Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Been a Blast - Megan Petersohn

My name is Megan Petersohn.  I am a senior at Augustana College. If you have the opportunity to be a part of Wartburg West, I suggest you do it.  This has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Only a few students from Augustana applied to this program because not many know about it.  I double major in Biology and Neuroscience along with a minor in Spanish.  My journey deciding on this discipline has been long and painful but this program has shown me that I chose correctly.

Here in Denver, I intern at Anschutz Medical Campus where I conduct research on Parkinson’s disease.  I have learned so much in the small amount of time I have been here: about myself, about research, and this type of career path.  If anyone reading this is a bit of a science nerd, you may like to know that the lab I have been placed in has implemented the most dopamine brain transplants ever.  My supervisor, Dr. Curt Freed, has become an iconic figure in the chase to cure Parkinson’s disease and I get the opportunity to work with him.  This lab has transplanted fetal brain cells and pluripotent stem cells into the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease and seen extraordinary results.

At my internship placement, I have had the opportunity to work with scientists on different experiments contributing to the cure for Parkinson’s disease.  I have also been able to attend seminars offered at Anschutz Medical Campus, allowing me to expand my knowledge on scientific methods and findings.  Last week, I watched a fellow researcher slice a Parkinsonian brain into super thin slices, making it easier to look at different areas of the brain.  Next week, I am presenting at a poster session as part of the Department of Medicine Research Day.  Everything here has exceeded my expectations of an internship experience and would not have been possible without Wartburg West.

Outside of the internship, however, Denver has so much to offer!  I grew up in a relatively small town in northern Illinois, so I am not used to city life or the mountains (two things that were the biggest adjustments for me).  Being in the city is not something I looked forward to but it hasn’t ceased to astonish me. I have eaten at wonderful restaurants, met eccentric people, and experienced the breathtaking nightlife in downtown Denver.  I have gone to a college football game, got scared at a nationally ranked haunted house, and attended museums, a play and a neuroscience conference.  I will still choose country over the city but you should know, you can still find pieces of country in a big city like Denver.

One of my favorite things about living in Denver, Colorado is the short distance it takes you to end up in the middle of nowhere, in a forest, or on top of a mountain. I can drive thirty minutes and end up on a hiking trail in the foothills of the Rockies.  Give me an hour or two of driving and I can end up at the highest incorporated city in the United States (Leadville, CO).  Three hours can get me to one of my all-time favorite hikes.  While I have been in Denver for my internship, I have made it a personal requirement to get out of the city at least once a week.  I have made trips to Leadville for the retreat where I went whitewater rafting, to Golden, for hiking or floating down a creak, to a pumpkin patch to pick out my own pumpkin, and even to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), to hike, see the bright yellow aspen trees, and to hear and see elk bugling.  I even made a trip to Glenwood Springs where I hiked Hanging Lake Trail.  Hanging Lake Trail is one of the best hikes I have ever made.  If you have the chance to go there one day, you should.  The rewarding scenery at the end of the hike is something I would imagine seeing on a tropical island somewhere, but with mountains.  The lake is shallow and the water is almost transparent with an amazing emerald green glow.  Two waterfalls trickle into the lake over cliffs.

All in all, this internship in Denver has been the best thing for me.  I have had many amazing opportunities to learn, explore, and see things I have never seen before while having to live alone in a city setting.  It’s taken a lot to live on my own, away from my family and friends in Illinois, but I’ve had a blast out here.  Again, to whoever reading this, go to Wartburg West and you will not be disappointed with your experience in Denver, Colorado.

Megan Petersohn (a very happy participatant of Wartburg West)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Livin' in the Fast Lane - Kayla Holbach

Being a small town Iowa girl making the move to Denver, Colorado has been an incredible adjustment. Living in Denver is noisier, brighter, and I just can’t seem to take a breath of fresh air. However, the change has been very beneficial to me. I have been introduced to new things and situations both voluntarily and involuntarily, some for the better, some for the worse. One of my experiences that has been for the better is my internship at Metro State University.
As an intern at Metro State University, I have been working in the athletic department. I have been introduced to many different tasks, both working directly with the athletics and all the things that go on behind the scenes. A couple projects I have been working on directly is setting up halftime activities, promotional marketing, and scheduling the events. I have put together multiple games for fans to play to help increase audience participation at both soccer and volleyball events. So far, all the games I have put together have been a success with both sports. In the upcoming weeks, I will be getting involved with more of the games and working at the different events. Helping with set-up, working during the game, and organizing the halftime events are all tasks I will be dealing with.

Although Denver is not home, I have been able to make the adjustment fairly easy. It was easy to get to know the area and what you are able to accomplish within walking distance. One of the hardest things to get used to was having to pick up groceries and run errands by only walking.  However, I am pretty used to it now and walking 3 or more miles a day is a normal thing for me.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Exceeding Expectations - Marcela Fitzpatrick

Marcela is one of four students from Augustana/Rock Island participating in the Wartburg West program this fall. 

It’s been four weeks, and Denver has already exceeded all of my expectations. During my short time here I’ve gotten to explore downtown, shop to my heart’s content, and eat just about anything you could imagine. It’s great that Colorado is so diverse; I really enjoy the fact that I can enjoy a night on the town, and go hiking in the mountains all in the same day. Being in Denver has influenced me to try things I don’t think I would’ve otherwise had the opportunity to do if  I’d stayed on campus. I went white water rafting on the Arkansas River in Leadville (just 2 hours outside of Denver), through some pretty intense rapids with 3 of my friends for the first time. It was definitely one for the books and I would strongly encourage anyone to try it if they have the opportunity. I also went tubing down Clear Creek in Golden, just thirty minutes outside of Denver. Like I said, there are an infinite number of things to do in Denver, and if you find yourself bored, you’re doing something wrong.

Besides all of the extraordinary experiences I’ve had, most of my greatest memories happen at work. My placement is at the UC-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. I’m a Neuroscience/Biology major interested in pursuing clinical research. I was placed in the Pharmacology/Toxicology Department, in the Freed laboratory. This lab’s research is focused on Parkinson’s Disease (PD), the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease in the world, next to Alzheimer’s. I love coming in everyday to learn new techniques and procedures in the lab, not only because I’m gaining valuable experience for my future but also because I get to aide Dr. Freed and his extraordinary staff in helping find a cause for PD. I can’t wait to see what the next 7 weeks have in store for me, I can’t imagine things getting much better than they are now, but I’m up for the challenge. And like many of the previous bloggers have mentioned I wouldn’t for a second regret my decision to apply to the Wartburg West program. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience that I feel will positively impact my future. I advise any student that is wondering what its like to live in a big city while also gaining valuable internship experience for yourself to consider applying for Wartburg West.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Life from a Different Perspective - Kellie Solberg

            Denver has been such a blessing to all of us participating in Wartburg West.  Living in the big city has definitely been interesting, to say the least, and we have enjoyed the grand beauty of the Rocky Mountains during our weekend retreat to Leadville.  It’s been a lot to take in, especially for those of us from small, Midwestern towns.  Everything seems to be bigger, faster, and more chaotic than back home.  However, I want to focus on a much smaller and highly overlooked area – the microscopic world. 
I have the wonderful opportunity intern in both the horticulture and research departments at the Denver Botanic Gardens this semester, which has been awesome thus far!  Recently, I was helping out one of the full time researchers at my internship with separating some aquatic plant samples.  The sample included two stinky Ziplock bags of mostly Duckweed collected from a pond in Adams County.  At first glance, all I saw was a bag full of tiny Duckweed plants.  As I leaned in closer to see what the researcher was having me sort out, I saw tiny green specks – that was the flower of interest and what I had to separate from the rest of the pond sample.  Wolffia is the world’s smallest flower, and I was looking right at it, even though I could barely see it with my naked eye.
I was set up with the highest quality microscope I have ever used, and through that lens was easily able to locate the small, spherical Wolffia from the larger, flat, Duckweed.  Looking through a microscope for seven hours tends to make your eyes feel like they’re “bugging out,” but it was absolutely worth it.  Why?  Because I saw things I wouldn’t normally see without the microscope.  I have never been quite able to appreciate a Platyhelminthes flatworm so much before that day, despite those previous freshman biology lab experiments using the same specimen!  The way it moved through its tiny, watery world was fascinating.  Another creature I enjoyed observing was a small snail sliding along small sticks and Duckweed stems as I silently invaded his private world.  That snail moved with such grace!  And I’m pretty sure he or she smiled at one point, which was beautiful!  I also saw a plethora of aphids, mostly on top of the water, but some were sunken because they had died.  From the naked eye, they looked like tiny moving dots, but under the microscope they had definition and some even had some creative designs on their backs!  Finally, I saw a bunch of speedy Daphnia moving about the microcosm, which also made my day because I thought they, too, were adorable!  Although I was being as careful as I could be and was only removing the Wolffia for research purposes, I can’t help but think how the other invertebrates felt when they sensed an intruder tearing apart the ecosystem they thrived in.

Moving from a town of less than 3,000 people to a city of more than half a million is a kind of a culture shock and I think it can be easy to get caught up in the rush of the city life.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and I’ve had wonderful experiences living in the big city, but sometimes it’s nice to zoom in and focus on the smaller picture.  Looking at life from a different perspective is something we don’t often do, but if we do, it is truly something beautiful.  I hope we can see the beauty in everything we do out here this semester!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jumping right in - Ellie Oberheu

I am Ellie Oberheu, a third year, religion major at Wartburg. I wanted to come out to Denver, CO because I wanted a different feel of jobs other than the Midwest style. I jumped right in with Rev. Diana Flahive. Diana is the CHUM (Capital Hill United Ministries) Community Minister. She is one of the founders and the director of WHI (Women’s Homelessness Initiative), which shelters twenty women each night at different churches in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Denver. There are 20 congregations involved with WHI and 14 open their doors, taking responsibility for different nights of the week. Through their volunteers, each site offers sanctuary, hospitality, a good meal, and a safe place to sleep. The women are brought to the church from the St. Francis Center. The SFC is a day shelter for people who are homeless. I am working with Diana to help serve the communities and programs of both CHUM and WHI. I have already connected with many of the community leaders and they are all great! I recently attended an annual CHUM picnic for the summer. It was good to hear about what all the other CHUM organizations were doing in Denver. I am already getting a good vibe from the Denver community. I cannot wait to see what else Denver has in store for the semester. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Western Adventures - Tori Soat

Totally cliché of me to say, yet one hundred percent true, is my utter disbelief that I am a week away from heading back to Iowa. Cue cliché: time flies when you’re having the time of your life. This summer has been one magnificent adventure compiled into two very short months. It is impossible to explain over phone call or email to my friends and family how beautiful the mountains are, how loud the street outside our apartment is, how hilarious my work environment is (Comedy Works, obviously), or just how hard it still is to run outside and breathe adequately at the same time. I’ve truly had the time of my life this summer, for an incessant amount of reasons.

My adventure entitled ‘Wartburg West Summer 2014’ has taken me to some wild places and introduced me to some irreplaceable people. I’ve summited mountains, feasted at some of the finest restaurants (including VooDoo Doughnuts), seen cultures unlike anything in Iowa, watched fireworks from the rooftop, witnessed a MLB game, made some amazing friends, and gained a broad range of knowledge from my supervisor at Comedy Works. Denver is unlike any city I’ve ever been to. The city is full of busy parks to fulfill all of my outdoorsy/running needs and is also located not too far outside of the mountains to satisfy any hiking urge I have ever had. I first enjoyed the mountains in Estes Park, Colorado, and will never forget the views I experienced in Rocky Mountain National Park. I also have been to Red Rocks for workouts, hikes, and films. I once ventured to Ft. Collins for more hiking and my first taste of sushi with friends. My summer has been full of nothing short of pure awesomeness; I even got to see country superstar, Jake Owen, at the Greely Stampede.

I can’t believe it’s practically over. I have to say goodbye to my family of fellow interns at Comedy Works and my boss who is actually a glorified mentor of mine; as well as try to depart from the greatest city I have ever known and my love, the Rocky Mountains. It’s going to be a bittersweet last week here at Wartburg West. The knowledge I’ve gained at my internship, combined with the experiences I’ve had while living life in Denver have surmounted any summer I’ve previously had, and no amount of pictures or words will ever be able to do it justice.

It's More Than Just an Internship - Taylor Oswald

I can’t believe our time spent here in Denver is over in just a week! I have been interning at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Denver and it has been a blast. After a week spent in Denver and at the House I knew I was doing the right thing. Some of my tasks over the summer at the House consist of planning events, writing thanks yours, attending meetings, receiving/writing sponsorship, organizing camp information, and much more. I have enjoyed every second being out here in Denver and I will be sad to leave.  More than anything I think being out in Denver and having such a great internship it has taught me a lot about myself. This Wartburg West experience has allowed me to expand in so many areas and has taught me so much about myself that I never knew.

Wartburg West summers allow you so much free time on your weekends and days off. I spent most of my time doing outdoor activities. I have been hiking in multiple places such as, Estes, Breckenridge, Red Rocks, Garden of Gods, and little state parks. I also enjoy walking around to all the little boutiques, shops, and restaurants around the area. If you are here in the summer I recommend white water rafting, it’s a blast! There are so many wonderful free events I have taken advantage of. What has made this place great is you are always bumping into people that know someone from Iowa. There are always stories being told.

Wartburg West is such a great opportunity to find your true self and do things you would have never dreamed of doing!