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Denebola » Article » Summer internships and projects offered valuable lessons
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Summer internships and projects offered valuable lessons

By Ariel Rivkin
Published: September 2010

After the school year ends, many students choose to spend their summer days lounging by a pool or simply just chilling.
Although that is totally acceptable, some students take advantage of the empty and flexible summer day and participate in productive activities.
Some students, such as Grace Kim and Adam Scherlis, both South seniors, interned at Harvard University, assisting professors with different projects.
Kim, whose first language is Korean, assisted a professor comparing English and Korean literature.
She met her employer at a conference and was offered the position since she had knowledge of both languages. Kim chose to spend two months working for this professor because she is interested in English Literature.
“I want to major in English Literature, Kim said, “but I also want to explore other types of literature as well. Since I’m fluent in Korean, I thought that it would be interesting to work under a professor of Korean Literature.
By interning at Harvard, Kim felt she had an opportunity to work with literature in a more analytical sense than a school class could offer.
“The internship helped me understand the connection between different types of literature.
Adam Scherlis also worked at Harvard this past summer yet he worked in a totally different  environment.
Scherlis helped Harvard physics professor, John Huth complete a course book for a General Education (sometimes known as “Gen Ed) course on Primitive Navigation.
“I did illustrations and a bit of research, Scherlis said.
Scherlis found the job to be “a lot less structured than how he originally expected. Instead of working in an office he “worked from home most days while only “going into Cambridge a few times a week to check in.
“The rest of the time we collaborated via email, Scherlis said.
Scherlis learned of this unique opportunity from a friend and South graduate.
“Professor Huth’s son went to South, and I knew him through various clubs and teams. I got in contact with him looking for any summer research opportunities he knew of, and he mentioned that his dad [Professor Huth] was looking for somebody to help out with Primitive Navigation, Scherlis said.
Scherlis feels very lucky to have been able to have such a job. He found the job to be both challenging yet exciting.
“The nature of this job meant that I did extremely varied work, illustrating anything from clouds and stars to Micronesian ocean-current charts, Scherlis said.
“It was also challenging academically; many of the research projects required high-level math that I had only recently covered.
Despite the challenging work, Scherlis believes that he gained a lot of useful knowledge. “I loved  [the job]. I learned a lot about organizing work and staying productive; working for a salary feels very, very different from doing homework. I was much more interested in the work, but I knew I couldn’t slack off. I also took a more active role in deciding what I would be working on. That was a challenge but it was a definite benefit too, Scherlis said.
Near Harvard University, senior Shervin Rezeai interned at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
“Over the summer, I was a Summer Intern at Children’s Hospital Boston, researching specifically in the Immunology department, Rezeai said.
“I received this internship through some networking, which is really the best way to ensure a spot in a laboratory for a high school student.
Rezeai added, “otherwise, I would have had to compete for spots with post-graduate students, which, with my low level of experience, I obviously cannot do. I have a neighbor who works at Children’s Hospital, and whose Principal Investigator is the father of one of my friends, Rezeai said.
Immunology interested Shervin after concluding his Advanced Placement Biology course.
“I wanted to revisit and grow an appreciation for a particular subject that I only glanced over a few times before the AP. Immunology was the perfect field; I only knew the very basics, Rezeai said.
Rezeai greatly enjoyed his experience working at Children’s Hostpital and wants to continue next summer.
Rezeai worked for a scientist who showed him what it is like to work in a lab and appreciated the benefits of working in an Immunology lab.
“I learned more than I would ever imagine about the immune system, but more importantly, I learned basic to intermediate laboratory techniques, techniques I can take with me to my college lab courses, Rezeai said.
He added, “The benefits were not only studying the immune system and learning techniques. I was introduced to dozens of interesting young medical students, all of which gave insight on the college process and how to plan for a career in the medical field.
Senior Jenny Gerstner had an interesting two month internship this summer at the United Nations in New York City.
“The UN is undergoing huge renovations so they have records and videos and archives that they need organized, Gerstner said.
Her work involved organizing the information and entering it into the new database.
“It was really independent work. No one gave me checkpoints along the way and it was up to me to tell them when I was finished, Gerstner said.
Gerstner appreciated the independence that her internship offered, claiming she “liked how flexible it was and how she was able to “get lunch and do things when [she] wanted.
She expresses that the experiencing was “eye-opening, especially because of the interesping people she had the opportunity to meet, such as the Queen of England and the Secretary General.
Her experience as an intern was extremely valuable, as she explains that she “learned to work more strategically and how to work in a professional setting.
While some students chose to work in a more serious environment, students such as seniors Kathy Zhou and Daniel Lawrence, opted to work on projects in a more creative setting.
Kathy Zhou traveled to China to help out at an elementary school.
“I went to China to help teach the kids English. I also was able to take Chinese classes and my Chinese improved a lot, Zhou said.
Zhou, an AP Art student here at Newton South, enjoyed working on creative projects at the elementary school.
“I painted a mural at the school. It was really cool to make something for others to appreciate and I think it came out really well, Zhou said.
Kathy got the idea of painting a mural from a previous employer, known as “Sidewalk Sam.
“Here in Newton I worked for this artist named Sidewalk Sam and when I told him that I was going to China to help out with an elementary school, he suggested that I leave my mark in some way like painting a mural, Zhou said.
Although many students such as Kathy Zhou traveled near and far for various reasons, senior Dan Lawrence chose to remain in Massachusetts to work on completing his first album.
“I recorded an album with my friend Max Alper. Max and I had been playing music together and performing at shows and things, so recording just seemed like the natural thing to do, Lawrence said.
The recording of the album, called “Global Drift, was an exciting process. We recorded the drums and guitar together in an afternoon with the help of Zach Levine Caleb. I then recorded my vocals over the course of a week in Cape Cod. The recording process was not particularly challenging, Lawrence said.
Although exciting, the recording process forced the duo to make important decisions.
“We made some tough aesthetic decisions. In the end we chose to go with a very low fidelity sound and record to cassette tape rather than to digital. I like the way it sounds though and I’m very pleased with it.
As Lawrence practiced his music and continued to perform at shows at his friend’s house, he acquired new skills.
“I really expanded my abilities as a live performer. I learned to screamand kick stuff all over on stage¦ basic punk rock technique, Lawrence said.
Whether students were across the world or fewer than twenty minutes away from Newton, many people  spent their summers exploring new fields and opportunities, achieving great feats along the way.

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