What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Nairobi, Kenya - Sarah Brancatella
Law student did interviews and research for Kenya Human Rights Commission.

For a group of enterprising UB students, summer vacation means expanding their horizons in locations at both ends of the earth

By Pat Pollock

“Summer vacation” invokes memories of warm temperatures and sandy beaches, but not for Monica Ridgeway, a senior geology major.

It wasn’t long after the end of last spring’s semester that Ridgeway found herself traversing frozen lakes on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic by sled as part of a scientific expedition to understand current and future global climate changes by studying those of the ancient past.

Ridgeway was one of four UB students who traveled with assistant geology professor Jason Briner to Clyde River, a Nunavut town of about 800 residents, as part of a research team funded by the National Science Foundation.

Danli, Honduras - Kelly Miller
Environmental engineering major examined drinking water and filtration systems.

The city girl who had never gone camping or had any previous wilderness experience was one of thousands of UB undergraduate and graduate students whose “summer job” included internship, research and volunteer opportunities. Ridgeway’s research internship was supported through a scholarship from the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have demonstrated strong academic potential for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.

As part of the UB team, Ridgeway lived in an Inuit community and drilled through the ice on Lake Attata to retrieve sediments from the lake bottom in long tubes. Her early summer wardrobe included U.S. Army–issue “bunny” boots and a red parka that allowed her to withstand sub-zero temperatures. Back home in Buffalo, she spent the remainder of the summer analyzing the Arctic lake sediments to reconstruct past climates.

Mountain View, CA - Karthik Kathiresan
Computer science major wrote software to better analyze spam while with Google.

Other UB students were immersed in activities in exotic and remote locations as far away as Africa and Honduras, as well as in more familiar settings as close as their hometowns. They expanded their horizons while working with companies as diverse as the New York Rangers and Google, sweating with Habitat for Humanity construction crews, and performing under the spotlight in summer stock theater.

Tina Jacob, a business administration/finance student and member of the UB women’s tennis team, realized her goal of working for a professional tennis tournament. As a liaison with the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters & Women’s Open this summer in Cincinnati, OH, she worked with 16 area hotels and coordinated 6,000 rooms at these hotels. The internship, she notes, “has given me an immense amount of experience and know-how in the field of professional tournament management.”

A 10- to 12-week experience is the usual duration of summer internships. However, Mrynal D’Arcangelo’s internship for Airbus Deutschland, to work on the new A380 aircraft program in Toulouse, France, began with delay after delay. Finally the U.S., French and German paperwork was unscrambled, and his internship ran from July 2006 to January 2007. A mechanical and aerospace engineering major, he was hands-on on the aircraft every day, assisting with problem solving during the installation of the electrical bundles and cable harnesses. D’Arcangelo ended up having “a phenomenal experience,” with the best part “being able to see the final assembly line, bringing together all of the subsidiaries [France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom].” As a follow-up to this experience, his summer 2007 internship was spent with Lockheed Martin System Integration in Owego, New York.

Nyamuswa, Tanzania - Aaron Krolikowski
Honors scholar studied environmental justice and the health risks of pollutants.

Students may not have homework during a summer internship, but keeping up with a daily journal is strongly recommended. Honors scholar Michelle Messmer’s biotechnology major prepared her for a summer internship at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. In the molecular and cellular biology labs, Messmer worked with a prostate-specific antigen for improved cancer diagnosis and treatment. “One of the best things was meeting others who are interested in the same things I am,” she says. “In school it’s harder to know why you’re doing something; now I can see more clearly why I like what I do.”

Messmer had to submit a weekly report on her research to her supervisor, and to complete her internship she was obligated, among other things, to prepare a presentation back at UB explaining her work.

Everything moves slower in Africa,” Aaron Krolikowski explains, “especially without electricity and running water.” Majoring in political science and social sciences interdisciplinary—environmental studies, Krolikowski is an honors scholar and business manager for the Buffalo Chips, a UB a cappella group. “I’m working with a nongovernmental organization in Nyamuswa, Tanzania, meeting farmers, exploring cities to find insecticides and water pumps, meeting local politicians and environmental groups and documenting everything I observe,” he e-mailed UB Today this summer. Krolikowski mainly traveled throughout the area around Lake Victoria in minivans called “dolla dollas”; his main concern was possible environmental justice implications and health risks posed by pollutants. “The best things about this internship experience are meeting new people, learning about research and being immersed in a culture that is very different from my own.”

Arctic Circle - Monica Ridgeway
Geology major took part in scientific expedition to study current and future global climate changes.

One might think three previous prestigious internships would be enough (GE, Microsoft, IBM) but for computer science major Karthik Kathiresan, the fourth is the prize. He was one of Google’s 900 interns this summer. “Duties included writing software to better understand and analyze spam, and fraudulent clicks on the Internet to work toward a business model of eliminating them,” Kathiresan says. Google’s hierarchy, he explains, is “very, very” shallow; Kathiresan and his manager worked together on their project in the same office in Mountain View, CA. “The energy level and motivation to constantly grow is incredible,” he says. “It really comes down to the passion that people have for technology.”

For the past ten years, UB Law has been affiliated with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), thanks to Makau W. Mutua, UB professor of law who is cofounder and chair of the KHRC. Second-year law student Sarah Brancatella was a human rights intern this summer in Nairobi. Her duties included doing background research, and interviewing organizations and community leaders to take stock of partnerships with organizations and to confirm that their mission aligned with KHRC. Brancatella’s additional duties included organizing a political rally, working on a paper dealing with constitutionalism and helping to edit a research report on gender in Kenya. “My best experience so far has been in Machakos, where I was sitting in on a meeting,” Sarah writes in an e-mail. “It was almost all [spoken in] Swahili, and I was watching the sun set over the hills. There were schoolchildren in the schoolyard next door … a perfect moment.”

New York, NY - Bradley Manche
Business major and fan spent the summer with the New York Rangers.

Brancatella would like to work in some aspect of international law, and this internship has given her an opportunity to study various international constitutions and penal codes, and examine political and legal systems, while simultaneously being able to witness first-hand the effects of these legal issues at both national and international levels. For a first-person account of Brancatella’s work in Kenya, go to www.buffalo.edu/UBT/26-1/summer.

Fifth-year undergraduate Pavel Fesyuk was among the 35 undergraduate UB architecture students who completed a three-week community design service project with Habitat for Humanity in Buffalo this summer. Fesyuk kept a journal of his weeks on the construction crew. A few brief excerpts include: “Day 8: I worked with Tom, my favorite older volunteer. Tom and I built the side porch entrance.” “Day 12: At today’s party it was nice to find out who the families are who are getting the homes we’re building.” “Day 16: I had so much fun during these three weeks!” Fesyuk now knows firsthand how it works: Cutting plywood, putting up inner and outer wall panels and insulation, building the side entrance, moving and putting up trusses, covering the roof with plywood, carrying 70-pound packages of shingles to the roof, putting fascia on the back of the house, rolling out the roof material that prevents winter ice damage and installing the windows.

Cincinnati, Ohio - Tina Jacob
Business student and tennis player helped coordinate a major tournament.

As an environmental engineering major, Kelly Miller’s goal this summer was to support sustainable grassroots projects, working in the areas of water treatment and sanitation. Her internship training began in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, at the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology. Miller then moved to Danli, Honduras, where she traveled with a community health promoter, sampling water for fecal contamination indicative of the prevalence of waterborne illnesses. Her projects for Pure Water for the World included about 200 interviews with households concerning their drinking water and filtration systems; a biosand filtration system has become one of the preferred methods for rural populations in developing countries. For Miller, the best thing about this internship is the young children she met. “They are the ones most affected by water contamination—children under age five are a high risk group for death from waterborne illnesses and diarrhea.”

Working in New York City as the New York Rangers’ sponsors intern must have been like going to Rangers heaven for business major Bradley Manche. “I’ve always been a die-hard Rangers fan, so I pursued an internship with the organization,” he says. “My official duties included assisting team sponsors in all aspects of their jobs, doing research, typing reports and helping with presentations.” Occasionally, Manche assisted the Rangers’ marketing and fan-development interns. “The New York Knicks also had interns in corresponding positions, and I worked with them from time to time.”

Europe and Owego, NY - Mrynal D’Arcangelo
Engineering student interned with Airbus Deutschland and Lockheed Martin.

Thoroughly Modern Millie and Miss Saigon were on stage this summer at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, and so was dance major Tim Goodman. It was Goodman’s second internship at this Auburn, NY–theater company, whose musical theater is known as “Broadway in the Finger Lakes.” Last year, he was a costume production assistant; this time his title was actor/acrobat. Theater people work long hours—nine to four weekdays, rehearsal periods, 12 “tech” days and eight shows a week: six night and two day. “The first show of the season was Miss Saigon,” Goodman explains. “We had never run the show all the way through until opening night. People were still finishing everything 45 minutes before the curtain went up. Backstage, people crashed into each other, and a couple of times the lights went out. Quite an experience!”

Still, the people he met turned into one very big family. The summer internship allowed Goodman to earn Equity Membership Candidate Program (EMC) points. These are earned by actors to credit theatrical work in certain theaters toward eventual membership in the Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing actors and stage managers. “This internship is helping me reach my goals in the future,” Goodman says.

Auburn, NY - Tim Goodman
Dance major was actor and acrobat with summer stock theater.

Playbill calls the Broadway Theatre Project “The world’s most prestigious musical theatre arts education program for high school and college students.” Wait-listed for this renowned workshop last year, dance major Lauren Green was especially happy to be a participant this time. More an “intensive” workshop than an internship, the three-week experience featured dance, acting and vocal training from some of the best artists in America and abroad. “There are many ups and downs—one class may seem disheartening and the next one the best ever,” she says. Daily classes, Q&As with guest artists and rehearsals filled the 12- to 15-hour days.

“Ben Vereen, a beloved musical theater performer worldwide, is so enlightening in his manner of speech,” says Green. “He talks of using and appreciating the breath, and our connection to the world around [us]. He recognizes acting as taking part in the recreation of human experiences.”

Talk about energy: Before returning to UB for fall classes, Green participated in the five-day Jazz Dance World Congress held in Chicago.

Pat Pollock is a freelance writer based in North Carolina and is a frequent UB Today contributor.