After Preschool comes elementary school. After elementary school there is high school. After high school comes college. But what comes after college? For some people it is entering the workforce in their chosen discipline. For others, the answer is graduate school. The RMU Honors Program recently co-sponsored a “Going to Graduate School Seminar.” At this event, there was a multitude of panelists giving advice on applying to graduate school including admissions staff, career center staff, faculty members, and past and present graduate school students. It was the perfect opportunity for anyone considering attending graduate school to get information on the graduate application process.
Prior to the seminar, I was unsure on exactly what graduate school entailed, which is exactly why I attended. It was a very informative event, and I especially liked that the information came from different sources with various points of view. Who better to learn from than the past and present graduate students, faculty, and admissions staff? The current graduate students went over several tips based on their experiences. Such as, it is never too early to start preparing an application. The career center and admissions staff provided guidelines on what graduate school admission counselors are looking for when reviewing applications. Overall it was a very worthwhile event and I feel that I now have a better sense of what to expect when applying to schools and how graduate school differs from undergraduate. I left the seminar with a better sense of the steps I can take to improve my chances of being accepted into the graduate school of my choice.
On Monday, October 5th, 2015, several honors students had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Majid Hashemipour, Robert Morris’s current Rooney Scholar. Dr. Hashemipour is a professor at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and is visiting RMU to share his expertise in the field of internationalization within universities. His wife also traveled with him to RMU, and they prepared a delicious traditional Mediterranean meal for lunch that included curry, chicken, chickpeas, rice, and salad.
During the luncheon, we discussed Dr. Hashemipour’s efforts to globalize EMU (Eastern Mediterranean University) through his work and study program, which sets up American students with jobs in foreign countries to allay the costs of traveling abroad. His program at EMU is primarily a summer project in which students teach English at the university in Cyprus in exchange for room and board. Overall, the luncheon was enjoyable, and a great way to get to know RMU’s Rooney Scholar.
Thanks to technological advances, our world is becoming more and more interconnected. Text, email, online video chatting, and more social media outlets than one person could ever need have come together to create a generation addicted to technology. Dr. Scott Spangler has been studying this addiction and its effects on a learning environment for over a year and a half. In his Roundtable presentation on September 16, Dr. Spangler discusses his findings and encourages educators to use technology as an enrichment tool rather than treat it as a nuisance.
Dr. Spangler first concentrated on the social implications of technology on the, as he calls it, ‘SnapChat’ generation. Dr. Spangler found through interviewing and observing over four hundred students that young adults have begun to form strong attachments to their devices. The SnapChat generation suffers from heightened anxiety, especially in the face of failing technology. “Students”, to paraphrase what Dr. Spangler said, “sit by power outlets… because they need their fix.” He encourages teachers to let their students get their ‘fix’, even if it is to just look up a definition of a word. Dr. Spangler also encourages every student to form small ‘online synergy groups’ of about four people in order to share class notes and ideas. Instead of the traditional study groups that meet in one place during a certain time, technology has allowed students to use the internet to continuously communicate with classmates.
Dr. Spangler’s ideas of encouraging technology usage instead of suppressing it seem to be a win/win scenario for both teachers and students; learning becomes engaging and information is retained on a greater level. According to Dr. Spangler, the prospect of using current, free technology to supplement traditional lecture is a fast approaching reality, one that the SnapChat generation is ready for.
On September 17th, Robert Morris faculty, staff, and students gathered in Rogal Chapel to celebrate Constitution Day. Audience members entered the inviting chapel to the sound of patriotic American compositions played by some of Robert Morris’ talented musicians. Supported by the Robert Morris Oral History Center and Daughters of the American Revolution, the event consisted of a panel of several veterans. The veterans shared their stories and roles in their tours, which included the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Topics of exploration included the idea of brotherhood, the comparison of Iraq and Afghanistan, leadership in the military, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Audience members left with more than just the unique stories of these speakers, but also with a sense of what defending America’s constitution really means.
Learning German for the past three months has become significantly more challenging. My progress is not as rapid as it used to be, and psychologically, it is slightly discouraging. That is not to say that I do not feel the progress, however. I can tell that I’ve gotten further in these past few months than I was during my last year of high school German. Guided teaching was definitely the best approach for the foundations of the language, but for vocabulary, there is no better method than reading and listening to the language.
I have been trying to dedicate a few hours a week to a mixture of reading German novels/short stories, and listening to German podcasts, videos, and news sources, such as the Deutsche Welle. I still struggle to hear everything clearly in the language’s native speed, but after a few listens, I usually get the basic information, and with a few more, I tend understand most everything said in the reports. For reading, I have found parallel texts to be an unbelievably helpful resource. It prevents me from having to keep referring to an online translator to type the whole sentence in to check my accuracy, but I still need to refer to dictionaries for simple single words or small phrases. After finishing my current short story collection, I intend to do a slow, thorough reading of Franz Kafka’s Die Verlandung, known as The Metamorphosis to English readers.
Several new challenges have risen since my last update. Time has been much harder to find, with the studying for my first actuarial exam, and some familial health issues that needed focused on, while still trying to maintain a 4 days a week work schedule. However, I have learned a bit from the experience and realized the importance of practicing my language skills whenever I get the chance!
Receiving the Enrichment Award has allowed me to continue learning the Spanish language. In order to advance my Spanish speaking and writing skills I enrolled in a six-week Spanish III course at the Community College of Allegheny (CCAC). The class has been a great experience and has gone by so quickly. I had not taken a Spanish class in over a year, and this was a great opportunity to refresh my memory from my high school classes. I found that I had already been taught (in high school) most of the subjects that we covered in this CCAC class; however, I feel that I learned so much more this time. Because each class was nearly four hours long, I was able to fully understand the topics, grammar, and syntax that were taught.
The professor for this course is from Puerto Rico and he is great. It was such a nice change to learn Spanish from a native Spanish speaker. Sometimes, it is actually easier to understand what he is saying in Spanish than in English! Since the class was only six weeks long, the work has been intensive. We have a large chapter test each week, and we do homework from our textbook, Spanish movie reviews, group projects, essays, and presentations as well. Because of this, I feel that my entire class has learned quickly and that we have all become good friends.
The most difficult part of the course has been completely immersing myself into learning. This Spanish class had the potential to be whatever each person made of it. There are definitely ways to pass the class by using Google Translate for all assignments or translating each sentence word by word from English when speaking. However, I wanted to truly learn Spanish and speak it well, so I used a Spanish-English dictionary only when necessary and did my best to think in Spanish when listening and speaking. Overall, my Spanish class has been challenging, but fun and well worth it, and I am excited to continue onto the next level.
More recently in the lab, my time has been focused on optimizing and performing the reactive oxidative species (ROS) assay. As my lab team has not used this particular assay before, one could say that I was breaking new ground with this experiment in the lab. We thought it best to establish and perform the controls before beginning the actual experimentation.
We know that chemical hydrogen peroxide will produce ROS in cells no matter what. After determining the proper concentration range to use, experimentation was just a matter of seeding the cells into a 96-well plate overnight, giving the cells treatment and performing the assay the following day.
The first trial wasn’t completely unsuccessful; however, something was clearly amiss. After communicating with a Cell-Biolabs (company the ROS reagents are from) technician, we learned where we went wrong. In the end, the main problem came down to two very fixable issues: 1. We hadn’t seeded enough cells in the plate the night before and 2. We needed to change to a specialized 96-well plate that would make the experiment easier and give us more data points-which the experimental protocol did not specify in its instructions. Believe me, I wasn’t happy that the company hadn’t included this key information.
After making these two simple adjustments, we were able to properly establish our positive control and were also able to obtain over 200 working data points for each sample. In the final portions of experimentation, we will actually be able to treat the cells with cytokines (chemicals that simulate cancer type environment by creating replicative stress) and determine whether or not there is an ROS response and establish if any correlation exists between ROS and the amount of polymerase eta protein in the cells.
I’ve learned extensive information about modern biochemistry and molecular biology experimental techniques and have become proficient in essentially all of the ones I’ve been taught. Learning how to culture human cells, chemically treat them, count them, and perform ROS assays using them are all things I may not have experienced had it not been for the Honors Enrichment Award. I want to thank the RMU honors program, Professor Harold, Professor VanDieren, and Lindsey Sobolosky for their support and providing me the opportunity to better my academic and professional career. And it is my hope that my experience will demonstrate that you don’t need to go to a huge state school in order to have awesome opportunities as an undergrad, you just need to go to RMU.
Damian Di Florio