Cursor blinks at me innocently
Upon the Times throne it resides.
Expectant, it waits for prose
from marionette hands.
Happy National Poetry Writing Month! Often affectionately referred to as NaPoWriMo, the month of April serves to celebrate readers and writers alike with the optional creative challenge of writing a poem a day for its 30-day duration. It was this time last year that I had stumbled upon one of these daily prompts to compose a nonet. This type of poem required the specific format where the first line has nine syllables, the second line has eight, and so forth until you reach the last line, which would be just one syllable. Prompts such as these are one of the many reasons I enjoy poetry and creative writing. With the purposeful placement and selection of specific words, if not syllable) — all to evoke heart-soaring, quiet, twisting, triumphant, and resonant emotions—with such tenderness and care, it is very hard not to be enamored by a poet’s craftsmanship. In my humble, nerdy opinion. The untapped potential and overwhelming multitudes of possibility are what makes a blank page all the more exciting and dreadful at the same time.
Therefore during last April, I was inspired by my intensive rewatch of The Queen’s Gambit and by the mockery of slow progress on an assignment (most assuredly was not an Honors project or anything… definitely just a typical report…) to compose the nonet for the NaPoWriMo prompt. I found that writer’s block, if not writing itself, is acutely similar to a match of chess. Each move and paragraph is purposeful in building upon its prior movements to achieve a desired narrative, whether that’s checkmate or a defense of a three-point thesis.
Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend my first scientific conference, the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society, more easily referred to as BMES, in San Antonio, TX. There, I was able to present a poster on my undergraduate research project from the summer, as well as sit in on several panel discussions and presentations to get a sneak peek at unpublished research from universities across the country. Most importantly, however, I was able to network directly with other undergraduate students and PhD candidates alike about their work and experience living in different cities, and if I was fortunate enough, I was able to talk to faculty research advisors, or principal investigators (PIs). This was all possible due to not only the support of my lab and research mentors, but also with support from the Student Travel Award for Research Scholarship (STARS) program organized by Dr. Bansal, which fully funded the travel expenses for me and a handful of other UD BME seniors pursuing graduate school.
The morning sun greets you from its climb in the sky as you exit the train station, backlit by clear blue skies and seagulls circling overhead. You don’t even have to think as the click of your boots on the pavement guide you across the street to a small storefront with an orange awning. As you cross the threshold, an 8-bit rendition of “Für Elise” announces your presence to the display case of croissants, torsades aux pommes, chocolate muffins, and other treasured pastries. And there, before you and your friends can take a half-step further into the bakery, the owner excitedly walks out from the back kitchen exclaiming, Les filles! Bonjour, les filles! and ushering the cashier away so she can select our pastries for us with a grin.
Over the course of the past year or so, I — like many, many other people — tried to find ways to pass the time and distract myself from the stresses and monotony of life at home. Among the more fruitful attempts of passing time, that was not movie marathon-induced naps or zoning out and staring at the ceiling, I had picked up a handful of hobbies and activities that have always piqued my interest. Some of these included yoga, getting some use out of my Nintendo Switch (see: Hades Game), bullet journaling and sketching, crocheting, and (gasp) writing (pretends to be shocked).
I found that despite the initial distress and learning curve that came with virtual learning, it coincided with the stage in my life where I actually needed to start properly developing personal projects and time for myself that wasn’t dictated by my coursework. When the pandemic hit, I had only really experienced one full semester of college and hadn’t quite established a routine for what to do in my spare time besides studying or the occasional swim; in a way, I didn’t get to foster the sense of independence or explore my personality in the way that I had wanted to. This past year, I found that this influx of excess time, bereft of the intensive dual high school / club sports schedule, provided an opportunity to actively make use of that time by incorporating these newfound hobbies and projects. What’s more, it gave me something to structure my life around instead of robotically moving from screen to screen and gave my days a breath of fresh air. Continue reading
By the end of last fall semester, I knew I needed a serious recharge. It started fairly well and carried on as well as semesters can go, but after retrospect (which most realizations are apt to stem from), I had a delayed realization as to why that post-finals, drained feeling was hanging a bit heavier over my shoulders.
After the collective last-minute struggle of abruptly adapting and transitioning to virtual learning last spring, as well as my choice to take a class over the summer, I realized that this past fall was the first fully virtual semester, stacked credits and all. Sure, it may have been a not-so-sharp realization, but knowledge is power, and this definitely had an impact on me. Last fall was neither the hybrid mix of the spring nor a single class over June. It was a set of core courses, heavy with foundational curriculum, and for some of them, the additional rigorous standards and expectations of my Honors sections—all of which were taken while I wrapped myself in a blanket at my desk at home.
So yes, suffice it to say that the build-up of Zoom fatigue from last fall more than definitely garnered some much needed R&R and winter break was a welcome reprieve. However, I knew I shouldn’t stay idle for too long, lest I mentally regress and sink into the Lauren-shaped mold in my couch for the next four weeks. Despite the extremely valid need for rest, I knew I wanted to be productive over winter session, especially considering I didn’t do very much during this time the previous year. (Hindsight at its finest once again.)
Therefore, this past January I was fortunate enough to participate in a virtual international engineering internship, which not only kept me from withdrawing into a weighted blanket-induced hibernation but more significantly helped me gain great work experience in a really unique way. I was placed in a group with other UD engineers and paired off with the medical device company Renerve Ltd. based in Melbourne, Australia. Our task was to design and formulate a surgical implant product that met a desired function and applications and to provide a full-scale proposal for the product rationale, research and development, regulatory pathways, manufacturing, and marketing strategies—all within four weeks. Continue reading