Enrichment Award: My Experience Taking a Spanish III Class

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.

Aubrey Leasure

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Enrichment Award Update: Breaking New Ground in Cancer Research

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

Enrichment Award Update: Successes and Setbacks of Learning French

Since my last update, I have made progress in my journey to French fluency. I have continued to work with Rosetta Stone and speak with Hana, my pen pal. Through my primary learning aid, Rosetta Stone, I have completed three units out of twenty. During June, I mainly refreshed on what I learned in high school, but am starting to learn new vocabulary and verbs as the units progress. Using the software is becoming more comfortable, and I am also able to move faster through it as I use it more. The most surprising aspect of Rosetta Stone is how much my accent has advanced. In high school, I was embarrassed to talk in class; my accent was so bad that my teacher deemed it “Californian French.” I am really happy that I am now confident about my accent, but there’s always room for improvement!

In addition, talking to Hana is more natural. Unfortunately, we do not talk as frequently as I would like too, but when we do talk, we use less and less English. Also, I do not have to use an online translator as often. Besides the fact that Hana is helping me with French, she is a really cool person, and I am lucky to have met her!

Even though I have had much success I have also had some setbacks. I attempted to begin reading Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. Both Hana and my friend from high school, Gabby Puma, read this book and thought I would have no problem with it. The first problem I had was that Le Petit Prince is in the verb tense, passé simple. This verb tense is difficult to understand because I did not learn it in high school or with Rosetta Stone yet. Additionally, there is difficult vocabulary that I have not covered either. I plan on studying some of the book’s vocabulary on Quizlet and taking another shot at reading it in August.

I am having fun with my journey to French fluency and look forward to what will come next!

Mary Funderlich