Photo 1: Final Project

I’ve talked a bit on here about my love for both science and art, but at some point I realized I’ve never actually tried to combine my interests.

So for my final project for photo 1 this semester, I decided to try just that.

I got permission from the bio lab on campus to borrow one of their microscopes for a little bit, and ended up with the images below made into a science lab notebook, complete with some messy handwritten notes under each.

 

The cover of my notebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the catch: none of the images above were actually taken with a microscope.

When I borrowed the microscope from the lab, the only thing I did with it was pose next to it for the cover photo.

To make this, I spent about a week just carrying my camera everywhere with me and just documenting random textures that I found, and then edited them to have the appearance of being under a microscope.

So much of what we perceive is based on context, so I thought it would be really interesting to try decontextualizing some things we see every day – a brick, a windowsill, a plant, and a bandaid in this case – and see if people would recognize the source in a different context.

The really satisfying thing was, it worked. When I presented the project, my whole class literally gasped when I said that none of the photos were actual microscopic views. One guy called me a wizard. The fact that people were genuinely fooled by this, and then were really interested in how I actually did this was rewarding.

Seeing that I could have a more unusual idea and have it actually work the way I wanted it to work was validating, and proof that this really is something I could possibly successfully pursue.

 

Fall of Sophomore Year: Wrap Up

This semester I realized a lot of important things.

Probably most importantly is that I don’t really want to pursue a career in scientific research.

That has been my general goal for the last year and half, so it’s taking me a lot of adjustment to come to terms with it fully.

I think I love the actual concepts of science more than I like actually doing it. It’s interesting, but my heart just isn’t in it like it should be.

In hindsight, my strongest classes have always been the humanities. I’ve always been a reader, a writer, an artist, and a nature person. The projects I have been most proud of in my life have almost all been art or writing based.

I’m not sure where this realization will lead me, honestly. It’s a really different mindset for me. I’ve always been broadly interested in both science and the arts/humanities, but I’ve always mentally prioritized science, and I don’t think I want to keep doing that.

And it’s not that I want to completely abandon science – I don’t. But, I don’t really want to continue pursuing the path that I have been.

Going forward, I’d like to explore some non-academic STEM related areas. Places where I could use the knowledge I have, but not necessarily be involved in the day to day parts of research. Possibly science communication – I think that could be really interesting.  At one point I was considering environmental law too – I’m not sure I actually want to be a lawyer, but I’d be really interested in exploring more of the policy end of science.

It feels a little uncertain and a little scary to really be changing my focus, but it’s exciting too, and I hope that means that I’m making the right decision here.

My Favorite Assignment

Reflecting on my freshman year, I’m most proud of the work that I completed in my Shakespeare class last spring.

For this assignment, I was supposed to take a scene from one of the six plays we read over the semester and decide how I would stage it to portray a particular theme.

I decided to stage the finale from The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Sir John Falstaff (the bumbling, womanizing lead of the play who sent identical love letters to two best friends) is publicly humiliated for his brash ways. Fenton, the lower class gentleman, is also married to his true love, Anne Page, despite the wishes of her parents for her to marry a richer man.

In this scene, Shakespeare shows a shift in the status quo of marriage as a business transaction to marriage as genuine love and affection. Through the punishment of Falstaff’s brash attitude towards women and Fenton’s successful marriage to Anne Page, Shakespeare shows that the old ways of marriage for the sake of money are declining, and marrying for true love will prevail in the end.

I chose to stage this scene to emphasize the Falstaff’s  humiliation – having him interact with the audience, attempting unsuccessfully to hide behind one of them, etc. For the two merry wives, I chose to cast Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the roles, as both Mistresses Ford and Page, and Fey and Poehler are a pair of witty, comedic, strong women who are also best friends.

Overall, I really loved being able to read through the text in detail to really understand what it is the characters were doing and why, and how I could best portray that. It also reminded me of my love for theatre and the arts, and how I really would love to continue that in some way.  For me, it was really satisfying to be able to use all of my theatre experience and be able to create something new out of it, some new interpretation.

Swanka – The Merry Wives of Windsor-14cd3uo

On Community Service

After my service trip to NYC last spring break (which I talked about here), I decided to make service a more key part of my experience here at OSU. It really inspired me to make service not a special event or occasional thing, but something to continuously engage with and really make an impact.

I’ve been working with Best Food Forward (BFF), a student organization on campus that aims to combat food insecurity by providing access to cheap, healthy foods. BFF organizes bulk buys to purchase produce directly from distributors, usually cutting the overall price at least in half.

In addition to the bulk buys, BFF has some service projects to engage with other similar groups around OSU and Columbus. Last weekend, I went out to the Linden neighborhood of Columbus to help with a group called Food Not Bombs.

Linden has been at the center of the Smart Columbus initiative, which I’ve heard a lot about in the past few weeks. Essentially, the proposal for the Smart Columbus transportation grant was heavily focused on using the money to improve transportation and improve the Linden neighborhood. The community there is mostly comprised of working class families, immigrants, etc., and the area is classified as a food desert, meaning there aren’t very many grocery stores in the area.

What Food Not Bombs does is simple, but effective: they drive around to different markets, bakeries, etc., in Columbus and pick up all the food that’s still perfectly edible, but not pretty enough or not quite fresh enough to actually put on the shelves and sell. We collected two heaping trashbags just full of bread and bagels to pass out. It absolutely blows my mind how much bread is baked, and never sold. So much of it just gets thrown away.

What was really interesting though, was that the people in Linden didn’t want the bread. Of the roughly 80 people who stopped by in the hour we were there, I would say at least a quarter of them specifically said that they weren’t looking for bread, they don’t eat bread; they mostly just wanted fresh produce.

It makes sense, but so often people assume that less affluent people just want bread and sweets all the time, but that just isn’t true.

The other interesting aspect of Food Not Bombs is that they don’t put any limits on what people can take. We only told people, take what you think you can use.

And the amazing part was, no one took an insane amount of food. Every single person who came up to us took a very reasonable amount of produce and baked goods.

A lot of political rhetoric says that if given the chance, poor people will be greedy and take every scrap of handouts that they can get. They’ll take advantage of the system, and so it won’t work.

I’m not going to say that isn’t a genuine concern, but if my experience with Food Not Bombs is any indication, people seem to just take what they honestly think they’ll use. No one took 50 bagels, no one stole an entire crate of apples; everyone was respectful and incredibly kind to us.

The more I volunteer in and around Columbus, the more I know that in some way, I want to continue to be engaged in the community and continue to make a positive impact here.

Reflections on Leadership

If you had asked me in high school what I thought leadership meant, I would have told you, oh, it’s like Bill Gates and Barack Obama and all the other famous, important people in the world, whose actions affect literally millions of lives. And that’s not wrong, but that’s also a really limited idea of what a leader is and what a leader should be.

Does that mean that unless we can be the next Bill Gates, none of us can be leaders?

Does leadership only happen if you’re also famous and important?

In my opinion, no.

I was never much of the leader type in high school. I was much more of the goody two shoes, quiet, good student, girl who liked math and biology and also art and theatre. I would never have considered myself a leader, not really. I was always more introverted in high school, and leadership seemed like such an extroverted thing that just wasn’t possible for me. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone a little mores my senior year and took on officer roles, small leadership roles, etc., but I didn’t really consider myself a leader.

Going in to college, I decided I would push myself out of my comfort zone more. I was able to attend the First Year Experience Leadership Collaborative a few weeks prior to my freshman year, and that was a really great experience for so many reasons.

From that, two key lessons have stuck with me:

  1. Attending helped to kick me out of my comfort zone of introversion, and it made me more confident in speaking to authority figures. At one of the dinners, I actually got to meet the provost and talk with him for a minute. In high school, I would have been too anxious, and I wouldn’t have done it. And honestly, I was still nervous to talk to him. But I mustered up my courage, and I did it, and I’m proud that I was able to get myself out of my comfort zone.
  2. It expanded my definition of what a leader could be, and that new definition felt like it could include me. Leadership transformed from something for extroverted, important people, to something that anyone, anywhere could do. It’s not always the person with the fancy title or the one shouting at the center of the room. It’s usually the person who makes you feel welcome, who creates an environment where people can work together to accomplish something bigger than any one person.

I would be lying if I said I’ve figured out how to be a perfect, inspirational leader in every situation ever. But, I’m continually working to learn more and push myself out of my comfort zone, and I’d like to believe that I’ve made real progress, and I think that commitment to progress and learning is what really matters in the end.

On Disability and Cross-Cultural Communication

This semester I’m working with the Office of Disability Services as a student lab assistant. This translates to: helping disabled students, of all kinds (temporarily – ex. broken arm, permanently – ex. blind, wheelchair, varying in severity – ranging from hand tremors and needing just a little help in a lab, to more disabling conditions) to succeed to the best of their ability in their various classes and labs.

A lot of the work is really pretty fun – like sitting in on random classes and picking up random bits of knowledge along the way.  I also get to interact with different kinds of people and learn how to effectively work with them and communicate, and I get to have some insight on what campus life is like for them.

One of the students I work with is a blind PhD student from Pakistan, and I’m essentially doing the physical processes of researching and writing his dissertation. Obviously, he’s doing all the actual writing and reading – my job is simply to help him succeed where his disability would otherwise limit him.

Since English isn’t his first language, I also offer grammar and editing suggestions regularly. It’s really interesting work – seeing what PhD research really looks like on a day to day basis – and it feels good knowing that this job actually has a direct impact on someone’s life. However, it’s also very challenging, learning to communicate across ability and cultural boundaries.

Most days at work are really pretty enjoyable, but there are days where miscommunication has occurred, and I’ve had to learn to navigate it. For example, there have been times when he feels that he explained what he wants me to do well already, but I either didn’t understand fully, or couldn’t understand through his accent.

So, when a misunderstanding does occur, I’ve found it best if I can just take a minute, listen to what he’s saying, pause, and then respond in a way that lets him know that I’ve listened, I’ve understood his issue, and I want to work with him to fix it. Patience and understanding is so key for any kind of communication, and that’s something I’ll carry with me through out any kind of future problem communication.

On Art and Creative Outlets

This semester, I’m taking a photography course. I did four years of art in high school, so I thought doing an actual art class for my general education arts requirement would be fun, and photography seemed like a useful skill to learn too.

Learning photography has helped teach me to look at things in different ways – new angles or perspectives can make a subject much more interesting than looking at it from the same old, every day perspective. It’s also a good excuse to explore campus and find some interesting spots that not everyone knows about.

For example, I’ve always liked the Knowlton architecture building here on campus. It’s a little different in its design, so I thought it would be interesting to photograph.

This isn’t my photo, but just a reference of what the building looks like.

Image result for ohio state knowlton

I walked around and explored a little, and found this little niche behind one of the walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like how the rectangular support frames are the same shape as the outline of the picture itself, and I think the contrast between the organic tree branches and the geometric supports is really interesting too.

It’s one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken so far, and I think it’s a good reminder to me to take more time to be creative and spontaneous. I haven’t been able to do as much creative work as I did in high school while at college, and I’ve really been missing it lately. I think having a creative outlet is important for my happiness and stress levels, so taking some time to just explore and photograph has been a really positive change for me this semester.

Spring Break 2017: Buck-i-Serv in New York City

Spring break of my freshman year, I got to travel to New York City  and volunteer with a program called “The Medici Project.” Even though I was tired and sick by the end of it, it was one of the most exciting and rewarding weeks of my life. We volunteered at various places all over the city, including tutoring in a middle school, making and serving soup in a church food pantry, and helping at a homeless shelter in New Jersey. There’s a lot of good stories I could tell from that trip, but I’m going to focus on one afternoon in particular, the day we went to a homeless shelter in New Jersey.

The shelter’s mission was to provide emergency housing for men who had just lost their job, lost their home, or otherwise found themselves in a bad situation. It was a little run down and out of the way, and I was honestly a little apprehensive at first. But, when we arrived, the people working there were instantly just so excited to have us there to help, and absolutely some of the kindest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met.

Since it was a men’s only shelter, part of what we did there was put together bed frames in a separate area to start creating a shelter for women. It physically demanding work – some of the pieces were a little rusty, and it was difficult to fit them together. But despite the challenge, my group was able to get a lot done in just a few hours. Some of the men in the shelter even came and helped us!

Superficially, it doesn’t seem very exciting – putting together metal bed frames in 40 degree weather isn’t most college students’ idea of a fun spring break. But, it was significant to me because countless women in the future would be able to have a safe space to sleep, all because of my group’s couple hours of work. It seems small, but it does make a difference.

One week isn’t enough time to reverse the poverty levels of an entire city, and sometimes it feels like the little actions don’t actually get us anywhere. It can feel like only the big milestones are worth working for – maybe a new piece of legislation, or opening a new non-profit. And of course, those things are absolutely needed and important in this world. But for me, this trip helped crystallize that small, every day actions do have an impact, and they absolutely matter just as much as the big actions. No matter what my future holds, I want to be able to give back and help others and make the world a better place even in small, every day ways. In part because of this trip, giving back and volunteer work has really become a key value of mine.

Year in Review: Favorite Class of Freshman Year

My favorite class I’ve gotten to take so far at OSU was called “History of HIV: From Microbiology to Macrohistory”. It was just a history GE course for me, not actually required for my major, but it sounded interesting and a little different, so I signed up. Essentially, the course was all about both the microbiology of HIV – the origination of the virus near the Congo, how it functions in the body, etc. – and the macrohistory of the epidemic – the social factors that allowed the disease to propagate, the search for a cure, the millions of lives affected by such a miniscule strand of molecules.

For the class, I also got to create my own research question with a group and create a “Pecha Kucha” presentation – 20 slides with only one image each on them, shown for 20 seconds each. The challenge of the presentation format was to create a succinct, clear story out of an entire semester of research, and then present it while being mindful of the timing. Using only images on the slides seemed at first like it would make the presentation less clear, but in reality, I think the simple slides allowed people to focus more on the presentation itself, and not have to worry about reading the slides and listening to the presenter. For future presentations, I think I would have maybe a phrase or two at most on the slides, and instead let people focus on what I’m saying instead. It was a challenging project, but I found it to be incredibly rewarding as well.

My own project was about how the policies and beliefs of the South African government contributed to one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, both then and now. Essentially, the President, Thabo Mbeki, believed that HIV didn’t actually cause AIDS, and so he refused to provide government sponsored treatment. The lack of treatment and the popularized belief of the government resulted in a much higher than average rate of HIV infection.

In addition to the skills and content I learned, the class was also significant to me in that my own interests have always been a little weird and a little varied, so taking a course that was intentionally interdisciplinary and unique was a inspiring experience. It helped show me that I don’t necessarily have to choose one strict academic discipline and stick with it, there’s a lot more overlap in ideas than it may initially seem. It also helped spark my interest in health – I’m not sure exactly how I’d like it to fit in to my future plans, but I think how disease spreads and how it can be affected by so many outside factors other than the obvious is really interesting.

 

Informational Interview – Social Work

For my survey class informational interview, I interviewed Paige, a senior in the social work program.

Q: When and why did you decide on this major?

A:  I decided on social work in spring of my freshman year. I got interested in the social work program after my aunt fostered two little babies who were born addicted to drugs. It exposed me to who social workers actually are and what they do, and I realized it was a really good way to help people. I also took the intro to social work class as my social diversity GE and every week I learned more about the career and thought, “I could see myself doing this”.

Q: Did you start in this major? If so, did you ever question your decision? If not, what was your previous major(s) and how did you decide on this one?

A: I actually started in exploration in the fall of my freshman year, and then switched to the pre-major for social work after I learned more about it through my aunt’s experience, as well as different volunteer experiences I had. I never really questioned it after I decided on the pre-major.

Q: What was your favorite major class?

A: I’m taking a class right now called “Engagement and Interview Skills”. It’s all about practicing talking to people, practicing therapy and case work, and just trying to get to the root of the problem they’re having.

Q: What was your favorite non-major class?

A: I took a History of Food class last year and loved it. We talked about chocolate, coffee, all sorts of food. I actually wrote a 10 page paper about pasta, it was so fun getting a different perspective on something  that you don’t really think about as having much of a history.

Q: What kinds of extracurricular experiences (research, internships, co-ops, student organizations, study abroad, etc) have you had? Why did you choose those particular opportunities? How have they benefited you? What are your plans for after graduation?

A: I was really involved in MOUNT leadership my freshman year. It was a really good way to get leadership experience, and I got to have some really good volunteer experiences that helped me decide on my major. I was also an ambassador for the college of social work and I was an RA last year and this year. I was really looking for experiences that would let me help others and grow as a leader, and I think they all have helped me do that. After graduation I plan to become a licensed social worker and find work at an agency somewhere.

I decided to talk to Paige because she’s my RA. When I was thinking of who I could interview, I remembered that she was a social work major, so I asked and she agreed. I think talking to Paige was really helpful, I didn’t really know all that much about what the social work major was about, although I was interested in it. After talking to her, I don’t think social work is for me. I really admire what they do, but I’m not sure I would actually be good at solving everyone’s personal problems. I did get to learn more about social work and the different classes they take, which was really interesting. I didn’t really know about all the different people that social worker’s help, like Paige’s aunt and the two babies who were born addicted to drugs. I learned about the biological and psychological mechanisms behind babies born addicted to drugs in my classes this semester, but it was interesting hearing the more social, human aspect of it. I don’t think I want to do social work as a career so I don’t need any more information on it, so I think I’ll try to do some more informational interviews with some other seniors in majors I’m still considering, and take classes next semester that will help me narrow down my options. I think the most helpful major exploration tools for me this semester were the college lectures and the FOCUS assessment in survey class. I really liked the college lectures because it gave me a little more specific information to consider, and I really liked the lectures that had student panels, as they were able to give a more personal perspective on the program. The FOCUS assessment was helpful because it made me consider my strengths more seriously as a way to determine what my major should be. Overall, exploration survey class has been really helpful in narrowing down a major and I’m glad I’m taking this time to figure out what I really want to do.