Tags: My Wheaton, The Liberal Arts
Upon coming to Wheaton, scientific research was not my idea of an exciting extracurricular. For me, science was a means to an end. I needed certain classes for graduate school. But I wasn’t that into the science itself.
As I entered my second year at Wheaton, this began to change. I was studying human anatomy, and could frequently be found telling anyone who would listen to me about the incredible things going on inside their bodies. The human body was like a divinely directed magic show with invisible, unbelievable complexities that somehow worked in tandem to allow me to do activities as simple as lifting my arm.
Second semester of my sophomore year, I took Physiology with Dr. Hunt. On the first day of class, he assigned each student a long-term group research project. He approached my group with an idea, spouting off foreign sounding words like “flow-mediated dilation,” “endothelial cells,” and “meta-analysis.”
I remember feeling even more lost after our first meeting with Dr. Thom, our other collaborating professor. But we pressed onward with the research, investigating the potential negative impact of eating carbohydrate-rich meals on vascular health because of the high rates of cardiovascular disease in America.
As summer approached, I was asked to stay on campus and continue researching, an opportunity provided by donations made to the Wheaton Research and Residence Program, or “Wheaton in the Lab,” as we affectionately called it. Since Dr. Thom was the professor guiding the process, I became his research assistant. And our meta-analysis became my project.
Although I spent a significant amount of my summer reading articles—due to the nature of a meta-analysis, which is essentially a fancy literature review but with a quantitative representation of the dependent variable—it was by far my favorite part of the research process. The more I read about Flow-Mediated Dilation (FMD), the more I understood it, and the more interesting it became. Dr. Thom gave me a lot of independence, while offering enough guidance and mentorship that I did not feel abandoned. Approximately once a week, we would have longer meetings to discuss articles I had been reading and our next steps, with brief interjections about Dr. Thom’s kids. Occasionally, we would go running down the hall to Dr. Hunt’s office with some urgent question about endothelial cells or FMD.
As the summer drew to a close, we had started the initial stages of data analysis, a process that has continued throughout this year. This March, I have the incredible opportunity to present our research at the Experimental Biology Conference, before we complete our analyses.
Over 400 hours of research later, all of those big, science-y words from that first meeting intimately describe the latter part of my time at Wheaton, along with the project that I have poured my time and energy into. Now that I voluntarily do research in my spare time, I suppose it is finally time to proudly take my place among the ranks of the “science nerds.”
Amy Early is a junior studying French and pre-health. Learn more about her on her author bio page.
Tags: The Liberal Arts, My Wheaton
“Submit to Kodon.” I saw the ominous phrase plastered all over campus in simple font on cream-colored posters. As a freshman with an overactive imagination, I promptly looked into whether or not it was as scary as it sounded.
After a bit of research, I found out it wasn’t. Kodon is Wheaton’s art and literary journal, a collaborative endeavor between students, faculty advisors, and the College Board of Trustees. Each semester, students all over campus—regardless of major—are encouraged to submit their works of poetry, fiction, visual art or nonfiction to be published in this journal that the whole campus can read.
As an aspiring English major lured by this prospect of glory, I submitted my first poem to Kodon in the fall of my freshman year. It was about cats and a really big world-changing metaphor of ignorance and practicality. It did not get published.
My sophomore year, armed with a sharper pencil and a narrower topic, I submitted a second poem that did get published. And as any writer will tell you, getting published is about as exciting as it gets—whether it’s a literary journal or an online magazine—as long as someone who’s not your mom thinks your words are worth their time.
I guess that’s why I’ve stuck with Kodon, and why I’ve stuck with writing in general: I want to find the right thing to say. Sometimes you’re lucky and the first draft says precisely what you mean, clearly and enchantingly and precisely specific to your own voice. More often than not, though, you’re left clawing your way through the same four lines of a poem that has all the right intentions and none of the cadence for months on end.
Writing is a mess. It’s a process. And now, as Kodon's assistant editor, I can tell you that editing is no different. Organizing and drafting your own work is frazzling enough; navigating your way through 150 poems to find 10 publishable ones is an entirely different animal.
And that is where collaboration—the great guidepost to artists everywhere—becomes invaluable. Working with fellow staff members on anything from decisions to omissions has forced me out of complacency when the magic of writing has momentarily lost its shine. Reading the work of students on campus forces me to square up with other creatives in a way I otherwise wouldn’t, causing me to constantly reevaluate the necessity of my work at Kodon, and my work as a writer in general.
Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t ignore those ominous cream-coloured posters my freshman year.
Jessie Epstein ’16 is a junior studying English writing. Read more about her Wheaton experience on her author bio page. Photo credits: Whitney Bauck '15.