Jason Nong ’15, SEI Investments Company

Jason-NongMy one-day Princeternship at SEI Investments Company, with special thanks to Susan Ramonat ’80, Director of Enterprise Risk Management, allowed me to gain a good understanding of all aspects of the company and the people.

SEI’s sprawling campus is in Oaks, Pennsylvania, about a half hour car ride outside of Philadelphia on what used to be a barn and farmland. From the first glimpse of the building exterior, one can tell that SEI is unlike other financial services companies. The interior prove to be no less remarkable. From the clean but brightly colored and rustic exteriors to the recycled tire floors and contemporary visual art (courtesy of the West family ), everything about SEI is focused on inspiring employees to think differently. One particularly unique feature of SEI is the lack of offices; everybody sits in the center of the floor (including the CEO, Al West) with all furniture on wheels and electricity supplied through “pythons,” which are proprietary, coiled power cords that hang from the ceiling. This allows employees to relocate easily, which more importantly promotes a free exchange of ideas.

Other features of the SEI campusNong with sramonat include a gym, cafeteria, café, dry cleaner, babysitter and a concierge service that helps employees with everything from delivering roses to getting a car’s oil changed. All of these amenities are designed to allow employees to not only be as productive as possible with their time but to allow for a good work/life balance. In this aspect, SEI seems to be more like a modern tech company than a financial services company, bringing a bit of Silicon Valley to the Northeast.

My day at SEI was highly productive with a packed schedule letting me meet seven people over different business units. SEI’s business includes investment processing, investment operations, and investment management.

SEI’s investment processing business mainly involves the SEI Wealth Platform, a software solution that allows investment managers to manage their client’s portfolios across different global markets. The SEI Wealth Platform is customized for each customer according to each customer’s needs and requirements. This requires a great deal of communication between clients and programmers through intermediaries.

SEI’s investment operations business (Investment Manager Services) provides middle-office outsourcing for investment managers and is SEI’s fastest growing business. Essentially, the IMS unit takes care of everything necessary to make a trade occur, making an investment manager’s abstract decisions a reality. SEI also practices what it preaches and outsources some of its work as well. Holly Miller, Managing Director, Middle Office Services, IMS, shared with me that her role is to help make the process as efficient as possible, eliminating jobs  (as well as creating new ones) along the way.

In its Investment Management Unit, SEI is a manager of managers. Bill Lawrence, Managing Director, Global Fixed Income Investment Strategy, IMU, was also very helpful in his advice, explaining not only how his work differed from that of several other jobs in the financial services industry but also how he looked for investment managers. He focused on analyzing the 5 P’s: people, philosophy, process, profile, and performance.

After gaining a better understanding of SEI’s business units, I spent more time with my alumni host, Susan, to learn how she looked at all aspects of SEI. As Director of Enterprise Risk Management, she has to look for potential business risks in everything from the company’s many vendors and outsourcing suppliers to the company’s own employees to the potential of terrorists cutting the underground sea cables that allows the company in the U.S. to connect via the Internet with its people in India. I found the sheer amount of knowledge required—every single little detail about the company’s operations – the global markets, regulations, security and infrastructure—to be extremely impressive and interesting.

My day at SEI allowed me to see many potentially worthwhile career paths in the company. The work done is meant to make the company more resilient and to serve entrepreneurs who have already taken on risk and reaped the benefits, which is very meaningful and interesting.


Jessica Zou ’16, Youth Represent

Jessica-ZouI came into Princeton knowing I wanted to study law, specifically criminal law, and that I wanted to work with juveniles. Logically then, this Princeternship with Youth Represent, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization based in Manhattan, seemed like it would be the perfect match. Youth Represent is dedicated to making sure youths who go through the criminal justice system get a second chance. They provide legal representation for criminal court as well as for housing, employment, or education issues stemming from criminal convictions. I had pretty high expectations for what I wanted to learn about working with juveniles, the New York criminal justice system, and RAP (Record of Arrest and Prosecution) sheets, but Youth Represent still far exceeded my expectations.

I met Hanna Katz’ 11 the morning of Monday, March 18, in the Youth Represent offices.  I first had to sign some confidentiality forms agreeing not to disclose the personal information of any clients that I came into contact with, but then it was off to the New York City Criminal Court to sit in on some hearings and cases. Sitting in arraignments, I realized how different the New York criminal justice system was from California’s when I heard all of these completely new acronyms. Hanna explained that “ATI” stood for “Alternatives to Incarceration” and “ACD” stood for “Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal,” but even after three days, I had difficulty keeping everything straight in my head. The difference between violations, misdemeanors, and felonies, the difference between juvenile delinquents, juvenile offenders, and youthful offenders – I had to learn an entirely new set of vocabulary.

Later that afternoon, I sat in on a meeting between Hanna and one of the Youth Represent attorneys, Mike Pope, and I was really struck by how much behind-the-scenes work there was to be done in a law office. Having interned for both a criminal defense attorney and a civil litigation attorney before, I was fully aware of the paperwork that constantly needed to be done, but shadowing Hanna at Youth Represent, I realized how much time needed to be spent on simply building relations with community partner programs. Put simply, I was surprised by how much work in a law office wasn’t legal work at all.

The next day I was able to actually visit one of these community partners with Hanna and Mike. We went to a community-based organization on the Lower East Side and I watched them give a basic presentation to about 10 kids, probably between 18 and 24 years old, on their rights, many of the legal terms that I was struggling with, and what Youth Represent could do for them. I sat in on two of these presentations and, both times, I was really shocked by how familiar these kids were with the system. They knew the difference between a juvenile delinquent and a youthful offender. They knew what made violations different from misdemeanors and felonies. They knew that it typically took them 24 hours to get a summons, see a judge, and receive a sentence. I grew up in Irvine, CA, which used to be rated the number one safest city in the United States. Coming to Princeton, I only traded the Orange County Bubble for the Orange Bubble. These kids came from such a different world that I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to grow up in their shoes. The scariest thing, though, was thinking that if they had only grown up in different circumstances surrounded by different environments, they might be where I am today.

My last day at Youth Represent was spent on mostly individual work. I got to watch Hanna process new clients who were currently in probation and help her draw up summaries for the RAP sheets that she had received from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). I was really impressed by how quickly she could draw out the important information (arrest/conviction date, crime charged with, sentencing result, etc.) from pages and pages of records, while identifying any mistakes clerks had made while inputting the data. Apparently, about 20% of RAP sheets from the Bronx, and 10-15% from the other boroughs in New York City, have errors on them. These errors are what make the difference between someone’s criminal record containing an open felony court case and a resolved violation, which is not public information. For most of these kids, these errors are what make the difference between getting a job and being turned away from one because their employer thinks they’re in the middle of a felony case.

I had an incredible time shadowing HannaZhou 1 at Youth Represent. I learned so much about the complexities of the New York criminal justice system and I am more interested than ever now in helping those who barely seem to have a voice in society. These kids are the future of America and instead of just locking them up and then throwing them back out on the street every time they make a mistake, we need to help them get on their feet so that they don’t make the same mistakes anymore. I would like to specially thank Hanna for taking the time to answer all my questions and truly showing me what it would be like to work for a legal nonprofit in the heart of New York City. I would also like to thank all of the staff at Youth Represent for maintaining such a comfortable environment the whole time I was there – I can’t imagine spending my spring break anywhere more amazing.

Jean Choi ’15, Wattvision.com

Jean-ChoiVisiting Tigerlabs for the first time, I felt like I had stepped from Nassau Street straight into Silicon Valley.  On the second floor of 252 Nassau St., an unremarkable white building I had passed numerous times on my way to Small World, I found a workspace that reflected the innovative, creative work of its startups.  The entire floor was completely open – instead of walls or cubicles, the space was filled with long tables lined up side by side, topped with clusters of computer monitors and occupied by the small groups of people who made up each startup company.

I met my Princeternship host, Savraj Singh ‘03, at one of these desk spaces.  Savraj is the CEO of Wattvision, a startup company that produces energy monitors that track energy usage in homes and public buildings, and also creates software that displays live feedback on energy use and analyzes this energy data over time.  Wattvision’s goal is to help users decrease their energy usage, thereby cutting their energy bills and helping them to live more sustainably.

Day 1:
Like every day I was at Wattvision, the first day started with a short meeting with Savraj.  Savraj introduced me to some of the other people in Tigerlabs, several of whom were recent Princeton grads, and got me set up with a Wattvision account (jean@wattvision.com!). He then introduced me to the project Wattvision is working on for Princeton University’s Sustainability Office – designing a more intuitive and informative display for the sustainability touch-screens located in Frist, Butler College, and Frick, and creating a corresponding mobile app.  My goal was to brainstorm ideas and compile them into prototype slides for both the touchscreen and the mobile app.

By researching infographics and other energy data visuals, I learned a lot about both sustainability efforts and effective ways to present data.  This project showed me how displaying a set of data in different ways can greatly change its impact, and it made me think both critically and creatively about a quite open-ended problem.

At lunch, I met the other half of the Wattvision team, Diego.  Diego graduated from Princeton last year, and had worked at Wattvision for a summer before joining the team.  Over lunch, I learned about both Diego’s and Savraj’s past experiences in industry and the startup world – before Wattvision, Diego had created a Facebook app with his friends during college, and Savraj had worked as a PM at Microsoft and at a startup that helped users run contests online.  I also talked with Diego and Savraj about some of the challenges of creating a startup, and how startups are funded.

Day 2:
On the second day of my Princeternship, I met with Savraj and Diego to share updates.  Savraj and Diego were working on the second version of Wattvision’s energy monitor, which needed some software tweaks.  I shared the touchscreen prototype slides I had made the day before, and we talked about ideas for the mobile app, which I would prototype that day.  I used a website called FluidUI to create my designs, which was a lot of fun to use and helped me create simple, sleek prototypes of possible designs.

In the afternoon, I sat with Diego as he edited the code for the energy sensor.  He explained some of the basic principles of Python and web development to me, and I learned how to use Git to commit/roll back code.  It was exciting to see a real-life application of the principles I had learned in my computer science classes, and to see the immediate feedback that came from sending edited code to working energy monitors.

As it was Diego’s second-to-last day at Wattvision before he moved to LA to be part of another startup project, everyone in Tigerlabs threw a surprise going-away party for him!  I got to meet a lot of the people in Tigerlabs at the party, and played an intense game of Werewolves with Savraj, Diego, and other Tigerlab-ers.  It was a great way to end my second day.

Day 3:
On day 3, I shared my mobile app Wattvision Princeternship 005prototype with Savraj and Diego, and talked about the actionable metrics for this format.  For the rest of the day, I worked on compiling user feedback from Wattvision’s feedback forum.  It was really interesting to hear what users had to say about Wattvision, and what they thought could be improved.  Reading the feedback made me realize how much users relied on Wattvision’s sensors and data tools, and how conscious they were of their environmental impact.

I also had the opportunity to hear a speaker from Tigerlabs’ weekly speaker series, Janine Yoong.  Janine, who is a Princeton grad and is working at TokBox, talked about the qualities of an effective “First Business Man” in a company.  It was a great talk, and it was very interesting to me because I’ve had very little exposure to the “business” side of technology, and this aspect of a startup is extremely important.

Day 4:
On my last day at Wattvision, I wrote a blog post for Wattvision’s blog about its new location in Tigerlabs.  This gave me the opportunity to learn more about Tigerlabs and the other startups that are a part of it.  Wattvision’s space in Tigerlabs was also new to me, and I enjoyed sharing news about it on the blog.  In fact, one of the things I liked most about my Princeternship was the work environment I got to experience – Tigerlabs had such a fun, relaxed environment, and the level of creativity and collaboration of the different groups really added to the positive vibe.  While learning about the startup world, sustainability, and web development, I also got to ride a Ripstik, make espresso, play with quadricopters, demo some apps, and pet dogs that people brought in to work. Though Tigerlabs was made of many different companies, I felt that it was a close-knit community of entrepreneurs who were all passionate about their work and excited about the future of technology and health.

On the last day I also got to ask Savraj some of the questions I still had about how he applied what he learned at Microsoft now, what being a PM at Microsoft was like (he had been part of the team that created Microsoft 2007!), and what he recommended for someone pursuing a future in entrepreneurship. Having come into the Princeternship with no previous startup experience, it was amazing to be able to talk to Savraj about his past and current experiences in the startup world, and how he had gotten started.  Savraj gave me a lot of great advice about how to avoid common startup mistakes, and he introduced me to many resources that gave tips about entrepreneurship and shared recent startup news.  I am very grateful to Savraj for all of the experiences and advice he shared with me – after four days, I feel like I have a much better grasp of what it takes to be part of a startup, and what I should do now to get started on the path to becoming an entrepreneur!

Overall, I had a very fun and rewarding Princeternship experience, and I learned a lot about both Wattvision and the entrepreneurial career path.  I would like to thank Savraj, Diego, and everyone at Tigerlabs for welcoming me into their workspace and making this such a great experience.  I would definitely recommend this Princeternship to any student who is interested in technology or startups, as it helped me explore a career path I had not had exposure to before.  If you want to get to Silicon Valley, you should get started at 252 Nassau Street!

Chelsea Mayo ’14, Wake County Public Schools

Chelsea-MayoAll manner of things were tacked to the walls and bulletin boards: pamphlets on the truth about drugs and how to talk to teens about suicide, college preparation materials, the school bell schedule, a few drawings by young children, a Princeton recruitment poster, contact information for hotlines and mental health services. Just by looking around the small yet welcoming office of high school counselor and Student Assistance Program Coordinator Angela Jankowsky ’00 it was clear to me that this was not only a busy woman but one who wore many different hats: mom, social worker, and academic counselor, to name a few. I was at the Cary High School in Cary, a town just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, to shadow Angela for three days, hoping to gain insight into the day-to-day life of a school counselor.

The most valuable parts of the experience were when I got to witness one-on-one counseling sessions between Ms. J (as the students call her) and one of the teens. I had not been sure if I would be allowed to observe these conversations, for confidentiality reasons and because I thought the students might be uncomfortable with my presence, but I am very grateful that I was. Sometimes students would come to Student Services out-of-the-blue to speak with Angela because they were having a breakdown and other times teachers sent them because they were struggling in class for some reason. A few times Angela had to check in on one of the pregnant girls at the school to see how everything was going. I saw that quite often students will report their friends for making suicidal statements or because they saw evidence of cutting. In these cases one of the counselors would then have to talk to the reported student and would then be required to report these incidents to the parents. Additionally, Angela sometimes teaches classes on the signs of suicide and suicide prevention.

There always seemed to be many messages on her answering machine! When not counseling, she spent a lot of time making phone calls which she would afterwards always explain to me. For example, she might be calling the local hospital to check on a student who had just given birth or she might be discussing with Homebound Services a student who had a concussion and cannot come to school for a few weeks. She also did a lot of negotiating with administration and other parties over cases of homelessness.

In addition to dealing with the crisis situations, there is an academic counselor side to her job. For example, the first day I was there she had to assist a class of tenth graders register for next year’s classes online. The next two days I spent some time helping her go through the schedules one-by-one to ensure each student had signed up for the right courses. On my second day I accompanied a tour of the school she was giving to incoming ninth graders and their families.

I was fortunate that during two of Chelsea Mayo 3the days of my Princeternship the school psychologist was on campus. Megan Trapasso is the school psychologist at Cary High but also at an elementary school in the county, since school psychologists generally split their time between a couple of schools. I have been considering a career in either school counseling or school psychology, so this opportunity to speak with her would allow me to see the difference between the careers first hand.

I spent a few hours with Megan, learning and asking questions about what her job entails. She told me all about the IEP meetings she participates in and the types of special education and behavioral assessments she administers. Due to rules of confidentiality, I could not actually sit in on one of her meetings or sessions with students or parents but she gave me a good idea of how the job generally goes. For demonstration we ran through an online evaluation for autism of a pretend four-year old named “Charlie Brown,” and she even gave me an assessment of my reading level (just for fun). Megan also took me to visit two of the inspiring special education classrooms at Cary High, one for students of moderate intellectual disability and one for students with autism.

Chelsea Mayo 1Ultimately, my three days interning at Cary High were invaluable to me. I would recommend the Princeternship Program to absolutely any student because it is a great way to gain experience and understanding of a career of interest in just a few days.  In my few days I learned how busy and varied the day of a school counselor tends to be. I learned how frustrating and at other times rewarding the job is. I learned the difference between a school psychologist and a school counselor, but most of all I learned that I am more intrigued by and inclined toward this field than ever. This Princeternship really helped me make some decisions about my future and though I am not yet sure what my future holds, I feel things are definitely becoming clearer. I would like to thank Princeton Career Services, Angela Jankowsky ’00, Megan Trapasso, and the Cary High School for making this great experience possible!

Yoojin Lee ’16, University of Arkansas Medical School

Eunice-Yoojin-LeeDay 1 
Though it was only my first day at UAMS, my schedule was jam-packed. I met Dr. Erika Petersen ’96 in the lobby at 6:45 am, and as soon as I changed into scrubs, we met the patients she was scheduled to operate on. She talked to each of the patients and their family members as they were being prepared for the operation, providing reassurance and reminding them of the operative procedures that would take place.

The first operation I observed was a laminectomy, used to treat spinal stenosis. Stenosis involves a thickening of ligaments and bone tissue that surround the spinal nerve sac, which often causes pain, stiffness and weakness. In our case, the patient was suffering from pain in his legs, and was unable to stand straight for even the six minutes needed to brew a cup of tea. A laminectomy removes the ligaments and bone tissues to widen the area around spinal nerves and give them more “breathing room,” relieving pressure. The operation took about two hours, and when we went to visit him later in the afternoon, he reported that his leg already felt a lot better. I myself gained a lot of respect for doctors by the end of this first operation; it was hard just to remain standing up for two hours—imagine how hard it would be to stand for two hours straight while operating on a patient under high-stress conditions! The stakes were even higher for Dr. Petersen because the patient was her colleague’s father. 

The second operation was the first of a two-part operation for deep-brain stimulation, Dr. Petersen’s specialty. During this procedure, electrodes are surgically implanted into the brain and are later wired to a generator, which is implanted into the patient’s chest. Stimulation of these electrodes via the generator is said to relieve tremors and treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; according to Dr. Petersen, some doctors have also used it to treat anorexia and depression. That day, DBS was used to treat a patient with dystonia, which causes tremors, twisting and abnormal postures. Although Dr. Petersen didn’t expect to see any immediate effects of DBS on his condition, the patient said his muscles felt less tight. Dr. Petersen and her staff will have to run more tests and observe him throughout the next couple of months, but things do look quite promising!

The last operation didn’t take place in the operating room, but in the patient’s ward. The patient had suffered major brain trauma from a motorcycle accident, and the resident doctor was planting an intracranial pressure sensor so that he would be able to monitor pressure changes in the patient’s brain. The operation was relatively quick, and implanting the ICP itself took only ten minutes. According to the doctor, it is impossible to tell how bad the effects of trauma will be on the patient, but hopefully long-term care and therapy will bring as much of him back as possible. 

Day 2
Day 2 started even earlier at six in the morning, which began with Dr. Petersen’s lecture to the anesthesiology department about Spinal Cord Stimulation—which, surprisingly enough, I understood! As its name may suggest, SCS stimulates nerves in the spinal cord, which blocks them from sending pain signals to the brain. Although DBS is Dr. Petersen’s specialty, she performs SCS operations more frequently.

After checking in on Dr. Petersen’s patients, Dr. Petersen and I entered the OR with a busy schedule ahead of us.Y Lee 1 I was able to observe five “day” operations, which means that patients both come in and leave on the same day without having to stay overnight in the hospital. The first two operations were Stage 2 DBS operations, in which Dr. Petersen and a resident physician implanted the generator used to stimulate DBS electrodes that had already been inserted in a previous operation. To connect the electrodes to the generator, the wires were literally tunneled through the head, neck and upper chest area using brute force, which was interesting to watch. The third operation involved a decompression of the ulnar nerve, which is the nerve that runs through the “funny bone” in the elbow. The area around the nerve was very tight, and by removing the tissue around the nerve, Dr. Petersen gave it more “breathing room.”  Next, Dr. Petersen implanted a generator for Vagus Nerve Stimulation, which stimulates the vagus nerve originating from the medulla of the brain. The procedure was very similar to that of DBS. Finally, Dr. Petersen changed a SCS generator that had run out of battery. The last patient kept waking and yelping out in pain from time to time, but all five surgeries ended successfully, and we delivered good news to all of Dr. Petersen’s patients and family members.

At the end of the day, Dr. Petersen treated me to dinner again; this time, we had Mexican food! The bean and cheese dip was delicious; make sure to get it if you happen to visit Senor Tequila in Little Rock any time soon.

Day 3
My final day at UAMS started the earliest, at 5:50 am. I met the neurosurgery residents at the Intensive Care Unit (where patients in the most critical conditions are) and listened in on their meeting, where they went over the current conditions of the patients they were taking care of. After the meeting, I joined Dr. Day (the chair of the UAMS neurosurgery department) and his residents in an aneurysm removal surgery. An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel—not only did this patient have three aneurisms, but these bulges extended from carotid arteries (arteries that supply the head and neck with oxygenated blood) located deep in the brain. A doctor from Japan who was visiting Dr. Day was very helpful and walked me through all of the steps Dr. Day and the residents took to remove the aneurysms. The surgery was intense, which is probably why the entire procedure took six hours from start to finish. Residents had to rotate from one to another, and even Dr. Day had to take a small break!

I then joined Dr. Petersen in her clinic sessions, during which she consulted patients with a variety of conditions, from brain tumors to chronic back pain to face pain. The way in which Dr. Petersen seemed genuinely devoted to her patients’ wellbeing was very admirable, and I hope to become the same kind of caring, committed doctor in the future. She was also very accessible, which is a must for any good doctor. Dr. Petersen’s patients are certainly lucky to have her.

Y Lee 2Overall, the past three days at UAMS gave me a more than worthwhile experience. Not only did I get to observe many intense, interesting surgeries (some of which I had never even heard of before, like DBS!), but I also was able to get a good feel for what it means to be a doctor. Medicine (especially surgery) involves long hours, patients, little sleep and a lot of fatigue, but it really is worthwhile, especially when both you and your patients know that you’ve completely turned their lives around 180 degrees for the better. That one smile or token of appreciation—that feeling of knowing you’ve made a huge difference in someone else’s life—is priceless, and it keeps you going.

Matthew Kelly ’16, U.S. Department of Education

Matthew-KellyMy Princeternship occurred over a period of three days with alumnus Massie Ritsch ’98, Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the federal government’s Department of Education. The function of the Office is both to dispense information to and receive feedback from teachers, parents, foundations, corporations, and the public in general regarding the Department’s policies. The physical site of this Princeternship was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building in Washington D.C.

Day One:
Mr. Ritsch’s assistant, Vanessa McKinney, familiarized me with the areas of the Department in which I would be working: these included the Office of Communications and Outreach and the Department’s Video Production Office. Shortly after, I attended a meeting between Mr. Ritsch and several other members of the Office of Communications and Outreach; they tasked me with examining the academic prowess of the colleges and universities participating in this year’s men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments. Later, I met with Sambia Shivers-Barclay, Coordinator of Sub-Saharan Affairs and International Visitors at the Office of International Affairs, a separate entity within the Department of Education. Ms. Shivers-Barclay furnished me with excellent information regarding the ways in which our country’s education system interacts with the high-performing systems of other countries.

Day Two:
I continued to compare the academic profiles of the institutions participating in the NCAA basketball tournaments, working with the Office of Communications and Outreach’s graphic designer, Barbara Julius, to convey the information uncovered visually. I also attended two especially interesting meetings: the first occurred between many of the members of the Office of Communications and Outreach, and the second featured a presentation given by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the entirety of the Department. The Video Production Office also assigned me some basic tasks involving transcription.

Day Three:
At Mr. Ritsch’s request, I conducted some preliminary research on federal policies of interest to the Department. Additionally, I transcribed the dialogue of another of the Department’s video sources. Mr. Ritsch devoted more of his time to answering my questions regarding his work at the Department and in earlier phases of his career; as usual, his answers were instructive and extremely thorough.

I both enjoyed and benefitted from this Princeternship. Kelly 1It greatly improved my understanding of the work done in the Department of Education and in the field of communications. Further, everyone I encountered at the Department was remarkably accommodating of the needs of the most temporary of interns. I would like to thank Barbara Julius, David Whitman, Gillian Cohen-Boyer, Jonathan Schorr, and Vanessa McKinney from the Office of Communications and Outreach, Sambia Shivers-Barclay from the Office of International Affairs, and Paul Wood from the Video Production Office for being so receptive. Of course, I would like to thank Mr. Ritsch for providing Princeton students with this opportunity and for making the opportunity itself so worthwhile.

Frances Lu ’16, Teach For America

Frances-LuOn the foggy morning of March 20th, I arrived at the San Francisco office of Teach For America. I didn’t know what to expect from the day, but I was very excited to find out. For several years, I have been interested in the possibility of entering a career in education reform or research. I already knew about Teach For America’s teaching corps but wanted to learn more about other branches of the organization. When I entered the TFA office, I was introduced to Mrs. Courtney Monk ‘01, who works in Teach For America’s Alumni Affairs Department.

After quickly showing me the office area, Courtney and I began our day. She works on national strategy and operations with other teamLu 2 members around the country. Her work involves a lot of data crunching where she uses alumni data to create statistics and projections of future alumni. Her job puts her in a very interesting position. Because she works on a national team with teammates who are all around the country, she can basically work anywhere.  She frequently has important meetings and conference calls with members of her team and other administrators to discuss matters relating to alumni data and statistics such as retention rates.  I watched and participated in several meetings and conference calls during the day. It was exciting to get a glimpse of a different side of Teach For America.

My Princeternship was a very rewarding experience. I received great career advice and learned what type of data analysis work is done in education nonprofits. I would like to thank my alumni host Courtney Monk very much for letting me shadow her for a day!

Edward Xiao ’16, Staten Island University Hospital

Ed-XiaoMy three-day Princeternship with Dr. Sanjiv Bajaj ’02 at Staten Island University Hospital was an incredible learning experience.  To a freshman fascinated by science and medicine, Dr. Bajaj’s guidance and tutelage solidified my interest in pursuing a medical career.  Each day, it was evident that Dr. Bajaj enjoyed his career studying and practicing medicine.  I had always been concerned that the life of a doctor would be monotonous, seeing similar injuries or illnesses on a day-to-day basis.  However, Dr. Bajaj showed me how much critical thinking is involved with each individual patient’s case and how radically different every day could be.

On the first day of the Princeternship, I met Dr. Bajaj at Staten Island University Hospital at 9 am.  Shortly after, I met Dr. Adam Bernheim, a fifth year resident doctor who worked with Dr. Bajaj.  We started the day by examining ultrasound and CT scan images of various patients’ cases.  Dr. Bajaj first gave me a quick and comprehensive explanation and description of key colors and figures to look out for on scans.  It was interesting to see how experienced Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Bernheim were at analyzing the details of the scans.  Although simple in theory, I realized how complex this task could be in practice, considering how complex the human body is.  One of the patients we saw had swelling and discomfort in the upper leg.  As Dr. Bajaj deftly navigated the probe along this patient’s leg, I slowly began to make out the outlines of veins and tissues.  Meanwhile, Dr. Bajaj had already come to a conclusion.  He pointed out on the display how certain tiny superficial veins displayed significant clotting – enough to cause swelling of the leg, although not a serious condition.  I was fascinated by how precise he could be in what I originally thought was simply a fuzzy gray image.

I experienced more of Dr. Bajaj’s critical thinking prowess as we examined the ultrasound images of a pregnant woman.  Strangely, the baby’s heart rate was reported at 234 beats per minute, much higher than normal.  Unfortunately, since the patient was not currently in the hospital, we could not take another ultrasound test to confirm this report.  Dr. Bajaj however, realized that he could examine a graph of the heart movement and beating, and manually recalculate the heart rate by measuring the points where the heart was fully contracted.  Using precise computer measurements on a graph over 4 seconds, Dr. Bajaj recalculated the real heart rate to be 165.  He concluded that there must have been some tiny movement that interfered with the machine’s algorithm.  It was amazing to see how Dr. Bajaj’s critical thinking and understanding of the technology behind scans enabled him to work around the problem.

For the second day of the Princeternship, I met Dr. Bajaj at the Verrazano Radiology Associates building next to the hospital.  We first performed a fluoroscopy test on a patient planning to undergo surgery to remove a tumor.  Dr. Bajaj explained that this test would give details on the precise location and nearby effects of the tumor cells.  For this test, the patient drank barium and we examined on x-ray how it flowed down through the esophagus, stomach, and intestines as the patient stood up and laid down. 

Later in the morning, I got to watch as Dr. Bajaj performed a biopsy on a patient’s neck.  Dr. Bajaj explained that by using a small needle with the help of an ultrasound display, he would take small cell samples of lesions, which the pathologist would check for tumors and cancers.  As Dr. Bajaj performed the biopsy, Dr. Bernheim pointed out what Dr. Bajaj was doing, the theory behind the biopsy, etc.  He explained how it would be dangerous to stab the needle into a lesion, and how it would be better to scrape away at peripheral parts along the major axis (more rubbing surface area).  As Dr. Bajaj took samples of multiple lesions, the pathologist would first stain each sample with a dye that kept the cells from lysing or breaking while fixing them to the microscope slide.  The other dyes would stain the cytoplasm, nucleus, etc.  Near the end of the biopsy, Dr. Bernheim and the pathologist suddenly fell completely silent.  I found out later that the last node Dr. Bajaj took a sample of measured only 2 MILLIMETERS in diameter, even smaller than the width of the needle.  To complicate matters more, the node was located centimeters from the jugular vein.  For a whole minute, Dr. Bajaj didn’t even breathe as his stable hands managed to pull a sample without any harm.  Dr. Bernheim and the pathologist later commented how there are very few doctors who would attempt a biopsy on that node, let alone complete as successfully as Dr. Bajaj did.

On the third day, Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Bernheim spent a significant amount of time examining one specific set of ultrasound images.  They explained that an ultrasound probe can pick up masses and cysts but cannot see behind multiple layers of tissue.  This particular patient had an ultrasound of his pancreas, which is very hard to examine using ultrasound.  Due to the difficulty of examining the pancreas, Dr. Bajaj explained how pancreatic cancer has an incredibly low 5-year survival rate (around 4%) because usually the tumor has progressed significantly before it is noticed by any tests.

Oddly, this prompted an ethical discussion about organ donation – should individuals be allowed to donate whole or even pieces of organs?  Organ donation is often accompanied by rejection from the patient’s immune system, Dr. Bajaj explained.  Thus, aside from the danger of the surgery, there is a significant chance that the donation will fail, putting both lives in larger jeopardy.  Should someone in poverty then, be allowed to donate a kidney in return for money to send his children to college?  Can we justify putting someone in significant medical risk to improve lives of others in a similar medical risk?  I have never been very interested in ethical debates, but I was surprisingly active in this discussion.  I realized how unique every day in the life of a doctor really was, and not monotonous as I had once thought.  Doctors did have ordinary conversations after all!

I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Bajaj, Xiao 1Dr. Bernheim, Staten Island University Hospital, Princeton Career Services, and everyone else who helped me throughout the Princeternship experience.  By shadowing Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Bernheim for the program duration, I was able to see a less biased view of a doctor’s daily routine.  Furthermore, I began to notice how everything I was learning in school came together in the medical profession.  I hope to continue along this premed track at Princeton and perhaps one day even work alongside Dr. Bajaj as his colleague.

James Wang ’16, Staten Island University Hospital

As Ed, the other Princetern, and I rolled into Staten Island University Hospital around 8:30 in the morning, I had little idea what to expect from the Princeternship ahead of me. Even though thousands of pre-meds and high schoolers have shadowed doctors in the past, I was not one of them. The outside of the hospital had a fairly modern appearance: glass panes covered the front of the building on one of its irregularly arranged faces as the rest were a seemingly random assortment of white/brown brick and even more smaller glass segments. As Ed and I searched the halls for the ultrasound department, of which Dr. Sanjiv Bajaj ’02 was the head, we wandered for almost 15 minutes because there didn’t seem to be a clearly demarcated section. Lucky for us, that day was not my first encounter with Dr. Bajaj, who actually interviewed me in St. Louis for Princeton as he was completing his fellowship at Washington School of Medicine. Because of that, I recognized him just enough to finally say hi and start our Princeternship.  Easy enough.

After we went hallway-through-hallway in order to reach our final destination, we finally reached his office. The office itself was dim, lit only by the faint glow of Dr. Bajaj’s computer workstation, which had four very-large computer monitors radially positioned. The bulk of his daily work came from this workstation. As we sat down with Dr. Bajaj and his resident doctor Adam, he immediately jumped into his work and pulled up his first CT and Ultrasound images of the day. The first images were of a liver with significant fat residue. Dr. Bajaj explained to us that Fatty Liver was going to be one of if not the largest public health epidemic within the next 10 years. This was surprising to me because I had not heard of this public health issue as opposed to issues like smoking and childhood obesity, but he explained that fatty liver (formally macrovesicular steatosis, but no one really calls it that) was creeping up because it’s a byproduct of our modern diet that develops much later on in life, as opposed to obesity itself which is apparent almost immediately.

After dictating his diagnosis of these images and a few more similar kidney/liver issues through an extremely rapid but sometimes troublesome voice dictation system, something much more serious arose. After examining two ultrasound images of a woman’s uterus with only a few weeks in between, Dr. Bajaj simply stated “this is very bad.” Although in his explanation to Ed and me he never formally used the “m” word, we knew exactly what was happening as we saw that this woman had lost her baby. It was in this specific case that I first realized the human urgency of what Dr. Bajaj was doing, something that can be easily missed by the untrained eye after looking at grey-scale images of livers and kidneys. After hearing more on his diagnoses of things like vein clots, kidney cysts (mostly benign) and possibly HIV-induced bilaterally enlarged kidneys, I became more and more amazed at his ability to almost immediately tell what was happening with any given patient.

However, his job simply wasn’t to look at these images all day. Although many of his photos were taken by the technologists he was managing, he also performed his own ultrasounds one or two times an hour. It was in this that I saw his dual role in keeping the patient informed as well as applying his own clinical experience to the situation at hand. In addition to that, when I asked him what role radiologists had in treatment, he said that imaging techniques like CTs and ultrasounds could be used in real time to better survey physically hard-to-reach treatment areas like the spleen for operations such as biopsies. Finally, he stated that he chose radiology as his specialty because the portion he appreciated the most in the medical process was not necessarily the treatment itself or its follow-ups, but in the onslaught of constant puzzles presented to him on an hourly basis, where it was his specific job to give a keen and precise diagnosis to the puzzle at hand, and then move on to the next person’s illness. I greatly admired his confident medical ability and his essential role in diagnosis. For future students, I would strongly recommend the Princeternship program not just for the opportunity to see what a certain doctor does on a day to day basis, but also for the advice mentors like Dr. Bajaj so readily give to us as we consider the life paths they also considered as they reached this current point in their lives. 


Tugce Tunalilar ’15, Stanford University

Tugce-TunalilarI arrived the first day at 12.30 at the Child and Psychiatry Clinic to meet Dr. Kiki Chang ’88, who is the director of the Bipolar Disorder Program at the clinic. This was the internship that I have been waiting two years for, and it was great to be finally here. I would call the first day the “introduction and meeting day.”  The first meeting was the laboratory meeting that happens every Wednesday; there are quite a few people working with Dr. Chang and they all gave updates about the projects they are running. I was introduced to the staff and given some basic information about some of the ongoing projects such as the Family Focus Therapy (FFT), Brain Imaging and A-life, an evaluation program for the families in FFT. That meeting was followed by a research meeting with Dr. Jennifer Frankovich, a rheumatologist from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and Cheryl Koopman, a research professor.  The research is about an autoimmune disease called PAN/PANDA that manifests itself by behavioral changes, especially similar to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  It is something that I had no idea about before coming to Stanford, but the group with Dr. Chang, Dr. Frankovic and Prof. Koopman seems to really focus on that study.

The second day was a long one. I started the day off at 10 by watching a patient and parent interview with Jennifer Pearlstein, a research assistant with Dr. Chang, for depression evaluation. It was followed by a phone screen to asses if a family with both bipolar parents were actually eligible for any of the programs in the clinic.  I learned that they have to meet certain criteria like a certain age and symptoms to participate in a program in the clinic. Later on in the afternoon, I observed some of Dr. Chang’s patients who either had bipolar disorder or depression. Dr. Chang asked kids’ parents for their observations of their kids over a period of time, and did some adjustments to the medications. Some of them were on straight bipolar disorder medications whereas some of them were put on antibiotics to test for the possibility of PAN/PANDA.  I noticed that these psychiatric diseases decrease the kids’ functionality very much, and affects them in every aspect of life, from school to social relationships. I gathered so much information about the psychiatric medications and their side effects, as well as more about the nature of bipolar disorder.

The third day was the longest and the most interesting one for me. I started off at the PANS/ PANDAS clinic with Dr. Frankovich and Dr. Chang. They had three patients who either had PAN/PANDA symptoms or some other behavioral changes that were predicted to be related to an infection. It was an interesting experience to see the parents there whose worries were apparent on their faces because I suddenly found myself sympathizing, or at least trying, with them. I know that I can never understand the actual intensity of their feelings, but it was intensive enough for me. After the PANS/PANDAS clinic, I went back to the psychiatry clinic with Dr. Chang to see a Lamictal, a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder, research patient who has been observed over a certain amount of time. As much as I could gather from a short conversation, the patient was doing much better on Lamictal and his mood has been improving greatly. Unfortunately, that was also my thank you and goodbye call to Dr. Chang, who was very kind to let me shadow him and do other activities in the clinic for three days. However, I was not done! I headed down to the neuroimaging section to talk to Spencer, another research assistant, about MRI imaging and of course about the brain anatomy.  The MRI images that I saw fascinated me, and I could not keep myself from asking more questions about the brain and the effects of bipolar disorder on the brain.  Although not completely understood, there seems to be a correlation between the amygdalar hyperactivation and bipolar disorder and depression. After that, I went to meet Amy Garrett who is a senior research scientist from neuroimaging, and we talked about different studies being conducted on bipolar patients and their amygdalar reactions to therapy.  The studies are really interesting and can pave a way to predict which psychiatric medications can be used based on brain images from patients, which I found to be really exciting news. The last thing on my agenda for the day was to see an actual scan. There are research studies going on for children at risk for bipolar disorder and the MRI scan is a ritual to assess the brain properties and activity. I was with Jennifer and Spencer and I watched Spencer while he was conducting the scan of a young patient. It was fascinating to watch the brain at different states – baseline, resting etc. – and see its different structures. The scan took half an hour, and after that, at around 6.00 p.m., I was unfortunately at the end of my amazing Princeternship experience.

Looking back at it now, I think this internship Tunalilar 1has helped me a lot with realizing my interests. I am a molecular biology major; I knew that I did not want to go to medical school, but I was not sure if I would like to do research in molecular biology either. In general, I had mixed feelings and thoughts about molecular biology in the first place. However, after this internship I realized I actually want to study it.  It helped me realize that I like wet bench work more than clinical work but that I am also leaning more towards neuroscience rather than pure molecular biology. I was also happy to see my interest in research has been revitalized. As a sophomore who is close to choosing her major, I now feel more confident about what I want to do for the rest of my time at Princeton and after. I know that I have a lot to learn, but I think I now have enough motivation to move on with what I want from life, at least as a career.