Allegheny hosts a series of what is called single voice readings. Over the course of the school year, the college hosts a published author who’s work pertains, in one way or another, to the school’s annual theme. The theme this year is civil rights, so alongside a plethora of other programming and lectures centered around civil rights, the single voice poets read works that somehow touch on the topic. I, being lazy, have never attended a single voice reading in all my time at my beloved alma mater, but I’m glad that I’m now required to for a class.
For the first single voice reading of the semester, Allegheny hosted Richard Blanco. As a homosexual, Cuban-American, poet born in Spain, he not only embodies Allegheny’s tradition of unusual combinations, but has lived a number of experiences to draw upon for him work. His poems discuss the intersection of all his identities – his desire to be the perfect American; his negotiation of his sexuality; the experience of coming from a lower-middle class family of immigrants; and ultimately coming to terms with his Cuban heritage. At the same time, he critiques both Cuban and American values, culture, and society and asks the question where is a home in the face of it all.
I knew that I’d probably enjoy a single voice reading if I ever took the time to attend one, but I was really moved by Blanco’s work. Though it is light on the surface, it tackles a number of heavy topics that many of us have experienced while remaining honest and endearing. The irony that I find is that while he struggled with his feelings of being a foreigner, his experience is every bit as American as apple pie. I’m truly grateful that my school gave me the opportunity to interact with a man honored as the nation’s inaugural poet, that I got the opportunity to meet Mr. Richard Blanco.
Now that I’m a senior, my firsts and lasts hold a lot of sentimental value. So far I’ve seen my last Homecoming, Wingfest, Greek Sing, Halloween Ball, Make a Difference Day, and now my last show for Orchesis. Orchesis is a dance company on campus that does a show every fall and my first time dancing for Orchesis was my Sophomore year. I was in a hip hop routine choreographed to one of my favorite songs and I loved every second of it. Part of the Orchesis show is a dance performed exclusively by senior students and it was finally my time to be in it. This year the dance was choreographed to songs from dance movies, including “Save the Last Dance”, “Footloose”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Fame” , and “Step Up”, all of which are movies that we, as seniors, grew up with.
After four short performances, it seems that my (very) short lived time as a dancer has come to an end. No more crazy stage make-up, no more awesome costumes, and no more running around backstage to make transitions work. It felt amazing to be in front of all my friends this last time. This was the final year that I’d share this stage and this pride with such talented dancers, lower and upperclassmen alike. I thank them all for their support, and dedication, for making this an unforgettable performance for an unforgettable senior year.
This has been one of my favorite weeks so far just because I’ve been doing nothing but having fun. My room mate’s mom came to visit for a couple of days which means she cooked dinner for a couple of nights – more Puerto Rican recipes that just melt in your mouth! All the interns have also been playing a lot of volleyball. I think at this point I play better now than when I played for my high school team. Turns out we are just as competitive at bowling as we are at volleyball too. Over the weekend a few of us went to the King of Prussia Mall about half an hour from Philadelphia, and let me tell you it is every bit as huge as they say. I don’t remember the last time I bought so many pairs of shoes at once. I actually got a blister from walking around the giant complex for so long. Perhaps the funnest part of the week has been doing a commercial interview for the American Heart Association. It doesn’t get much better than this! Spending so much time with everyone has made me realize how hard it’s going to be to leave this place…
The most interesting that has happened this week is Christmas. Alex came over and decided to celebrate Christmas in July on the 24th and 25th. She even brought Christmas movies and decorations to my apartment. I was very skeptical and a little alarmed, I won’t lie, but I will say the Christmas cookies made it all worth while.
It’s also amazing how quickly this experience is starting to wind down. It seems now that I’m really settled in and comfortable with the lab and the procedures, it’s almost time to go! I still remember how I started out this summer – completely unsure of how this would pan out and if I would be able to handle the tasks set forth. Now here I am eight weeks later doing my last set of of dissections and dissociations completely by myself, mounting my last set of slides on my own. In short, I did it – I finished my project! The only thing left to do is collect and analyze data over the next two weeks, then make a poster and present at the summer undergraduate research symposium on July 31st. Wish me luck!
This post is possible thanks for foresight and proper planning. Amanda knew that the fourth of July would be this weekend so she timed the experiments to make sure that no one would have to come in Thursday or Friday. It is thanks to her that I had a fun fourth to write about at all.
Usually people barbecue or go to the beach on independence day, but we have no grill and no beaches, not even a pool, so this year we celebrated America in a more multicultural context. Two of my room mates are from Puerto Rico so they made traditional food from their home – cube steak, rice and beans, and tostones, which are fried plantains.
To get in the holiday spirit the hospital offers a free outdoor concert with free refreshments. We sat out on the lawn in front of the hospital and listened to the Hershey Symphonic Orchestra play a great set while the lights in front of the hospital shone red white and blue. Afterward we stuck around to see the fireworks from Hershey Park. Though I did miss my family, a day of good food, good music, free ice cream, and fireworks was much appreciated this fourth of July.
My transition into the laboratory has been seamless. After four weeks I feel a lot more comfortable, I’ve become way more efficient with my time because I’m asking fewer questions, and I’m more confident with the skills I’ve learned. All of a sudden this is really becoming my project. The rats downstairs have my name on the cages. Amanda isn’t really helping me analyze glucose transporters, rather she’s working on a separate project altogether. I do everything for my research from start to finish and try to decipher the results. It feels pretty amazing.
What is also amazing is learning to cook for myself. At Allegheny I cook on occasion, but here there is no dining hall and there are no meal plans. It feels really grown up to go grocery shopping and buy actual groceries – not just snacks and cereal.
Not only am I learning new skills, but I’m learning my limitations, namely roller coasters. This weekend a group of us went to Hershey Park and overall it was a fun trip. What I learned was it only takes 2 roller coasters for me to get sick, so I spent most of the day watching the others have a good time. When my head wasn’t spinning though, I did enjoy myself. Although the skyrocket ride was the literal highest point of my day, Red Robin was the highlight of my night.
This was a slower week in the lab, but an exciting week nonetheless. I finally got to dissociate the nodose ganglia from a rat all by myself! We also do a surgery where we put a dye on the rats stomach so that we know which neurons belong to the vagus nerve. I did a dozen of those by myself as well. As fun as that was, I still had to analyze what felt like 1000 images of our cells. That’s when it hit me that this is actually work. Granted I love what I do, but now I see that as cool as research is, it’s still a job.
My time in the lab this week was great, but my time outside of it was a lot more fun. My birthday was Sunday, so the whole weekend felt like a giant celebration. Friday, some friends and I went out to eat before going to chocolate world a third time. Saturday I was treated to a full body massage. I went out to eat again and the waiter was nice enough to treat Alex (you remember her from a previous post right?) and I to free slices of birthday cake. Saturday night, about 21 of us interns got together for my birthday party. We listened to music, played games, and they even surprised me with cupcakes. Sunday I went to the movies with Alex to see “This is the End” (which was hilarious by the way) and my room mates bought me a Hershey pie for my birthday (house tradition). As if I hadn’t had enough sweets, the Principal investigator of my research project even baked me a cake on Monday – 2 layers of chocolate cake with a layer of whipped cream and raspberries in the middle.
So 8 renditions of “Happy Birthday” and 4 desserts later, my birthday extravaganza weekend came to an end. I could not have celebrated with more awesome people in a more awesome place. It was truly a weekend to remember and the best birthday of my life.
My lab experience at Allegheny has been great, but it does not compare to everything I’ve been doing at Penn state. Like I said in my last post, our research involves dissecting the nododse ganglion out of the vagus nerve of rats and I saw seven more of those during the week. I must have made half a dozen different solutions necessary to treat our cells once we plate them on coverslips. Eventually I learned how to use the confocal microscope and all of its computer software to take images of our slides. This means over the course of 2 weeks I’ve learned how to culture neurons, treat them with antibodies, make slides, use a fluorescent microscope, and analyze the images it takes! Everyday I leave the lab feeling like a legit scientist.
Going back to my mentor, working with her is a great experience. She’s really thorough in her explanations of different lab protocols and techniques, while giving me room to try things on my own. She is also very patient with me as a student, and with as many questions as I ask, I’m glad she’s really patient! My transition into the lab would not have been nearly as smooth or enjoyable without her.
Not only did I learn about lab procedures this week, I learned more about the area. Not only did Hershey chocolate begin here but the entire town was built by Milton Hershey. A bunch of friends and I went to chocolate world for the free tour – twice! We didn’t go back for the singing cows, we went back for the free chocolate at the end of the ride.
Having chocolate related attractions in town is pretty awesome, but there’s a still fun to be had on campus, namely volleyball. The fitness center has a sand pit out front where we play beach volleyball. You’d be surprised how many bruises you can get on your arms after playing for nearly 3 hours! Needless to say games can get pretty intense, but all in good fun. I am most definitely enjoying my stay here in Hershey. It really is the sweetest place on Earth.