually in charge.  It is a part of my job to not only play with the kids and make sure they are having a good time, but to also make sure each child is getting equal attention from me and the other helpers in the nursery.  When I volunteer with VBS,  I am the leader of a group. This means that I am in charge of a small group of children, and I walk them around to various stations and make sure they are having a fun time while also learning a lot.  I do my best to create a welcoming environment where everyone feels included.  Working with kids has always been something that I love.  Getting to play childish games and see every single child smile ear to ear when their favorite song comes on, or when they are picked for duck-duck-goose is an experience like no other.  Children are the future, and being able to play a part in their development is a great feeling.

~BuckeyeThon~

This year, I participated in BuckeyeThon for the first time.  I have never felt so humbled to be a part of something in my entire life.  Spending 12 hours on your feet, dancing and raising money for kids with cancer will really put things into perspective.  While I am here, finding my way through college and living my life, there are thousands of children in hospitals fighting for their lives.  It is the LEAST I can do to dance for 12 hours in support of them.  Throughout the day, I learned the “morale dance,” which is the dance that all of the team leaders show at the beginning.  At the end of the marathon, another person from my team and I, along with two people from every other team, performed the dance on stage in front of hundreds of people. This was a thrilling moment, and I was proud to represent my team and dance in support of children who can’t.  I was able to personally raise over $1000 for children with cancer thanks to the help of my family and friends.  I will never forget the last few minutes of the marathon when the total amount of money raised was revealed and everyone hugged and cheered and cried tears of joy.  I have never been more proud to be a Buckeye than in that moment. As someone who possibly wants to become a pediatric oncologist, this event inspired me to  continue to work hard and achieve my goals FOR THE KIDS.

My friends and I in our hand made tutus, after 11 hours on our feet.

The final reveal!

 

~The Inn at Olentangy Trail~

I have been volunteering at The Inn at Olentangy Trail, a nursing home, in the dementia unit since the fall of 2016.  On Sunday mornings, I and several others go to the nursing home and mingle with the residents.  We do anything from doing puzzles, painting nails, and playing with a beach ball to just sitting and talking.  Seeing the residents faces light up when we come in is a feeling that will never get old. Although many of the residents may not remember us, it is still just as rewarding to watch them smile as they complete a puzzle or celebrate as they successfully hit the beach ball back to us. Before we leave, we always help serve lunch and clean up afterwards. I have met some incredible people through volunteering here, and I hope to continue going for as long as I am able to.

~Riverside Methodist Hospital~

I started volunteering at Riverside Hospital in 2016.  In such a short time, this experience has shaped me in a way that I did not know was possible.  I have been working as a greeter at the main entrance of the hospital, where I engage with the families of patients and answer any questions they may have. I walk patients and their families where they need to be, while providing a friendly and welcoming environment.  Occasionally, I deliver flowers to patients rooms, which always makes me smile.  This experience has not only helped change my perspective on everyday life, but also introduced me to some incredible people.  I volunteer every Wednesday morning with two amazing elderly, but not so elderly in spirit, men.  I have become close with both of these men, and they have both offered me some great advice, as well as words of encouragement when I need them.  Listening to them talk about life gives me great hope for the future, and watching their kindness in action gives me great hope for humanity.  Interacting with my fellow volunteers and with patients and their families has made me realize how important it is to be present in the moment and to appreciate the little things in life.  Many of the patients that I work with have had life altering circumstances occur at Riverside, whether it be a medical emergency or the loss of a loved one, in the blink of an eye. Seeing this has helped me appreciate how fortunate I am, and has helped me be thankful for everyone in my life and every single day that I am living.