Honors Summer Snapshots: Natalie

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Natalie has been working inside a lab all summer, but has spent basically every other second outside enjoying Ames, Minnesota, and Colorado:

Pic 1 Work

So, this summer I’ve been working full time at the USDA National Animal Disease Lab here in Ames! I work as a Biological Science Aid in the Virus and Prion Unit. I wake up at 7:00 every morning to be at work by 8:00 where I do a lot of protein purification. The government frowns upon taking pictures in the lab, so I’m going to talk about some of the other fun stuff I’ve done this summer!

Pic 2 Minnesota

I spent the week of the 4th of July up at our family’s cabin in northern Minnesota. It was great to get away from work and spend time with all of our family and friends that have cabins up there! Some of our activities included kayaking, water badminton, racing RC boats, biking, 4th of July games, movie and board game nights, and a glimpse at the Northern Lights! On my way home from the lake I stopped in Minneapolis for my soon to be sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. We went downtown to eat dinner, and then saw The Lion King.

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Pic 5 Colorado

My family and I went backpacking in Colorado in mid-July. As I carried my 40lb backpack up the mountain I was reminded of my first day of college, when I hauled all of my textbooks to my classes because I was a freshman and I didn’t know any better. It was a tough hike, but once we got to the top every breathless step was worth it!

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Pic 8 Frolf

Although I wish I could have spent my whole summer hiking in Colorado or lying on the dock, the majority of it was spent working in a lab with no windows. Luckily I get off of work at 4:30, so I still have some time to do fun things like frolf (disc golfing), roller blade around town, or play some sand volleyball with friends.

Pic 9 Rollerblading

Honors Summer Snapshot: C.J.

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. It’s safe to say C.J. Konopka has earned a nap after his summer as a camp counselor:

Hello everyone,
My name is C.J. and I’m a Software Engineering major entering into my junior year. However, this is probably the first time I’ve used my computer for something productive all summer (I don’t think playing Overwatch counts). This is because I decided to return to my job as a summer camp counselor. This year a strict no picture/snapchat rule was put in place. But like an intrepid photographer entering North Korea, I made it my mission to show all of you what life is truly like in Camp Alotta Fun.

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We went to Brookfield Zoo for one of our big field trips. You may be asking “CJ, why is this a picture of a playground and not of animals?”. Well curious reader, that is because I had a child decide to sit in the middle of a busy walkway and proclaim that he would not move until his mom came to pick him up. We were an hour away from camp. Luckily, this playground was nearby to occupy my other campers until my boss came over.

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Field trips take a lot of work! One of the best parts of field trips is the relative peace of the bus ride home. My coworker was quick to post this meme to our counselor group chat when I decided to get some much needed rest.

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Not everyone enjoys a running game like sharks and minnows. When you’re out you’re supposed to act like seaweed and tag people from a seated position. This girl decided to be more of a dead starfish. With 60 children in one group it’s hard to please everyone.

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Some of these children are pretty athletic. This girl seems to be ready for State Gym’s climbing wall at only eight years old! I wonder if my baley training carries over to there.

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A favorite pastime of the girls is doing a female counselor’s hair. I decided to let them do mine one day; let’s just say there were mixed results. P.S. sweating from a day outside makes for great hair gel.

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Nothing stirs up competition like a boys vs girls dance battle! The girls tend to get everyone dancing but seeing a few of the eight-year-old boys pop-n-lock and do the worm is hard to beat.

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On weekends, we counselors like to plan our own “field trips.” This one was a closed game of paintball. Running around cover and trees shooting at my coworkers was a blast. I can’t think of a better way to end the week.

Honors Summer Snapshot: Emily

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Emily Forsyth skipped right over summer and has already jumped into the fall semester in New Zealand:

Hey there, everyone! My name is Emily Forsyth and I am a junior studying Kinesiology and Health, Pre-Occupational Therapy. This summer/fall I am studying abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand!

I have been here for about a month now and I have already finished 4 weeks of the semester! The campus here is beautiful, Buzzfeed ranked it the 14th most beautiful campus in the world. (Iowa State was #5)

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Some of the oldest buildings on campus!

The big adjustment has been leaving the warm weather in Iowa and coming to the middle of winter here. It is about 40-50 degrees on average, but it might snow tonight.  Let me tell you, people lose their minds here when it snows! On one of the nicer days, I hiked to the top of Signal Hill Lookout which has incredible views of the Otago Harbor.

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You can’t quite see Antarctica from here, but you can sure feel the breeze!

One of the highlights of my trip so far has been watching a rugby game at Forsyth Barr Stadium! Rugby is the national sport of New Zealand. I’m a big Cyclone football and basketball fan, but rugby is some next level stuff here. If you want to see more rugby pictures and videos: https://www.dropbox.com/s/181i6if5vz3k49s/Highlanders%20Rugby.mp4?dl=0

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Another unique experience you can’t see anywhere else was watching the 2016 Cadbury Jaffa Race. I live about 10 minutes away from a giant Cadbury Chocolate factory and about 15 minutes in the other direction is the steepest inhabited street in the world!  It was quite the sight, thousands of people lined the streets in hopes they had purchased a ticked for the winning Jaffa. I’ll back up a moment to explain, the Jaffa Race is sponsored by the local Cadbury factory as a charity fundraiser. There are three races for three separate charities, each with 25,000 pieces of chocolate rolled down the street. Spectators buy a ticket with a number on it for only $1, if the corresponding Jaffa comes in the top 5 of the race there are sweet prizes associated. Sadly, I didn’t win – that would have been sweet! (Pun intended)

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So that’s a snapshot of my summer so far! Studying abroad is by far the hardest thing I have done during my time as a Cyclone, but so worth it. I am making connections with people from all over the world and learning a ton about myself at the same time.

If you’re interested in following more of my adventures, check out my blog at https://emilyforsythblog.wordpress.com/.

Honors Summer Snapshots: Allen

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Comedy College veteran Allen Wang tried his hand at rocket science this summer:

Hello! I’m Allen, and I study Aerospace Engineering and Economics, but this summer I’m doing a stint in NASA’s Gravitational Astrophysics Lab at Goddard Space Flight Center (I’m still trying to stop questioning how I found myself here).

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Specifically, I’m doing a research project with data from a new European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft called LISA Pathfinder. It was launched this past December to test technologies needed to build a gravitational wave detector in space, eLISA. Although it’s an ESA mission, two NASA Physicists, my mentors, are on the science team and help with the data analysis.

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Here’s Building 34, where I work! It’s home to the Astrophysics and Solar Systems Exploration divisions. There are TONS of unique, interesting people to run into in the hall ways; research here spans from Exoplanet Detection to Astrobiology to Gravitational Wave Detection (my lab)!

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Here’s my office! All of the science for spacecraft missions is just done on computers, so I don’t actually spend any time in a physical research lab. A large portion of my time this summer this summer has been spent calculating the gravitational balance of the spacecraft over the course of the mission. Fuel has mass. Mass has gravity. As fuel is expended, there is less mass and therefore less gravitational force exerted on the LISA Pathfinder experiment. This change is on the order of 10 picometers per second squared over 100 days. That’s 0.00000000001 meters per second squared! That is still very significant, because the LISA Pathfinder scientists are looking for precision on the order of 10 femtometers per second squared (throw three more zeros in front of the number above). I share this office with a graduate student and a physicist (the younger one of my two mentors). The green couch is for my other mentor; he has his own office, but he usually pops in a few times every day to discuss things to do.

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One of the coolest things about working here is how friendly everyone is! Some friends and I went exploring after work one day, and we came across a super friendly engineer who offered to give us a private tour of the Hubble Control Room. He has been working on Hubble for 20 years and had TONS of amazing stories to tell!

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Speaking of space telescopes, the next “flagship” project, the James Webb Space Telescope, is being finished up here at Goddard as we speak! It wasn’t quite visible the day I visited the observation deck, but you can see a few engineers/technicians/scientists at work in their white “bunny suits.”

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Speaking of bunny suits, I got to put one on and tour the clean room my lab has! In there, they’re essentially measuring the background noise the laser beams used in eLISA might introduce into the data. My Facebook friends will recognize this as my profile pic.

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Another really cool perk is that there are tons of lectures/colloquia on campus given by Goddard’s very own scientists! They’re completely open to all NASA employees and interns, so it’s a fantastic way to learn about the latest and greatest in science. I’ve gotten to go to lectures on everything from atmospheric science to the geology of Pluto and new theories on the composition of Dark Matter.

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And here’s a picture of the astrophysics interns along with a few of the mentors!

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For my fellow nerds, here’s an infographic on the mission I’ve been working on. This summer I’ve gotten to become intimately familiar with the gravitational effects of the DRS and DFACS. One cool fact is that the thrusters ALWAYS have to be on; acceleration due to solar pressure (essentially the energy of the sun pressing on the spacecraft) is very significant and must be counterbalanced by our thrusters. I should add to the infographic and note that what really makes gravitational waves interesting isn’t just that they’re predicted by Einstein, it’s also that, through them, we can observe exotic astronomical objects and events (e.g. black hole and neutron star mergers).

Honors Summer Snapshots: Sarah

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Sarah Leichty went to Guatemala at the last minute…and loved it:

Canche en el Campo (Blonde in the Field):
10 Things I Learned After a Summer in Rural Guatemala

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Selfie with the corn at the experimental farm

1. When an NGO in Guatemala asked me if I’d like to come down to live at an experimental farm near a tiny town in Suchitepequez and figure out how to breed high-yielding corn with higher levels of protein, I said yes even though I’m primarily a soil scientist with only one genetics course under my belt. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

2. Sometimes the intense storms during the rainy season resulted in the loss of electricity, so we had plenty of flashlights and stored water in case of a lack of running water. And I realized that maybe a shower every day isn’t a necessity.

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My view from Volcano Pacaya

3. As a blonde, I was stared at wherever I went. But that doesn’t mean that people were hostile. They were generally sweet and very helpful and even shared food or wanted to take pictures with me. In all honesty, I’d stare too if I saw a tall, blonde gringa run down a dirt road with a large dog running beside her (the farm’s dog would sometimes accompany me when I went running).

4. Scorpions are a thing, so I shook out my clothing and tucked the mosquito netting around my bed, so they wouldn’t crawl in during the night. I’m speaking from experience.

5. Sometimes the water isn’t the most potable. I learned to appreciate the simplicity of drinking tap water in the States and the power of cinnamon, cardamom tea for when the water didn’t agree with my body. Enough said.

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Lake Atitlan in all its glory

6. I had to remind myself constantly to appreciate and take in the beauty of the plants, people, and places around me. It was inspiring and hard to comprehend even without the language barrier.

7. Slang is something that really separates the locals from the tourists, so learning fun slang that only Guatemalans know was highly entertaining and surprising to the locals when the gringa knew a few Guatemalan words.

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That time that I tried to learn how to make tortillas and mine were the badly misshapen ones

8. The fanciest food in the States cannot compare to the simplicity and deliciousness of a 15 Q (roughly $2) meal made by a kind Guatemalan woman who lived at the end of the dirt road near the experimental farm I was housed at in La Maquina, Guatemala.

9. My parents didn’t need to know about all of the little crazy details about Guatemala that would make them worry. I’m sure they had mini heart attacks when I traveled alone to the city of Xela, climbed an active volcano, and jumped off an 8-meter high platform into Lake Atitlan. Or when a scorpion crawled out of my bathroom sink.

10. I owe Iowa State and especially the Agronomy Department for funding this trip, so I could experience all of these crazy, bananas, amazing, and unbelievable things. They made my adventure a reality.

If you’re interested in learning more about Semilla Nueva, the wonderful NGO working with rural Guatemalan farmers and improving the nutritional health of thousands of Guatemalans in the process, please visit semillanueva.org. If the mission of this organization interests you, please donate at http://semillanueva.org/donate/give-the-gift-of-a-better-tomorrow.




Honors Summer Snapshots: Vineela

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Vineela Sama is adulting in Des Moines (on the 22nd floor!):

Hey everyone! I’m Vineela Sama and I will be a Junior this fall double majoring in Management Information Systems (MIS) and Supply Chain Management (SCM). This summer I am a Business Analyst IT Intern at Principal Financial Group. I’m interested in both the business and technology sides, so I enjoy that my internship incorporates both aspects!


I work on the 22nd floor of 801 Grand, the tallest building in Iowa!

Getting to work in downtown Des Moines has been exciting. Principal has a unique culture. The buildings are newly renovated and feature kitchenettes, skywalks, treadmill desks, recharge rooms, and cool artwork! You will even find a few Pokestops in Principal buildings🙂


The intern program is extensive and unlike many other companies’. There are special events and speakers that are organized just for us to attend. All of the IT interns also competed in Code Jam. It is essentially a 3-day event where interns with diverse roles are placed in a group together to create an app based off the needs of stakeholders! After those 3 days were up, we presented our app to our stakeholders, the other interns, and a few senior executives of Principal.


This summer I had the opportunity to attend Leadership Institute with my sorority sisters from Alpha Omicron Pi. We traveled to Brentwood, Tennessee, which is where our International Headquarters is located.


At the 3-day event, we participated in learning sessions and interacted with sisters from all over the US/Canada. I also met the International President of Alpha Omicron Pi, and listened to inspirational stories from past presidents.




Overall, this summer has led to great chances to explore the world of adulting. It’s not actually as scary as it may seem. :’)

Honors Summer Snapshots: Allie

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Allie Volk is making Wisconsin a better place, one baby raccoon at a time:

It’s not easy running one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation centers in Wisconsin. Every year, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society admits more than 5,000 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals, making it one of the highest volume wildlife rehabilitation centers in the state. Because almost all wild species have their babies during warm months, the majority of these admits (about 3,000) occur in summer, so understandably the six person staff recruits the help of about 150 volunteers and seven interns during this time every year. This is where I come in!

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I am lucky enough to be returning to the Wisconsin Humane Society for my second summer as a wildlife rehabilitation intern. After a long trek through Milwaukee traffic, my mornings start off by cleaning cages and feeding all the animals.

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Each folder has a different group of animals that need to be cleaned and fed multiple times per day.

The rehab center cares for 150 different species of animals, each of which requires and is fed a specialized diet that oftentimes changes as the animal grows. This makes for a lot of work, as different animals are also fed on different schedules. Animals can be fed as seldom as once a day to every 30 minutes for our baby birds.

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Many of our baby birds get syringe-fed, like this common grackle.

Most of the day revolves around the feeding and cleaning schedules of our animals, but another aspect of my internship is education, both for myself and the public.

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Baby raccoons are bottle fed four times per day.

Over the past couple months I have learned endless facts and skills that go into raising and rehabilitating wild animals, and because we admit such a wide array of species that all have unique life issues and stories, it is oftentimes a learning experience even for our very experienced wildlife rehabilitation staff. And one of my favorite things is troubleshooting an issue with an animal with staff, as coming to a mutual conclusion can literally be life changing for a sick infant animal.

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Baby opossums are natural climbers.

One of the main goals of the Wisconsin Humane Society is to educate the public on humanely coexisting with wildlife, so naturally as an intern I spend a lot of time educating people on how to handle different wildlife situations, sometimes with educational programs but mainly through our phone line.

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This is our resident education peregrine falcon Herbert. He was admitted last year and is non-releasable due to a wing injury.

Along with the 5000+ animals we admit every year, we also receive around 12,000 phone calls each year. Situations can range from finding a baby bird on the ground, to finding a family of raccoons in the attic. Not only do we have to be prepared to assist with all of these problems, but we also must rely heavily on interpersonal skills, as someone’s emotions can range from extremely frustrated to severely distraught, which is completely understandable when an animal’s life is in the balance.

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As raccoons age, they are moved to a pre-release cage outside.

The most rewarding part of working in rehab is being able to release the animals that we raised and cared for. Because every animal we work with is wild, our goal for every patient is to be raised and released back into their natural environment.

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Here are a few bunnies being released. After only a few weeks bunnies are fully independent from their parents.

Though we don’t get to interact with them like we would a domestic animal, seeing them leave our care and knowing that we gave each and every one of them the opportunity to live their best lives is extremely gratifying.

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Bonus picture of a baby raccoon bottle feeding for your viewing pleasure.