Summer Internships 2018

Engage. Reflect. Integrate. #DsonIntern

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White Handed Gibbons!

Animals are pretty weird, and often possess behaviors that are surprising to some humans. For example, many primates have a dominant hand, just like humans and certain species of tree frogs have been known to communicate using symbols they form with their forefeet. Upon starting my internship, I was told that I would need to conduct an observational study on any behavior in relation to any animal at the zoo. At first, I really struggled to choose an animal, not really knowing too many interesting facts about the animals at the zoo. But, one day when I was walking through the primate building, I found myself staring at a family of small apes climbing and swinging effortlessly through their multilayered exhibit, the white handed gibbons.

At the zoo, we have a family of four, Mercury, the father, Pheonice, the mother and their two sons, Orien (age 4) and Aries (age 2). These animals are considered lesser apes due to their size, and are often overlooked when guests see the gorillas across the way, but they are incredible! These primates are native southeast Asia, from southern China to Indonesia and weigh about 7-12 pounds. White handed gibbons are the most acrobatic primate and full of energy, making them incredibly entertaining to conduct a behavioral study on. I chose them, knowing I wanted to study something in regard to their family structure and after a few hours of watching, decided to study who initiates play more frequently, Aries or Orien, hypothesizing that Aries would, being the younger sibling.

Throughout my time, I observed for an hour per day, keeping an ethogram marking who initiated play, and what type of play was being initiated. The types of play ranged from tag, play wrestling and biting and food stealing. Honestly, not every single moment was exciting, during the 95+ degree days, neither me or the gibbons wanted to think about moving, and I wound up collecting little to no data on those days.

Approaching the end of my internship, I started to count up my tallies and figure out who was truly initiating play more frequently. Contradicting my hypothesis, Orien initiated play more times overall. Within the different types of play, Orien was more likely to initiate tag, while Aries would initiate wrestling and biting, Aries also was the only gibbon to be guilty of food stealing.

These observations can be helpful in understanding the family structure of this family, and can help record behavioral changes when an animal becomes stressed. I’ve enjoyed my experience with these animals, and have gotten to know them quite well from their physical appearance to their behavioral quirks. I’ll definitely be back to visit sometime in the future, and maybe next time Orien and Aries will have another younger sibling to pick on!



Pictures from the Summer


HGTV Week 10- Hard Work for Something

This was my last week at HGTV, and I’ve absolutely loved having a creative and logistical internship.  My boss gave me some really fun Christmas tasks to work on involving matching wrapping papers with ribbons for a photo shoot, and I had to tie up a lot of loose ends with PR representatives I was mid-transaction with before I left.  But the best part about this week was seeing some of my hard work from the summer be put into action.

On Wednesday I had to go to the Container Store to pick out tons of different sized gift boxes that were to be used for a Christmas photo shoot coming up.  It took me a long time to locate all the specific sizes we needed, I was rushing to get back to the office before a meeting I wanted to sit in on, and I ended up having an entire cart full of items I needed to lug onto the subway back to work.  When I was checking out, not in the greatest mood, it was kind of cool to see our latest issue of HGTV magazine with my name in it on the rack where I was unloading all the boxes.  Somehow it made my annoying task seem like it was worth a little bit more.

The magazine on display while I was running an errand for the photo shoot

The magazine on display while I was running an errand for a photo shoot   


The most gratifying thing to see this week was seeing the story I have been working a lot on be put into a mock-up.  Below are pictures I took of the original mock-ups with notes written all over it from a meeting with my boss.  It’s so cool to see everything that started from my initial research and presentation boards be put into a spread that looks like what it’ll sort of look like when the November issue is published.  Since I’m leaving before I’ll get to see my work put into final layout, it’ll be such a great surprise to see the published issue with my work in it, especially since I really experienced first hand all the work that went into each stage of the story’s production and all the logistical work I did behind the scenes to obtain credit and photo information from each individual paint and product used.

Overall, my experience at HGTV gave me a ton of insight into all that’s involved in the world of magazine publishing.


My summer experience with IACC Texas has been great. I would like to take some time and thank them for accepting me and letting be part of their team for the past 3 months.

It has been a pleasure to learn more about what IACC Texas does as well as a little bit more about Italy in general. The office was always very welcoming and vivid, which made each day a good day. I have loved working with each and everyone in the office. The different amount of work I was doing with them has thought me a lot this summer. From working with codes to translations to data bases. Nothing was easy at the beginning, but they were very supportive and patient with me. They were always very cheerful when I would accomplish a new task, which made feel very happy and motivated to continue doing my best.

It’s really sad to see this journey come to an end, because after so much time together I have grown to love my internship, I know very formaggio (cheesy), but its true. This bond will be missed, now that my time is done. But thankfully I have their contact information and they will be waiting for me to send them pictures of me in Italy as well as they are very excited to hear about my experience in Italy. Additionally, since they always travel back to Italy, we might end up catching up while we are in the same country once again, which I’m totally excited for.

Grazie a tutti.

The Last Week

Last week was my final week of my internship for the summer. This also means, this is my final blog post of the summer. This summer and internship really flew by. It seemed as though I blinked and July was gone. I couldn’t believe that last week was the final week I’d be making my way into the office, going to meetings, and helping to educate the public on how to be more environmentally conscious. I’ve learned so much from this experience. But the main take away I got from this experience was how to take on projects and make them into my own. Working at a small non-profit , I got to experience taking a leadership role in creating passion projects and make it into my own. I was able to work on two projects: Mobilize U and an anti-straw campaign. With these projects I did research on how these projects would benefit the parties involved.

When it came to the Mobilize U, I created a tool-kit for students at Universities to use in order to educate their peers. This includes tabling at school and giving “swag” to entice people to make a change in their lives to benefit our planet. Not only did I create the tool-kit, I also made a sticker that we plan to send to Universities to give out when students do table. It is well known that young people are the one’s that tend to take charge on a college campus when looking for a change. Earth Day Network originally had this project geared towards faculty educating about being sustainable on campus. However, I pitched to the staff that it would be beneficial to encourage the students to take charge because it is ultimately their campus that they are living on, they should take charge to change and become more sustainable. They loved the idea!

As for the anti-straw campaign. I did research to encourage the restaurants in the area to stop using straws, or only give upon request. This meant me not only researching the benefits, but also going and talking to the companies themselves. I had to tell them the pros and cons of going straw free. This was a very difficult task, however, I’ve never felt so accomplished when I got a restaurant to agree to stop using straws or use biodegradable or just only giving straws upon request. I would often come back to the restaurant to check and see if they were following through and many of them did. It was so exciting to see those restaurants continue to make a difference.

Overall, this internship has been such an amazing experience. I’m so happy the Dickinson was able to give me the opportunity to be across the country for the summer and work on things I am truly interested in and excited to help with. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Dickinson Grant scholarship that they school offers. I’m very happy and excited for my next adventures to take place.

Why The Arts Matter

In 2015, the National Endowment of the Arts led an initiative where they asked various staff members throughout the agency what they actually think about the arts. One employee, Jennie Terman, wrote the following:

“The arts matter because they help us see the world from different perspectives. They give us empathy and help us understand people, places, periods of history, and issues with which we may otherwise be unfamiliar. They comfort us in grief and energize us in celebration. They are important because they can act as a catalyst for change…they can start a revolution! The arts ignite something in our brains that I can’t explain, but I know it’s essential for life.”


An iconic photo from The Lion King. I can literally feel the musical’s power just by looking at the picture.

When I first read this article three years ago, Terman’s quote immediately left a mark on my heart. I still carry her words with me to this day, and they continue to inform how I see and understand the arts in our current moment.

That said, this post will be dedicated to explaining why the arts matter today. The assumption that the arts are a source of entertainment has become quite pervasive—an assumption that tracks back many years. Often times, when I tell people that I work at the Kennedy Center, I hear this assumption illustrated in their responses. While I certainly hear many reactions, I often hear the following: “Oh, that must be so fun!” and “Do you get to see free shows? I bet you’re really enjoying that…” etc.

I have to be honest with you, though. While the arts can be entertaining, often times, they are indicative of something deeper and more profound. My intention is not to undermine the importance of entertainment, as I love it just as much as the next person. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that Art and Entertainment are two different things (with some overlap).

Last week, I attended a performance of The Color Purple in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Because the advertising team had been marketing for the show the past few months, I was fortunate enough to obtain a free ticket. For those who are unfamiliar, The Color Purple, based on the 1982 epistolary novel by Alice Walker, focuses on the life of African American women in the southern United States in the 1930s.


Oh, you know… Just the obligatory photo of the stage while wielding the playbill.

After watching the show—an experience that was laced with laughter, tears, and frustration—I realized that what I had witnessed was more than a “fun” thing you do on a Tuesday night. Rather, I was transported to a destructive moment in history and besieged with numerous issues, one of which examined the exceedingly low position that African American men and women held in American social culture. More-so than just offering a broad overview of the struggles experienced by the African American people, however, the story focused on the lives and stories of a few women in particular. In other words, The Color Purple transported me to a moment in history, while also offering me the opportunity to witness the stories of individual women.

I’ll be perfectly honest with you—watching this musical was anything but entertaining. The music, while beautiful, was set against the backdrop of hate, revulsion, and inequality. Despite the difficult subject matter, the music and the dance showed just how important the performing arts were to these women. It was more than just entertainment—it was a way of showing the resilience of the human spirit under harsh and oppressive circumstances. It was a means of survival—a way of showing that African Americans are active presences, that they are beautiful, and that their stories matter, too.


How could one not be inspired by the exuberant colors, the amazing choreography, the sensational acting, and unforgettable music?

The arts matter because they empower us to look honestly at ourselves  and our society, as well as prompt us to think, feel, and re-examine. Therefore, we must support the arts because a world without art is a world without culture, heart, passion, or creativity. After the show, I was inspired to think more deeply about the performing arts in general, and now I encourage you to do the same.

Tips for Working in a City

Working in Boston has taught me a couple lessons about what it is like to commute to and work in a large city. Because I live about 45 minutes outside of the city, and the Massachusetts State House is deep within Boston, the commute to work each day has required a decent amount of planning. For those of you that are not so familiar with cities that are reading this and might be considering an internship in a city, Ive created this list of tips and suggestions that I can make for you after working in Boston this summer. Im not sure if these tips will apply to every city, but I hope that reading them might give some suggestions for how to save as bit of money and time and make working a bit more manageable.

1- Transportation: Unless you are the luckiest person on earth, commuter traffic is something you will inevitably encounter if you drive into a city for work, and unless you are the most tempered person on earth, sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for two hours before you even sit down at your desk at work is going to ruffle your feathers a bit. My first day of work, I thought it would be good to drive in- I left at 7am and hardly made it in time to get to the office at 9:30am. Its a 30 mile drive- What a waste of time! Super stressful, too. Not to mention, you will end up spending a bunch of money driving in to work. between tolls and gas, that will probably amount to $10 a day, and in Boston, parking will cost at least another $15-30 dollars. If you plan on working in a city with a functional public transportation system, use it! Not only do you not have to worry about traffic, these trains and busses are usually spot on with their arrival and departure times. I take the commuter rail into Boston now- it gets me near the State House on time each day, and instead of sitting in a sea of crawling cars on the Mass Pike, I can read a book, listen to music or catch up on email on the way to work. Also, public transportation is better for the environment! Better in every way.

2- Food: It is always better to make the time to buy food in advance and prepare it and bring it in to work with you than to buy food from nearby restaurants while on your lunch break. The sooner you realize this, the more money you will keep in your pocket and the better off you’ll be. Prepared food in cities is a lot more expensive than I am used to, and I have been saving $10-15 dollars a day since I stopped buying food at restaurants in Boston while on my lunch break. Plus, if you put a little bit of creativity and effort in the night before, your lunch you bring from home can be a lot tastier and healthier too. I like making berry scones and then bringing them in for a snack, and then I usually make rotisserie chicken sandwiches for lunch with lots of spinach, red peppers and hot sauce. Cheap, easy and really good. I always make sure to throw a cliff bar and an apple in my lunch bag too, to cover all my food bases. Making sure you are not hungry at work makes an 8 hour work day much more tolerable.

3.- Coffee: Bring you’re own with you. I know just as well as anyone else that a sugar filled iced coffee from dunkin’ donuts is so easy and can be extremely tempting, especially early in the morning when you may not have had that great sleep the night before, but you can make your own for a fraction of the price. You can have fun with it too- Iced coffee is great for the summer, so just brew a big pot at the start of each week and throw it in the fridge. I like to put honey and a bit of almond milk in mine, but the possibilities are endless. It only takes a bit more effort to do this, but it will be worth it when you have a couple hundred dollars extra in your wallet.

4: Dress- If there is a walk that is part of your summer commute to work, chances are you’re going to get sick of showing up to work soaked in sweat and having to run immediately to the bathroom to feverishly wipe yourself off with paper towels. It’s gonna be hot in the summer, so to prevent myself from being too uncomfortable on my way to work, I usually leave the house in my shirt, pants, and  a pair of comfortable tennis shoes. I put my tie, jacket and dress shoes in my backpack and right before I walk into the State House, I make a quick stop at a bench, tuck my shirt in, change my shoes, tie my tie and throw on my jacket. Casual to business professional in a matter of seconds. Makes the commute a little bit more tolerable on those hot, humid days.


I hope these experiences I’ve shared here are helpful when you are trying to save a bit of money and stay sane while working in a city! I don’t really have a related picture to post, so instead I will attach a selfie I took in the governors own bathroom last week.

Until next time!!!


The Jordanian way

As my internship, and the summer, winds down many of the foreigners (ijanib) that I have met this summer have left, as well as Jordanian students who study outside Jordan. This has led me to spend my weekends with the rest of my friends how many Jordanian youth spend their time. Just hanging out at cafes playing cards or chilling on the street not really doing anything, instead of going to clubs, bars, or events. It is much more boring but also feels more authentic and more characteristic of the youth here. I have got to talking with my Jordanian friends and acquaintances about things such as life and the future. Many youth in Jordan, like in the United States, do not have a lot of hopes for the future. Youth unemployment is extremely high and Amman is the most expensive city in the Arab world, with respect to the level of salaries. Austerity measures forced on the country by the IMF and World Bank have only made the situation worse in the past years. Many youth that can leave are leaving, and those that cannot leave want to leave. Many of them want to go to the United States, Turkey, or the Gulf. One of the few things Jordanians have to be optimistic about is the relative security and stability the country enjoys compared to the rest of the region.

This relates to my research of the situation in the Arab world post-Arab ‘Spring’. The Arab Spring was first and foremost a reaction against these austerity measures forced upon the region by the international organizations and the United States, who support(ed) many of these repressive regimes in the region. The ironic thing is that many youth want to go to the United States, which bears responsibility for the economic and political situation in the region. However, many youth in the United States also have immense fears and anxiety about their own futures, only exacerbated under the current administration. Change in the region will be brought by the youth fighting against these powerful  institutions backed by the United States, and not by the US itself, as is so often claimed.

The Unexpected

It has been my pleasure to work with the Business Intelligence team of AhaMove and learn more about data analytics, thanks to the internship grant and the benevolence of the donors. The internship I have this summer has brought me several opportunities with which I gain more insights of the career path that I follow and understand myself as well. However, the more I know about the professional life, the more I feel anxious of my future in the next two years of college and even after graduation.

People often call it mid-college life crisis and I’m sure it’s hitting me right now: not quite sure of what to do next, which career track is right and what the future holds for me. Working on daily tasks and projects, I felt lost and frustrated sometimes because of my lack of technical skills and hands-on experiences, which eventually slowed down my motivation and progress. As I mentioned in previous posts, daily tasks in data analytics can turn out really ambiguous and unclear, especially when the ideas and assignments are vaguely given. Even when data analysts and scientists invest a lot of time and effort in researching objectives and finding key results, it doesn’t mean that the problems will be solved or finished in an optimal way. For a beginner like me, this frustration is inevitable and thus a competent background of data will enrich my experiences in my field of interest and familiarize myself with occupational stress.

Some people may think that I still have plenty of time to broaden my knowledge of this field and leverage my skills but I think that it is time for me to work harder, not only to prepare for my future career but also train my perseverance to adapt to different levels of work pressure. I soon realize that motivation is not the key of success as it can easily go up and down in response to both internal and external factors. From my point of view and experience, success is actually strengthened by self-discipline and habits that support the ultimate goals. Creating a habit of learning technical and personal skills beside school work everyday would be an effective way allowing me to transform challenges into opportunities. Along with the internship and mentorship I have at AhaMove, I can seek advice from the professionals and discuss my future career more insightfully.

Finding my own path may look like being a little lost but I’m sure that it will enable me to understand myself and boost up the drive to keep creating. Rather than overthinking about things that may or may not happen in the future, I decide to focus on enjoying my life to the fullest and improving myself at the same time, here and now. So if you are also feeling lost on your way, smash your fear and grow beyond.

My research project for this summer – NeuroScreen

This summer I have been working on a research project with my mentor, Dr. Reuben Robbins. Dr. Robbins is a clinical psychologist who is interested in developing and testing technology-based interventions to try and create positive health outcomes for individuals living with HIV. I have enjoyed participating in his research and to be a member of his research team. I have learned more about HIV and how it affects the brain, especially in adolescents.

Perinatally exposed HIV positive adolescents suffer from many life long effects as a result of their HIV status. One important detrimental effects faced by these adolescents is neurocognitive impairment (NCI). This impairment most commonly affects things like working memory, executive functioning and processing speed.

The most important step in addressing NCI is detecting and diagnosing it effectively so that these individuals are provided necessary support and treatment. However, this is a lot easier said than done. In South Africa, there are very few neurocognitive and screening tests available. The ones that do exist require highly trained people to conduct the tests, take several hours to administer and are expensive. Furthermore, NCI tests developed in the US or Europe may suffer from cultural biases and fail to predict real-world outcomes in places such as South Africa.

To address many of these challenges, Dr. Robbins has created an app called NeuroScreen. This app has been designed for Android devices to assess and screen for NCI. The app has been designed so that non-expert healthcare personnel are able to administer it in clinical settings. The app contains nine tests assessing processing speed, executive functioning, working memory, verbal memory, and motor speed. The app is highly automated and requires minimal training.

In 2018, Dr. Robbins was awarded a federal research grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to determine the validity of NeuroScreen. Throughout the summer, I have been helping Dr. Robbins work to refine the tool that will be used to assess NCI among perinatally exposed HIV positive adolescents in South Africa.  I have been able to work closely with the questionnaires that will be uploaded to the app and used in the field. I have been able to learn about the important measures that assess different parts of neurocognitive functioning. I am very excited because the app will go live in the next month or two when Dr. Robbins returns to South Africa and the study will begin to assess the adolescents.

This opportunity to work directly on a research project that is going into the field and can make a measurable difference in the lives of HIV positive individuals, is quite rewarding. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Robbins and his research team.