The past month and a half of learning German has been enlightening for me. It has provided me with an experience I thought I had left behind in high school. For the most part, my time has been spent on refreshing my memory from high school. I often refer back to my old high school notes and vocabulary lists as I complete daily tasks, such as listening to the daily videos on the Deustche Welle, and my occasional reading of German short stories. The materials I am using, while basic, are certainly helpful. As things are going right now, I will hopefully finish at least one German novella by the end of July, and a third before school starts again in August.
To date, the hardest part about learning the language has been trying to force myself not to translate everything into English in my head as I read it. I have rebel against the instinct to revert to my native language. The challenge has proven to be fun instead of frustrating, as I expected.
However, as fantastic as this experience has been, my favorite part has been my unexpected reconnection with my old high school German teacher. I reached out to him in early June for recommendations on materials and online resources. I always looked up to him, but I never got a chance to express the passion for the language he had passed on to me. Recently, I’ve been talking to him more, and he’s been a great help in finding new material. He has also helped me understand several German grammar points that I just could not grasp by myself.
This will mark my second year with the Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation. I work in the Penn State College of Medicine on the seventh floor of the Biomedical Research (BMR) building, and my desk window overlooks the small wooded area behind the Penn State Hershey campus.
This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded the new Honors Enrichment Award, and thought it was practical to apply the award to the research I was already doing in the lab. After several discussions with my lab’s principle investigator (Dr. Kristen Eckert) and RMU’s Professor Harold, it was decided that I would pursue my own independent research, but in a way that would be applicable to projects already going on in the Eckert lab.
The Eckert lab seeks to understand the important mechanisms that disrupt DNA replication during the Synthesis (or S. phase) phase of the cell cycle. The lab’s research focuses on how replicative stress (in the form of inflammation) causes such disruptions, which lead to mutations, which finally lead to tumor forming cancer cells. In fact, chronic inflammation is a hallmark of cancer. Better understanding these mechanisms will allow doctors and scientists to more effectively treat and prevent cancer and cause the least amount (ideally none) of damage to the patient’s healthy cells.
My research is specifically focused on the reactive oxidative species (ROS) made by cells in relation to replicative stress. Basically, I am looking at negatively charged oxygen species within the cell that arise during what we think are the beginning stages of cancer development.
The experience in the lab this summer is proving to be a challenge, but I am incredibly excited to see what our findings will be. At any rate, the work being done by Dr. Eckert’s lab and the results that we produce will always be a brand new step on the path to finding better treatments and preventions for cancer.
Receiving the Honors Summer Enrichment Award has allowed me to continue working on my fluency in French. I practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing with Rosetta Stone. Additionally, I speak with a pen pal who is fluent in French and English. Her name is Hana Francioni, and she lives in Morocco! Hana and I speak mainly in French, but when I make a mistake or cannot understand what she is saying, she explains in English. The combination of studying with Rosetta Stone and communicating with a fluent speaker has helped me progress greatly. During July, I plan to start reading a French novel. I am deciding between Le Petit Nicolas by Goscinny and Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry.
Unfortunately, I have faced several challenges this summer. First, finding time to practice with Rosetta Stone can be difficult with two jobs, vacation, and other commitments. To overcome this challenge, I have adjusted how much I speak to Hana or use Rosetta Stone daily. I usually fluctuate between fifteen minutes and an hour with a few off days. Another challenge I faced was initially finding a pen pal. There are a plethora of different websites that help locate pen pals from different countries. Finding the perfect site and pen pal was…interesting, to say the least. After several failed attempts and messages from foreign males looking for a romantic pen pal, I decided to try PenPal World. This site is safe and provided me with many great options. Hana and I started talking on June 3 and we are becoming good friends. Overall, I am having fun trying to advance in my fluency and look forward to the rest of summer!