Princeternship Stories: Carla Dias ’21, Swedish Neuroscience Center

My Princeternship at the Swedish Neuroscience Center in Seattle was such an amazing experience that I left wishing I could do it again. Over the course of a week with Dr. Cobbs, I was exposed to so many new aspects of medicine. I came into the internship knowing that I was interested in medicine, but unsure of what direction I wanted to take within this career field. After shadowing Dr. Cobbs, I now believe I want to pursue a career in neurosurgery, especially with some work in research. The experience allowed me to see the reality of what a surgeon does on a daily basis. I am very thankful to have been able to have this opportunity early on in my time at Princeton, a reminder of what I will be working towards over the next few years.

The first day began with a debriefing meeting in which all the doctors of the department collectively reviewed their recent surgeries. We even got to see a case of an amoeba infection that Dr. Cobbs said had only been reported around 100 times in the country. The day was one of his “surgery days” so we got to observe craniotomy to remove a brain tumor. We then got to follow a biopsy of the tumor to the path lab, where the pathologist processed the tissue and viewed it under a microscope to confirm that it contained what was expected to be metastatic breast cancer cells.

The next day was one of his “clinic days.” We followed Dr. Cobbs from room to room as he consulted with new patients and follow-ups. Not only did we learn about patient interaction, but we also learned about different diagnostic techniques, a preview of the kind of things I will be learning in a few years. In addition, we were able to see his research lab that has been making some big strides in the field of cancer research, something that has always been of interest to me. Seeing how someone have a job in both surgery and research has really made me consider it as a possibility.

The final day was my favorite and definitely the most exciting. We arrived at the hospital early and got to sit in on grand rounds. The two presenters were visiting from the Allen Institute (one of the top neuro research centers in the country). After the presentation, we observed a spinal surgery. I even was able to pick the music for the OR. I was so surprised at how much the human body can withstand, especially in an area that I assumed would be so delicate.

The entire week was an overall amazing experience. I would absolutely encourage anyone remotely interested in surgery to apply, I am definitely glad that I did.

There was a second surgery that day, a craniotomy to remove a recurring tumor and tissue that would be sent to the Allen Institute for study. Dr. Cobbs generously got the Allen Institute to agree to allow us to visit and tour the facility. After the tissue reached the institute, we got to see them studying the neurons using some of the best technology available. It is cool to think that we might be some of the few people to ever see the entire process from tissue extraction in an OR to neuron study in a laboratory. The entire week was an overall amazing experience. I would absolutely encourage anyone remotely interested in surgery to apply, I am definitely glad that I did.

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Princeternship Stories: Nathan Alam ’21, Rally Health

Over this past winter intersession, I had the opportunity to shadow Charles Brown, chief of staff at Rally Health in Washington, D.C. Through this experience, I was able to gain valuable insights into the operations of a rapidly expanding tech company with a focus on healthcare.

Coming into this Princeternship, I had never stepped into an actual office environment before. While I had previously explored my interests in medicine and software development, I had yet to see how the two fields work together commercially. My time at Rally was a wonderful opportunity to familiarize myself with the variety of current players in the marketplace related to the intersection between healthcare and technology. After having been through this shadowing experience, I now have a better grasp on the state of these fields and how a private company navigates them.

At the beginning of my Princeternship, Mr. Brown explained how Rally fits into the U.S. healthcare system. While Rally offers a variety of software products, what I essentially got out of our discussion was that the company focused primarily on streamlining the healthcare market for consumers and use behavioral psychology to motivate people to live healthier. What was most interesting to me was how the people working in Rally were able to make the enterprise profitable.

One of the first things I noticed was how casual and friendly the office environment was. The most interesting part of the office was the fact that the conference rooms were all named after superhero characters. This environment made it very easy to engage in conversations with other employees there, and through them, I learned about the variety of career paths that led them to Rally. For example, after speaking with David Dempsey ’00, I learned about the legal team’s large presence in the office. I also learned about the career path of another employee currently directing graphic design and other art related projects, all essential to the company’s marketing and user experience. As I walked through the office with Mr. Brown, I was amazed by the variety of work occurring simultaneously, as the leadership sat on desks right next to software developers and lawyers.


Throughout the day, Mr. Brown took me to back-to-back meetings with other departments of the company in addition to third-party organizations related to healthcare technology. It was an eye-opening to see how interrelated and diverse the market was behind the scenes in healthcare. At our first “town hall” meeting, I sat with office heads to overhear discussions about renovations to increase office space and accommodate the ever-increasing size of the company. I sat in on calls between Mr. Brown and a prospective partner company discussing a product to improve sleep health. Mr. Brown also gave me an opportunity to sit in on a meeting with a contact working on a weight loss software tool. Throughout it all, Mr. Brown was always imparting advice about career development in the private sector and effectively managing projects in an unstructured, novel environment.

Before this Princeternship, I admittedly knew very little about the healthcare system and the world of software firms working behind direct consumers to develop intermediate products. After this experience, I know that there is much more than what meets the eye in the healthcare market. Now, I can appreciate the data management, analytics and partnerships that take place each time I visit my doctor. Most importantly, my career possibilities have expanded significantly, as I got to meet people working on projects and fields I never heard of before, using their knowledge in ways I could not have imagined. While I went into the internship looking for exposure in how applied technology could lead to healthcare solutions, I found myself learning a lot about the vast machinery in the operations of a company in a burgeoning market.

All in all, I would highly recommend anyone to get involved with the Princeternship program. I think that there is much more to learn from an actual working environment than what is in textbooks, and education tends to overlook the operations of a private company almost entirely. I would like to thank Charles Brown for his time, advice, and willingness to allow such a great shadowing experience.

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Princeternship Stories: Rohan Joshi ’21, Northwestern Mutual

During intersession, I had the pleasure of shadowing Ms. Cindy Arocho, a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual. Before starting, I had to fill out a culture index survey as well as get fingerprinted. The culture index is a questionnaire that predicts how well you would function in a given workplace, based on your personality. My culture index showed that I value flexibility with my work, as well as having a high affinity for communication with my peers. This combination was well suited for a financial advisor, as they need to be willing to accommodate all their clients’ needs, as well as make sure the clients know what is going on with their money. I had to get fingerprinted because I would be interacting with confidential financial data.

The first day, I met Ms. Arocho and she taught me what a financial advisor does. Basically, advisors are people who manage the money of their clients. The clients set aside small (or larger) amounts of money each month for Ms. Arocho to manage. She allocates these funds into different financial instruments, such as Roth-IRA’s, life insurance and mutual funds. Each of these “buckets” does different things with money. IRAs and mutual funds depend on the stock market. Depending on how risky a client wants to be, the mutual fund will be either bond-heavy (safer) or stock-heavy (riskier).

Another integral part of Ms. Arocho’s job is finding clients. By networking and meeting mutual friends, Ms. Arocho can grow her client base. This is important because more clients mean greater assets under management.

One important thing I learned was that financial advisors help people in the community. Most people have no clue how to save for retirement, and Ms. Arocho was able to give them a detailed timeline describing how much to save and how much the initial seed would grow.

I am very satisfied with my Princeternship experience. I did not really know much about what financial advisors do beforehand, but I learned so much during my few days at Northwestern Mutual. Ms. Arocho was very helpful throughout the entire process, and I am grateful to Princeton for providing me with this opportunity.

Princeternship Stories: Jamie Mercurio ’20, Smart Assest

For my Princeternship, I shadowed a Manhattan-based financial technology company called SmartAsset with three other Princeton students. They create personal web-based financial education products for consumers, as well as various calculators and website widgets for outside clients like Yahoo Finance and CNN Money.

Our host was AJ Smith ’03, although there were a few other Princeton graduates in other SmartAsset departments that we interacted with during the two days we were there. With my major being Computer Science, and being interested in both software development and product design Smart Assest was a great fit for me – and it really helped me understand more about how these two fields in the technology industry connect and overlap. One of my main goals during my Princeternship was to see if I was drawn more to product management or technical development. I soon discovered that it’s possible to find the perfect combination of both at a company like SmartAsset.

We met and talked with many teams within the company over the course of the first day, including data management, marketing, content, software engineering, product design and upper management. This gave us plenty of opportunities to learn from the passionate people about their careers, while also discovering the day-to-day operations of each team in the company. Then, on the second day, the VP of Engineering allowed us to pick from five different projects that addressed real-world problems SmartAsset was working to solve. Another intern and I successfully collaborated on one of these projects utilizing our computer science experience, and we were able to consult with different people in the company about obstacles we encountered along the way.

Overall, SmartAsset provided a great opportunity to see what it’s like to work on the software engineering side of FinTech products, while also learning about the paths of many other essential teams in the company. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget, and I’d recommend the Princeternship program to anyone interested in seeing how their interests and studies can be applied in the real world.

Princeternship Stories: David Selwood ’20, MITRE Corporation

For my January 2017 Princeternship, another Princeton student and I spent a day at the MITRE Corporation in Bedford, Massachusetts. The MITRE Corporation is a not-for-profit, largely government contracted company. It is at the forefront of research in many fields and provides services over a range of areas, though the majority of its resources go to defense work for the United States Air Force.

My host was Kristin Fitzgerald (Goehl), Class of 2016. I believed this was a great fit for me as I am a prospective operations research and financial engineering (ORFE) major and she is one of the most recent graduates of the department. Having been there for less than a year, it was especially great that Kristin could connect us to such interesting people within MITRE. These included another 2016 Princeton graduate (MAE) as well as the Vice President of the Air Force Program. I learned that MITRE does things that I did not expect, such as assessing risk in relation to youth in foster care, in addition to their advertised involvement in defense.

My first goal entering my Princeternship was to determine if I want to continue studying ORFE. During this experience, I learned multitudes of ways that the data science aspect of an ORFE education can be used. Each one of these applications deepened my interest in ORFE much more than I expected. It was certainly a pleasant surprise. What I did not expect to gather from this experience was a potential purpose for my career. Because MITRE is a not-for-profit company and is government contracted, its work is done in the public service. Whether helping foster kids escape certain risks or helping to defend our nation, everything is done for the good of someone else and not for personal or corporate profit. It was certainly noticeable that MITRE employees were passionate about their work, especially the VP of the Air Force Program. I learned that this is the mentality I want to carry through my career.

In addition to these data science applications, we were also allowed to look at certain computer science and programming applications in such fields as virtual reality. However, we were not allowed to see the most interesting projects at MITRE because of their sensitive nature. While there, we had to wear “ESCORT REQUIRED” badges, a neat experience in itself.

Shadowing at the MITRE Corporation for a day showed me how all the technical and theoretical skills I may learn as a Princeton engineer could be applied in a real-world situation. Whether it be in STEM, humanities or anywhere in between, I encourage all students to look into the Princeternship program to see what incredible work is available at the end of an enlightening Princeton career. Finally, I would like to thank Kristin Fitzgerald for her time and willingness to host us at MITRE and give us a great experience.

Princeternship Stories: Keeley Walsh ’19, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital

Over intersession, I spent three days shadowing Dr. Shah ’96, a neonatologist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester Country, New York. Dr. Shah went to Cornell Medical School after graduating from Princeton. He later completed his residency at Duke University Children’s Hospital followed by a fellowship at NYU Children’s Hospital. Not only is he a practicing neonatologist but he also is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as a co-chairman for the Society of Pediatric Research. I was very lucky to spend three days shadowing Dr. Shah because I was able to see the daily life of a neonatologist, a researcher, and an advocate for Children’s health policy.

Day one began with Dr. Shah showing me around the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He spent time explaining the functions of all the different apparatuses used in the unit. I was amazed that not one baby had the same combination of treatments. Each patient was carefully assessed and given a unique treatment to help improve their health. After touring the unit with Dr. Shah, I completed the daily rounds with the residents and the on-call neonatologist.

During rounds we went through all 48 patients in the NICU, discussing the babies’ measurements and specific treatments. Measurements included everything from the baby’s weight to vitamin intake. The doctors, fellows, and residents would all converse on what they believed would be the best way to treat each’s unique condition and then decide from there. This ensured that every baby received the best possible care. After completing rounds, I could not wait to come back on day two to see the progress that some babies had made. I only interacted with the patients for a short time, maybe five minutes each, but I already felt connected to them and wanted each and every one to get better.

On day two I began with daily rounds with the on-call team. Similar to the day before, we saw each patient assessing their specific needs. This day was by far my favorite because I was able to see the positive progress that many of the babies had made. When some of these babies first came into the unit, they were smaller than three soda cans and had serious respiratory problems. I imagine treating babies with some of the most life-threatening problems is the hardest part of the job. But as the days pass and the team continues to adjust the treatments and medications, the patients get better, which I believe to be the most rewarding part of the job. On this day, many of the babies’ parents were in the unit as we were completing the daily rounds. I particularly enjoyed seeing the happiness on the parents’ faces when the doctor would comfort the parents and let them know that their child’s condition was improving. Day two concluded with me watching Dr. Shah conduct stem cell research at New York Medical College.

Day three was very different than the first two. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Shah is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is very passionate about children’s healthcare and wants to ensure that every child has access to necessary treatments. We traveled to several Congress members’ offices and discussed the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and how they benefited children in particular. It was interesting to see another side of medicine that I never thought of, but is just as important.

Before this experience, I was on the fence about continuing on the pre-medicine track. My goal to pursue pediatrics was solidified after completing rounds with the team and seeing what a neonatologist’s daily life in the hospital is like. I specifically enjoyed the second day of rounds because I was able to see some of the babies’ conditions improve. Dr. Shah was very welcoming and willing to discuss things that I did not understand. I enjoyed all our talks because I not only gained knowledge about neonatology but also about life in general. I am so grateful to have completed this Princeternship because I now have a better understanding of what I hope to be my future career path.

Princeternship Stories: Jaein Jung ’20, Massachusetts General Hospital

Meeting Dr. Sundt and the Cardiac Surgery team at Massachusetts General Hospital was one of the most amazing moments of my life. Although the internship was only two days, I learned so much about the field of medicine and the importance of passion, communication and knowledge. I am so grateful to be able to have this wonderful experience. Continue reading

Princeternship Stories: Lisa Sheridan ’19, New Jersey Superior Court

Over winter intersession, I had the privilege of spending a week shadowing the Hon. Alberto Rivas ‘82 in his capacity as a presiding judge in the Superior Court of New Jersey. During this time, I gained an invaluable insight into the operation of the criminal justice system, with its many perspectives and challenges.

When shadowing Judge Rivas, our routine was to sit at the front of the courtroom and watch the many different types of hearings he presided over. We saw a full scope of the criminal justice process, from detention hearings to sentencing hearings.

After the flurry of hearings on the first day, I was overwhelmed by a vast and complex prescribed set of legal terms and processes that I was unfamiliar with. My fellow intern and I scribbled pages full of notes, questions and comments that Judge Rivas patiently and enthusiastically addressed between sessions. When we left the court at the end of each day, we would continue excitedly discussing and debating what we had seen until we got back to campus.

Later on, in the week, Judge Rivas arranged for us to sit in on trials in other courtrooms. We learned not just about how a trial proceeds formally, but also about the more implicit agendas and strategies at play. We had the privilege to witness the proceedings with and without the jury’s presence and to speak with professionals such as law clerks, attorneys and judges to gain a complete insight into the situation.

As we watched more of Judge Rivas’ hearings, our questions began to change. We had the rare chance to sit with Judge Rivas after a hearing and learn about his perspective as an authority on the law, asking questions such as, “What made you decide on this particular sentence?” and “What evidence was most pertinent to you for making your decision?” It was fascinating to be able to analyze Judge Rivas’ rulings with him; rulings informed by decades of work in the legal system and a holistic analysis of the situation from many perspectives (the defendant, the defense, the prosecution, the public, his peers and colleagues.) I was amazed at the scope of information that Judge Rivas must consider before making a ruling for which he alone shoulders a great deal of responsibility.In light of this, I came to admire Judge Rivas for his enduring dedication to empathy, fairness and rehabilitation, when he is often subject (as all judges are) to a great deal of criticism in the media for unpopular yet just rulings.

We were lucky enough also to see the newly instated criminal justice reform in action, whereby defendants are scored based on their risk of reoffending upon release from detention. These scores are designed to indicate the conditions under which a defendant could be released pending further proceedings. One of the things I learned from speaking to Judge Rivas is how the law and judicial system is not as concrete as I once thought, and it is constantly open to revision, refinement and replacement.

Overall I had a wonderful experience with Judge Rivas and his chamber team. I learned and reflected a lot about the legal system but also about the essential skills of impartial, logical thought and strong decision making. I am very grateful for these experiences and for the friends and mentors I made at the Superior Court.

Princeternship Stories: Korlekuor Akiti ’19, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

My Princeternship with Dr. Jeffrey Katz at Brigham & Women’s Hospital (BWH) was truly an invaluable experience. Going into the visit, I was very unsure about my interest in pursuing medicine as a career. However, I quickly came to realize that my understanding of the field of medicine was so much narrower than the reality. Through talking with Dr. Katz and his team, sitting in on meetings and observing clinic, I got a glimpse of a side of medicine that I had never seen before. I knew I was interested in research going into this experience, but after talking with several Research Assistants in Dr. Katz’s lab, I am now seriously considering serving as an RA during my glide year(s).

I am shocked at how much I was able to experience in less than 48 short hours. My first day began by sitting in on a rheumatology case conference with Dr. Katz and several of his colleagues at BWH and Mass Gen. I then had a chance to speak with Harvard Medical School student who is taking time off after his third year to work as an RA for Dr. Katz. It was extremely informative to hear about his path to medical school and how his experiences have prepared him for the work he is doing today.

After speaking with several other RAs, I sat in on a Skype call with Dr. Katz and a team in the Netherlands about a paper that they are in the process of publishing. After lunch, we listened to a visiting speaker at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and ended the day with a meeting regarding an activity on sexual assault on campuses that he is coordinating.

The next morning, we attended Medicine Grand Rounds and listened to the distinguished Dr. Neil Powe of UCSF speak about disparities in renal disease and the disproportionate effect that this has on the African American population. Afterword, we headed straight to the clinic where Dr. Katz saw seven different patients (before lunch) with varying types and degrees of arthritis.

I was so impressed by the work environment of Dr. Katz’s lab and the hospital as a whole. The team culture was so strong and everyone, from the youngest intern to the oldest and most decorated doctor, had a voice and was respected. I was also surprised to learn that only a few RAs had any experience or training specific to epidemiology or rheumatology before working in the lab. Rather, the other lab members taught them as they went and they learned through experience.

I would certainly recommend, in fact, urge, other students to take advantage of the Princeternship program. It was an incredible experience and a wonderful opportunity to get to know a very successful Princeton alumnus. I am so incredibly grateful for everyone at Princeton and BWH, especially Dr. Katz, who helped make my visit such a success.

Princeternship Stories: Irene Hsu ’20, Education Through Music-LA

Being a Princetern for Education Through Music-LA (ETM-LA) was an extremely rewarding experience. Firstly, talking with Victoria allowed me to learn so much about working at a nonprofit. What stood out to me the most was the organization’s focus on its mission. This united everybody and allowed them to work together passionately to reach their goal. Talking with Victoria also gave me insight into running a company. She mentioned how important it was to be surrounded by people who support the same values. This made me reflect a lot about networking and being an entrepreneur. I also found it very interesting how a nonprofit funds and publicizes itself. Effective nonprofit work is very much based on connections and reaching out to sponsors and local organizations. I find this aspect of this type of career very exciting and I will keep this in mind when figuring out what I want to do in the future.

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