An Eye Opening Experience

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Brinda Ramesh, COL ’19

brindaMy summer internship proved to be an eye opening experience that I will forever be grateful for. Before I get into it, I feel I should include a bit about my interests and why this internship was so exciting for me.  I am a rising sophomore in the College looking to go into public and global health, and I plan on majoring in Health and Societies. This opportunity was to intern in a research laboratory at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health located in New York City, in the sociomedical sciences department.  The work they do here has a direct impact on many facets of society, including public policy and public health programs.  One of their focuses is on AIDs/HIV in the city, and the factors that contribute to its’ epidemiology. I wanted to learn about the structural factors that subject many populations within the city to increased risk of illness outcomes.

This summer I assisted Dr. Angela Aidala and Maiko Yomogida in projects associated with the Community Health Advisory Information Network (CHAIN) project regarding pathogenic vehicles in the New York area and their relation to the spread of HIV/AIDS. They made this experience so informative and helped me understand the nuances that are extremely important to health of communities. I am so grateful to have them as mentors.  Specifically, we focused on the role that access to housing plays in dictating the behavioral patterns of those in susceptible communities; patterns that affect their health. Oftentimes, those who do not have secure housing are more likely to have poor behavioral habits when it comes to the treatment of their disease.  This is crucial because no matter what state-of-the-art medicine you are given, if you are not compliant with beneficial health behaviors then the progression of your disease will be negative. Secure housing is an extremely important factor for health.

I also focused on the impact of trauma in HIV populations, comparing prevalence of trauma across different populations. HIV populations were extremely high in their rates of trauma, and women with HIV had high rates of sexual abuse.  When we looked at the effect that trauma has on health outcomes, those who have been exposed to trauma are much less likely to practice positive health behaviors.  In the past, health care providers have not accounted for the impact that trauma can have on ones’ prognosis, however there are many programs being initiated that look to implement “Trauma Informed” care.

Two other projects that I worked on were on food security and HIV, as well as overall public health in the US virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Those living with HIV were less likely to have secure food options, and those with less secure food options cannot respond to treatment as well.  Ensuring proper food security is imperative.  Additionally, I helped with an initiative to assess the public health structure in the US Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico.  This initiative looked to focus on the comfortability that health officials had in assessing the needs of their communities.

I came away from this experience as having assisted in any aspects that the research team needed. This immensely supplemented my education, because I will be gained applied knowledge on sociological epidemiology. I plan on pursuing public health and thus this research experience helped me form an informed perspective on the spread of disease, and on structural factors that influence disease progression such as housing, food security, and trauma have.

Ramadan and Refugee Realities: A Summer with UNICEF Jordan

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Saagarika Thanvi, GEN ’16

Al-Balad in Downtown Amman, Jordan

thanvi1Hearing the call to prayer just before sunset. Watching people gather at the iftar table to break their fast. Enjoying the ambiance of Ramadan nights. Jordan opened my eyes to a new culture, a new way of living, and a new way to engage with everyday realities of people. I worked with UNICEF Jordan this past summer for the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Section related to understanding the performance and efficiency of the wastewater treatment facilities used at the Za’atari and Azaraq refugee camps in Jordan. My work exposed me first hand to the consequences of war and to the importance of supporting those people who need help the most. Watching people living in caravans in refugee camps having fled bombs and chemical weapons is heart-breaking. It was a surreal feeling being so close to the war torn countries of Syria and Iraq yet feeling sheltered in the safe haven of Jordan.

It was a new experience for me to work in WASH, but this past summer I learned so much more from my colleagues through this summer experience than what I was previously exposed to. It was a pleasure to come into the UNICEF office every day: I was challenged to use my skills as an engineer in a real life situation, but at the same time I had this unique opportunity of working with and learning from international professionals.

Azaraq Refugee Camp, Courtesy of Saleh Al’Sharabati (UNICEF Jordan)

When I use the restroom on a daily basis, I take it for granted that everything will be taken care of. I do not have to worry about the amount of water I consume. Or the water quality that is released back into the environment. However, this summer I realized the importance of water – the most essential ingredient for life. With tens of thousands of people living in small spaces and with only a limited water supply of about 35-40 litres per person per day provided, the challenges faced in treating the wastewater is enormous. Yet regardless of the situation, it is important to take into consideration the water quality because of the high potential for diseases to be spread through the water. However, the most important lesson that I learnt during these past weeks is that wastewater need not be seen as a ‘waste’ but as a resource. Wastewater can be easily reused for agricultural purposes and it can be used as a potential energy source through the generation of biogas.

Umm Qais, Jordan
Umm Qais, Jordan

My summer in Jordan made the world seem huge because of the sheer beauty of the earth I was exposed to, and through the amazing scenery that stretched before my eyes. This summer also made the world seem small because of the common human bond that demands of us to be open and loving to all especially to those who are the most vulnerable. I realised this summer the importance of doing my part to engage with communities that need to be supported because of circumstances that are not of their choice. It is essential to use the skills we have learned to make a positive difference in the world around us. Experiencing Ramadan in Jordan taught me the importance of human communities coming together in celebration of a common faith. Seeing the realities of refugees exposed me to the pain and suffering people have had to face due to selfish battles fought out of hate. Love is always greater than hate, and in a world with so much difficulty, we need to encourage more openness to learn about other people and make our world safe and just for all children and people to live freely.



A World Without OCR

By Dr. Claire KIieger, Senior Associate Director

It’s that time of year again—students are back on campus, the food truck lines are long, and that general buzz around the start of classes is in the air. Starting tomorrow, you’ll see something else that is as sure of a sign of the beginning of the fall semester as the changing of seasons—lots of people in business attire. For the next two months, Locust Walk will be a wash of ties, blazers and heels that signals the start of something else, the recruiting season at Penn as students attend employer information sessions, career fairs, and on-campus interviews. These sightings are as ingrained in Penn’s culture as throwing toast during football games.

But imagine for a moment that all of these things didn’t exist at Penn…or at any university: no employer information sessions, no career fairs, no on-campus interviews and even no Career Services office at all. Whether looking for a job or an internship, you would be entirely on your own, relying just on family or personal contacts. What’s worse, imagine that having a university degree might make it harder to find a job. Sound like an episode of the twilight zone? Actually, after 9 years at Penn Career Services, this was my alternate reality…living and working in Morocco.

I spent the last year working on a USAID funded program to address the issue of high levels of youth unemployment through the implementation of university-based career centers modeled after the American system. There, 80% of the country’s unemployed are youth, and college graduates have a particularly hard time finding a job—20% of them are unemployed as compared with an unemployment of only 4.7% for those with no education beyond high school. Thus, the idea to introduce Career Centers at public universities through this initiative.

So, as we gear up for this season of OCR and all of the stress and anxiety that comes with it, I ask you to stop, take a deep breath, and remember….that while this is an overwhelming time for many students, we sure are lucky to have the “happy” problem of an abundance of opportunities, both through OCR and beyond via Penn Career Services. For the 2015-2016 year, here is a breakdown of our numbers:

  • Over 13,000 job and internship postings on PennLink
  • 779 Employers visiting campus
  • 11 career fairs
  • 344 employer information sessions
  • 8,910 interviews held on campus
  • Over 10,000 appointments and walk-ins at Career Services

And those statistics seems just as foreign a concept to those Moroccan university students as a world without OCR does to a Penn one.


Starting with a Start Up

This is the first in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This first entry for 2016 is by Tristrum Tuttle, SEAS ’19
TuttleI first met Dr. Torcato at the 2016 startup fair in Houston Hall. We talked at length about his startup, the Autism Telemedicine Company (ATC); a company devoted to reducing the cost and travel associated with diagnosing cases of autism. Dr. Torcato’s own story of inspiration – how his son’s autism motivated him to reduce his hours as a practicing medical professional and devote his free time to improving the lives of those living with autism – impacted me on a personal level. I promised Dr. Torcato I would stay in touch and do anything in my power to help him with his startup.

Dr. Torcato and I met a few more times over the semester. As soon as school let out, I began conferencing with Dr. Torcato on a bi-weekly basis. The first project Dr. Torcato and I worked on together was compiling a list of pediatrician’s emails so that Dr. Torcato could market ATC directly to potential customers. Using the programming language Java and a web parsing package called “Selenium” I was able to search multiple pediatrician databases and compile long lists of pediatrician’s names and addresses. Finding the pediatrician’s email addresses was more complicated: doctors rarely make their email addresses available to the public. Eventually, my program was able to find accurate email addresses for about 20% of the pediatricians from the databases. That percentage translates to over 10,000 emails of pediatricians around the country. While 10,000 emails may not seem like a big deal, buying those same email addresses from a third party potentially would have cost Dr. Torcato several thousand dollars.


Throughout the summer, Dr. Torcato and I worked on several other small projects, including renovating ATC’s website and investigating marketing tools for social media. However, the most important task Dr. Torcato and I tackled was building a web portal so that customers could easily access an online autism screening test. For several weeks, I worked on outlining the details of the app, building the views and models in Ruby on Rails, and manipulating the app’s SQL database using active record. The final product, a fully functional web app, will be deployed in September of 2016.


Penn’s summer funding allowed me to experience the startup world first-hand and make a true impact on my community. Working with Dr. Torcato helped me understand the technical challenges of real world business. From shark tank auditions to late night conference calls, ATC taught me more about entrepreneurship in one summer than most people learn in a lifetime. I am truly grateful for this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing my work with Dr. Torcato.

Identify ways to avoid job search stress

by Jamie Grant C’98 GEd’99, Associate Director

I meet with many students seeking internships and full-time positions who are at times incredibly busy with their coursework – and on top of their studies, trying to balance a comprehensive and effective job search.  This can understandably be a very stressful combination of activities, and so Career Services is always working to identify resources and tools to help our students not only strike a balance but succeed in both arenas. 

To that end, a partnership between Career Services and CAPS has generated an upcoming workshop series designed to help students excel in the career planning and application process – with sessions on different kinds of personality and strengths assessments as well as the aptly titled “Managing Anxiety Related to your Job Search,” participating students will have several opportunities throughout the upcoming year to bring their concerns and identify solutions and strategies to enhance their application process.  At the start of the semester, please be sure to check the Career Services calendar and/or the CAPS website for details on specific programs and their scheduled dates/times.

Beyond workshops, Career Services is also always working to identify and provide the latest tools to help students manage their career development.  A really neat resource, free for our current students and discounted for alumni, is Jobtreks – your Jobtreks account will allow you to: 
     – Access a proprietary database of 9,000+ companies
     – Create your target list of companies
     – Browse 30+ job boards and other job search resources
     – Manage your companies, contacts, & job applications
     – Create to-do lists, notes, & alerts, and
     – Prep for interviews and networking

so that you can keep all of your thoughts, research, contacts and networking resources and more in your own private database!
Jobtreks logins are by academic status, so please see the list below for your appropriate link to register:

So, with these upcoming workshops and tools like Jobtreks, you have a few special resources to help your job or internship search to be a manageable and interesting journey of self-discovery and possibilities.  And, if ever you feel the least bit overwhelmed or stressed about career-related issues, please reach out to one of your career advisors to discuss your individual concerns.