The Silly Scientist Who Speaks Mandarin

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Interview
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Joy with a Mother and child participating in the Moms and Tots Group.

Gordon College Senior Joy Kimmel has more interests than she always knows what to do with. Although a Mathematics major and Physics minor, Joy is also on the Gordon College Volleyball team, and is almost fluent in Mandarin.

As someone who had been studying Mandarin since fourth grade, it makes sense that going to China was a lifelong dream of Joy’s. So even though she wasn’t sure she would get in, she applied to the Gordon College Global Internship Program– and her initiative paid off.

Two summers ago Joy was accepted into the program, and spent two months in Beijing, China at a nonprofit social services provider named New Day Creations (NDC). NDC has a community center, foster home, gift shop, and also focuses on providing jobs to the local Chinese. While there, Joy served as the community intern and helped to develop a moms and tots group for 1-3 year olds and their mothers. The purpose of the group was to be a fun play hour that also helped to teach the children English. Joy liked the program because all high schoolers in China have to pass an English proficiency test if they wish to graduate high school, and since this test determines the rest of your life trajectory, Joy was happy to be involved in giving these children a head start.

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Joy, the mothers, and the children singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at the Mom’s and Tot’s Group.

Although being in charge of creating and running the daycare program was a great career development experience for Joy, she especially loved just connecting with the mothers and getting to know them personally. One mother specifically became close with Joy, and even took her to a zoo, the Beijing Wildlife Park, on her 20th birthday. At this zoo there was a “rare animal exhibit”, which ended up being raccoons. When Joy laughed at it the woman thought she especially liked the raccoons, so she made her stand next to the raccoons and she took pictures of her. Another highlight of the zoo was that Joy got to sit in a caged car that drove through the bear exhibit with chunks of meat stuck to its side so that bears would jump up onto the car and eat the meat off of it.

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Joy with the “special animals exhibit”.

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A bear eating meat off the caged car Joy was riding in.

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China was an eye opening experience for Joy, however she still felt that she needed experience that was directly relevant to what she was studying. So even though Joy had never done research before, her professors kept recommending she apply for an undergraduate research opportunity**. So last spring she applied for and got accepted to an REU, research experience for undergraduates, at Ohio Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college very similar to Gordon. This culminated in Joy participating in a 10 week research program that she got paid to do*. She had an advisor, a research topic, and a partner, and together they worked on mathematically modeling an ice sheet (continental glacier) and the growth and decay of the ice sheet over time. They created the mathematical model to help understand the dynamics behind the growth and retreat of the ice sheet over history.When asked about the impact this internship had on her, Joy expressed that

It got me interested in environmental things. I had never been interested in it before, but after looking at ice sheets for a whole summer, I started to care about global warming, and how our actions are affecting the ice and the climate“.***

The internship was a very different experience for Joy, but she enjoyed becoming friends with the eight other students in the program, and getting to know the professors in a work atmosphere, where they asked her to call them by their first names. One specific experience that stood out to Joy was going to Cedar Point, one of the largest amusement parks in the nation, with the other students and some of the professors. Joy also had the opportunity to look at Saturn, it’s rings, and it’s biggest moon Titan through the huge telescope in the Perkins Observatory.

Yes the internship was filled with fun adventures and friendships, but the research was also intense, and Joy has since continued to work on it, even going so far as to make it her Senior Honors Thesis.

Overall the research internship helped Joy realize that she likes research, especially where Math, Computer Science, and Physics all meet. This realization led Joy to want to apply to a PHD program in Computation Sciences Engineering and Mathematics (CSEM), which she now plans on applying to and going into right after she graduates this semester. But don’t worry, even though Joy’s future plans are intellectually rigorous, we can all assume she will find some way to have a little too much fun doing it all.

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Joy with her research partner, Kristen Lee, at OWU.

Tip from Joy:

“Don’t be afraid of getting rejected, or being part of a program that isn’t perfect for you. Step out of your comfort zone, don’t just apply for the safe internship, apply for things that will teach you something- they are much more beneficial for developing your career, and your understanding of yourself. Do something crazy.”


*The National Science Foundation, NSF, gave Joy free housing, $600 for transportation, $1,000 for food, and a $5,000 stipend.

**The NSF posts all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) research opportunities for undergraduates every year online.

***Joy explained that “The west Antarctic ice sheet is about 1/3 of Antarctica, and it is expected to completely disappear in the next 200/900 years, which will raise sea level about 2 feet. The rest of Antarctica, if it melted, would raise the sea level another 8 feet. The west Antarctic ice sheet is extremely unstable, and scientists believe that there is no stopping it- it is going to melt. We are headed towards another ice age basically”.

The Girl with the Chandelier made of Roses

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Interview
Zac Wolfe photography

Summer days were filled with flowers for Gordon College Junior Marin Butterworth. Being an Art major with a minor in communications, Forêt Design Studio in Somerville, MA was a great career development experience for Marin this past summer. Forêt is a floral design studio that does creative work for weddings, farmers markets, and even botanical gardens. Immersing herself into a world of creative energy was vital in pushing Marin forward in figuring out what she wanted to do after graduation.

For Marin, every day was a little different. Usually days involved some form of flower processing or event preparation. The one thing about the floral industry that people don’t realize however, is that you aren’t working with flowers all the time. There is actually a lot of planning and preparing- its not a beautiful job every day. When Marin first started they had her build a walk-in flower cooler- not at all what she was expecting- but over time she saw that certain things just needed to get done, and that those tasks were fulfilling because they helped the business run smoothly.

Marin wasn’t just doing the dirty work, however, and she was eventually given the chance to oversee and run (which included making all the bouquets) the Forêt booth at the Anthropology biannual farmers market.

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Internships are vital. Experience is vital. There are so many things to learn from diving into a company that interests you that are hard to pin down. For example, Forêt is housed in a building with 19 other small businesses that essentially make up a creative collective. Because of this titillating creative space and interaction, Marin had the opportunity to meet the creators of Cuppow, and get a better understanding of what it means to be a creative entrepreneur. You definitely can’t start something if you don’t have the skill set required, but, as Marin learned, starting something, especially a creative company, becomes exponentially more difficult when you don’t see many examples of it done well.

Sure, Forêt gave Marin the opportunity to make hanging chandeliers out of flowers, and seasonal window displays for a botanical garden in Harvard, Mass, but there were so many experiences, just under the surface, that taught Marin things she could never get in the classroom.

One of these experiences was celebrating Forêt’s Best of Boston award; Best Wedding Florist. By interning for Forêt this summer, Marin had the opportunity to go to the colossal Best of Boston party, where all the winners of the Best of Boston awards came together to show off their products, give out free stuff, and network. Obviously this was a very interesting experience, and Marin noted that through experiences like this she realized how important it was to represent yourself well and step out of your comfort zone in order to make connections.

Internships are about so much more than just “building skills”. When asked what she learned through Forêt, Marin expressed that because of her experience, she learned to have more confidence in her creative ability and be more independent.

“[Rose and Erin, the founders of Forêt,] were really good about affirming me and helping me where I needed help, but also guiding me along the creative process and letting me know I have a good eye. I think you need to hear those things when you’re a young designer”.

The leaves are now slowly transforming their complexion and falling to nestle into one another on the ground; summer is long gone. Marin, however, is still working at Forêt. Only this time, as an employee.

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Tip From Marin!

“This summer I learned how important it is to surround yourself with women who have careers you have interest in pursuing…whether they’re people you’re already working with or they’re people you are inspired by. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for those who have acted as mentors and supporters to me in my dreams and ambitions, and I think gleaning all the wisdom I could from these ladies was a really formative thing for me. Reach out to these women (and men!) and offer to buy them coffee or something. It’s crazy how much someone else’s story can impact your own.”

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*The first image on the blog was taken by Zac Wolfe photography, the last two images were taken by Gianna Scavo, and all other images were taken by Marin Butterworth herself.