Lucy Brown & Madeline Danforth

Lucy & Madeline

Recent Indiana University graduates Lucy Brown and Madeline Danforth visited the Stories from Home studio to discuss their passion for public health and the importance of doing what you love. This conversation was recorded on May 2, 2018.

Description of the video:

01:02 Madeline: Okay my name is Madeline Danforth, I'm a graduating senior in microbiology and Spanish. Next year I'm going to be in Mexico, it's part of the Full Bright program and afterwards, I'm going to be attending medical school. 
01:15 Lucy Brown: My name is Lucy Brown. I'm also a graduating senior. I'm studying biology and Spanish and international studies and after this year my plans are to do research on zika virus in an infectious disease lab in Lima Peru. and eventually attend medical school at IU in indianapolis. 
01:39 MD:  So Lucy and I have, we both are interested in science and and particularly biological and medical sciences but also have passion for the spanish language and public health, so actually, Lucy do you remember the first time we met?
01:57 LB: So we did the whole Chemistry track. you go inorganic and then organic and then organic or you start with general and then organic, and then inorganic, and then bio chemistry or whatever, and it was orgo 1, or orgo 2 cuz you took orgo 1 differently, it was orgo 2 and my roommate introduced me to Madeline who my roommate who introduced me to Madeline who works in his lab, and we were both kind of interested in going to the Peace Corps or at least doing some kind of global service in some way shape or form after we graduated. Peace Corps was the only thing we kind of knew about at that point but obviously we both found other paths that diverge from that.
02:47 MD: Yeah, also, its really interesting to think cuz we both were interested in going to medical school, but we both wanted to do the Peace Corps and we thought, “hey, We'll both apply to medical school and ask if we can take two to three years off before we attend,” and now that we've gotten into medical school and everything, it's not very realistic. 
03:03 LB: Right, it's not that simple to wait two years, its actually two years and three months, so it'd be, you'd have to wait a third year honestly to enter medical school which is a little too long I think for both of us. 
03:15 MD: I think its cool that that's the connection we had when we first met. Was our desire to go abroad and do some sort of service, but in a very official organization like Peace Corps and what we are doing now is through the Full Bright organization so 
03:30 LB: and that we are both interested in Spanish speaking countries, like, why what initially drew you to the spanish language 
03:41 MD: Well mostly because, I mean honestly, I took Spanish is middle and high school and we had a really good program and then [LB: What High School?] I went to North Central High school in Indianapolis. We had really good Spanish at our school and I just kept with it and it was going to be really easy for me to fulfill my requirements for the Spanish major here, so I decided to do it. But I think. I think that's how a lot of things go, getting into college is like, you have some sort of background and that's going to influence what you study, and honestly even if you pick that major arbitrarily I don't think you should be expected after high school to really have a profound reason for doing what your doing except for that you're interested in it. I knew that I was interested in going to medical school and and it was going to be easy for me to get my Spanish major and and you know being a doctor that can speak Spanish is really valuable. And that's really not what I've gotten out of my Spanish major, is the ability to like, you know, of course I can speak better to Spanish speakers, but I've gotten a lot more out of it. aside from from just being able to speak so
04:48 LB: Yeah because the major's not, it's not just learning the grammar behind the language or like how to have a dialogue or a conversation like you're learning about their culture, linguistics, and literature [MD: and History] and history for sure. Yeah I had a similar experience where I studied Spanish in high school and I said, well I want to be a doctor, and we have this ever growing population of Spanish speaking people in the US, so like  it just makes sense to evolve and adapt to that growing amount of Spanish speaking people in the US. And, so sorry I got distracted by the people outside. And so I decided to, initially, I was going to minor in Spanish and then I studied abroad in the Dominican Republic summer after my freshman year, and I just, firstly, I fell in love with my host family, and through that experience of just having conversations with them and learning about the history of the Dominican Republic and how US involvement in the Dominican Republic particularly, really set it off course and really damaged the country. I kind of gained a sense of responsibility, like it was my country that did that to them. And I also just think the Spanish language is beautiful, It just sounds really beautiful. After that I added it as a major. 
06:28 MD: Yeah and when you think about it, it's like, I I've been afforded some really interesting opportunities, just because I do speak Spanish and I'm interested in learning about those countries and, I think one thing that both of us have been able to do, one of our good friends, Jesus, his parents speak primarily spanish and we can talk to them and [Both: Its really cool] that thats so important to be able to speak to other people [LB: and include them] that you want to get to know and include them and and on the same way it's not just our doing, we as English speakers we're also very isolated not being able to speak to other people so like they're able to, I don't know, speak to us in Spanish so that we can practice and it's just a really cool tool to have to get to know people in your population, 
Talks over each other and apologizes but Madeline continues 
07:21 MD: Well it's just you know you don't think somewhere in Bloomington, Indiana, that there's many Spanish speakers but, Lucy and I both went to the Mexico/IU soccer game the other day. The mexico crowd was bigger than the IU crowd. There were so many people there. So really those those opportunities to meet Spanish speakers or just people unlike you, immigrants or whatever, those opportunities are here if you look for them 
07:49 LB; I think studying abroad really gave me an avenue to practice my Spanish in a way, in an arena, where I wouldn't be judged for saying the wrong thing or like making a mistake. Because like, my host family knew that I was learning and even coming back here like talking to, there are a bunch of Mexican restaurants, and you can just start talking to them in Spanish and they're usually really excited to speak to you in their native tongue
08:18 MD; Yeah or like if, I don't know, yeah. well I... I definitely think that there are like, I don't know, so I've been really involved with a program at the Bloomington Public Library, where they offer English as a new language classes and tutoring and thats been a great experience and I've I've my Spanish speaking was essential for that. But I think there's like ethical questions that come up with doing things like teaching English and even in public health, volunteering abroad just in general, like recognizing that unless like being able to weigh what you're doing and understand what you're doing and if it's really helping or if it's even, you know, if it's necessary if if its preserving like culture or is it kind of an extended colonization and the repetition of history but I think like..
09:26 LB: As long as you're aware, you have an awareness that's why History is so important. And understanding our history. understanding Latin America's history 
09:36 MD: Yeah, but.. so do you think if you do end up studying the Zika virus in Peru what, is your background in Spanish going to be really important to you as a researcher not just practically but also socially?
09:54 LB: yeah well what's awesome is that the researcher that I will be working with, so she did her MD PHD through UT Houston so she is 100% fluent in English, so if there are any issues like, I'm very lucky in that I have English as a backup if I am struggling to communicate something, but most people in our lab are only spanish speakers. And a lot of science, I'm going to have to learn a lot of Spanish terms in Spanish like all these terms that I have been using in my own research lab having to do with like genetics and and and like i'm trying to think [MD: Pipets] Pipetting, yeah just like the basics like I'm just going to have to relearn in like another language and kind of a different context because it's a totally different realm of research. Because I work with yeast, budding yeast, in my lab in the Lacefield lab in the biology department and we look at the progression of the cell cycle where as Zika virus, its a virus so totally separate from the arena of living cells. Like there's even a whole debate on if viruses are alive or not and so it's a totally new realm that I'm going to have to adapt to and in a whole new language so that's going to be really challenging but I think really rewarding. So speaking of research, how did you, you do research, how did you get involved initially in your lab.
11:38 MD: Okay so, Hopefully this won't take too long. So I, in high school I knew I was interested in science but in high school I primarily did music. Like my whole family has a background in music and in fact I'm basically the only person in my family aside from my mom who is a nurse in a family of 6 the majority of us are musicians. [LB; your dad is in the indianapolis...] yeah, so my dad is a professional musician and that's like what I knew. But I had expressed interest in science and medicine, and of course my dad, sage musician, gave me advice on how to like what i should do to prepare myself for medical school, and he's like oh I have colleagues that that said you should do research, its so important. so I took my dad, the musician's advice on my scientific career, and I, you know when I came to IU, I was really wanting to join a research lab early on if I could. Unfortunately my motivations for doing that weren't like super glorious, it just you know this is experience that will help me in the future if I want to do medicine but so it was a little bit of a challenge because uh a lot of people, you know, some of our peers did research or were really involved in science outreach in high school, so they were funneled into programs that match you with professors that do research. But the way I went about joining a research lab was I just talked to my freshman biology professor, and you know, I was doing well in her class so she was willing to help me find mentors for research and she gave me a couple people's names, I sent out emails to them, and one person emailed me back and that was Malcolm Winkler. And it's amazing that that's how I started because it's been such an important part of my career and college and you know, its been a very challenging and rewarding experience and I've gotten so much out of it and it's just funny to think that I could have been in someone else's lab, it's just that Malcolm got right back to me and said, “come talk and we'll see if you're a good fit for my lab,” but yeah, so I’ve worked in Dr. Malcolm Winkler's lab for the last three and a half years on trapdocaucus pneumonia. Which is a bacterial pathogen, it colonizes the back of your nose actually and 30% of people have it in the nasopharynx, but it's an opportunistic pathogen so a lot of people with either, other diseases that are immune compromised, especially in hospitals or children or the elderly, can become infected by the trapdocaucus pneumonia and like, so yeah, I do basic science, study cell division, it's pretty cool `
14:24 LB: Yeah and it's related to medicine. [MD: oh yeah definitely] Yeah my path was kind of similar. well I reached out to several professors freshman and sophomore year and no one responded and I… I don't know, I look back at those cover letters and I still think they're well written, but maybe it wasn't the right time. Like I would send them in the middle of the semester, which is just not the right time to do it. You catch them at the beginning of the semester, beginning of the year, but I was taking cell biology class at the very beginning, one of the first days of class the grad student he offered to take us on a microscopy tour after class and there were like two of us that stayed after that were interested, and I was one of them and he took us to one of the big LMIC, what does that stand for? [MD: Light Microscopy Imaging Center] The Light Microscopy Imaging Center so its like fluorescent microscopes where you could see like the spindle of the cell, and the chromosomes of the cell. We also got to see an electron microscope or a scanning electron microscope which is really cool. And like, I think I was like, I just got so excited and Gabriel, the grad student,  saw how excited I was and was like “hey I've been looking for a mentee, would you be interested in coming to interview with my PI, my principal investigator,” and I was like “sure.” So it was just like a chance occurrence. All I had to do was like be honest and show how interested I was in these microscopes and now I get to work with microscopes every week and just super rewarding, and I think that research in and of itself... If I could tell myself one thing before I came to college is like really really work hard on getting into a research lab and doing some kind of research. It doesn't have to be biology or science related but like the whole process of doing research is learning how to fail properly and recognizing, okay, so I failed, what does this tell me? What can I learn from this where can I troubleshoot and figure out where I went wrong, or even like this doesn't necessarily mean that I have failed I may have discovered something new. Through this failure like there are just so many like life skills that you can learn through research, that I don’t. I wouldn’t have been exposed to in any other experience.
17:12 MD; Yeah that was really important for me. I started really early and I didn’t have any previous experience so I really struggled in the lab, and I just struggled with 1. being organized, 2. spending enough time in the lab really understanding what I was doing. It wasn’t until my first summer in the lab that I really started to understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. And I'm so glad I stuck with it cuz like when it was challenging it was not very enjoyable and I just thought, you know what, I don't really enjoy this I don't know if its worth it or fair to this lab to stay. [LB; yeah] And but I really stuck with it and once I understood what I was doing and got more comfortable with it, it was fantastic. And I've had such a good opportunity and that's one thing that's like, I'll kind of wrap up, is you can't possibly know. For anyone starting at college, you can't possibly know exactly what you want to do and so even if your motivations for trying something are like, you know, my dad told me to do this, you know, do it and if you don't like it stop. But you can really find something that you are very passionate about and the other thing is don't, you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. If you're interested in something or you come up with an idea, you have questions, you're curious, just go for it because that's what being in a big campus like this allows us to do. 
18:46 LB: Yeah and to bounce off that, definitely freshman year I joined like a bajillion clubs, I tried out for everything. I tried to get involved in everything I possibly could get involved in, and through joining those clubs and student organizations and, I even joined a little 5 team for awhile, I figured out what I liked and then I figured out what I loved and I really. Through my four years, I was able to narrow down what I really, really, really loved doing, and not just what I did for fun or did to socialize with people and that is something that is kind of hard to do because you have to decide what you are going to let go, what you're going to quit, but that just means you can spend more time and more energy on what you really truly enjoy and not overextend yourself too much. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. 
19:50 MD: yeah, do you have favorite memories of maybe, I won’t say something so broad, but favorite memories in classes or having to do with me. I'll tell you a favorite memory of Lucy. Once Lucy, the first time she came to my apartment, my new apartment this year, she, we thought we heard something in my apartment and Lucy had her mace or pepper spray with her and before entering every room we kind of decided to go check it out and before entering every room, we were all alone in this apartment, and Lucy yelled, “I have mace!” Before entering all the bedrooms. 
20:26 LB; Because it works. I listened to a podcast or Ted Talks or something about how if someone hears you say, “I have mace” or “I have a gun.” I didn't have a gun, but I had mace. Right I shouldn't be given a gun, but that that will scare people off especially in a parking lot or if they are hiding in your bedroom for some reason, which they ended up not. No one was in any of the bedrooms, we ended up just being fine we were safe... alright well thank you for interviewing us or 
21:02 MD “I HAVE MACE” laughing 
21:08 LB; I'm glad you went with that story and not heck scene setting fire in my chemistry lab 

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