David Zhao ’15, Spry, Inc.

My fellow Princeterns and I arrived at Spry Incorporated not quite sure what to expect from our three day stay. We had read the materials the company had sent us and we had combed through its website, but what Spry actually did was still not quite clear. However, once we met Spry CEO Brooke Stevenson ‘01, the Princeton alum who brought us out to Maryland, she showed us around the office and fully elucidated the company’s field of work. Spry endeavors to allow client companies and corporations to easily search their data by connecting their individual databases that are often disjointed and inflexible. As she duly noted, scattered data precludes any attempts at a thorough analysis, preventing a company from making important and pivotal decisions in this fast-paced world that waits for no one. At the heart of their approach is the use of ontologies to organize the data. This kind of semantic architecture emphasizes the relationships between information, making it easier to query for the desired answers. An equally important aspect of Spry is their agile approach to development. Instead of the traditional waterfall approach where a company releases a single end-product after completing development, Spry espouses an agile scheme that allows them to not only quickly turn over a working intermediate product, but also show clients realized value. The incremental releases allow Spry to easily meet the ever-changing needs of its clients.

We quickly realized that this Princeternship was not going to be the typical shadowing opportunity. Instead, it was going to be much better. Usually, it seems that those who shadow are given tasks that are either menial or boring, but Spry was going to give us a crash course on semantic and query languages so that we could develop a solution to an existing problem. This was both exciting and refreshing; we were tackling an issue that no one else had ever solved. After learning Turtle (Terse RDF Triple Language) to write ontologies and SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language) to write queries, we wrote a user-customizable query creator in MDQO (Model Drive Query Ontology) that Spry will continue to improve.

Spry Incorporated has a casual dress code that many tech startups often have, but it also has a lively and enjoyable atmosphere that may not necessarily reside in companies of any size. The employees feel comfortable bouncing ideas around daily progress off their coworkers, regardless of their seniority at the company. Spry thrives on this mutual assistance attitude that naturally manifests itself.

Spry Staff, David, and fellow Princeterns

This Princeternship let me explore the new and constantly-changing field of analytics. Perhaps the most profound discovery was that this sort of job exists. It is filling a much-needed role in the relentlessly-expanding global data paradigm. The most valuable knowledge I gained is that, according to many of the employees with whom we spoke, learning how to learn in college is the most important thing to take away from those four years. Although the actual material of academic courses is definitely important, the ability to problem-solve proved to be the most helpful skill from college in their daily projects.

I would like to thank Brooke, Meg, Christina, and the rest of the Spry team for their immense help and support during the Princeternship. They really made the three days stimulating and pleasant. I would definitely recommend this Princeternship to other students, because I gained valuable insight into my future plans. This experience has encouraged me to consider analytics as a possible career path. For that, I am also grateful to Career Services for offering this program.

David Zheng ’15, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

I entered the Planned Parenthood Federation of America national office at around 9 am and met Mr. Tobias Rodriguez ‘11, the alumnus sponsor of the Princeternship, at the door. He took me up to the seventh floor, where he works, and then introduced me to his coworkers and gave me a tour of the other floors in the building. I even got to meet a person on one of the Planned Parenthood advocacy posters! After this informal tour, Tobias presented me with a schedule of events for the day.

At 11 am, I met with Jon Knowles, Director of Sexual Health Information. After he gave me a brief description of his job – he makes pamphlets and fact sheets on a variety of sex-related issues such as sexual health and birth control – we had a nice chat about the history of Planned Parenthood. We discussed the current related political issues, Margaret Sanger’s contribution to birth control, and present day contraceptive methods. When asked what inspired him to work for Planned Parenthood, Jon replied that he saw how uninformed people were about issues regarding sex and he wanted to do something about it. He even knew a girl in the 60’s who threw herself down a flight of stairs in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. I left our conversation with a few pamphlets and fact sheets, what will surely be nice reading for my train ride back to Princeton.

Then Tobias, his coworker Alex, and I enjoyed a nice Chipotle lunch on the High Line. It doesn’t get much better than 70 and sunny in New York City!

When I got back to the office, I went to my 2 pm meeting with Catherine Lozada, a writer and editor in Planned Parenthood’s communications department. She informed me that Planned Parenthood has no public relations department, so communications needs to act as a “legal eagle” in making sure that press releases are in accordance with the organization’s views and the views of the 79 affiliates of Planned Parenthood. During this meeting, I watched Catherine copy edit a blog post for www.womenarewatching.org, the political action site for Planned Parenthood. This specific blog post was about how Virginia governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill into law that forces women to receive ultrasounds when they get abortions, despite him saying that people should be in control of their healthcare. Part of Catherine’s job is making sure blog posts like these get onto the political action website so readers are aware of the pressing Planned Parenthood-related issues.

My last meeting of the day was at 4 pm with Ariel Kaplan, contributions processor of the development department. His floor handles the fundraising aspect of Planned Parenthood, and Ariel keeps the contributions database up to date. In fact, he is even working on a pilot project that aims at database integration across the country with the different Planned Parenthood affiliates to improve efficiency of contributions processing. Ariel and I spent the most of our conversation talking about the Susan G. Komen controversy, in which the organization cut funding for Planned Parenthood. At the end of our chat, he touted the virtue of nonprofit organizations, informing me that before working here he was not political at all. He said he loves working for Planned Parenthood because of the “great health benefits, atmosphere, and people.”

Overall, I had an enriching day working with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and I am very grateful to Tobias for this opportunity (and for the Chipotle). From the genuine kindness of everyone I met to the office penthouse’s fantastic view of New York City, I enjoyed every moment of this Princeternship experience. After having left the Planned Parenthood office, I feel I have gained both greater insight into the workings of a nonprofit organization and a deeper understanding of the all the issues related to the sexual and reproductive healthcare Planned Parenthood provides.

Yolanda Yeh ’15, Quirky

Making invention accessible. That is the concept, the reason why a boldly purple company exists – to empower people to invent and to give great ideas a chance to come to life. This is the mission of Quirky, a rapidly growing startup in New York City, where I had the pleasure of spending my spring break.

Although I only spent a few days there, this Princeternship gave me a unique window into startup culture, leaving behind the academic rigors on campus and beginning to understand the excitements of the entrepreneurial world out there. Warmly welcomed by our Princeton alumni host Nikki Laffel Kaufman ’07, and Suzannah Kerr on the first day, we were soon off, meeting people of all departments that are growing the company together. 

I was exposed to a variety of departments I had never considered, ranging from design to sales to operations and more. Everyone was so passionate about what they were doing, so willing to explain and answer any questions, excited about the company, pumped about the future, and invested completely in their potentials and the power entrusted to them. People hung out in the kitchen, joked out loud in the main working space, laughed, thought, and through all of that – solved stimulating problems with creativity and focus. I caught a glimpse of the challenges each part of the company wrestles with and was more importantly, inspired by the confidence with which each person approached these challenges. Getting advice about everything from how to make the most of college to preparing for the life beyond, I learned not only about specific career paths, but also more broadly about the value of taking risks and jumping at opportunities that may take you on a path you may have never imagined.

Nikki Laffel Kaufman '07, Quirky Staff, and Princeterns

 

My Princeternship experience at Quirky ended with my participation in their company-wide product evaluation meeting, a wonderful experience that exemplified collaboration and the openness of the Quirky company culture. My biggest takeaway from the people at Quirky is the notion that it is by going for the things we love and working hard at them that we give ourselves the opportunity to find a career where work does not feel like work. I learned that most specific skills can be picked up on the job so that it is really about pursuing your curiosities and developing the capacity to think and problem solve that can be applied anywhere. As an aspiring inventor and entrepreneur, I believe my experience at Quirky was invaluable and would strongly recommend it to any curious students. Many thanks to my hosts and Career Services for giving me this opportunity

Sebastien Wadier ’12, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office

My Princeternship started off smoothly enough. The Los Angeles Metro—or at least the Gold Line—was much faster than I expected, and I arrived at City Hall half an hour early. When I tried to get into the building, however, I was horrified to realize that I had forgotten my passport—my only form of government issued I.D. Without my passport, I couldn’t even get a visitor’s pass, and I certainly couldn’t get fingerprinted! I panicked and retreated to the food court. Fortunately, my host, Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough ‘75, soon showed up, calmed me down, and got me into the building.

Marcia spent the next hour or so talking to me and Silvia—the other Princetern she was hosting—about her childhood in Taos, New Mexico, her time at Princeton, and her career at the City Attorney’s office. Marcia has been working at the City Attorney’s Office for over thirty years, in a number of different capacities, from prosecutor to counsel to the fire department. Right now she is working in the Municipal Advice Section, which means that she provides legal advice to the Los Angeles City counsel and other municipal entities.

One of Marcia’s primary responsibilities is advising the oversight committee for the ‘L.A. for Kids’ program. ‘L.A. for Kids’ receives $25 million each year through a special tax assessed on all properties in the city. This money is used to build parks and play areas for children. By law, projects built with this money need to meet certain requirements, and Marcia helps city agencies and nonprofits understand what they need to do to meet these often complex requirements.

Our conversation with Marcia was interrupted by a phone call: a city agency wanted advice regarding a possible conflict of interest. After answering the agency’s questions, Marcia took Silvia and I to lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera street. On the way back to City Hall, she pointed out landmarks downtown. Then, after a tour of City Hall, we climbed to a balcony near the top of City Hall and saw the same landmarks from above. On the way, we ran into a councilman, Tom LaBonge, who was giving a tour to the Japanese consul general to Los Angeles. We went back to Marcia’s office, where we met other city attorney’s, including Phil Lam, the city’s intellectual property lawyer.

The next day, after I got fingerprinted and received a volunteer I.D., Silvia and I went to a city council meeting. Marcia had explained the agenda to us, so we were able to follow most of what was happening. Tom LaBonge, the council member we had met the day earlier, recognized us at the meeting. After the meeting, we went to lunch with Marcia in Little Tokyo, where, completely by chance, we met Charlie, a friend of Marcia’s. Charlie is a criminal defense attorney who takes only capital murder cases. After lunch, Charlie took us on a tour of the East Los Angeles Superior Court. We saw an arraignment, a prosecutor’s closing argument, and jury selection. In each court, Charlie explained what was happening to us.

On the morning of the last day of my Princeternship, Marcia gave Silvia and I several reports to read. The reports concerned the use of grant funds for the acquisition and development of property. The content of these reports is important because it is later used to support grant applications, and inconsistencies or errors in the reports can prevent projects from being funded. Marcia explained the comments she made on some of the reports, and then asked us to review two others for inconsistencies. After she discussed the reports with us, Marcia got a call she had been waiting for. The city agency that had called on the first day of the Princeternship called to get further advice on a contractor they believed might have a conflict of interest. Marcia explained that they were not prohibited from doing business with the client by municipal law under the circumstances, but could refuse if they thought it was too risky.

After she got off the phone, Marcia drove us to the Police Academy.

Sebastien and Marcia Gonzales-Kimbrough

We ate lunch at a 50’s style diner, and then walked around the academy grounds. The area around the academy has been turned into a beautiful rock garden, with waterfalls, trees, and a meditation chapel. As we walked, Marcia explained the work she had done for the L.A.P.D. when she represented them.

We returned to the court house, hoping to continue watching one of the trials we had seen the day before. Unfortunately, the courtroom was empty, so we went to watch another trial. We saw a guilty verdict being read out, and then returned to Marcia’s office. There, we asked her a few more questions about her career, and she told us about her experience balancing her career with her family. We ended the day by going to a party where a judge who used to work in the City Attorney’s office was being honored by the Latino City Attorney’s Association. After the party, Silvia and I said goodbye to Marcia.

The last three days had been amazing. I have gotten to see how Marcia advised the city on legal issues, met attorneys practicing a number of different areas of law, and seen the city government and court system in action. I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to explore a career in law apply for this Princeternship if it is offered again in the future.

David Thomas ’13, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

I arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas on Sunday the 19th of March, a little unsure of myself in a part of the country that I haven’t explored very much. I felt welcome from the first night on, though, after a warm dinner with fellow intern Chris Diehl and our Princeternship host, Dr. Erika Petersen ‘96(’96). We learned about the operations that Dr. Petersen had scheduled throughout the week and got a taste of her favorite pizza place in Arkansas. Once we had the week outlined, we started talking about some of our common experiences at Princeton and what we could look forward to in medical school.

We started the first day early for me at 6:45 am, but I soon became aware that this was a bit late for by hospital standards. Chris and I put on scrubs and met with Dr. Petersen’s patients for the day. Pretty soon I was observing my first surgery, and Dr. Petersen was careful to explain what she did and gave us a firsthand view of the procedure. I was thoroughly impressed with the expert knowledge of the body that Dr. Petersen displayed in replacing an electronic device that had been implanted in a patient. After finishing with the first patient she immediately got to work on a more complicated case which made full use of the cutting edge technology of deep brain stimulation. The patient whose surgery we observed had a noticeable alleviation of symptoms for a disease that I did not know could be treated so effectively, and I was really impressed to see it. We finished off the day by observing a spinal surgery that made use of another advanced technology to stay minimally invasive while making a dramatic intervention in the structure of the spine.

On the next day at the hospital, we got a broader survey of what surgeons at UAMS do. We started a bit later than the day before and split up between different surgical teams. Between me, Chris, and Arthur, another student observing surgeries for the week, we saw urological surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and more neurosurgery. This packed day wrapped up with Dr. Petersen performing a spine surgery on an awake patient while explaining each step to Chris and me. We said goodbye to Dr. Petersen but hung around the surgery wing to observe an open heart surgery. Watching the heart beat inside a patient while the surgeons went to work was a really inspiring experience, especially having studied the heart so much without ever seeing one in action. Later on Dr. Petersen took Chris and me to dinner at a really impressive sushi restaurant, and we had a good chance to debrief a lot of our experiences and get a little more personal insight on the life story of a doctor.

On the Wednesday morning of our Princeternship Chris and I managed to wake up early enough to follow the residents for morning rounds. I’ve heard a lot about the intense lives of residents, so I was eager to see what things were like first hand. After finding our guide, a particularly helpful resident named Dr. Gandhi, we started visiting patients and listening to their symptoms and statuses. The residents on rounds displayed an impressive ability to take in and put together a stream of information about patients that needed diagnosis or treatment. Refreshingly, they all also seemed to enjoy their daily routine a lot, despite the intensity of life as a neurosurgery resident.

David, Dr. Petersen, and Chris

Following this, Chris and I observed the removal of a brain tumor by Dr. Day, the chair of neurosurgery at UAMS. We watched him perform the procedure while following the steps in a book describing the procedure that a resident had provided. Toward the end of the surgery we were surprised to learn that the author of this textbook was none other than Dr. Day himself! This was a really artful surgery, with a lot to appreciate how much the patient’s life would improve directly as a result. We ended the day with a visit to Dr. Petersen’s clinic, which really put more of a human face on the practices we had observed. Dr. Petersen seemed to really do her best to explain the technical side of complex procedures to patients, who in turn really appreciated the transparency and compassion she showed.

The last day of my Princeternship was in some ways the most exciting. I was lucky enough to see Dr. Petersen herself remove a very serious tumor from a patient in a very involved procedure which I was able to observe start to finish. Also, Dr. Petersen sent a sample of the tumor down to the hospital’s pathology unit, and I got a chance to see this other part of the hospital as well. The pathologist there classified it and explained what to look for and the severity of different types of brain tumor. Luckily for me, Dr. Petersen finished this very thorough tumor removal in time to grab a final bite to eat with me before I made my way to the airport to fly home.

We ate with Arthur and Dr. Gandhi and had a conversation that was enlightening for me about the role of research in medicine. Dr. Gandhi, an MD/PhD who worked on metabolism of neural cells during his PhD, had a lot of insight to share with me since I’m interested in pursuing an MD/PhD and I’m involved in metabolism research. Dr. Petersen also shared a few thought provoking stories about the history and future of neurosurgery research. I left that night with nothing but positive experiences from my Princeternship, for which I really have to thank Dr. Petersen for carefully setting up such an inspiring experience for undergrads. I would highly recommend this Princeternship to future students as an opportunity to get a first hand view of the practice of medicine and the positive things it can bring about.

AJ Swoboda ’15, Famzoo.com

I spent three of my Spring Break days working with the CEO of FamZoo.com and Princeton Alumni, Bill Dwight ‘84. As a start up with only two employees, FamZoo “headquarters” are located in Bill’s house in Palo Alto, CA. FamZoo is an online virtual credit union that helps kids learn good money management skills.

I started my first day, Monday, being toured around his home and office, followed by a 30-minute Skype chat with Bill and Chris Beaufort — FamZoo’s other employee and Bill’s former Princeton roommate — about what they do each day, where they’re trying to direct the company, etc. After our chat, Bill continued to describe all that he does at FamZoo. He talked about how he makes decisions (based heavily on ethics), how he interacts with users on FamZoo’s website, and finally how the company has recently shifted and realigned its focus group — first, the company focused on getting month-to-month payments made by individual families, but now it has shifted to bigger registration time periods and has switched to focusing on signing credit unions  and banks to make partnership deals. Bill also showed me how he keeps track of every connection he or Chris has made in the past. Through using a program called HighRise, Bill can efficiently manage contacts, remember how FamZoo is connected to individuals and companies, and find appropriate times to follow up with said contacts.

After getting sandwiches for lunch, Bill and I came up with a project for me to work on on the side as I continued to watch/learn from Bill’s day-to-day operations. It was my job to figure out how FamZoo can increase its company presence on LinkedIn.com, and then begin to implement some of these changes.

AJ and Bill

Tuesday was filled with two major events. First, I listened in on a demo-call that Bill gave to a potential Credit Union partner that was interested in working with FamZoo. Through the hour long demonstration — which Bill knocked out of the park — I got a first-hand look at what FamZoo’s hard sell looks like, how Bill politely interacts with his customers, and the sheer power of a website like FamZoo. I spent the remainder of the day filling out FamZoo’s LinkedIn Company Page. I researched what all companies can do on LinkedIn, talked with Bill to pinpoint the best options, and then began to add banner images, links, and descriptions to the page. The rest of the afternoon flew by as I experimented with additions to the LinkedIn page.

My last day, Wednesday, started with another demonstration with yet another potential credit union partner — one of the biggest credit unions in the US in terms of capital. After this second demo, I finished off the day designing and editing FamZoo’s LinkedIn Page. I left with the final “product” being a three step sequence for viewers to follow in order to learn more about the company, find out how they can partner with FamZoo, and see all the reviews of FamZoo from tons of credit unions and users of the website. Finally, I spent some time tinkering around with the website and all of its functions, and giving Bill any feedback I had during that time.

This blog pretty much summarizes all that I did during my time with FamZoo. I definitely recommend participating in the Princeternship program, it’s well worth your time.

Matthew Shackelford ’15, Fleishman-Hillard

For my Princeternship with Fleishman-Hillard in Atlanta, Georgia, I had the privilege of shadowing Ms. McCall Butler ‘97 a Senior Vice President and Partner at Fleishman-Hillard who leads financial communications for the firm’s AT&T Inc. account. She began my action-packed day by explaining how she came to work at Fleishman-Hillard through her early consulting work at PricewaterhouseCoopers, her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and finally, her landing at Fleishman-Hillard as a part of the Communications Consulting Worldwide division, a vocational route that she herself described as “slightly circuitous.” Then, she talked about her work with AT&T, specifically the company’s financial communications, and how, while the advent of the digital marketing age and social media had altered the mediums through which companies communicate, the basic principles of any public relations and/or brand management remain the same: honesty and conciseness. Though the tone of digital communications was slightly more conversational, people always valued clarity and integrity in public relations above all else.

Next, Mr. Aeres and Ms. Gonzalez talked about their work with companies, such as two commercial materials producers based in Atlanta. They discussed the wide variety of work that Fleishman-Hillard does for its clients, including the restructuring of internal communications, analysis of business proposals, and investor relations. Moreover, they discussed the strengths that Fleishman-Hillard has in its vast network of offices all over the world that specialize in the various types of work that the firm does for its clients. One of the many keys to Fleishman-Hillard’s success in the public relations industry is the cooperation that occurs within the firm to give the client the best possible product and experience.

Afterwards, Ms. Butler had a conference call with Mr. Solomon, Senior Vice President — Corporate Communications for AT&T, and his leadership team. During this call, the group discussed the company’s focus on the customer experience. Among other things, recognition for AT&T’s commitment to deliver a superior customer experience is one task that Ms. Butler and her team pursue each and every day.

Ms. McCall Butler, Matt, and fellow Princetern Christina

We also met with Mr. Corley, a team member in Fleishman-Hillard Atlanta’s Consumer Group, and Mr. Browher and Mr. Groom, who lead digital communications initiatives for the Fleishman-Hillard Atlanta office. The group discussed the need for credibility when it comes to promoting a business and the importance of designing communications to a company’s target audience and ultimate communications goal.

According to Mr. Corley, public relations are much more convincing and efficient if the information and argument for a particular company or product comes from a third-party source rather than an advertisement. Thus, Fleishman-Hillard works to promote its clients to, for instance, technology blog writers or newspaper journalists by giving these third parties opportunities to experience clients’ product or services. As a result, Fleishman-Hillard can deliver more meaningful and credible coverage for its clients and their products. Mr. Browher discussed the need to determine the target audience and use that information to create a more effective public relations campaign for that target audience. This allows clients to efficiently market to their consumers, even if they are on a tight budget.

This Princeternship was an amazing experience for all that it taught me about the world of marketing and public, financial, and investor relations and for all of the brilliant and motivated individuals that I had the honor of meeting during my experience. Everyone was extremely welcoming and gracious to me, and I was very pleased at the fact that they all were willing to spend their time to educate me. I would like to thank Mr. Aeres, Ms. Gonzalez, Mr. Solomon, Mr. Corley, Mr. Browher, and Mr. Groom for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with me. Most importantly, I would like to thank Ms. McCall Butler for offering to host this amazing Princeternship and being such a wonderful mentor during this wonderful opportunity. This Princeternship was truly one-of-a-kind.

Ryan Peng ’14, Hanweck Associates

Monday, March 19, 2012

I arrived at Hanweck Associates a couple of minutes before 9 am. Dr. Hanweck introduced us to everyone in the office and explained a bit about what his firm does on a day to day basis, although each day is different and can be unpredictable! Shortly afterwards, the big news of Apple announcing a dividend payout to its shareholders reached the office, so most people were working on updating the databases of option pricing information. After everyone settled down into normal work, Wesley, the other Princetern, and I talked with Dr. Hanweck and started to analyze historical data on dividend payout dates and amounts. Using Excel, we compared the actual dates and amounts to predicted dates and amounts provided by two vendors in order to see if the vendors were doing a good job. This is important because Hanweck Associates buys this dividend prediction data from the vendors and uses it in their calculations and models. We worked on this for the rest of the day and decided to switch from Excel to C++ in order to parse the data more efficiently. Throughout the afternoon, we got to talk with the associates in the office and learn more about what projects they were working on – lots of cool stuff all going on at once! At the end of the day, we summarized what we found and talked with Dr. Hanweck and Andy before leaving the building at 6.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On the second day, we started off by finishing up details on the dividend payout comparisons. We found some interesting patterns and results in the data, so we noted those and passed them on to next person who would be using them. After lunch, we started on our second project with the help of Jeff and Dr. Hanweck. The goal of this project was to build a computer program that approximates the Heston model option pricing equations, using the results of an earlier academic that derived first and second order approximation with stochastic calculus. We decided to implement this in Java, and we worked on this till the end of the day. It was definitely a tough project for us since the equations were pretty complex, and the paper was hard to follow since we had to grasp some hard mathematical ideas in order to understand the first and second order approximations. By the end of the day, we had a functioning program that complied but gave the wrong numerical results. We chatted with Dr. Hanweck about what his company does and about different option pricing methods before we left the workplace at 6:30.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ryan, fellow Princetern Wesley, and Dr. Jerry Hanweck

Today, we continued to work on the Heston model approximation. We started off by going through the entire program to trace what happens at each step and to make sure that we put in all the approximation formula components correctly. With some help from Dr. Hanweck and a few others, we located some bugs in our code and fixed them. Now, our code was getting closer to the right numbers but was still off by about one percent. We decided to go for lunch and brainstorm ideas on how to perform additional testing. Since we did not know for sure whether this was caused by bugs in our code or whether this error is inherent in the approximation itself, we decided to look in academic journals for numerical data and results done by others. After lunch, we found some data and compared it to our results and saw that we matched their results fairly closely. We finished up the program by cleaning up the variables and adding some extra comments so that the next person who works with this code can better understand what we were doing. It was getting close to the end of the day, and I couldn’t believe how fast this Princeternship went by! We looked around the workplace and talked with others to see what they were currently working on. Afterwards, we finished the day by chatting with Dr. Hanweck about what we had done with the Heston model approximation project. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this Princeternship and learned a lot through hands-on experience. I was able to apply some of the material I had learned in ORF 335: Financial Mathematics, so the practical experience nicely complemented the theory I had learned in the classroom. I would like to thank Dr. Hanweck, Andy, Jeff, and everyone else at Hanweck Associates who shared their knowledge and stories with us. It was a wonderful experience, and I am looking forward to working at a financial firm again.

Buyan Pan ’15, Dominion Fertility

Day 1

My host, Dr. John Gordon ’85 picked me up in DC at 7:15 in the morning to drive over to Dominion Fertility Clinic in Arlington, VA. He introduced me to the nurses and Dr. DiMattina, who founded the clinic. Early in the morning, I watched Dr. G perform vaginal ultrasounds for several patients. It was really interesting to see how they were at different stages of various treatments: for some patients, Dr. G was looking at the thickening uterus lining and how the ovaries were doing, and for one patient, we could already see 20 follicles in the ovaries from stimulated growth, ready to be collected for IVF. The most fascinating one was being able to see the embryo inside the uterus of one of the patients and hear its heartbeat.

Around 10:00, some patients came in for consultation, which I got to watch Dr. G do in his office. It was insightful for me to learn how Dr. G interacted with the patients. He was frank and reassuring when giving them advice, explaining all the different options that were suitable for each couple’s situation, like stimulated vs. natural IVF, frozen embryo transfer vs. using fresh embryos, and the different tests for a couple who wanted to know where they stood in terms of fertility. It was almost overwhelming that there were so many different factors to consider when a couple was deciding on the right procedure for them, like what would be best emotionally, financially, health-wise, etc. I was surprised to learn that the couples who come to the clinic are from different parts of the country, not necessarily all from Virginia, because Dominion Fertility is the only clinic where the percentage of IVFs performed are as high as 70% natural cycle IVF as opposed to stimulated cycle. Since natural cycle produces only one egg and hence one embryo, it makes the successful pregnancy rates seem lower for a clinic, and that’s why not many of them are willing to offer the natural. One final procedure that Dr. G performed before lunch was assisting in the collection of an egg. While Dr. G was with the patient, I went into the lab with Dr. Ning and saw the actual collected egg under the microscope, which was amazing. Dr. Ning cleaned the surrounding of the egg and stored it at the optimum temperature and concentration of CO2.

After a quick lunch out, I had some cool conversations with Dr. G about life at Princeton and about how he decided on reproductive endocrinology after having really enjoyed it during his residency.

When we got back, I followed Dr. Ning again and saw the same egg, this time being fertilized by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and inserted back into the uterus of the patient.

I really felt what Dr. G meant when he said that there was a sense of gratification and accomplishment, as I went through in my head all the patients that we had seen today: from couples seeking the right treatment to those going through the procedures, to the patient who confirmed her pregnancy and heard her baby’s heartbeat, and finally to the couple who brought in their adorable twin babies. It’s a really wonderful thing to see both Dr. G and the couple so happy when the treatments bear fruit.

Overall, the day at the clinic was very busy, with constant patient interactions, ultrasounds, phone calls, filing data, and all kinds of procedures. But it was really helpful to get exposure to this kind of work environment and see all the different aspects of a typical day in the clinic.

DAY 2

Buyan and Dr. Gordon

We started the day early this morning at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, where Dr. G gave a lecture on primary amenorrhea to the hospital’s residents and students at GW and VCU. He talked about the questions that a doctor would ask a patient if she had delayed puberty and about the different paths that would be taken in giving her treatment. It was great to see the academic side of things after getting to know the clinical setting yesterday. Dr. G’s lecture was really interactive and he asked a lot of questions to engage his students.

After the lecture, we went to the clinic in Arlington. Dr. G had three patients whose eggs were ready for collection, so while he was with his patients, I got to go into the lab again to watch Mark, one of the embryologists, go through the process of storing the collected eggs. He let me look into the microscope and explained to me how a darker cumulus around an egg could be an indication of egg immaturity, how to sterilize a pipette, how it’s used to transfer the egg into a medium for storage, how a desiccator is used to create the optimum environment for the eggs, and finally how they’re stored. The whole process was really complex and involved so much detail!

Around noon, we drove out to go to INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital, where Dominion Fertility had an office. Dr. G performed ultrasounds for a patient and did some consulting for another patient and her husband about treatments for ovarian cysts. On the drive back, Dr. G and I talked about the difficulty of identifying causes of cysts, especially given all the different types. We had some stimulating discussions about the ethical considerations and medical difficulties in providing cancer and HIV patients with fertility treatments.

Back at the clinic in Arlington, Dr. G had a meeting so I went into the lab to see the eggs that were collected earlier go through the intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) process. I found it really fascinating that there was so much dexterity involved in it. Mark and Jerry operated the pipettes with a lot of accuracy and care under the microscope, and I watched each moment a sperm was injected into an egg. It’s amazing to think that such a delicate process which provided an alternative solution to so many infertile couples was discovered by accident by a Belgian scientist, as Dr. G had told me earlier.

DAY 3

We started the day off at the Fair Oaks office with some ultrasounds and consulting for patients, and again it was really nice to see a couple who successfully had a baby from a previous treatment come back because they were ready for a second child. Back in Arlington, I got to see some more egg collections and the whole process of storing them in the lab. Then Dr. G went through the usual schedule of consulting, discussing the different treatment methods – from least to most proactive – with each couple.

I learned so much over the course of my three days with Dr. G. I would definitely recommend this Princeternship to other students. It’s a really good place to explore your interests if you’re looking at medicine as a career. Reproductive endocrinology is a very special field too, and the clinic is a unique, sought-after place where so many different patients go because of the availability of natural cycle IVF which is rarely offered elsewhere. Because of that, you’ll get to meet all kinds of patients and see how the doctors and nurses interact with them. Also, Dr. G is outgoing, helpful, and understanding, and on the way to different places, we had really interesting conversations about his experiences at Princeton, career choices, the daily life of doctors, ethical or political issues that they face, and any questions that I might have. I definitely had an inspiring Spring Break, and I’m really grateful to Dr. G and all the staff at Dominion Fertility for this wonderful opportunity.

Grzegorz Nowak ’15, Princeton Education Foundation

Adrienne Rubin and Grzegorz

On Thursday, March 29th, I walked down Witherspoon Street, made a right onto Valley Road, and entered the Princeton Public Schools Administrative Building for the first day of my Princeternship with the Princeton Education Foundation. The Princeton Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports excellence in education in the Princeton Public Schools and has contributed over $1,000,000 to the Princeton Public Schools since its inception in 1995.   I was met in the lobby by Adrienne Rubin (Music ’88), the Executive Director of the Princeton Education Foundation.  As we headed upstairs to the alum’s office, I learned that Mrs. Rubin is the first and only employee of the Princeton Education Foundation.  The remainder of the Princeton Education Foundation is a group of volunteers that make up the Board of Members.  I quickly realized that the Princeternship was going to be a special experience when Mrs. Rubin told me how working for a nonprofit is rewarding by knowing that you are doing something good for the community and seeing the positive change you are making.  Although the work keeps you busy and can be difficult, it is something that gets you up in the morning excited, which is what every job should do for a person. 

Mrs. Rubin set me up working on a project for the Princeton Education Foundation’s annual Spring Gala, the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser.  I entered donors into an Excel spreadsheet so that the information can be entered into a larger database.  I saw that the generous donations from the supportive community were what kept the Princeton Education Foundation doing the great things that it was for the Princeton Public Schools.  While the Princeton Public Schools received funding from taxes, this was only able to do so much.  The Princeton Education Foundation helped take the Princeton Public Schools from adequacy to excellence. 

After going on a Breakout Trip where I had the incredible opportunity of working with nonprofits providing health care to undocumented and uninsured patients in Los Angeles the week before my Princeternship, it was inspiring to see how another nonprofit can positively impact its community.   During my second and final day of the Princeternship, I had the fun task of creating a brochure for the Princeton Education Foundation, which helped me learn why the Princeton Education Foundation does the great work that it does.  A quote from a video created by the Princeton Education Foundation, “We all get into this business because we want to help kids, you see every kid shine,” will surely stay in the back of my head as I realized that by working hard to positively impact something you are passionate about you can do amazing things for those around you.  I look forward to the moment I find an issue that I love so deeply I can also do nonprofit work and make a positive impact.

The Princeternship program is special because even after only a few hours, the alum made me feel connected to the Princeton alumni community.  I love helping others achieve their dreams because I know there were many people that helped me get to where I am.  I am very glad and thankful someone as friendly and nice as Mrs. Rubin was there to share her experiences and work with me.  I plan on continuing the great tradition of Princeton alumni by helping future Princetonians figure out their passions when I am an one day an alumnus.