Vivienne Tam ’15, Swedish Neuroscience Institute

I applied to this Princeternship at Swedish Neuroscience Institute expecting to see how research and medical practice intersected. It ended up being a face-to-face encounter with life and death – a story of the struggle for hope and a battle for survival all in a short three days of a neurosurgeon.

Tam 2Monday

It started off with a tumor board where doctors in scrubs congregate at 7:30 a.m. around Starbucks cups and fMRI projections. A brain image would go up and after giving a short description of the patient, the group of surgeons and radiologists would proceed to comment and dialogue about potential treatment. It was hard to believe that every single blotchy black and white blob on the screen belonged to an actual person – with a story, a family – a life. Sometimes, it was very easy to forget that in the jargon of ‘necrotic tissue’ and ‘intertemporal medial lobe’. Dr. Charles Cobbs ‘85 started to speak of a woman in a comatose state; and in that moment, it was no longer tissue, the case had a face and a name. She had 3 kids, was divorced, addicted to narcotics and still young – only 34 years old. The gentleness and compassion with which he spoke moved me. This is where medicine touched real lives. They were going to have to pull the plug on her pretty soon, it seemed was the verdict. A procedure to implant a shunt was scheduled later that afternoon as a last-ditch measure to keep her alive.

Without taking off the doctor-cap, we immediately switched gears to talking about research at his lab meeting. By applying his experience with brain cancer patients to his time beside the lab bench, Dr. Cobbs is able to generate the most cutting-edge research as it pertains to brain cancer. He discovered, for example, that cytomegalovirus is behind glioblastoma, the most deadly form of malignant brain tumors and this has led him to design vaccines to cure brain cancer which currently has no cure. This was groundbreaking.

As the newly recruited director of the Ivy Institute, Dr. Cobbs’ job also takes on an administrative role. An advisor counselled him on how to make Swedish the most competitive in the space, so that those with brain tumors will see it as a place that has ‘got it right’. We also talked about how to cut down on extraneous costs.

Back in the office, Dr. Cobbs receives a call from the comatose woman’s mother requesting they cancel the surgery and remove life-support.

I step outside the hospital doors. One more person has just crossed the line from life to death. I can’t imagine every day being like this. Seeing lives pass through your fingers, but like gripping sand you can’t do anything to stop it. I ponder about eternity as I board the bus back home.


After a rather somber end to the first day, I was ready to meet the hopeful cases – the patients who had gone through surgery and were coming to see Dr. Cobbs for a post-op follow up visit, and also those who were contemplating a potential surgery. He had eight patients lined up back to back without a lunch break and with persevering dedication, he powered through all of them – going into a room, meeting patients, going back to his office and dictating notes, then back to another room again.

If I could use one word to describe Dr. Cobbs as he met his patients, it would be humble. As a very accomplished neurosurgeon, he probably knows all there is to know about the brain. Yet, with each patient, he broke the concepts down to a very basic level and patiently walked them through enigmatic grey-and-white brain scans.

A couple of scenes stick out in my mind: Dr. Cobbs holding an elderly man as he got out of a wheelchair, his arms reassuring the man as he stood wobbling; Dr. Cobbs gingerly pulling back a woman’s hair to clean up the scar tissue beside her ear and apologizing when he hit some raw tissue; him very gently breaking the news to a visibly distressed elderly lady of the need for surgery as soon as possible to remove a malignant tumor. Even though he has only been at Swedish for a couple of months, he is much respected by his patients and it was such an honor seeing such a display of genuine caring. This world needs more doctors like that.

I was also amazed at the hopefulness Dr. Cobbs carried in the face of such a menacing disease. I can’t even imagine the frustration of months of hard work only to have the patient pass away. How do you stay sufficiently emotionally detached so that each inevitable loss is not devastating, yet continue fighting this amorphous monster to the last breath? Perhaps it is the way Dr. Cobbs doesn’t take himself too seriously that gives him the grace to carry on this kind of environment.

“Thanks for answering all of my questions doctor,” a patient pipes up after an intense interrogation.

“Oh, it was tough,” Dr. Cobbs responds with a twinkle in his eye.


The first day I saw death, the second, life and now I was to stand at the brink of life and death. It was surgery day.

After sending my parents a quick email to please pray for me so I don’t faint, I donned my scrubs and entered the already-buzzing operating room at 7 in the morning. Today’s was a “cranie,” in other words the removal of a cancerous tumor in the brain.

It was my first surgery so I had to look awayTam 1 as the anesthesiologist stuck an IV into the patient’s neck. I never was a big fan of needles. Unfortunately, I didn’t look away fast enough to miss the other surgeon nonchalantly screwing a U-shaped fixture with long sharp needles on either end into the man’s head.

Dr. Cobbs took me and another observing student into the back room to show us where the tumor was located using an fMRI. This man’s tumor was huge and he would probably have to remove about a quarter of the brain to get it all out.

Being careful to stay 3 feet away from all the blue sterile stuff lest I get kicked out of the OR, I made my way to the front of the bed where the surgery was proceeding like clockwork. The skin was cut through, holes were drilled in the bone, dura peeled back and finally brain revealed. I gasped quietly in awe at the first sight of the brain.

However, the recognizable folds of the brain were quickly dismembered under the skillful scalpel of Dr. Cobbs. Soon, he was burrowing deep into the brain, sucking out pieces of brain to the tune of Adele in the background.

All of a sudden, Dr. Cobbs’ voice turned terse, “He is showing a lot of swelling, also hyperventilating. I need an ultrasound.” It is an emergency situation. The lights turn down and I pray under my breath for a man I do not even know. “Shut the music,” he orders. No one moves as they stare intently at the screens displaying the man’s vitals. I walk over and press ‘mute’.

The silence hangs heavy in the room as Dr. Cobbs works fast to save his life. I watch with abated breath, in disbelief that I was observing what he was later to describe as one of the scariest experiences he has had in a long time doing surgeries. This literally was the brink of life and death. A couple of tense moments later, Dr. Cobbs had removed the problematic tissue and the patient was back in the ‘safe zone.’ I remain amazed at how calm he was. Later on, he confided that the challenging cases were actually his favorite part of his job because it gets him to think on the spot. No wonder he’s a neurosurgeon.

The second surgery – a spine decompression – was simpler, though it involved the correction of major errors made by the previous surgery, one of which included leaving the patient’s major spinal nerve protruding from her spinal cord. After the surgeries, we went to visit the patients recovering in the ICU. It was so encouraging to see them responding well, and I was actually quite surprised to see the man being able to obey commands without a large part of his brain.

I am now on the plane returning to Princeton and to finals awaiting me. Usually, I would be approaching this season with much fear, but after what I have been through these past few days, finals seem so insignificant. We complain about receiving a bad grade on an exam, when people receive news of having an incurable glioblastoma leaving them about 1-2 years to live. Honestly, I feel so blessed just to be alive – and with brain cancer that could affect anyone with no known reason, that is definitely not something to be taken for granted.

To anyone who is thinking about doing a Princeternship – go. You only have one life; live it to the fullest. Who knows, you might even get to see a human brain (I definitely wasn’t expecting to!).

To Dr. Cobbs – what can I say.  You inspire me. I can’t believe I had the amazing privilege of following you around – it was surreal. You’ve shown me what it means to do a job with genuine passion, pursued excellence and real love. Thank you.

Justin Zeigler ’16, Department of Education

Justin-ZeglerMy Princeternship with the Department of Education (ED) was an extremely rewarding and worthwhile experience. My host was Massie Ritsch ’98, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach. Ritsch is one of eight assistants that oversee a division in the Department of Education, and he reports to Secretary Arne Duncan. I was fortunate enough to be in the office during one of the busiest weeks of the year – the week of President Obama’s State of the Union Address. As the Office of Communications and Outreach, Massie’s department was in charge of highlighting and publicizing the education aspects of the President’s Speech.

During my three days at ED, I was involved in several fascinating projects that were both challenging and rewarding. Through one of the Teacher Ambassador Fellows, I helped coordinate a roundtable of elementary school principals by contacting relevant school districts throughout the state of Tennessee and inviting them to participate. After that project, I worked on a presentation designed to demonstrate how the ED’s priorities align with the concerns of national education organizations.

Most interestingly, I had the opportunity to work with Karen Stratman, Director of National Public Engagement for ED, on a report for the White House. The White House wanted to know the different education organizations’ reactions to the President’s State of the Union speech, which placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of education and its capability of building a middle class. Karen provided me with a list of influential education organizations throughout the country, and it was my job to research and compile a report on these reactions. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of different national education organizations, it was also gratifying to know that the work I had done was useful to the White House.

Meeting and speaking with people who are making a difference in education was one of my favorite aspects of this Princeternship. On the second day, I had an opportunity to talk with one of Arne Duncan’s speechwriters, Melissa Apostolides. She is entrusted to write speeches that are both compelling and inspirational for Secretary Duncan to give. She walked me through the process of how she attempts to emulate the Secretary’s voice while writing a speech, showed me some of her favorite speeches, and gave me copies of speeches she had written in the past.

Another fascinating person I had the opportunity to meet was John McLaughlin, head of the Neglected or Delinquent Education Programs for ED. He administers two of the nation’s most successful correctional education programs. He is clearly passionate about his work, and I find it really admirable that he makes a positive difference in the world with his professional career. I also spoke on the phone with John Linton, Director of the Office of Correctional Education for ED. Mr. Linton is incredibly inspiring; he has dedicated his professional career to tackling a social justice issue. We talked for an hour, and afterwards, all I wanted to do was learn more about the problems of our prison system and how education can serve as a remedy. Mr. Linton and Mr. McLaughlin motivated me to spend the entire bus ride home from DC to New York researching correctional education. Our nation has the largest prison population in the world, and education is one of the most important keys to changing that. This is an issue that I want to learn much more about, and I’m going to make sure that I do so.

Education is relevant to a myriad of pressing social issues. I have come to realize how important education policy is for the future of this country. Recently, on a University-sponsored Breakout Trip, I explored urban health care – a topic which seems unrelated to education on the surface. However, as we talked to community partners about urban health, it became clear that poor health is frequently a manifestation of social issues. From poor housing to addiction, these social issues are all tied to a unifying factor: a lack of access to a good education. Education has the capacity to facilitate social movement, transform urban areas, and maintain our nation’s standing as one of the greatest in the world. I see education as the most important component of our country’s future.

Doing a Princeternship at ED was an incredible experience, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend Intersession learning about an important topic from such inspiring people.

Angela Zhou ’16,

Angela-ZhouThe first time I heard about was when an English teacher at my high school was spreading the word about her campaign to encourage creativity for typically STEM-minded students. I was excited to learn about the startup, essentially a Kickstarter for teachers, and to get the opportunity to visit for a day! We were prepared for our visit with a few generous gift codes, our very own shopping sprees to support projects on

Shefali Jain ’17 and I met Andrew Protain ’08, our alumnus host, in the morning after we spent a few minutes in awe at’s gorgeous new Manhattan office. We started off with a briefing from Andrew about the history of the organization, and his own experiences at Afterwards, we spoke to Elaine, a director of Partnerships and Business Development who explained the process of securing corporate donations and gave us advice worth keeping on how to approach the rest of our time at Princeton.

We then metZhou 2 with’s Data Scientist, Vlad, who told us everything from his story working in social entrepreneurship, to his goals for the data-driven future of He showed us the process of finding data insights into a question that Shefali asked of donation frequency vs. poverty level of the school, a simple task in’s data workflow with interesting consequences. We had the opportunity afterwards of standing in on a unique Data Innovation Brainstorm, a meeting across the teams at and DataKind about new features and insights from the vast amounts of data generated at It was exciting to hear all of the different ways the data could be used to support teachers and principals, as well as support education policy at large, and it was a wonderful experience to see how ideas flowed and how everyone would jump in and build on each other’s ideas.

We had lunch with Andrew and another Princeton alum, Charlotte Weiskittel ’06, and a good portion of the staff. It was great to see everyone at ease during lunch, with a lively sense of humor about the new office healthy-eating challenge. Andrew also introduced us to Dan, who Zhou3worked with Cards Against Humanity on their holiday $100,000 shopping spree and resulting infographic. After lunch, we met with César, the Chief Operating Officer, who told us his inspiring life story as a first-generation college student from a large family who set his aims high and followed through. He reminded us of the challenge of finding work that we’re passionate about, good at, and is financially feasible – pointing out that it’s wiser first to pursue your passions, a lesson that I definitely took to heart. We also learned about what it takes to manage operations at a nonprofit with so many moving components: it’s not an easy task.

Afterwards, we sat in on a Customer Relations team meeting. It was great to see how thoughtfully weighed customer input and needs, even referring to individual customers and power users by name. It was an interesting experience to see how trends that Customer Relations observed related to issues facing the Tech/UX team, and vice versa when we moved on to the Tech/UX scrum. The team went through a backlog of commits (changes to the code) and reconstructed various bug fixes and issues. It was interesting to learn about the tech issues that face an established web infrastructure, and educational to see how Tech and the UX design sides meet to discuss the state of the site. We spoke with Dave, the art director, and again with Andrew about the product development side of Even more important than brainstorming features, he brought up, is knowing which ones are worth developing, and how to properly allocate working hours.

Before we left,Zhou4 we toured the Donor Appreciation Land, where volunteers screen and send out the thank you notes written by classroom students to the donors. has a uniquely integrated supply chain process that sets it apart from other crowd-sourced project nonprofits, but I think the thank you notes from students are such a great personal touch for the user experience overall. The care and compassion that the notes indicate were reflected in the attitudes of everyone we met at everyone was passionate about the cause for education, and it was truly inspiring to see them at work connecting donors to teachers and their projects, bringing a little more joy into the world in the process.

Linda Zhong ’15, AppNexus

Everything you hear about start-up work spaces is true. And for a Princetonian, the orange-and-black AppNexus office makes you feel right at home. The office has almost no walls, mirroring the casual relationships between employees and managers. Some of the cooler highlights were the office basketball course, the candy bar, the wall of working nooks called the “Cheese Wall” and the hilarious meeting room names (ranging from Bigfoot to Batman).

My day started off with an introduction to the online advertising industry by Zach Kwartler ‘11 of Global Services. AppNexus is yet another layer in the complicated web of publishers and advertisers, but because of its intuitive advertising control platforms and excellent positioning, it has been able to grow immensely since its founding in 2007 by two Princeton alumni. Then I shadowed Zach in the morning and sat in on a conference call. It was interesting to see how professionals representing different parties negotiate and come to effective solutions.

After lunch with AppNexus Princeton alumni (including the CEOs Brian O’Kelly ‘99), I got to shadow a member of the Sales team. In a conference call I sat in on, different members for various parts of the company debated how to address client concerns while keeping AppNexus interests alive, and came to an incredibly thoughtful and nuanced position. This was an incredibly interesting experience

Finally, I concluded the day with a third shadowing session, again with a member of Global Services. This individual was much more senior and really explained the online advertising industry in a way that made it so understandable and interesting to me.

My final impression of AppNexus is that it is full of intelligent, thoughtful people who do not take themselves too seriously. Integrating fun with work creates a relaxed atmosphere where everyone is productive, but also happy. I loved my day at AppNexus and thank Princeton Career Services for organizing such a great program.

Ruina Zhang ’17, Staten Island University Hospital

Ruina-ZhangI was extremely excited when I walked into the bright lobby of Staten Island University Hospital. The lounge chairs, the giant teddy bears in the display window of the cozy gift shop, and the helpful staff at the information center instantly made this a pleasant place. However, I was still a little scared since I had no idea what to expect: I have never shadowed a doctor before.

Lucky for me, Dr. Bajaj, the Princeternship host, is one of the most friendly and easygoing doctors I have ever met. He is the head of the ultrasound department at SIUH, and he actively engaged us in interesting conversations while he read his ultrasound and CT images.

On the first day of the Princeternship, I met Dr. Bajaj and Arence, the other Princetern, at 9 AM in Dr. Bajaj’s office. It took me a while to find his office, since it’s inside the ultrasound section, which is inside the Radiology Department. His office’s space is mostly taken up by four large computer screens positioned vertically next to each other. He explained to Arence and me what the colors on the scans mean as well as how Doppler’s effect works in these scans. I found it fascinating that what I’ve learned in physics in the past semester is actually applied here. Dr. Bajaj delved right into his work list, looking at multiple ultrasound images of livers, kidneys and gallbladders. He worked very efficiently, with the help of a voice dictation system (which worked most of the time. It was a laughing moment when Dr. Baja found that it wrote down “pelvic leg” instead of “pelvically.”) Dr. Bajaj explained to us that since sound does not travel well in solid, stones appear bright with dark shadows behind them. At first, I could not recognize anything but black and white blobs distributed randomly on the screen. But with the help of Dr. Bajaj, I learned to recognize a bright spot as a gallbladder stone after several images. Dr. Bajaj also explained to us that macrovesicular steatosis (fatty liver) would be one of the leading causes of health concerns by 2020. I was surprised to hear that because most of the health issues brought constantly to our attention were breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Fortunately, one can lose the fat on his or her liver by having a healthier diet and exercising more.

After looking at some abdominal images, Dr. Bajaj moved on to ultrasounds of fetuses. He found out that the technicians have mis-measured the fetal heart rate. A little later, he saw a fetal ultrasound image and paused for a moment. He looked carefully at the head of this fetus, and concluded that the dark region either indicates severe hydrocephalus or anencephalus in a serious manner. Dr. Bajaj recognized this extremely unfortunate event, and subsequently raised a controversial ethical question of whether to suggest termination of pregnancy or to encourage the birth of this baby in order to harvest its organs after it’s born. He said that it is a hotly debated topic in the medical community, and encouraged us to think about what we would do.

Dr. Bajaj sent us to a residents’ noon conference, where the residents learned to read images. I thought the diagnosis process is very interesting, and it reminds me somewhat of Sherlock’s thought process. Everything follows logic. Dr. Bajaj told us that normally, he does some ultrasounds and other small procedures himself. Unfortunately, he was hit by a car several weeks ago and consequently is unable to do those tasks with a broken leg. Dr. Bajaj took us to another Radiology Reading Room in the afternoon. Arence and I had a chance to talk to two other attendings and a third-year resident there.

On the second day of my three-day Princeternship, I arrived at SIUH at around 2 PM because Dr. Bajaj had a late shift that day. We looked at more CT and ultrasound images. Dr. Bajaj told us that ultrasound actually has a higher resolution than CT, which most people don’t realize. I never would have expected that because the CT images seem a lot clearer to me, but I guess it is due to the way the images are taken, not their actual resolution.

The last day was very exciting. In the morning, I found Dr. Bajaj at the Verrazano office. This office gives a very different feel than the one in the main hospital area. This outpatient imaging center is very cozy, with a spacious lounge area outside. The wall colors follow a dark orange theme, which renders this place friendly and welcoming. Dr. Bajaj worked on more CT and ultrasound images in the morning. Later, he sent us to the neuroradiology reading room in the main hospital building so that we could get a sense of what other branches of radiology look like (I mentioned on the second day that I really loved my neuroscience class. I was surprised that Dr. Bajaj actually remembered this and thoughtfully worked out something for me so I could learn more from this experience. Thank you Dr. Bajaj!) I found the brain images absolutely fascinating. I have a basic idea of the brain anatomy after dissecting two sheep brains in my neuroscience class, and this general knowledge really helped me appreciate neuroradiology. Dr. Arnuk, a friend of Dr. Bajaj, kindly shared his stories of switching from internal medicine to neuroradiology with us.

In the afternoon, Dr. Bajaj introduced us to Dr. Sperling, who works in the ER. Dr. Bajaj wanted to give Arence and me an opportunity to experience other branches of medicine because radiology only represents a tiny portion of it. Indeed, the two hours I spent with Dr. Sperling in the emergency department was drastically different from my time shadowing Dr. Bajaj. Dr. Sperling checked up on three of his patients while we shadowed him. He greeted his patients and their families warmly, chatted with them, and explained what was going on patiently. I loved the doctor-patient interaction, which was rather rare in radiology.

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Bajaj and his co-workers, Staten Island University Hospital, and Princeton Career Services. I’ve learned a lot during these three days. In addition to helping me decide what I want to study at Princeton, I also observed how the theoretical knowledge that I learned in class is applied in real life. I am sure that this will become a motivation for studying harder in the future.

Sharon You ’17, North Shore LIJ Health Systems

Sharon-YouI spent my Princeternship at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Long Island, New York. For three days, I shadowed Dr. Mitchell Adler ’73, Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO) of the Medical Group. He is in charge of the AEHR, the ambulatory electronic health record system, which the health system has been implementing in accordance with a national initiative encouraging the use of electronic health records

When I arrived at Dr. Adler’s Manhasset office on my first day, he explained some important concepts that would be relevant during the next three days, like the EHR and the health system’s network security, as well as the idea of PHI – private health information – and the increasing importance, given today’s technological advancements, of preserving patient confidentiality. He also had a lot of interesting things to say about the healthcare sector and its significance in today’s economy.

The first day involvedSharon You quite a few meetings, including a teleconference about extending the electronic records system to the Staten Island network. Dr. Adler also met with the developers of a particular interface to see how it could be made to work with the software that the records system currently uses. I started to appreciate the level of behind-the-scenes detail and work involved in maintaining, improving, and expanding a health system, and what a complicated process was entailed by the implementation of the EHR itself. Improvements of every magnitude are continuously sought as I realized, for example, one of Dr. Adler’s tasks during the time I was there was to incorporate a new form into the records system.

The next day proved to me once more the versatility of Dr. Adler’s job. We attended a meeting about organizing the filming of an instructional video for doctors, and then I sat in on a meeting with the health information management supervisor. Afterwards, we went to a different office in the health system and met with all the other CMIOs and their head for a regular discussion of current projects and developments. One topic raised that I found interesting was the availability of information to the parents of adolescent patients for procedures not requiring parental consent. My favorite part of the day was the following ethics meeting at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where the ethics committee discussed two confidential end-of-life cases and issues like hospice, transfer, and mental capacity.

The last day, I came in late because Dr. Adler had been meeting with the Joint Commission, a national not-for-profit that inspects hospitals and evaluates various elements of the care provided, like waiting times, amount of radiation in CT scans, &c. When I arrived, he filled me in on the meeting, and we talked a little about the expansion of ambulatory care relative to inpatient care. Afterwards, I got to see the EHR in use and watch residents present their cases to Dr. Adler and several others, which was one of the highlights of my experience.

Overall, I thought this Princeternship was a great opportunity. Even though the medical and administrative jargon was a little hard to follow at times, these three days gave me insight into what I hope to be doing in the future and exposed me to new aspects of health care that I had never considered. I am very grateful to Dr. Adler for taking the time and effort to arrange this opportunity, and I would recommend this to anyone considering a future in health care.

Cordelia Xie ’16, Havas Life

Cordelia-XieDay One

My fellow Princetern Shubham and I arrived at Havas Life on Madison Avenue, New York, on Wednesday, January 29th. We first met with Lorraine Forster from Human Resources, who had graciously planned out our schedule for our three-day Princeternship. She gave us an overview of Havas Life, Havas Lynx, and Health4Brands, three healthcare advertising agencies under the umbrella of the Havas Company. Havas does a wide range of healthcare advertising for direct-to-physician, direct-to-patient, and direct-to-payer products. I have a strong interest in health and public policy, so I was very excited to learn about the extensive process of producing a product campaign.

Throughout our three daysXie 1 at Havas, Shubham and I were fortunate enough to meet employees from various departments within Havas, ranging from Account, New Business, Project Management, Editorial, Copy Writing, Art Direction, Medical Direction, and Production. On Wednesday, I particularly enjoyed meeting with Christine D’Appolonia, the Managing Director of Havas Metro, who is in charge of overlooking the whole ad-making process. Havas is mainly concerned with producing ads for pharmaceutical companies, so Christine informed us that there are very fine distinctions between word choice and imagery because of strict FDA regulations. Christine works closely with all departments within Havas Metro, so she also works with Juliette Montoya and Meredith Levy of New Business to reach out to new clients. New Business creates a support group for reaching out to new agencies and organizing pitch presentations to prospective client in hopes that they will agree to work with Havas. Juliette and Meredith stressed that the pitch process is highly organized, starting with research, strategy, visual concepts, account, to final presentation.

During lunch on Wednesday, we met Jessica Wey ‘07. She had majored in Molecular Biology at Princeton and actually started working in healthcare advertising without much prior knowledge of the field. As a copy writer, she enjoys having a tangible product of her work. Her Princeton education has also given her a basic scientific background on the pharmaceutical brands she works on. Jess showed us some pieces in her portfolio and pointed out subtle nuances within each ad that were meant to elicit a specific response from the viewers.

Day Two

On the second day of our Princeternship, we were able to meet with employees from both Havas Life and Health4Brands . In the morning at Havas Life, I particularly enjoyed speaking with Chelsea Tholen and Genevieve Breen from Account, the department that serves as the liaison between the client and the agency. They informed us about the differences between domestic and global product advertisement. For example, Genevieve is working on a global summit for a drug treating Type II Diabetes. Each country launching this product has different local needs and regulations, but the global team still needs to maintain a consistent message for the brand. I am very interested in international development, so it was fascinating to hear how one advertising agency deals with both domestic and global brands.

In the afternoon, Shubham and I took a cab to Chelsea to visit the office of Health4Brands. Health4Brands and Havas Life essentially take on the same roles, but they are separated into distinct agencies in order to establish a firewall between competing clients. There we learned about direct-to-payer account managing, a topic we had not covered at Havas Life. In addition to advertising for direct-to-physician and direct-to-consumer products, Health4Brands also collaborates with marketing teams in pharmaceutical companies to ensure that insurance companies will cover the pharmaceutical company’s specific new product. We also met with Sai Lyer, the Medical Director, who has a PhD in Biochemistry. His main job is to collaborate with the strategy team in order to come up with medical strategies and also medical background information for internal education within the agency. As medical director, he needs to test these market strategies through qualitative research in order for the creative team to come up with the most creative, scientifically accurate, and distinct campaign.

Day Three

On the last day of our Princeternship, Shubham and I sat in on the agency’s Digital Bootcamp, an informative workshop aimed to create new opportunities for the agency. The presentation introduced a range of new medical technologies, from wearable electronics to Google Glass. Digital Bootcamp seems to be a good way to inform the employees about the fast-paced changes in the digital world. In the afternoon, we met with Kat Yang and Alexander Ferrara, both Copy Writers in Havas Metro. Then we spoke with Melissa Saling and Stephanie Sahno from Project Management. Project Management is distinct from Account in that Account serves as a speaker for the clients’ needs whereas Project Managers need to assess the realistic budget, timing, and risks associated with a certain project. At the end of the day, we said goodbyes to everyone, especially Jess Wey and Lorraine, who were the key coordinators of this Princeternship.

Xie 2Overall, this Princeternship has given me insight not only on what goes on in an healthcare advertising agency, but also a feel for what it is like to work in this industry. Of all the different departments, I was personally most interested in Account and Project Management; the idea of bringing together all the departments into one cohesive group was very exciting to me. It was also interesting to see how the employees within the agency come from all different backgrounds.  Some majored in Molecular Biology while others in English, and, some have always worked in healthcare advertising and others have worked in consumer advertising or consulting. The work environment is very conducive to collaboration and every department has opportunities to work with all the other departments. Although the employees admitted that their work could be stressful, I could sense their passion for what they do at Havas. Once again, I would like to thank Jess, Lorraine, and all the people at Havas Life we met in the course of three days. Although I am still unsure if I would like to pursue a career in advertising, this experience has definitely opened up some new doors. This Princeternship Program has been an amazing opportunity that I would recommend to all Princeton students.


Samantha Wu ’16, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

Samantha-WuOne of the reasons why I decided to participate in a Princeternship was to observe surgery for the first time. There is a difference between reading about the intensity and intricacy of surgeries online to witnessing them firsthand from the lengthy start to finish. As such, I was really excited that I would be shadowing Dr. Gage Parr ’91, a cardiac anesthesiologist at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, MD. On day 1, I met Dr. Parr at 7:15 am and proceeded to change into scrubs. Then Dr. Parr went to a patient waiting room to sift through the medical records of the patients to be operated on that day, while filling out Anesthesia Evaluations and part of the Post-Anesthesia Records. The first patient of the day suffered from renal failure and would be undergoing an arteriovenous (AV) fistula. An AV fistula widens the vein by connecting it to an artery, causing the blood to flow faster and better dialysis access. Dr. Parr then went to talk to him, gathering more medical history, providing comfort, information, with a splash of humor here and there. In the end, she knew what anesthetics to provide him with the most comfort during the procedure given his specific medical condition and current health issues.

Afterwards, Dr. Parr went to the operating room (OR) to prepare for the AV fistula surgery. The first thing I noticed was how high-tech the room seemed. In the right corner was an estimated $1million beast of a X-ray machine. Dr. Parr prepared her “cocktail” and set up the anesthesia machine and when the patient arrived, she sedated him, inserted a breathing tube, and connected him to a ventilator that would help him breathe. During the surgery, Dr. Parr informed me of every drug she was administering and what was happening during distinct stages of the procedure while explaining the biochemistry behind it all, all while regularly monitoring the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level. After about 3 hours the surgery was over and the patient was transferred to his recovery room. Dr. Parr continued to monitor the patient’s vital functions and manage his pain immediately post-operation to ensure the best comfort possible.

The next operation I observed was the beginning of a coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).CABG is a type of surgery used to treat people who have coronary heart disease- plaque build-up in the coronary arteries, which limits oxygen-rich blood flow to heart muscle. During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from the body is grafted to the blocked coronary artery, bypassing the blocked region of the coronary artery. When I entered the OR, the patient was completely covered with sterile blue sheets but the chest was still sterile and transparent. A camera was inserted into the leg. According to Oliver, the surgeons were harvesting the greater saphenous vein in the right leg and the left internal mammary artery which will serve as the greater conduits. After seeing the first incision to the chest and the opening of the ribs with a saw (!) to expose the heart, another anesthesiologist came to take over Dr. Parr.

~~~ Dr. Parr’s Words of Wisdom #1: “3 Rules of Surgery. Eat when you can, sleep when you can, and don’t touch the pancreas.”

After a quick lunch, Dr. Parr’s next surgery would be another AV fistula. We went through the drill again: paperwork, meet the patient, have the patient sign consent forms, and then OR. During the second AV fistula, I took this opportunity to ask Dr. Parr more questions on what being an anesthesiologist is like and why she was specifically attracted to cardiac anesthesiology. She said that the advantages to being an anesthesiologist are that call is well defined and self limited and there is no rounding. She also said that an anesthesiologist is more focused on the one-on-one interaction with the patient, which I easily noticed during my first day of shadowing. From what I learned, it seems that surgeons do the dirty and then leave the OR when the surgery is done. An anesthesiologist, on the other hand, is with the patient every step before, during, and after a surgery. As to why she was attracted to cardiac anesthesiology, she liked that there was a lot of action and collaboration. When you’re dropping the heart and blood pressure to non-homeostatic conditions, it requires people who can stay calm and focused under these stressful situations.

When the surgery was over, the drill continued: Dr. Parr brought the patient back to consciousness, moved her to her recovery room, comforted her at her bed while asking questions and taking notes. Dr. Parr spent the final part of her day filling out pre-operation paperwork to prepare for next day’s surgeries. She then met and chatted with the two patients, going over what to expect the next day before, during, and after surgery and obtaining signatures for the consent forms.

I felt I had learned so much from my first day of my Princeternship about the various medical professions and a great mountain of biochemical knowledge required in anesthesiology. If you are in the OR, you need great listening skills. People will usually be talking at the same time and when one person says one thing, you have to immediately recognize if it is being addressed to you, picking it out from the rest of the crowd and then act on it. Dr. Parr is a hilarious person and I was also shocked to see the rest of the staff crack so many jokes. It definitely diminished my initial misconception that doctors were high-strung, overly-serious people.

The second day of my Princeternship began at 8 am and thank you to Debby for helping me get ready! Preparations for the first surgery actually began at 7 am but by the time I arrived, they were nearly done and the operation was about to begin. The patient I had met yesterday in the afternoon would be undergoing aortic valve surgery to treat aortic stenosis, a condition when an aortic valve does not fully open because of calcium deposits on the valve leaflets, rendering them thick and stiff. The heart has to work even harder to push enough blood through a narrowed valve. Since she had heart surgery before and was too high at risk for typical open aortic valve surgery, a minimally invasive procedure would be conducted instead where a tube is inserted through an artery in the groin, leg, or a small incision between the ribs. The artificial valve is compressed and fed through the tube until it reaches the aortic valve. A balloon expands the artificial valve, pushing against the old aortic valve, and the tube is removed.

Given that this was a more complex operation, there were over 10 people in the OR. There were two cardiologists, a surgical assistant, an anesthesiologist, three nurses, a perfusionist, and a number of surgeons. On top of my scrubs, I also had to put on lead because today I would actually see the great claw-machine-shaped X-ray machine in use. The surgeons first cut the femoral vein, snaked a wire up to the heart, and inserted a pacemaker wire that would be controlled by Dr. Parr. While doing this, the surgeons were assisted by the X-ray machine as an image of a wire going up to the heart appeared on the room’s TV screen. The machine also spins, capturing a 3D view of the patient’s chest. As the surgery continued, I was able to see them operating on the chest, real-time, through a video feed on the TV screen. Although I looked calm on the outside, in my head I was screaming, “I can actually see the heart beating!!!” It was definitely one of the coolest experiences I have ever had in my life. Although Dr. Parr was very busy, she still walked me through the procedure answering my questions regarding what was happening. Whenever she would use a different drug, she told me the name, what it does, and the biochemistry behind the mechanism of action.

When the time came to insert the tube through the aortic valve and expand the valve by inflating a balloon, I realized how much teamwork this particular field demanded. When Dr. Wang said, “Let’s all help out,” almost every surgeon stepped up and played a crucial role in this critical step. However, the valve was so calcified that they had to inflate the balloon again. They then inserted a catheter, injected dye into the coronary arteries to check that the aortic valve was working properly and that there were no leaks. Thank you to Kodsi for explaining this part of the operation to me!

After lunch, Dr. Parr wanted me to observe more of the CABG even though we would have to separate briefly since it was not her operation. I am very grateful that Dr. Parr went to great ends to ensure I had an enriching experience at my Princeternship and observed all the new and great sights I ought to see during my stay.

In the OR, I got to chat with Dr. Mantel, another anesthesiologist and Kurt, the perfusionist. I want to thank Kurt for devoting so much time to explaining to me how such a complicated machine functioned. The perfusionist operated the cardiopulmonary bypass machine (heart-lung machine). During CABG, the heart is temporarily stopped and the blood is drained from the body and cycled through the bypass machine, which takes over the function of the heart and pumps blood to the body.

~~~ Dr. Parr’s Words of Wisdom: (Regarding the blue drape separating the surgeons from the anesthesiologist) This is the blood-brain barrier. (Points to surgeons) That’s the blood. (Points to herself and her work station) These are the brains.

I had an unforgettably amazing and eye-opening experience during my Princeternship and it was another reminder of why I was really attracted by medicine. There is just a unique power of cutting into the person, patching them back up, and reviving them. The patient resumes life just as it was before as if nothing had happened (ignoring the post-surgical pain). The Princeternship was also a great opportunity to observe patient care in a hospital setting. Although I am unsure as to what field I would like to specialize in as a doctor, I am considering anesthesiology for its deep connections with chemistry, versatility and applications in all forms of medical procedures, and the opportunities for patient interaction. This Princeternship allowed me to gain a better idea of the duties of different medical professions, clear insight into the hospital environment, and I am gradually gaining a better idea of what area I want to specialize in. The entire staff was helpful, hospitable, and explained to me what was going on during surgeries despite how busy they were. Working at a hospital is a high-stress job, but the surgeons were all laid-back people who love to make jokes, including the air-guitar playing Gary, the chief cardiovascular surgeon, Fiocco, who enjoys listening to the radio during his surgeries, and my “best friend” Lisa who never fails to tease me. I want to extend my deepest thanks to Dr. Parr for sharing her world with me and giving me one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my life.

James Wang ’16, AppNexus

James-WangI woke up early the morning of March 10th, the Friday of reading period, feeling groggy and disoriented. As my phone continued to shake, I began to realize what was happening: I was about to miss the train to my Princeternship. The night before, I was preparing hard for the Princeternship opportunity, eager to impress the alumni that I would interact with and impress them with HOURS of knowledge on Ad Tech and the AppNexus platform. After some early-morning sprints and going off and on many modes of transportation, I eventually walked into the AppNexus’ office ready for an eye-opening day.

The other four Princeterns and I began our day with a welcome meeting with Zach Kwartler ‘11, a senior member of AppNexus’ Global Services team.  After our respective introductions, Zach explained what the Global Services team does, which was, in an abstract sense, to connect customers to the technology and “keeping lubricated a lot of moving parts” that comprised of the operations at AppNexus. Then, he began to explain AppNexus as a whole. He explained to us that AppNexus was one of the largest ad platforms on the Internet, and its main selling point is that it operates completely on real-time. In the past, ads were bought and sold in a very manual fashion, in which bundles of ad space were sold by publishers with open areas on multiple websites ready to be plastered with ads. In a way, AppNexus’ role in the market is to make the advertising technology industry more and more efficient, to the point where buyers are able to buy ad space more effectively and steadily increase their return on investment in clear, measurable ways, all in milliseconds time.

Throughout the day, I was passed20140110_125902 around to different alumni in the company so that I could see multiple aspects of daily operations. I first had an appointment with Damjan Korac, a software engineer working in User Interface (UI). We connected immediately in that he was an ORFE major as well, and we began talking about the state of the ORFE department, his past independent work at Princeton, and some of his work experiences leading up to his tenure at AppNexus. After an hour flew by, we had lunch with a group of Princeton alumni, where they got to catch up on Princetonian affairs while they filled us in on their lives after Princeton and their experiences at AppNexus. Overall, I felt a shared enthusiasm and camaraderie between the alumni, who all seemed like they not only enjoyed the place they worked, but were fully committed to the larger mission of AppNexus. Most surprisingly, Brian O’Kelly ‘99, the CEO of the company, dropped by at lunch to say hi to us and welcomed us to the company for the day.

The rest of the day flew by. After lunch, I shadowed Peter Yu, who worked in DevOps and was a COS major at Princeton. As I shadowed him, he was coding a program in Python that would instantaneously install current versions of Python on other computers to avoid the hassle of every employee from having to configure their own computer. This work was part of a larger project to better optimize the configuration process of machines for new hires. Being able to see a coder in action in a larger, industrial context was very cool, and it made me more appreciative of how much code really envelops the operations at any modern tech company like AppNexus.

In my final session, I shadowed Richard Andrews of Global Services, a former economics major. In addition to being the “lubrication” in the technical cogs of AppNexus, he also provided the human connection between the sellers and buyers and the AppNexus ecosystem. As such, he described his day fairly evenly divided between client calls, desk work/parsing tickets and internal meetings. As he was telling me about his life experiences, he worked on client tickets on queries and proposed improvements made involving the AppNexus console and API. Most of the time, he was able to answer customer tickets through an online system, but at times he needed to call in co-workers and other  clients in order to resolve issues that arose. All in all, he gave me a great view of the non-coding side of AppNexus looked like, one in which the constant push-and-pull of the human interaction with the technical machinery comprised much of his workload.

Looking back, I am still astounded by the enormous advertising ecosystem created by the team at AppNexus. In incrementally exploring every facet of AppNexus’ ad platform, it gave me a great view of their entire business model and the current state of the advertising industry. I think one of the best takeaways from the experience was being able to see a side of tech that didn’t just involve coding, but also being able to see where each line of code fits in in the larger context of the company from the people that do have their hands in the software. In the end, I can’t help but be grateful to the many people at AppNexus and Career Services that made this opportunity possible. This trip made me even more excited to see where my education takes me after graduation.


Christine Wang ’14, Shine America

Christine WangOver Reading Period, I had the chance to shadow Danny Steiner ’10, the Executive Assistant to the CEO of Shine America. I walked into the Shine America building a little nervous because I had practically zero knowledge of the entertainment industry beforehand. I have some experience in small-scale video production as ancillary content for marketing and journalistic purposes, but I want to take those skills and apply them on a much larger scale. Given how much of my free time is spent on binge-watching episodes of Breaking Bad or House of Cards, I was curious to see if a career in entertainment might be something I want to pursue after graduation. This Princeternship was the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the industry and the variety of opportunities within it at a company that produces and distributes high-caliber content like The Office and Ugly Betty. Danny was an excellent host and set up several meetings for me with people from practically every department at Shine including: marketing, acquisitions, digital, business and brand development, clearances, scripted/unscripted production, post-production, research, and human resources. Despite my primitive understanding of the industry, everyone I met at Shine was incredibly welcoming and excited to share their work with me. I looked over a presentation for a new reality TV show, flipped through the final proof of a MasterChef cookbook, and watched a Google hangout for The Biggest Loser with the Digital team and listened to their comments. Of course, being the editing geek that I am, I leaped at the chance to check out one of the editing bays at Shine. They have desks that can be elevated to standing height, which is CRUCIAL when you spend 10+ hours a day in front of a screen.

Any reality TV junkie would be at home here, especially with posters for The Face and the aforementioned shows decorating the offices. While all these mini-tasks were super fun, the best part of this Princeternship was being able to talk to people who were so passionate about their jobs in entertainment. Their enthusiasm is absolutely contagious and I walked away from many conversations seriously considering whether or not I could hack it in whatever department I had just talked to. I picked up a lot of new vocabulary (i.e. deficit financing, formats, AMORT) and learned a lot about how studios and networks are organized by departments and how they collaborate with one another on any number of projects.  It was also fascinating to talk to Shine employees about the direction of the industry from the insider’s perspective. One of the many great conversations I had was with Kevin Ivey from Research. Kevin spends most of his time going through ratings and numbers to track how well a show is doing. I have to admit that walking in, I wasn’t totally sure that I was going to understand or appreciate what Kevin does, but his explanation of the Nielsen ratings system and how those numbers translate into ability to generate advertising revenue was really accessible. It helped that Kevin framed our conversation in the context of the Duck Dynasty and Paula Deen scandals. We also talked about how video on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu are changing how people prefer to watch television and challenging the traditional model of ad sales based on projected ratings. I think I walked in with this idea that the entertainment industry has this weird impenetrable force field that selectively allows people to succeed. But my conversations with the people at Shine assured me that, like any other industry, given a little luck, some quality hard work, and time, anyone can work their way up. It was also great to take my personal observations about the state of television and develop those ideas through my conversations with industry professionals.

Overall, this Princeternship was an eye-opening experience for me and went by far too quickly. It was an incredibly effective crash course in the ins and outs of television production. While there is only so much that can be learned without actually working in the industry, I now know enough to intelligently think about the path I want to pursue within it. Thank you Danny and everyone at Shine America and Princeton Career Services for this amazingly educational and enjoyable experience. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and everything that the people at Shine were willing to share with me.