Alexander Turin

ePortfolio

 

 

To delve into depths of mind and soul,

To show the world the power of reflection,

To stumble from uncertainty to wonder,

To link my past, my present, my direction. 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Goals




To pursue a medical degree in the hopes of treating patients and spreading health

To participate in the community, not only as a student of science and medicine but also as a good samaritan

To delve and experiment further into the depths of art, writing, and music as creativity and expression

To continue down the road of inquisitiveness, curiosity, and discovery

 

 

 

 

 
 

Philosophy Statement

Learning to seize the day

As a giant wall is made up of a constellation of bricks, I see life as being made up of segments of opportunities. For instance, the passages to elementary school, to high school, or to university all illustrate transitions from one opportunity to another. Through my choices, I strive to make full use of each opportunity, seizing every resource in order to learn all that I can before the time comes to lay another brick. As a university student, I’ve made the most of my environment by working with faculty, accessing tremendous libraries, and speaking with any number of other students in regards to essentially any topic of interest, be it course knowledge or career advice. It is these resources, among others, that have enabled me to delve into and discover vast areas of knowledge that would otherwise go unnoticed. Using opportunities, resources and time wisely allows me to set my own standard of excellence and then strive to achieve it, not only as a way to return what was given me, but also in respect to the work of my parents and our culture.

 

Learning to do everything

My father’s advice of my childhood years still resonates through my head: “You must be able to do everything.”  It is not by any means a realistic expectation in its literal form, but I have always taken it to mean that I must learn the skills and overcome challenges to be able to adapt in any given situation, in any opportunity. Aside from the knowledge gained in school, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to learn – at least in a basic form – everything from changing a tire to cooking, music, literature, science, and especially my love for languages. For instance, when two individuals share a language that is not the common one being spoken, it inherently creates a connection that cannot be forged any other way. It is this breadth of knowledge that allows me to strike up conversation with just about anyone on just about any topic. By being a balanced and well-rounded person, I can participate fully in the world to have the deepest and widest impact possible.

 


Learning for life

Studying carries with it the implication of an exam in the not-so-distant future. Most learning, which stems from such studying, seems to vanish without trace en route in the few hours following examinations. This “learning for the moment” is, to me, impractical and a poor use of opportunity, resources, and especially time. As I see it, all knowledge may be applicable in the future. Learning for life creates a foundation of knowledge that can be activated and built upon in the future. For instance, as an avid pianist, I have learned numerous pieces that I enjoy playing; however, with increased responsibilities, I have less time for practice and so I have forgotten many of the pieces I had once played. However, it takes a small fraction of the time to “relearn” a piece than to learn one from scratch, and the same is true of all knowledge. Moreover, as I build upon the foundation and developed deeper, I find myself creating patterns of knowledge that stem from experiences and learning. These patterns are interdisciplinary, leading to new insights and ideas that not only help learn the information, but to apply it, to understand it, and to use it.

 
 

Delving into Piano and Music 

Introduction/Description:

As a child of merely four years old, my mother plopped me down in front of my first piano and told me of the importance of music in our lives. I fumed; I preferred to run in concentric circles on the sun-filled lawn, but instead I was forced to slap keys to make nonsensical sounds akin to the cawing of crows. I took lessons with various instructors over the years, and before I knew it, the crows that were my hands suddenly became canaries crafting music. I was amazed at the transformation that I witnessed, and from then on, I have embraced piano-playing and music as a crucial part of myself. Although I no longer participate in formal recitals or competitions, I play for myself, for playing’s own purpose, and, of course, for those who would like to listen.

Importance of Work:

Creating music is a little like reading aloud: some people have loud voices, others sharp and quick, and still others with accents, styles, pauses, and one hundred other variables that make one’s voice unique. However, all of the words are accurate as they are written on the page. Music allows for the same artistic freedom of interpretation. For instance, while “andante” requires that the piece be played leisurely, there is no “beats per minute” value associated with it. Rather, there is a range of acceptable speeds. The same is true of loudness, dynamics, use of the pedal, and my personal favorite “tempo rubato”, the slight speeding up and slowing down of the piece at the discretion of the performer. It is the individuality that each pianist brings to a piece that gives playing music such a unique feel.

Tasks Completed:

Since I began playing piano, I have had several music teachers who have shown me everything from how to read notes to correct posture. I played in recitals every year, which were not unlike the stereotype. Once I attained a certain level, I began playing in competitions which required the mastery of a piece and its performance for a small panel of judges. Lastly, I had a few opportunities for formal performance for a larger audience through the music program at my high school; although intimidating, it was particularly enjoyable, despite my fears of the spotlight.


Skills Gained:

Primarily, I learned the art of playing piano, requiring knowledge and understanding of how to read musical notation, as well as development of the dexterity associated with gliding fingers across the 88 keys.  More importantly, I began to understand the importance of practice and the necessity of devoting time to achieve my goals. Although I had often dreamed of being a magical piano prodigy, the cold, hard truth is that skill and success is only really attained by good, hard work and persistence. In this light I remember an old witticism: “It is not practice that makes perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” That is to say, it is not the amount that one practices that necessarily leads to improvement; it is the quality of the practices that allow the pianist to grow.

Lessons Learned:

My history of piano – the progression from hate to adoration – is very peculiar but illustrates one powerful example that I find very pervasive in my life. Often, it is important to do something you dislike several times before you begin to like it. Other times, it is necessary to do something you dislike several times, and you will never like it. In both cases, the task at hand can be very valuable and can lead to personal growth and accomplishment, as well as further life lessons. As such, I learned to develop the discipline to fulfill these tasks and the open-mindedness to venture into the unknown.

Impact:

§ Developed an understanding of music and the skills necessary to practice, perfect, and perform
§ Learned the importance of discipline and patience when overcoming hurdles and challenges

 
 

Writing Poetry 

Introduction/Description:

A long-time hobby of mine since my earlier years has been the composition of poetry. I remember being amused by the different patterns and fluency of rhythmic syllables and also the peculiarity of rhyming words. My earliest dabbling resulted in nonsense phrases that had to rhyme. One quartet remains etched in my memory because it was just so funny: “My house is blue / Because I have a shoe / Because it is not green / Because I keep it clean.” Apparently I had no issue with non-sequiturs so long as rhymes were fulfilled. As I learned more about poetry, I discovered literary techniques and the importance of making stories and including themes. Now, I write with many different styles and on all topics, always exploring new ideas and ways of writing.

Importance of Work:

Much like music, poetry writing has served me as a means of expression. The unique art of poetry allows for telling stories in mysterious ways, using all sorts of literary techniques to illustrate features both physical and metaphorical features of the story. However, it has words, and it is fascinating that text read on a page can instill an emotional response comparable to sound played by a musical instrument. Creating poems gives me a sense of accomplishment that I was able to put complex thoughts onto paper without losing any of their meanings to me.

Tasks Completed:

Although I have taken a creative writing course, most of my poetry comes from my free time. I’ve made it my purpose to try writing many different types of poems, ranging from limericks to sonnets to free verse, some of which I like and others that I don’t. I’ve written about my frustrations and delights, about nonsense, and about fictional stories or people. Each carries with it its own style and formulation, each of which appeals to me in different lights.

Skills Gained:

The importance of manipulating words in poetry has really improved my writing as a whole. This is not writing in the sense that arguments must be carefully organized and explained, but more in the case of picking the right words and using them in the connotations that I want in order to convey the exact thoughts going through my mind. I’ve delved into concepts of language that I would have otherwise ignored blindly, my favorite example being the subtle differences between the following statements: 

“Only birds read poetry.” That is, birds – and no one else – read poetry. 
“Birds only read poetry.” Bids do nothing else with poetry but read it. 
“Birds only read poetry.” Birds do nothing but read poetry. 
“Birds read only poetry.” Birds read poetry and nothing else.

Lessons Learned:

Reading and writing poetry has given me insight into how we perceive language. At its base, text is simply a set of words that convey a simple message, such as the language of mathematics. However, language differs greatly from this because it includes the aspects of mood, tone, and other features inherent in communication. Famous poems have been analyzed for years, showing great depth and symbolism reflecting something that is beyond the text on the page, reflecting an individual. Being able to use language effectively and to caress it into meaning is one of the most difficult challenges of communication, and I strive to learn more about it as I delve deeper into its great art.

Impact:

§ Partook in writing as an art and way of communication and creativity

 
 

Teaching Honors Organic Chemistry - Structured Study Group Leader

Introduction/Description:Teaching at the front
 

SSG, or Structured Study Group, is a supplementary two-hour class offered to students who wish to pursue honors credit in organic chemistry I and II. Classes are fairly small, usually in the mid-teens, which allows for a closer environment for students to share ideas, thoughts, and interests. The material is covered in more detail and greater depth than in lectures and it sparks critical thinking and problem solving that is so crucial to success in the course. This is not another lecture – it is meant to be a discussion-based investigation of concepts and topics in order to facilitate meaningful understanding.

 

Importance of Work:

Learning is, of course, the primary purpose of education, and it is of several types. Passive learning, such as that in a large organic chemistry lecture, often involves a professor speaking and explaining topics much like a speeding semi-truck: if you happen to miss a key point, it’s gone. Active and engaged learning, however, is the in-depth thought, analysis, and discussion of concepts, topics, and ideas, and it is the sole purpose of SSG. It sparks curiosity and deeper understanding of material – both relevant to the course and outside its scope – and leads students to be successful.

 

Tasks Completed:

As a class leader, it is my role to organize each two-hour session appropriately based on the schedule of material. In the early classes, this often means setting strict time restrictions on in-class work, such as peer review, which unhindered could occupy the entire period. Moreover, it falls upon me to facilitate classroom discussion by asking thoughtful questions and sparking debate and curiosity. Other times, especially before exams, it may be more important to reinforce key points and answer specific questions on homework problems or concepts. Lastly, I am in control of the students’ SSG grade, given on an outstanding, satisfactory, unsatisfactory basis. While this grading does not show up on any transcript, an overall unsatisfactory may affect the final course grade, and it becomes important to help out students who struggle.

 

Skills Gained:


First Year

Looking back on my first class, despite my hours of preparation, it took about three minutes to encounter a scenario for which I was not ready, which was inevitable. Preparation in the sense of material, order of presentation, and key points is critical, but it is impossible to prepare one’s self for every question or scenario. I quickly learned that it was important to think on the spot and to use what knowledge I had and to draw from my past experiences to best answer a particular question. Also, I was always very conscious of the time and I never knew how much material to prepare for fear of finishing too quickly or too late. However, as I facilitated more and more classes and learned to get a sense of how students felt, I gradually developed a better sense of time-management, which is applicable not only to teaching, but also to presentations and other leadership roles.

Second Year

Because much of the SSG was similar to my first year, I found myself very comfortable not only with the material, but with teaching it as well.  As such, I paid more attention to the relationship I had with each of my students, and I tried to adapt to each of their needs.  I feel like my eye was trained to see what types of students I had.  As a result, I tried specifically to demonstrate one concept from different vantage points and using different explanations to account for the variability in the way people learn.  Unlike last year, I tried to show my students techniques that I, personally, did not find useful, knowing that for some it may be helpful.  Ultimately, this resulted in what appeared to me to be a greater understanding of topics among all of my students.

 

Lessons Learned:My class hard at work
 

First Year

Having had myriad teachers, professors, and graduate student instructors in the past, I wondered what kind of teacher I would be and I focused on techniques from instructors I liked and considered alternatives from those I disliked. The main lesson I’ve learned from being an SSG leader is the importance of trust in a teacher-student relationship. Trust is a metaphysical connection between individuals and it creates a more harmonious, relaxed environment, which is the goal in a discussion-oriented class. Students who trust their instructor will listen to instructions and take advice when given; in addition, it makes asking questions easier and more comfortable, knowing, for instance, that a teacher will not mock you for a “bad” question or will not answer vaguely or distractedly. All in all, it is an overall atmosphere of trust that builds successful classrooms.

Second Year

My biggest lesson after one year of teaching was the importance of the teacher-student relationship, and I continued keeping its importance in my line of sight.  However, I also saw that this course is different than other ones.  In SSG, in addition to being my students’ teacher, I am also their peer, and that allows for a special interaction that does not happen much in the college setting.  They told me stories and I’ve given advice about classes and study strategies and dealing with stress, not with the authority of a teacher, but with that of a friend and someone who has dealt with some of the same issues before.  The more and more I interact with people – my peers, my students, my professors, patients in the hospital, or the occasional random person – the more I see that the human interaction is about sharing stories and extending empathy or advice to someone who could benefit, and it can be a wonderful thing.

 

Impact:
 

§         Taught organic chemistry I and II concepts to students

§         Facilitated class discussions and answered questions

§         Designed “challenge problems” intended for students to apply concepts of chemistry to the world around them

§         Assisted students in design and creation of a chemistry-based web site

 
 

Teaching Organic Chemistry II Lab

Introduction/Description:

The facilitation of a laboratory course for second semester organic chemistry was not unwelcome as it was thrust upon me several days before its beginning. I had expressed earlier interest and the course director was in desperate search of a replacement when it became apparent that one of the instructors would be unable to partake. Although there was little time for preparation, I accepted the challenge and looked to associate skills I had taken from my teaching of SSG as well as my technical knowledge of chemistry laboratory work from Germany. My responsibilities consisted of running a smooth course by organizing chemicals, explaining techniques, and especially answering questions.

Importance of Work:

The education of students is an extremely important part aspect of life such that individuals can progress in their knowledge, eventually becoming successful contributors to the workplace. Many students taking organic chemistry are interested in medicinal fields, and knowledge of the theory and techniques serves as the framework for the science of medicine. 

Tasks Completed:

My overarching responsibility was to keep a smoothly-running class, not only explaining techniques and answering questions, but more importantly enforcing and emphasizing safety. Although a four-hour period is allotted, many experiments take up the entire time, especially because students are inexperienced and unfamiliar with many techniques. It was important that class ended on time with students accomplishing all of their tasks. I also created the syllabus and grading criteria which I used to grade students on their performance based on in-class work as well as written reports. 

Skills Gained:

Since I was familiar with the experiments from my experience taking the course as well as working in a chemistry lab, I had the chance to use my prior knowledge to help troubleshoot. One particular example comes to mind: a student had just cooled his recrystallization mixture and was distressed that solid was not precipitating as it was supposed to. Recalling this problem from several of my past experiments, I suggested that he scratch the beaker with a spatula, a technique to generate some small amount of heat to overcome the small energy barrier. The student eyed me skeptically as he performed the technique, and I will forever remember the wonder in his eyes as a pearly white precipitate began to appear. That is truly teaching.

Lessons Learned:

Because of the initial circumstances of this employment, I learned the importance of preparation in teaching for a reason I had expected. I knew the techniques and theory of the experiments and I could have explained it without prior review. However, that first day of lab just days after I received the job, I stumbled numerous times in answering questions simply because there was so much I had not anticipated, such as finding chemicals and materials and reminding students of basic principles. Preparation is necessary so that teachers are sure of what they know beforehand, because then they can focus in-class on what they could not have possibly prepared for beforehand.

Impact:

§ Explained and enforced necessary aspects of laboratory safety
§ Conducted smooth, time-efficient periods by organizing chemicals and materials, explaining techniques, and answering questions
§ Instilled students with a deeper knowledge of practical chemistry

 
 

Researching in Germany - DAAD Research in Science and Engineering

Introduction/Description:

It was in my sophomore year of college that I discovered the DAAD, a 3-month exchange program that ultimately gave me the opportunity to work and live in Germany, interacting and learning about culture and diversity, as well as research and laboratory skills. The program was originally designed to help German PhD candidates improve their working knowledge of English by inviting students from North America, predominantly the United States and Canada, to work with them. Of the various fields of study in the natural and computer sciences, I worked in an organic chemistry research laboratory with a German PhD student supervisor.  The entire lab group, comprising of a dozen PhD candidates and two other American students like me, studied various aspects and applications of gold-catalyzed reactions and synthesis.

Importance of Work:

With English becoming more and more the lingua franca, especially in the sciences, it is of prime importance that researchers in Europe and around the world be able to communicate their ideas in English. I was surprised to discover that even German guest lecturers would very often present in English, at least to some degree.  At the same time, it also provided an access point for students, myself included, to gain insight into German language, culture, and generally being immersed in the various aspects of daily life. 

Tasks Completed:

My work primarily consisted of designing and subsequently running various chemistry experiments in an effort to progress the group’s research. To some degree, it was certainly a lesson of patience and composure particularly when having to wait into the late hours of the evening for a reaction to complete. Yet, it was the preliminary steps of planning and problem solving that intrigued me. More often than not, certain reagents are not commercially available or are too expensive, and I welcomed the challenge of designing such reactions using my knowledge of chemistry fundamentals to minimize cost and time efficiency. And all throughout the process I had the opportunity to collaborate regularly with my fellow researchers; it gave me the greatest pleasure to help out with data analysis, presentation creation, or even English grammar!
 

Outside of work, I seized the chance to travel across Germany and all over Europe, discovering and learning history in a way that no textbook can teach. I was inspired by the culture around me and I immersed myself in it. At the same time, I did my best to share my American and Russian cultures with those around me.

Skills Gained:

Working in a laboratory, as may be expected, developed my research techniques, especially those in regards to planning, carrying out experiments, and problem solving; it also improved my laboratory techniques and working with various laboratory tools – including various glassware, weighing tools, and spectroscopic machines – and chemical methods, many of which I had studied before but never actually used. Moreover, I slowly began to develop an understanding of the German language, but more importantly, I found that I gained an understanding of the underlying patterns of language, rather than the language itself. I was not studying German intensively in my free time; yet, I found myself understanding the language more in the way people spoke than the exact words they said. Though my vocabulary was small, context, tone, and a basic knowledge of sentence structure enabled me to decipher, to some degree, what people were saying. It is these patterns that were consistent when words were not.

Lessons Learned:

While I developed many of my skills at work in the laboratory, most of my lessons came from time spent outside the workplace. Primarily was a lesson in communication, particularly that language, while efficient, is not necessarily requisite for communication, as was the case for me initially not speaking any German. Much can be communicated based on context, tone, body language, facial expression, and numerous other methods that we all use unconsciously. As I grew to understand this, I overcame my initial shyness, and this enabled me not only to begin to piece together the language, but also to be able to interact on a cultural level with those around me.

Impact:

§ Completed a large portion of the experimentation needed for the upcoming publication

§ Introduced and utilized several methods and techniques to increase time efficiency of experimentation

§ Made good friends to whom I continue to write, and we continue to learn from each other

§ Learned how to infer relationships across languages and outside of languages

 

 
 

Researching in Cardiovascular Pharmacology - University of Michigan

Introduction/Description:

I began researching in the field of cardiovascular pharmacology in the beginning of my freshman year of college and I have worked in the same lab since. The researcher studies primarily ischemia, or the blockade of blood to a portion of the heart, similar to that of a heart attack, and how the risk is influenced by various inflammatory agents, drugs, and clotting factors. We use a rabbit model and I have observed and participated in the surgeries as well as isolated heart experiments.

Importance of Work:

The research investigates a line of crucial importance, as cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death. Earlier research, prior to my joining the lab, had actually demonstrated the dangerous effects of Vioxx, a drug produced by Merck some years ago against arthritis, that eventually showed adverse cardiovascular effects, namely increased rate of heart attacks. Our line of work focuses on ascertaining the specific mechanisms involved in tissue death as well as potential cardioprotection using the compounds involved to our advantage.

Tasks Completed:

Initially, I spent my time observing surgeries and procedures as well as learning about the physiology and pharmacology involved. Our research professor held once-a-week evening classroom sessions for all the students in the lab to talk about the theory behind the work in the lab and to learn about research in general. We also gave presentations (and thusly learned to give presentations) on various topics.

With more experience, I began to participate in the surgeries, at first administering anesthetics and monitoring heart rate and blood pressure of the rabbits, and later isolating blood vessels and hanging the isolated heart on a Langendorff apparatus (simply a contraption that runs buffer through the heart to clean it out and keep it beating).

Skills Gained:

I was very excited that working with the rabbits I would have the opportunity to use tools just like doctors use: scalpels, syringes, hemostats, etc. It was interesting to use these tools and they each take some acclimatization, and I learned the various tricks of using each one. The biggest skill I developed over the years, however, is tying a knot with a wet string. To hang the heart on the Langendorff, it is necessary to tie a knot around the aorta, fastening it to the tubing. Tying a knot while wearing gloves on a wet piece of string while the heart is beating is significantly more difficult than I imagined, but with practice, I’ve learned to do that as well.

Lessons Learned:

Over the three years I’ve spent working in the lab, I’ve learned countless lessons, but I’ve learned the most from the postdoc I worked with, who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. As I find myself more and more in the role of a teacher, I try to look back and see how she would have treated the situation. 

Two specific lessons come to mind. First, especially in the beginning, I would make mistakes, some small and some more significant; all she would do is point out my mistake, explain how to avoid it, how to fix it, and make sure I understood. She would be very levelheaded and sober and I would never make the mistake again. Secondly, she was always open to questions and stressed that if I was ever unsure that I should just ask. This made the environment so much more free and instead of diving in headfirst and making errors, I could just as easily ask and avoid the error altogether. Both of these factors together contributed to the smoothness of work in the lab and I try every day to apply them to my teaching experiences.

Impact:

§ Monitored rabbits’ anesthesia through electrocardiograms and blood pressure
§ Participated in and observed surgeries
§ Composed results and findings for publication

 
 

Researching in Materials Science - Oakland University SMaRT Program

Introduction/Description:

The SMaRT – Summer Materials Research and Training – Program at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, was my first experience in the field of scientific research and it proved to be a memorable one. My work was in the field of molecular dynamics, studying the motions of particles in theoretical crystalline structures over time. This research, unlike my other experiences, was purely theoretical and involved intensive problem solving and analysis via computer programming in Fortran. Furthermore, the research group was relatively small and comprised of only myself, another undergraduate student, and the research professor. Not only did this allow us to develop strong relationships, but also made it easy to ask questions and propose ideas, both extremely important aspects of research. Moreover, there was significant collaboration with another research professor who helped write the original program. This overall togetherness helped to make our progress very dramatic and fluid.

Importance of Work:

Applications of this study were not completely known, but it was postulated that some of the results would be extremely beneficial in the development of computer chips and potentially similar nanostructures, both of which exhibit crystal-like properties because of their miniscule size. The research was unique in its use of Newtonian molecular dynamics – rather than the “accepted” method of fluid dynamics – to assess the motion of particles.

Tasks Completed:

In effort to learn and practice the programming language, I was first given the task of writing programs to analyze certain graphs and data that our program would generate and to output the proper data. Having accomplished this and developed a better sense of programming, I moved on to running simulations and changing various variables: time, system size, temperature, and configuration. Eventually, I progressed quite far in my simulations of system size and time. My work culminated in the creation of a short video clip showing the changes of a certain system, proving a part of our hypothesis. I presented my findings to faculty and students of the SMaRT program.

Skills Gained:

Primarily, I significantly improved my knowledge of computer programming and learned the best ways to make a program efficient and, most importantly, how to fix programs that were malfunctioning. At the same time, I also learned how to use Linux and for the first time I worked with a university’s computer cluster to run my programs. Finally, I gained a deeper insight into the importance of collaboration and working together in order to progress research.

Lessons Learned:

The biggest lesson of my experience with the SMaRT program was the importance and the technique of problem solving, which occurred at all stages of the research. Not only was it necessary to create an idea, I would have to compose computer logic to make it functional with a program, and this logic was rarely the same algorithm that a human would use. Then is the problem of the actual programming which also inevitably leads to malfunctions and errors. This was the most important problem solving to fix programming errors (“debugging”). It is analogous to reading mathematics in a foreign alphabet with its own rules of grammar and trying to find where the mistake is. Yet, while it may seem at times like a needle in a haystack, I learned and developed techniques for finding the errors.

Impact:

§ Expanded upon the already existing program to give the necessary output
§ Progressed the research by running trials assessing the variables of time and system size
§ Designed various techniques and algorithms for programs and debugging

 
 

Guiding Children at Camp - Cranbrook Schools Camp Counselor

Introduction/Description:

Cranbrook Day Camp was a summer activities camp for children from the ages of 5 to 12. As a child, I had been a part of the camp for several years and once I turned 13, I was offered a position to work there as a counselor. The campus, part of the Cranbrook school, was very large, and it was the counselor’s duty not only to monitor the well-being and happiness of the kids, but also to guide them from place to place, activity to activity, and to see them off to home at the end of the day.

Importance of Work:

As children can be a rambunctious sort, particularly during the summer, it was my job, simply put, to keep them happy. A camp could keep kids out of trouble just as well just as well to take 100 kids and put them in a large enclosure with various balls and toys, but eventually, kids will become tired, bored, or generally unhappy, which is detrimental to this particular business. As a result, it was more often encouraging the shy kids to socialize, the tired kids to give it one more go, or giving the lazy kids some incentives to participate.

Tasks Completed:

A routine day consisted, essentially, of guiding kids from one activity to another. I was assigned a group of kids around the age of 11, so they were fairly simple to guide. Walking from place to place yielded plenty of time for conversation. I enjoyed listening to what these kids had to say as well as sharing some of my own stories, which was the benefit of working with older kids. There were occasional injuries to tend to, but nothing out of the ordinary by any means.

Skills Gained:

Prior to beginning work, there was some medical training involved and we were all Red Cross certified for cardiopulmonary resuscitation as well as the Heimlich maneuver; fortunately, no scenarios arose that required this training. This was essentially my first leap into the world of medicine and I found it very interesting. Moreover, as I had been quite shy in my youth, working and talking with kids put me in a situation where I was forced to interact and the more I did, the more I enjoyed it. Looking back, overcoming shyness was one of my biggest accomplishments, and it was certainly influenced by my work here.

Lessons Learned:

In retrospect, this was the first teaching experience in a position of authority that I have ever had. It is said that to be a great leader, individuals must do four things: give directions, do the task themselves, reward those who succeed, and punish those who fail. The camp’s reward system was various pins, colored with various diagrams, each indicating achievement in a particular field (some examples include: the helper pin, the swimming pin, nature pin, etc.) This was, ironically, the method that I found to be most successful in working with kids. I gave directions, for instance, on how to play dodgeball; I joined the game myself; those that participated and played strongly were rewarded with pins; and those that refused to participate were not, and they were even sometimes forced to sit out of activities they did enjoy. Although simplified, this theory of leadership persists in my various tasks to this day.

Impact:

§         Maintained happiness and well-being of children for several summers at camp
§         Taught kids tips and tricks for various activities including soccer, archery, tennis, and others
§         Interacted daily in friendly and relationship-building ways

 
 

Inspiring Reading in Children - Reach Out and Read (ROR)

Introduction/Description:

The Reach Out and Read (ROR) program is a national, non-profit organization whose goal is to promote reading in children, specifically in a doctor’s waiting room setting. Children waiting for checkups or physicals often spend hours in the waiting room, either staring blankly into space or running happily around aimlessly. Volunteers participating in the program were given books for all ages and were presented with the task of, simply put, inspiring children to read, be it reading to them, listening to them, or inviting parents to participate as well.

Importance of Work:

Reading is an essential skill for all individuals in order to function well in the world around us. Though reading is heavily stressed in grade school, some families may not have access to many reading materials, and their children are at a disadvantage. By reading to children in the time they spend in the waiting room, they not only pass time in active learning, but are also inspired in the long-term to read for themselves. As more and more communities participate, the spread of literacy grows!

Tasks Completed:

As the gatekeeper of all books, it was my responsibility to invite kids and their parents to join me for some reading as they waited for the doctor. Sometimes parents would prefer to read to their kids, but more often than not the youngster would plop on my lap and excitedly point to pictures as I read the words below them. Some kids needed coaxing, but the books were of such a variety that there was something interesting for everyone.

I was skeptical of this program at first, thinking that the little time spent reading would not make much of a difference, but one particular event changed my entire perception. Sara, a little girl, 6 years old, and her parents came one day; I came up to them, introduced myself, and offered her some books to read. She was shy at first, but her parents nudged her forward and she began to dig through the pile, finally picking a small book full of monkeys making faces, and little stories about each one. We took turns reading each story, and for each one she would mimic the monkey’s expression. At first she stumbled through the words, but by the end, she was reading almost fluently! We read the book three times through before she was called to see the doctor; she was so sad to leave the monkeys behind! Her father stayed behind and we talked for some time about the ROR program and books in general; he mentioned that they didn’t have many books at home, owing to the troubling economic times, but that he was glad to see Sara reading. When she came back from the doctor, I gave her the monkey book, knowing that although it really wasn’t my place to give books away, she would make full use of it.

Skills Gained:

The skill I truly gained from this experience was the confidence to approach strangers in a trusting, caring manner. I have always been a shy person, but shyness was detrimental to this program, so I forced myself to interact. To my pleasant surprise, it was not only very easy to do so, but the interactions were always pleasant, and I found myself enjoying the work more and more.

Lessons Learned:

The biggest lesson I learned was that even small endeavors can result in dramatic changes, be they only for one person. I had never imagined ROR could have an impact on anyone as strongly as it did on Sara. Moreover, it is a lesson that teaches the importance of “going the extra mile” and pushing for something one feels strongly about, whether it is education and reading in children, or fairness and good instruction in the classroom.

Impact:

§         Inspired children to delve into books and read
§         Educated parents and children on the importance of reading

 
 

Tutoring Children in Mathematics

Introduction/Description:

Despite the fact that I had always been a fan of mathematics ever since my youth, it came as somewhat a surprise when, during my early high school years, I was asked to tutor the daughter of one of my parents’ friends. I was quite capable, but I was initially startled and unprepared to assume the role of teacher. Fortunately, I managed to rise to the challenge and actually found myself enjoying tutoring and passing along the intricate mathematical tips, tricks, and techniques that I had learned some time before. Over the years, I found myself tutoring several others – friends of friends and so on – all approximately middle-school aged, and I look upon the experience as one of my very first roles as a leader and teacher.

Importance of Work:

The kids I tutored were generally those that struggled in math, often because they did not enjoy it. Math often presents itself as the bane of education as a subject that everyone is “forced” to learn. I looked upon my tasks as tutor as not only to present and restate mathematical principles, but also to create interest. It is interest that drives learning, memory, and recollection for application in the future. I am happy to say that each student I worked with improved his or her math grade by a full letter grade or more!

Tasks Completed:

My teaching style was characterized by close one-on-one work with each child, generally once or twice per week. I would present or review some concepts and present various problems to solve – the first few would be simple copies of my examples, while the latter half tended to be word problems or applications of the material. By the end of the lesson, I would gauge the child’s progress and assign an appropriate set of problems as homework based on areas of the math with which he or she struggled the most.

Skills Gained:

The biggest skill I believe I attained as a result of my teaching was, simply, the ability to teach. In other words, I gained and developed a way to explain ideas and concepts and present them in such a way that a student with little or no prior knowledge would understand. This was far different from my established niche – for instance, in school, I would generally be explaining problems to my teachers who were more knowledgeable than I in the subject. Over time, I learned techniques and tricks, such as good use of mnemonics and examples, in order to explain various topics.

Lessons Learned:

A particular lesson remains with me to this day: different people think in different ways. Although this may be obvious to an adult, it struck me very suddenly to find that sometimes techniques and shortcuts I used appeared complicated to others, and vice versa. In learning to teach, I had to learn to identify and adapt to the way my students learned. For some, I would use household objects to simulate transactions; for others, theoretical examples would make more sense. But in all cases, applying mathematics to a topic interesting to the child would make it easier for him/her to learn; the same math problem can be worded using rocket ships or flower pots.

Impact:

§         Spread the knowledge and interest in mathematics in tutored children

§         Improved mathematical skills and knowledge of kids

 
 

Volunteering at the Pediatric EKG Lab - University of Michigan Hospital

Introduction/Description:

In my search for exciting volunteering opportunities at the UM Hospital, I found the Pediatric EKG lab and as I read its title on the list I immediately decided it would be the perfect place for me. My interest in cardiovascular studies had steadily risen over the years as my experience in my research lab – in cardiovascular pharmacology – increased. I was not disappointed and I found the EKG lab a perfect place to learn, not only about the cardiovascular system, but also about medicine, the hospital system, and even communication! I especially enjoy this volunteering position because I have the opportunity to contribute in more ways than organizing files or restocking carts – I can also do the electrocardiogram tests on patients, and it is this patient interaction - especially with children - that I enjoy the most.

 

Importance of Work:

The EKG lab has various purposes: electrocardiogram and exercise testing, giving out and attaching Holter monitors, as well as assessing pacemakers for proper functioning. As a volunteer, I am there to help out wherever necessary, and my tasks for the day vary depending simply on what work needs to be done.

 

Tasks Completed:

An average afternoon of volunteering generally allots plenty of opportunities for me to do EKGs on patients. The technicians are always glad to let me help out, especially on busy days when they have reports to write and other tests to run. Often when EKGs are ordered from intensive care or psychiatric units, I will accompany the technician and help out by inputting patient information, arranging electrodes, and anything else that may arise. Other tasks involve sorting patient files, assembling envelopes to mail monitors to patients, and some interaction with doctors and nurses regarding the EKG. During any downtime, I enjoy talking with the technicians who always have interesting things to say; I also practice reading and interpreting the EKGs with their help.

 

Skills Gained:

The most obvious skill I gained is the knowledge of how to perform an EKG test and with every test I do, I improve. This certainly illustrates the concept of “learning by doing” that is often forgotten by college students swimming in textbooks. At the same time, by reading EKG theory and techniques of interpretation, I have been able to practice interpreting the very EKGs I test, and as I aspire to be a doctor one day, this gives me the feeling of success.

Lessons Learned:

I have learned many lessons over the course of this volunteering, the most important of which is the lesson of patient interaction. I have done EKGs on countless patients, mostly children, and each patient needs to be put at ease. While I initially thought it came naturally, I have watched and learned from the technicians, and patient interaction is far more difficult than I thought. Fortunately, this volunteering experience has let me develop these skills. 

 

In addition, I have learned a lesson in taking initiative. I quickly understood that I was expected to do only as much as I wanted. As a result, I quickly learned the tasks that could be done by volunteers and I strove to complete them without being asked. Not only did this allow me and the technicians to be more productive, it also spurred conversation which made the working environment more comfortable, friendly, and fun for everyone.

Impact:

§ Conducted countless electrocardiogram tests on patients, without supervision or assistance

§ Transferred all patient file data into an electronic system to account for Holter monitors, pacemakers, and implanted defibrillators returned and in use

§ Created and organized new patient charts for electrocardiograms, Holter monitors, and exercise tests