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)

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