Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

Y is for YOLO (Or How to Efficiently Utilize the Kenyon Alumni Network)

It all started six weeks before spring break, when Dr. McFarlane, my formidable honors research mentor, advised me to reach out to his past research student, Margo Smith '12. Contrary to all my zeal from junior year, at this point I still didn't have a working CV, and I was starting to really worry when people asked me about my post-graduation plans. In my email to Margo, I asked for advice on how to apply for a research assistant/technician position. Margo gave me some helpful tips from her experience obtaining a technician position at Weill Cornell Medical school. With help from Margo, Dr. McFarlane and Lee Schott, who works in the Kenyon Career Development Office, I had a working CV and was ready to start applying.

Then, I realized that I wasn't sure of what positions to apply to because I had no idea what kind of research I was interested in doing. I had been considering migrating south for spring break, but I went out on a limb and asked Margo if I could shadow her at her lab. Margo informed me that she was changing positions but promised to link me up with other Kenyon alums in the area and with some other people in her lab. Through Margo, I was introduced to Chad Kurylo '11 and I was able to reconnect with Jenny Shoots '14 and Eric Engelbrecht '14. All three alums invited me to shadow them at their labs during the first week of spring break, which was just wild! However, there was the problem of having a place to stay.

During Fandango on Feb. 6, while my colleagues and professors drank — responsibly — and danced the night away, I approached Lee Schott again for help with housing in New York during spring break. Lee hooked me up. Chandra Andersson '89 and Maura Minsky '86 agreed to host me for a week each. And, since I would be in the area, I decided to hit up a friend from home who was studying at Harvard so I could visit both her and her famous school. I had no idea what I was going to do at Harvard or during the second week of spring break, but I was excited.

A sweet note from Eleonor, one of Chandra's daughters.

I emailed both hosts in the next week to introduce myself and thank them for their hospitality.  Maura, on discovering that I had no plans for the second week of spring break, introduced me to her neuroscientist friends and informed me of networking opportunities in New York with the upcoming Brain Awareness week. Inspired by so much networking, I tried to schedule meetings with principal investigators at Harvard Medical School who were doing research I was interested in. I also discovered two neuroscience seminars that coincided with my visit. I emailed the administrator of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience to ask if the seminars were open to visitors.

With the daughters of Maura Minsky '86

By the next week, I had not heard back from any principal investigators but I had been invited to attend two graduate classes during my visit and had also received positive feedback from the connections Maura had helped me make. My spring break was looking packed when I realized flights to New York were ridiculously expensive. I reached out to Lee Schott again in desperation to see if it was too late to apply for the Waugh Fellowship. Having used it to finance previous externships in Chicago, I knew it would be too late to receive anything substantial, but I decided to try anyway. Through the fund, I received $560, which covered my round-trip airfare to New York and bus fare to Boston as well as the shuttle ride from the airport to the residence of my first host. I was all set for spring break.

Find out what happened during my spring break experience in the next post!

Taking on Times Square!