Archive for the ‘Student Bloggers’ Category

November 26

Just one week in Honduras changed her whole future

By Alessandra Forero

Chelsea Higgins works alongside fellow students at the children's "charla," she created in Honduras with the Global Medical Brigades.

Just a year ago sophomore, Chelsea Higgins, an anthropology major following a pre-medical track, came to Boston University not as an aspiring doctor but as a neuroscience major. But after spending a week in Honduras with the BU Global Medical Brigades, Chelsea’s entire perception about global medicine changed.

Working in Honduras alongside other students from BU, Chelsea held hands with the children she was helping and cared for women who’d never had a personal medical consultation. The goal of the trip was to offer medical assessments, dental screenings and free medication to both adults and children in the region who did not have access to healthcare.

It took just one semester at Boston University to prepare for her life-changing trip. Chelsea and a small group of BU students took the initiative to raise the funds needed through to travel to Honduras. Also before her trip, she designed a curriculum for a children’s “charla,” meaning “chat” in Spanish. Chelsea created this curriculum, which included skits, songs and dances, as a way to have a fun and educational conversation with children about everyday dental hygiene.

Through her time in Honduras Chelsea realized she wanted to study a major that incorporated cultural sensitivity and awareness into the medical world. Upon returning to BU, she switched her major to anthropology to help address some of the challenges she saw her clients facing.

One of the greatest challenges she observed while in Honduras, which was also one of her favorite learning experiences, “was understanding Honduran perspectives and ideals while trying to assist patients. Recognizing the patient’s point of view is equally as important as supplying the medication,” she said.

While Chelsea enjoyed learning about medicine and volunteering at the clinic, her favorite part of the trip was interacting with the Honduran people. “Because I speak Spanish, I was able to have long conversations with locals and learn so much about the challenges not just the patients, but their country is facing, such as illegal immigration or drug trafficking. I learned, without the slant of the media, what these people really see and how that affects their medical needs.”

While she was passionate and proud of her volunteer experience in Honduras, Chelsea shared her realization, “You can’t fix it all in four days, it’s a long process. It takes a tremendous amount of commitment over many years. That only pushed me more to want to pursue global medicine for my future.”

When asked to give her best advice to aspiring medical students, Chelsea said, “Do the pre-med track and major in something you enjoy, something you are passionate about.”

Boston University encourages pre-medical and pre-dental students to create their own undergraduate pathway, as they work toward their intended career, through whichever major they desire. Many BU students major in traditional programs, such as biology or biomedical engineering, while others branch out and explore majors as varied as international relations, psychology, or economics – all while still pursuing a medical degree.

This semester Chelsea is back at BU hoping to use her larger humanitarian perspective on medicine and love for working with people to keep pushing herself in global medicine.

For Chelsea, the choice to come to Boston and attend BU was the first step in breaking out of her comfort zone and experiencing new things through academics, her experience in Honduras, and the people she has met along the way.

“BU has pushed me outside my comfort zone like I never had expected it would. It was a combination of all these things that lead me to see a future in global medicine that would have seemed out of reach in the past. I’m encouraged by watching my peers break boundaries in their fields of interest, which continuously inspires me to do the same,” she said.



October 22

Why Early Decision Was The Right Decision For Me

By Alessandra Forero

Hello! My name is Ali Forero and I am currently a junior studying public relations in the College of Communication. Only three years ago, I was a high school student, trying to figure out what my path to college was going to be. I spent my nights—as many of you probably do—studying for SATs, researching universities, and working on my Common Application essay. I eventually decided that I was going to apply Early Decision to BU. Here’s the story of my college application process and my decision to apply ED.

Cambridge, MA. April 2010, 9 p.m.: Hotel room

I stood staring out the hotel window, looking over the Charles River at the glistening Boston skyline. Even I, a born and raised New York Yankees fan, couldn’t deny it was a truly amazing sight.

“Do we have to go on the rest of those tours tomorrow?” I asked my mom.

I was shocked as the words came out of my mouth, considering my mom practically had to drag me to Boston. “There are so many schools in Boston! It’s a great college town!” She told me, “Come on Ali, at least look.”

First stop: Boston University. They say you’ll just know when you find the right school for you. That never made sense to me until I visited BU.

We drove down Bay State Road and parked in front of the Admissions Reception Center. Who knew such a beautiful and peaceful street could be found in the heart of Boston?

As the tour guide led us around a corner onto busy Commonwealth Ave, my heart leapt with excitement. It couldn’t be more perfect, a city school that still felt like a campus! It was its own little city in a way. She told us all the fun facts about BU as we walked by Warren Towers, the George Sherman Union (GSU), and the BU beach.

What if I came to Boston?

If you had a similar reaction when you first visited BU, Early Decision may be right for you. Haven’t visited yet? Give yourself the chance to experience the excitement and give BU the opportunity to meet you.

Boston, MA. July 2010, 10 a.m.: Warren Towers

They say you should show your favorite schools how interested you really are. The more they see your name, the better. So, I applied to BU Summer Challenge, a two week program for high school juniors and seniors. I spent those two weeks living in Warren Towers, taking classes with BU professors, and exploring the city of Boston. If I wasn’t 100% sure about BU when I visited in the spring, then I certainly was now.

I highly recommend this program to any high school student who thinks they might be interested in BU. Actually, I recommend it to any high school student, because it really was so much fun!

Upstate, NY. September 2010, 12 p.m.: Guidance Office

“I want to go to BU!” I told my guidance councilor, with a smile and a nod.

BU was a reach school for me. My GPA and SAT scores were a few points short of BU’s average, according to College Board. But I knew I wanted BU. My guidance counselor told me I should consider applying early decision. This meant two recommendations, an essay, and an early decision agreement, all within the next few months. It was time to get to work.

Number 1: Common Application Essay

500 words. I had 500 words to make Boston University as excited about me as I was about them. My topic changed probably three or four times along the way. Once I finally decided, I went through countless drafts before finally uploading that 500 word essay.

Three things: Start your essay early, have 5 million drafts, and have 6 million people read it. The sooner your Common Application essay is done, the sooner you can click apply. That doesn’t mean rush through it; it means start now and take your time. Think about what you want to write about and then figure out the best way to do so, with the help of as many people as possible. In my case, that meant three teachers, a counselor, my parents, and two neighbors. Most importantly, draft and proofread, and draft and proofread some more.

Number 2: Recommendations

They say it’s important to maintain a good relationship with teachers, visit them during their office hours, stay after class to chat, whatever it takes. I’m not a quiet person, but I was never good at this. I had two teachers whom I had built solid relationships with throughout my four years of high school. First, was my Latin teacher. I got good grades in his class and he knew me well enough after four years, so he seemed like an obvious candidate. Second, was my chemistry teacher. Science was never my strongest subject; that being said, I spent a whole lot of time with that teacher. He knew my personality and he knew how much time and effort I put into that course.

BU requires two recommendations, both of which need to be submitted with your Common Application. Get it done now. Talk to the teachers who know you well; they are the ones who will give you the best recommendations.

Number 3: Early Decision Agreement

I applied to seven or eight schools, some safety schools and a few reach schools, just for fun. None of that mattered anyway, because if I could get into BU that was where I wanted to go. This meant that I was ready to commit right then and there. I also wanted to show BU how excited I was, and I figured that applying early decision was the best way to do so. I signed the Early Decision Agreement and committed to BU, if they wanted me.

There are two general options when applying to BU. Regular decision (application due January 1) and early decision (application due November 1). If you are 100% sure you want to attend BU, then I say early decision is the way to go. Just remember, you can only apply early decision to one college and you can’t back out once you hit apply.

Upstate, NY. October 31, 2010, 7 p.m.: Kitchen Table

My essay was done, recommendations were in, and my application was complete. All I had to do was click submit. I had read it over a million times, but still I checked it just once more. I even had my parents take a glance, just to make sure everything was right. I wasn’t about to mess this up just because I misspelled my last name somewhere on the application.

Check it over. You’ve spent four years working toward college and now so many months on your application. Take another ten minutes to read it over one more time.

Upstate, NY. December 2010 4 p.m.: Yearbook Office

The yearbook doesn’t come out until a few weeks before graduation, but for the yearbook staff December means countless hours of editing to meet deadlines on time. So, naturally, I ignored my mom’s first call and, naturally, she called again. “Decision emails are out! Check and see if you got in!”

I calmly hung up the phone and logged into my Applicant Link account. I didn’t want to have to tell anyone around me if I didn’t get in.

There it was. I took a deep breath before reading my decision… “Welcome to the Class of 2015!”

When you receive your first college acceptance, scream and dance around, call everyone you know and post to every social media platform out there. You have worked so hard and you deserve a little bragging time!

March 18

What it’s like to be a student presenting research at a conference…in Hawaii

By ebriars

Hi there! My name is Emma Briars and I am a current senior in the College of Arts & Sciences double majoring in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (BMB) and Mathematics. Outside of my academics I am a Project Manager Fellow for One World Youth Project, Vice President of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Hosts, and a Training Coordinator for our Admissions Ambassador Program at the Admissions Reception Center. However my academic passions fall in systems and computational biology, and for the past ten months I have been doing research in Professor Daniel Segrè’s lab in the graduate program in Bioinformatics.

Waikiki sunset

A sunset in Waikiki during the conference

A few weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 1st Annual Winter q-Bio Meeting: Systems Biology on the Hawaiian Islands. This meeting brought together principal investigators, industry professionals, PhD students, masters students, and me, an undergraduate senior in our College of Arts & Sciences, to share ideas about innovative research in systems and synthetic biology.

Systems biology is an emerging discipline as a consequence of recent advances in technology and high-throughput data generation. It takes advantage of large biological data sets, bringing together ideas from engineers, physicists, biologists, chemists and mathematicians. As a student double majoring in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Mathematics, systems biology is an attractive field for my inter-disciplinary mindset. So, when a graduate student in my lab told me about this conference, I knew I had to apply to attend. I submitted an abstract of my research project entitled “Genome-scale Architecture of Small Molecule Regulation” to the conference committee, and was fortunate enough to be accepted to present a poster. The next step was to find funding to get me to the conference. I did a little research and discovered that BU has a lot of ways to provide funding for students to attend conferences. I was able to apply for both a George R. Bernard Jr. Travel Award from the Biology Department and a Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Travel Award to help fund my way to the conference.

Each day of the conference started with an early morning breakfast featuring piles of tropical fruit, croissants, and plenty of local coffee. Every day I looked forward to grabbing some breakfast while mingling with other attendees. I met scientists from all over the world including Brazil, Scotland, San Diego, Chicago, and Vermont and I made conversation with academics ranging from first year PhD students to tenured professors. The breakfast, coffee, and lunch breaks throughout the days were great opportunities to share ideas with other conference attendees. We would debrief presentations, share research interests, and make connections with each other—all while sitting at the ocean, or around the coffee area.

The bulk of the conference programming was the eight feature presentations given by leaders across the fields of systems biology. The first speaker of the conference was none other than BU’s own Jim Collins, a professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department, and a pioneer of synthetic biology. His talk entitled “Radical Approaches to Antibiotics and Microbial Threats” discussed research in therapeutic synthetic biology and emerging drug treatment. He even brought in a public health perspective, discussing how our anti-bacterial craze is hurting, not helping our society.  I had such a great feeling of BU pride as he presented, and Professor Collins’ talk was definitely a fan favorite throughout the week.

Another notable speaker was Craig Venter, the father of the Human Genome Project, and the first human with his full genome sequenced. His presentation entitled “Synthetic Life: Control Over Nature for the Benefit of Society” also explored the cusp of synthetic biology—thinking of our DNA as software and how we can make the conversion from biological to digital information. Another BU alum, Timothy Gardner, who received his PhD and continued as a faculty member in our Biomedical Engineering department, gave a featured presentation on the research at his company Amyris. He brought the industry perspective to synthetic biology with his talk “Transforming Yeast from Moonshiners to Oil Barons” and how he formed the bridge from academia to industry by implementing standardization in synthetic biology, and taking the research and development approach.

The third day of the conference was my big day: the poster session. About 80 different participants took part in the poster session, showcasing research that really spoke to the diversity of systems and synthetic biology. My project looking at genome-scale networks of small molecule regulation in metabolism drew attention from a variety of viewers, and gave me the opportunity to answer questions, receive suggestions, and just throw around ideas about enzymes and genomics. I even had the opportunity to talk with Ned Wingreen, a professor in Princeton’s Molecular Biology department and a conference featured presenter, about the different modules of regulation on enzymes. Other posters in the session featured ideas about bacterial competition, synthetic cellular networks, a new computational tool for predicting cellular responses, and engineering small-molecule biosensors. It was exciting to see the diverse amount of research being conducted, and especially the youth and enthusiasm driving the field. The evening of the poster session concluded with a banquet on the beach. Although I had only been there for three days, looking around the event, I felt like there were many familiar faces. It was great hanging out with new friends in the laid-back environment, even though the conversation always made its way back to science.

The opportunity to attend this conference was such a culminating moment for my experiences here at Boston University. I felt like I was able to combine both my textbook knowledge and hands-on research experiences to interact with and learn so much about the systems biology field. As I complete my last semester here at BU, including finishing up my research projects and taking a systems biology course, I hope to continue making these inter-disciplinary connections.

November 15

Hello from London

By muellerz

Prime Meridian

Hello from London! Let me introduce myself—my name is Zack (that’s me above, at the Prime Meridian), and I’m a junior at BU. I’ll be posting here every so often, so keep checking back for more! I’ve had a ton of great experiences at BU so far: sailing on the Charles, Kilachand Honors College classes, my time on the Mock Trial team, and the summer I spent living and working in Boston are just a few. But right now I’m in London on one of BU’s awesome internship study abroad programs, so I figured I’d start off by telling you a little about that.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect out of a study abroad program. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and have traveled around the country quite a bit, but my international experiences were limited to Vancouver, BC, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Those trips were vacations, so this is the first time I’ve ever really lived and worked in a foreign country.


The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

England might not seem like a very exotic destination, but at the same time it’s much different than the US, and in so many ways. Take the Tube (the London subway system), for instance. If you don’t know your way around its extensive underground network, and if you don’t know to stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left, then you best get out of the way or risk getting run over; much different than in Boston, where the T (our subway system) is more relaxed. Another difference: on the Tube, everyone reads newspapers and doesn’t say a word to each other. On the T, there’s always a conversation to be had.

Harry Potter Studios

Harry Potter Studios

That said, when you introduce yourself, work, or spend some time with a Londoner, they’ll talk to you like you’ve known each other forever! It’s interesting how, generally with strangers, most people in the city keep to themselves, but once you start to establish a relationship they’ll want to go out for drinks or check out an event in the city almost every weekend. Having the opportunity to work in a law firm through the program has really allowed me to see what it’s like to live and work like a Londoner, and has given me so much more of a unique view of the people and life here than any other visit would have afforded.

I’ve always known I wanted to study abroad, and my experience so far has only reaffirmed how important I think it is to a college education. It’s much more difficult to be successful in today’s international economy without having experienced at least one other culture. While I may not have the chance to work and live in every country, the more exposure I have to people all over the world, the more it will enrich my own education. My time here has not only made me see what a great decision it was to go abroad, but now has me seriously considering programs like the Peace Corps or other opportunities after graduation that will let me see more cultures and get to know more people from all over the planet.

Of course, there’s more to my study abroad experience in London than the internship and the subway system. I’ve toured Buckingham Palace, visited Windsor Castle, ran in a half-marathon around the city, and went to a Guy Fawkes Day carnival that culminated in a fireworks display over the city. Oh, and a few weeks ago, the world premiere of the new James Bond movie was held a block and a half from the BU dorm building here at the Royal Albert Hall. The premier was attended by Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, and Prince Charles and his wife, among other celebrities and musicians. Just an average day in London!

Not many prospective students think about it, but look into the study abroad programs of the schools you are thinking of applying to. Make sure they have an option to study abroad for at least one or two programs you might be interested in. If you want to check out all of BU’s programs, go to Fair warning, you might be a bit overwhelmed with all the options!