19 plane rides, 6 countries, 5 languages, 4 time zones, 3 months, 2 amazing internships, 1 unforgettable summer.
Only 10 weeks ago, I left Raleigh for my summer research internship in Düsseldorf, Germany. For the next eight weeks, I completed a part of my chemistry thesis research under the supervision of Dr. Nicole Snyder, my adviser and chemistry professor at Davidson who was on sabbatical as a guest scientist at Henrich Heine Universität in Düsseldorf. My research project focused on preparing a new class of molecules with potential applications in cancer diagnosis and treatment. I have been working with Dr. Snyder on this research project since the summer of my freshman year, so it really meant a lot to me to bring this project to Germany where I can learn new chemistry, collaborate with German chemistry students and move my project forward.
On a day-to-day basis, the chemistry laboratory work was exciting when reactions we had never tried before worked, or when we finally purified the compound we needed. However, a lot of the work also includes endless experimenting, failing, learning and trying again. As a guest in their “house,” I received a tremendous amount of support and kindness from the German professors and students throughout my stay, and I truly enjoyed and appreciated this scientific research experience.
The language in the laboratory was English. However, I had plenty of opportunities to practice my German outside of the lab. For eight weeks, I lived in the student dorm of the university, shopped at German grocery stores (and struggled to find ground coffee), and traveled around Germany and surrounding countries on the weekends with Dr. Snyder and four other research students from Davidson. We were a close-knit group! From the Swiss Alps to the Baltic Sea, we had a lot of fun together exploring Europe.
Next Stop: Honduras
The time I spent in Germany flew by, and then quietly and seemingly suddenly, I was on a plane to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with a medical brigade led by Davidson alumnus Dr. Benjamin Gilmer, who is a family doctor at Mountain Area Health and Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville, North Carolina. Also on the trip were MAHEC doctors, pharmacists, residents, UNC medical students and my Davidson family: Natalie (Class of 2016), Cate (Class of 2014), Eli (Class of 2019), and David (Class of 2018).
After a day of traveling on the bus, we arrived at Camasca, Intibucá, where we spent the next two weeks. Camasca is a small town deep in the mountains where running water is a luxury. We stayed in the church in town and received warm welcomes from the community. This marked Dr. Gilmer’s sixth time in Camasca–locals treat him as family.
Everyday, we woke up pretty early in the morning and hopped on the back of trucks that took us to even more remote areas around Camasca. We would then set up a medical clinic, usually in one of the schools, once we arrived at our destination. Throughout this trip, I learned how to take vitals, use ultrasounds, perform knee injections, and eye exams, and listened to some awesome lectures from the doctors on labor and delivery. Most importantly, I met the most amazing medical workers and volunteers on this trip–individuals who are extremely intelligent, compassionate and selfless. Their actions helped me form many new perspectives about careers in medicine, a future I plan to pursue.
Six hundred words is not nearly enough to describe the amazing adventures I had and lessons I learned this summer. None of this would be possible without all the support and help I received from the Davidson community. Dr. Snyder, my mentor in chemistry (and in life), offered me the rare and most valuable opportunity to do research abroad with her. Since the day I knocked on her office door as a freshman, she has been nothing but supportive and I really couldn’t imagine a Davidson career without her. Dr. Benjamin Gilmer, a Davidson alumnus, is not only one of the most incredible physicians I have ever met, but also an amazing mentor to countless Davidson students. And this summer would not be possible without the Presidential Innovation Grant and the McCall Grant I received from the Chaplain’s Office.
I would never have envisioned a summer like this three years ago when I first stepped onto Davidson’s campus. Now, as I am about to start my final year at Davidson, I would just like to say thank you. Thank you Davidson. You opened the doors, and I saw the world.