Category Archives: Summer 2017

Two Weeks at the School of Public Health!

Hello, readers of NCI’s blog! My name is Allison Foster, and I am honored to write my first blog as one of Newcomb College Institute’s Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health interns this summer! I’m a rising Junior at Tulane pursuing a dual degree program in Public Health and Homeland Security Studies with an English minor. As a public health student, reproductive rights and health continue to be something I champion, as they are vital to ensuring women’s success economically and socially. As an intern cohort, we have met twice, and it’s been wonderful getting to learn more about each other and our interests within the broad field of reproductive rights while we hear from organizations working on sectors of reproductive rights (over lunch, which is an added bonus)!

It’s been two weeks of my internship at the Tulane University School of Public Health working under Dr. Alyssa Lederer, and I’ve already learned so much about the world of professional research! In my first two weeks, I have helped Dr. Lederer on a grant application, which is a process I wanted to learn more about during this internship, so we are off to a great start! My main project for the summer, though, is a qualitative analysis of a Tulane public health program called CheckIt, which provides free STI testing and treatment to African-American males in the New Orleans area. I will be transcribing and coding interviews with participants in the program, and I am excited to learn more about this type of public health research. The program itself is still running, and you can check out its website at This project really centers around the intersectionality of reproductive health and reproductive rights. Its existence emphasizes that this isn’t just a women’s issue, and it continues to remind me that race, access to care, socioeconomic status, location, and so many more factors all play a part in the health of a population. I am eager to get started on my part in this incredible program, and I have attached a photo of one of CheckIt’s Instagram posts as a visual example of the work these Tulane researchers are doing on a daily basis to improve the health of this incredible city and the incredible people that call it home.

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This internship will be a fantastic opportunity for me to learn from Dr. Lederer and her colleagues at the School of Public Health about what it means to pursue a career in research and academic work. Another thing I am looking forward to participating in as part of this internship is a journal club where interns and their supervisors doing academic research will meet and discuss a journal article related to reproductive rights and reproductive health.

All in all, I am beyond excited to continue my work this summer and am so grateful to the Donna and Richard Esteves Fund for Women’s Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health for providing this incredible opportunity to learn and grow with such passionate individuals. Stay tuned for more blogging updates!


Dos semanas at Bosque Seco Lalo Loor

As I write this, the waves of the Ecuadorian Pacific are crashing up on a golden, shell-studded beach that glows under a setting sun and a soft breeze—the most beautiful end to my first two weeks as a wildlife monitoring intern at Bosque Seco Lalo Loor! I’ve spent the past couple of weeks getting to know the reserve, the responsibilities of my position, and my fellow interns.

IMG_8652At 6:00 every morning the howler monkey alarm clock goes off, and we wake up for breakfast at the research station. Work starts at 8:30, and we all spread out across the reserve working on all of our different projects. On Mondays and Fridays I hike the trails of the reserve, GIS-mapping and getting to know the woods, and I spend some time inside doing data entry and literature reviews. Tuesdays and Thursdays I conduct howler monkey population surveys, the main responsibility of my internship. Alternating mornings and afternoons, I head out to walk 4-hour transects through the forest, searching for monkey troops in the upper canopies of the trees.The hotter it is, the quieter and lazier they are, making them a little difficult to spot at times; but for the most part, they’re pretty easy to find! They’re often communicating, climbing around noisily or munching on leaves. IMG_8688.JPGOnce I find them, I record the number of individuals in the troop, their ages, sexes, and activities. All of this data is going towards keeping track of the reserve’s populations, and for my own study on how seasonality impacts the movement and distribution of the troops throughout the reserve. Wednesdays are the depressing but important days: roadkill surveys. It’s kind of a bummer job, but the data I’m collecting is contributing to a really cool project that maps “hotspots” for roadkill, so that wildlife crossings can be built in the most important places. And as soon as work ends at 5:00 on Friday afternoon, we’re off to spend the weekend in the neighboring beach town of Canoa.

The first step to my ending up here this summer was really, truly, a good Google search. I knew I wanted to stay in Ecuador, and I knew I wanted to get involved in conservation. That was my starting point, and my first tip: know your goals for yourself as an intern, as a student, and as a person. From there, I compared the internship opportunities I found with my personal and academic goals, and was able to narrow down my choices to just a few. Because I’d found opportunities that were really closely in line with my passions, writing my application felt easy and genuine, and I felt like I could really demonstrate myself well as a good candidate for my position.

After being accepted, I spent some time thinking about the summer ahead. Working withIMG_8832 my supervisor, I came up with three important expectations for myself during my eight weeks here: to develop myself as a biologist, improving field and literature-based research skills, conduct my own independent research, and get to know the community in and around the reserve.I’m also expecting to experience a lot of the unexpected, like tarantulas in my bed, monkeys hanging out above our showers, and waking up at 3:00 in the morning to hang out with bats. I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen next, but I know it’s going to be incredible. Hasta luego.

Week 2 at A Studio in the Woods

I have been loving my first couple weeks! As an intern for A Studio in the Woods (ASITW), I’ve been helping them run their nature/art summer camp. ASITW is a magical Tulane-affiliated artist residency and forest preserve on the West Bank. Every summer, they host a summer camp that incorporates that cool intersection of art and science. The instructors I’ve been working with are wonderful female mentors and artists. They have so much cool experience doing work that involves upcycling used materials, incorporating concepts of ecology into their work, and bringing art into the classroom. I found out about this internship through a friend of mine, and I reached out to the residency director about potentially working with them. If anyone has any questions about it, please reach out!

My responsibilities vary each day but the majority of what I do is make sure that campers are engaged and learning. My work here relates to NCI’s mission in that I am helping to create a more holistic learning experience that involves both artistic and scientific creativity. Each week we have a new scientist that teaches the campers (and me) about the forest here. The first week we had a botanist and this week we have an entomologist. It’s only been a couple weeks, but I already feel like I’ve learned so much, whether that be how to identify simple versus compound leaves or how to make painting imaginary trees appealing for kids who only are interested in baseball. We set up some general rules with the kids the first day, and it struck me that the rules about snack time should apply to adults as well: don’t take more than you need, respect the nature around you, leave no trace or better yet leave the woods better than you found them, etc. Maybe we should all attend an adult art/science camp to learn these philosophical teachings, too.


In the coming weeks, I hope to learn a lot more about native Louisiana ecology, about how to best get kids involved and excited to learn even if art/nature isn’t their thing, and about how art can be used as a tool to learn about nature and science. 

Two Weeks at Fair Labor Association

I am an intern for the Stakeholder Services and Capacity Building Team at Fair Labor Association (FLA) this summer. The office I am working in is located in Washington, D.C., but FLA has other offices all over the world. Through this internship, I am gaining a familiarity with the implementation of international labor standards in global supply chains and the critical role of multi-stakeholder organizations in improving workers’ rights. FLA works with business, civil society organizations, colleges and universities to ensure the protection of workers’ rights and uphold international labor standards. They do so by assessing factories compliance with the Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing and Production.

I am currently assisting FLA’s Training and Capacity Building Manager in organizing training materials so they are more accessible. These trainings address issues ranging from fair wages to retrenchment and termination. The trainings I found specifically interesting, and that relate to NCI’s Mission, are on sexual harassment and forced labor. Once these trainings are more accessible to regional staff, then they can be widely used to educate individuals in factories on their rights. FLA also had me attend the 2018 World Day Against Child Labor event at the U.S. Department of Labor. There I learned more about the 152 million children who are deprived of an education and are forced to work in unsafe and violent environments. The FLA and other organizations that attended this event are all working to raise awareness about this issue and eradicatechild labor.

I found this internship through networking. I had briefly met with the CEO of the FLA and sent her my resume. She was impressed by the work I had done with victims of human trafficking and my passion for international development, so she offered me an intern position. I am very grateful for this opportunity and have already learned so much from her and the projects I have been working on. I am the only intern in the office, but the staff has all been very friendly and welcoming. Next week is the board meeting so we are currently preparing for those three days of meetings, trainings, and networking events. I am looking forward to meeting other staff members from our international offices and members of the board who make all of this work possible.

As the summer goes on I am expecting to learn more about Corporate Social Responsibility, a topic I knew little about before working here. I also hope to be able to connect what I am learning about fair labor practices to the work I have done previously and that I am planning to do in the future, in regards to forced labor and human trafficking.IMG_5553

CONNECT to End Violence Internship Check In

The first couple weeks of my internship have been awesome! CONNECT to end Violence is a branch of Community Services on Marthas Vineyard. The office is located in Edgartown Massachusetts. CONNECT provides a free and confidential 24/7 hotline, counseling, and court advocacy.  The majority of what I’ve done so far has been training because I needed a 60 hour training to become a Domestic Violence/ Rape Crisis Counselor. I also had to be trained for the hotline. Through training I had a chance to meet all the staff at CONNECT. I am so excited to be working with such an incredible group of woman. There are five staff members, all of whom are women in there 20’s and 30’s. It is cool to see women, only a little bit older than me, being such strong, empowering, leaders. Besides my training I have gone to the courthouse (pictured above) and met with clients to support them through obtaining restraining orders. Meeting with clients at court is one of my main internship responsibilities. This strongly connects to NCI’s mission because, through the empowerment model, as a counselor I am able to support and empower my clients to make whatever decision they feel is right. Helping survivors regain control and support them through tremendously difficult situations has been amazing!

I found this internship through a friend of mine who interned at CONNECT last summer. Using your network of friends, family, community members, etc. is a great way to find opportunities! I secured the internship through a phone interview. Overall it was a pretty easy process, having my background in SAPHE at Tulane definitely helped me in the application process.

I have five main expectations, or goals, for learning this summer. I hope to throughly learn and understand court procedures regarding restraining orders, domestic violence, and sexual assault. I want to feel comfortable and confident answering hotline calls from a wide range of callers. I want to respond to hotline callers and clients questions in a compassionate, professional, and educated way. I hope to do a lot of outreach to community members regarding domestic violence and sexual assault. Lastly, I hope to work with police and hospital staff to make clients feel safe.

Time is FLYING by… Week 2 at the Avian Conservation Center

To be utterly frank, I’m probably going to throw a few puns into my posts over the course of the summer – but let’s all address the fact that I’m just winging it as I go. (Get it? Because I work with birds.) I got the amazing opportunity to return to a facility at which I had a previous, different internship this summer, working in an avian rescue and rehabilitation clinic for birds of prey. Returning home, to Charleston, to do what I love and hope to keep doing after graduation was a gift, and I’m using my time there to return in kind the chance and opportunity they’ve extended to me.

I’ve been thinking about my five learning objectives for a while. When we submitted our applications for these grants, we were asked to come up with a list. I felt fairly sure in what I was hoping to accomplish by the end of the summer, but who knows – something may change between now and mid-August! My learning objectives for the summer are as follows:

  1. As a pre-veterinary student, one of the most important things to me is learning technical skills that will benefit me in veterinary school and beyond. I will be working, essentially, as a veterinary technician, over the course of the summer to help the birds that come through the clinic and the veterinarians themselves.
  2. I would like to develop my ability to think ahead. I find myself too often acting on the instructions of others in an effort to not interfere with the plans of anyone else, but I think that I would grow as a person if having to make decisions separately from those instructions that supervisors give me.
  3. I hope that I will be able to use the internship to learn how to better network in the world of veterinary medicine. I have found that it is sometimes an insular group, and being able to ask questions of the supervising veterinarians will be an asset to me in the future to have.
  4. I’d like to develop my ability to think on my toes: I already feel like I have the ability to improvise in tough situations and to think ahead, but I want to get better at this. In this internship, where some cases may come in as emergencies already and others may develop with little to no warning, I know that I would be challenged continually to keep up.
  5. I hope that this internship will truly help me determine what I want to pursue post-bachelors. I know that I want to be a veterinarian, but I’m still unsure as to which type of veterinary medicine I feel most passionate about. I’ve worked with equine veterinarians, small veterinarians – you name it, I’ve probably tried it once or twice – but I have yet to really get into conservation veterinary medicine. I feel like I could make a real difference in the world with this field, and I want to make sure that it speaks to me as strongly as I think it will.

Lastly, I’m currently undertaking a research project with data that the center has collected from the past twenty six years. Using this data, I hope to create a research paper that will help illuminate the changes in the patients that have come through the center and create a more complete idea of the seasonal and yearly trends of injury rates. I’m possibly going to go in more specifically on a certain bird, or injury type, or some other subset of data in order to create a more definitive result – right now, it’s looking like I’ll be researching entanglements in birds of prey, including owls, hawks, and eagles. I’m excited for where this will lead, and absolutely ecstatic about the possibilities it holds.

The Newcomb College Institute strives to cultivate leadership skills in undergraduate women; empower them by integrating research, community engagement and teaching; and to honor the memory of H. Sophie Newcomb by creating a women-centered experience in a co-ed learning institution. This internship can provide a route through which I can grow as a leader by both learning under the tutelage of the veterinary staff and applying this knowledge to attain self-sufficiency.

I find myself now standing at the beginning of the path to an exciting opportunity. Tulane and the spirit of Newcomb that still burns brightly here has helped me grow as future scientist and scholar, and for that I am already and intensely grateful.

And until next time….. have a picture of some really cute pileated woodpecker babies to tide you over!


The Midpoint of my Research

IMG_8390Throughout this research experience in Tulane’s Biomechanics of Growth and Remodeling Laboratory, I have been keeping in mind my goals for the experience so that I can be sure I get the most out of my time here this summer. To re-cap, my goals were to learn to properly navigate a mentor-mentee relationship, to gain experience working and communicating with my peers, to advance my technical skills in the laboratory, to increase my scientific writing abilities, and to become familiar with laboratory protocols. Although I am only halfway through my internship, I have made significant progress on my set goals and I am very satisfied with the immense amount I have learned in this short period of time.

My principal investigator and I have bi-weekly meetings in order to assess my progress throughout my internship. This has helped me to monitor my growth as well as learn to build a strong mentor-mentee relationship. I am extremely lucky to have a PI who makes herself so available to me and it has really made my experience a great one. The graduate and other undergraduate students working in the lab with me have also been a joy to work with. Our lab is very close and collaborative taking time to partake in bonding activities like monthly lab lunches and book clubs. I do not think I would be learning as much as I am if it weren’t for the helpful nature of my peers. Their willingness to help has allowed me to work on my goal of gaining experience with collaborative work to an extent even I didn’t expect. These good peer relationships have also allowed me to really flesh out my technical skills. I have been available to assist and learn from my peers in many experiments on a one-on-one in depth level so that I truly feel comfortable performing them on my own now.  The highly collaborative environment of the laboratory has also given me the opportunity to assist in writing and editing a scientific grant. Grant writing is a key aspect of any research career and being able to advance my scientific writing abilities by assisting with one is an invaluable experience. With all of the neat experiments I have been getting to do with the great personnel here, I already feel very comfortable with lab protocol. Before I began working I had to be certified on lab protocols, and I learned a lot from that, but having hands on experience is really helping me progress with my goal of becoming comfortable with scientific protocols.

I am currently working on a project that has allowed my to advance my technical skills quite a lot and serve as a leader of a project. As part of my overall project of writing a protocol for quantifying collagen alignment, I have been working on testing a software which would allow the lab to perform these quantifications automatically, saving a lot of time and resources. I am currently working towards testing this software with maurine tendons, and in order to get these I have had the opportunity to dissect them from mice. Dissection experience is an amazing application booster and valuable skill to have in a career of research and health so I was very excited to learn the protocols. Additionally, now that I have learned the protocols for dissecting, I have been teaching a younger undergrad them and have taken point on the collagen project. This is a scientific leadership experience I have never had before and it has really supported my growth as a leader.  This internship has helped me learn how to delegate time and resources on multiple side projects at once as a good leader should be able to do. Moreover, I am surrounded by leading women in this internship who set a shining example in what is a typically male dominated field. It is the strong female mentorship in the BG&R laboratory that will give me the confidence to pursue a career in what is traditionally a world of men.

I am extremely impressed and grateful at how much this internship has given to me and I am only half way through it. I was once intimidated by the biomedical engineering field and unsure if I would make it, but now with the invaluable technical knowledge and personal support I have gotten from the personnel of this female dominated laboratory, I feel both excited and confident about my future career and hope to one day serve as a female engineering leader for other young women in my same situation.



The Laboratory Experience

My summer internship experience is taking place in the Biomechanics of Growth and remodeling laboratory here at Tulane University. The laboratory’s research focuses on predicting soft tissue remodeling in response to various biochemomechanical stimuli such as normal processes (e.g., aging and pregnancy), disease, and injury. The objective of the research taking place here is to find and quantify clinically significant patterns in soft tissues so that doctors may better treat common health issues such as pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and tendon injuries. The BG&R lab is unique in that much of its research focus is on women’s reproductive health, an extremely understudied field.

My work here is focused on histology, particularly the quantification of collagen alignment in soft tissues. I have been spending my first two weeks taking and analyzing microscopic images of maurine vaginal tissue in an attempt to quantify features of its extracellular matrix. The reason my project is focused on collagen alignment is that collagen is thought to be the primary load bearing constituent in soft tissues and therefore determines the strength of said tissues. It is generally agreed upon in the biomedical engineering field that changes in collagen alignment result in changes in the mechanical function of tissues, but the exact patterns in which this occurs are unknown. This is particularly relevant when you are talking about women’s reproductive health. While collagen alignment can be complicated on any scale, it is unbelievably complicated in the female reproductive system. So complicated, in fact, that no one knows exactly what the collagen alignment should look like in the female reproductive system. This is a problem because based on what we know about the extracellular matrix of soft tissues, collagen alignment in the reproductive system is likely closely related to debilitating conditions such and POP and maternal related pelvic floor injuries. Pelvic organ prolapse alone affects approximately 30% of women and 30% of patients will require a second surgery to treat the condition. The work I am doing this summer is a small step towards a huge win in women’s health. It is such a good feeling to know that I am apart of work that is helping support and better the lives of women when the topic is generally put on the back burner.

My feeling of excitement in working in a laboratory that focuses on women’s health has only been heightened since my internship has begun. I have begun to forge relationships with the majority female team in the laboratory and they give me hope for my aspirations in a male dominated field. Although I have only been here for two weeks, I have learned so much in both a technical and personal sense. I have been exposed to many procedures and experiments and am learning the ins and outs of research etiquette. I expect that this summer will give me the skills that I need to continue research at a higher level and provide me with valuable connections for my future.

My advice to anyone out there looking for an internship is this: don’t be afraid to go for something you want. I aquired this internship because I was interested in the work being done in the BG&R lab. I reached out to the principal investigator and conveyed that to her and after some discussion she found a place for me. Not everything will always work out and you will face some rejections, I definitely have, but, if you don’t try you will never succeed. So, do your research, be prepared, and reach out to organizations and eventually you will find the right fit for you.

Summer in Sex Crimes

Hi! My name is Elizabeth Doski! I’m a rising senior double majoring in Political Science and Sociology and minoring in Psychology. I plan on attending law school right after I graduate. This summer I will be interning at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division. This will be my fifth year interning for the District Attorney’s Office. When I was in high school I spent two summers interning in my local office. After freshman year I interned in the Major Crimes Division, and last summer I interned for Sex Crimes. I am so excited to be coming back to the same office, it will be nice to see some familiar faces and to feel comfortable in my work environment.

The Sex Crimes Division has a great internship program that encourages everyone to learn new skills and branch out. Last summer the interns were all able to tour the county jail, go on ride a longs, tour the crime lab, and attend interesting information sessions (for example a lecture about the OJ Simpson trial given by one of the prosecutors). We also got to attend training sessions for law enforcement about prosecuting sex crimes. In the office we reviewed incoming cases, watched trials, made power points for opening and closing statements, read transcripts, and helped the attorneys in any way necessary. My goals for this summer are to expand my knowledge of sex crimes, maintain connections with attorneys I worked with last summer, gain new professional connections, attempt to do thesis research, develop my ability to use the California Penal Code to recommend if cases have enough evidence to move forward, and attend more trainings about sex crimes.

Sex Crimes fits well with Newcomb’s values, because many of the people that I will be working with are women and the majority of the victims in Sex Crimes are women. The division is led by two women and the Los Angeles County District Attorney is a woman. To prepare for the internship I needed to have my fingerprints taken for a background check. I have also been in contact with the supervisor for scheduling. Other than that I consider myself very lucky to be doing the same internship that I did last year, because I feel very confident going into the internship. I’m excited to get back to doing work and helping victims–I know it’s going to be another rewarding summer!

Lady Justice in Front of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles

Summer Internship with Congresswoman Jackie Speier

Hi there! My name is Hannah Lyons-Cavazos and I’m a rising senior majoring in Political Science and International Development with minors in Spanish and management. I will be in DC this summer interning for my congresswoman from my home district in California, Jackie Speier. I’ve admired Congresswoman Speier since I first became interested in politics in high school, and I’m so excited to have a chance to work in her office. In addition to her years of service to California’s 14th district, Jackie Speier has long been a vocal advocate for women’s rights. She was named one of Newsweek’s “150 Fearless Women of the World in 2012” following her work on the STOP Act to prevent sexual violence in the military, and has been one of the premier crusaders in defending pro-choice legislation in the House. As a feminist who is interested in public policy and legislative proceedings, I’m so excited to have this internship this summer, and to be learning about constituent concerns in my own local community.

While the majority of the learning objectives I initially outlined have to do with developing professional skills and experience, my primary objective at this point in my internship is more personal. Although I visited DC on a class trip once in middle school, I have never been here otherwise. This past weekend I moved to a city where I don’t yet know anyone and have already gotten lost in Union Station (twice) and taken the Metro the wrong way. I want to use this internship as an opportunity to build independence, self-sufficiency and confidence as I work on navigating a new city, new job and new community of people. In preparing for my upcoming first day I’ve been taking public transit frequently to become accustomed to the Metro before taking it every day, and I have been taking advantage of the spare time I have now to explore the city that will be my home for the next few months.

In addition to these personal goals, I feel that this internship is going to give me the opportunity to develop as a professional woman in the political sphere, which historically has not been a particularly welcoming field for women and minorities. NCI’s purpose is to develop new generations of female leaders, and we have seen in recent times just how powerful increasing numbers of women in influential positions can be. Encouraging women to participate in the nation’s policy-making processes is a crucial tenant in this mission, and my goal is to one day be one of these women. I think that this position will offer me invaluable insights and opportunities for professional development that I would not be able to experience otherwise.

Congressional interns serve a variety of roles, but we primarily deal with addressing constituent concerns and issues. A lot of the work I do will center on constituent interactions, whether by fielding concerns via phone and email or conducting tours of the capital. This position will require not only a good deal of diplomacy but also confidence, and the ability to take initiative. As a female leader, I have often found this sort of assertive confidence to be a difficult trait to develop in myself, and have heard many other women complain of similar struggles. I am hoping the experience I gain in this position will help me to become the sort of empowered leader that NCI helps to cultivate.

I am very excited to be a part of the inner-workings of a political office, and am hoping that I will be able to observe and better comprehend how these sorts of offices operate. However, the highlight of this position is that I will be working with a team that serves a public official that has been a role model for me for years, and who has served my own community admirably throughout her career. I am looking forward to learning more about how the congresswoman is serving our home district’s constituent concerns, and how she fits into the larger national political conversation as well.