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Benton Scholars Grant Spotlight: Julian Danetiu ’19

By Brent Fujioka on October 27, 2018

An Archaeological Summer in Southern Italy

By Julian Danetiu, Class of 2019

 Finding summer opportunities as an undergraduate can be one of the most intimidating yet rewarding endeavors undertaken in a college career. It was only while searching for on-campus jobs this past winter that I was offered the chance to interview for a role in the excavation of the Temple of Athena in Paestum, Italy. After weeks of dead-end online applications and phone calls I was fortunate enough to stumble upon an opportunity which would offer unmatched academic and leadership development (as well as some intense physical exercise) at one of the most pristine UNESCO World Heritage sites available! Eager to introduce myself I promptly responded to the invitation and arranged an appointment to meet with the professor in charge to review the responsibilities, duties, and expectations I needed to uphold throughout the project.

This year’s portion of the North Urban Paestum Project primarily sought to investigate the geomorphology of the foundation of the Temple of Athena, which itself lies on an elevated position relative to the rest of the archaeological park; the park also hosts two other temples (Temple of Hera and Temple of Neptune) as well as the ruins of the ancient city. My role in the project would be to lead the documentation and organization of media collected throughout the project’s duration so that our data could be better preserved as well as accessed by others studying the project’s findings in the future. Academically speaking, as an environmental biology major my main interest was in constructing an understanding of the ancient peoples’ relationship with their coastal environment, including how it affected city planning, productivity, and even diets. 

The excavation plots, or “trenches”, of 3 x 2 meters were divided into 6 meter-square sections with finds being catalogued by which square as well as which stratigraphic unit they were recovered from in order to designate depth within each trench. Through this we were able to record a location in 3-dimensional space for finds within each trench, giving us an idea of the time period each object hailed from. Our first trench dealt more with recovering cultural artifacts such as pottery or faunal remains, while the second trench aimed directly at uncovering more about the Temple of Athena’s geomorphology.

Paestum has seen a number of different occupants over the past two millennia, some evidence of which we were able to recover in the form of refuse, ceramics, and sacrificial remains. The most recent visitors, Allied invaders during World War II, landed on the beaches of Paestum and slowly captured ground, pushing Axis forces north-eastwards towards nearby mountain ranges. As part of the Allied invasion several base camps had to be set up as land was taken, including communications and field hospital stations; these were installed next to and even within the temples themselves! From this occupation we were able to recover some minor artifacts such as discarded tin-cans and empty ammunition shells.

Digging deeper we came across an abundance of pottery shards, some with glazes or painted designs giving hints to their original time period and even purpose. Paestum’s earliest settlers, including the Greek colonists, the later Lucanians, and eventual Roman imperialists relied heavily on ceramic containers for storing food or fermenting beverages. We worked closely with the Museum of Paestum, a component of the Parco Archeologico di Paestum itself, which specialized in reconstructing artifacts from recovered fragments. The Museo also had on display a terrific number of finds from past years of excavation, including weapons, tools, sculpted metopes, and even entire intact sections of tomb walls!

In terms of the project’s primary goal, we were ultimately successful in collecting data supporting our directors’ hypotheses that the “artificial mound” underlying the Temple was in fact composed almost entirely of travertine masses. Travertine, a calcareous rock resulting from the gradual deposition of minerals dissolved in local bodies of water, is especially light in weight and brittle due to its nature of formation. We believe that because of these properties ancient architects found it to be the perfect candidate as a “filler” for the artificial mound as it was easy to transport and readily available throughout the surrounding environments. Excavation of trench 2 thus focused on the location of travertine masses used to build the artificial mound, the sizes of these masses, and their orientations when discovered. Ancient planners had most likely ordered masses to be “dumped” into the fill before covered with earth, thus allowing the Temple of Athena to stand on an elevated mound relative to the surrounding city. 

Although some of us were assigned with special tasks, such as media documentation or cataloguing, we each had the privilege of taking part in day labor, all the while learning various archaeological techniques in a very real hands-on environment. Hours were long and arduous, waking to roosters at the crack of dawn and watching the sun climb from one end of the sky to the other as we excavated and sifted through meters of earth every day for six weeks, excluding most — but not all — weekends. After returning to our homestay we’d walk across the road to the local beach and have a chance to enjoy the waters of the Gulf of Salerno before returning for dinner. We worked and lived with students from the Universities of Venice and Bologna, who themselves were as cordial and hardworking as we could ever ask for, learning a great deal about their regions’ local cultures while they heard of ours (we earned the honorable title of “American Barbarians” after exchanging some details, mainly about food preparation). As a member of the dig who had been working with the professors at Colgate since April and was the last to depart from Paestum in mid-August, I could not have imagined a more rewarding way of spending my summer break. Thanks to the generosity of the Benton Scholar program, as well as Colgate University as a whole, many of us were able to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience doing something that mattered greatly to the established realm of classical archaeology.


Benton Summer Profile Series- Jake Scott ’20

By Brent Fujioka on September 25, 2018

Jake Scott, Class of 2020

Jake presenting his team’s research on the relationship between direct financial incentives and student major choice.

This summer, Jake conducted research with Professor Blume-Kohout in the Colgate economics department. Using a nationally representative data set of college graduates, Jake explored the relationship between direct financial incentives and student major choice. His research team also specifically looked at whether the existence of a grant program that offered money to low-income high-achieving students who chose to major in STEM actually made such students more likely to choose a STEM major. On his experience, Jake said, “It was an absolutely fascinating experience about a very relevant and important topic, and I got a lot out of it!”

What inspired you to participate in research with the economics department?

 I chose to intern in the field of economics because it is my passion, specifically as it relates to public policy. As corny as it sounds, I believe the best avenue through which I can enact positive change is through public policy and ensuring it is sound and beneficial through rigorous economic research. This summer gave me a chance to actually do this.

What’s one lesson you took away from the experience? 

The biggest lesson I took from this experience is that patience is key. It won’t always be the first or the second or the third or even the twentieth attempt that you get it right. But it makes it that much more worth it when you finally do get it. The number of times I ran certain lines of code only to get an error message was at times maddening. But the end result was better for it and worth every attempt.


Benton Summer Profile Series- Micah Dirkers ’19

By Brent Fujioka on September 25, 2018

Micah Dirkers, Class of 2019

Micah Dirkers, senior Benton Scholar.

Over the summer, Micah completed three online courses through the Harvard Business School on the topics of business analytics, financial accounting, and economics for managers. He participated in Harvard Business School’s online Credential of Readiness (CORe) program as a way to expose himself to “a different way of thinking”. Through these courses, Micah was able to improve upon skills such as mastering concepts through multimedia case studies of diverse organizations and developing business intuition through interactive learning activities. This online format also allowed Micah to return to Colgate’s library for a month at the end of the summer. There, he returned to his job at the the Digital Learning and Media Center where he updated inventory, ordered new equipment, and created training modules for new employees

What inspired you to take these online summer courses with the Harvard Business School?

Since I was young, I always have had an interest in business, because it is integral to creating value and pushing society forward. Since Colgate is not a business school, I have always had in the back of my mind a desire to study more about business. During winter break of sophomore year, I took a one-week intensive at General Assembly Business Accelerator in NYC, which focused on creating, designing, and marketing a novel product. However, I wanted to learn more academically about the field of business as a way of thinking, since I have primarily been in the fields of psychology and media.

What’s one lesson you took away from the experience?

Examining financial reports, marketing strategies, demand, supply, and analytics empowered me with the knowledge and skill set to navigate the basics of business for my future. Reflecting on the experience, whatever field I end up in, I realized that these courses apply far beyond their respective topics, because there are always exchanges of money, demand and supply for people and resources, and the recording of transaction of time, money, and attention in all elements of our world.


Benton Summer Profile Series- Risako Yang ’21

By Brent Fujioka on September 25, 2018

Risako Yang, Class of 2021

Risako working with her students at Sky Labo in Tokyo. 

This summer, Risako traveled to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and worked in a lab studying mammalian reproduction. There, she helped to create a cell line with a point mutation in the TAF4B gene, which is commonly seen in primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) patients. She then traveled to Tokyo, Japan to work with the nonprofit Sky Labo, which works to address the gender imbalance in STEM fields in school and in the workforce. She joined the teaching staff in the three day English program, through which middle and high school girls are taught the skills of design thinking. While Risako worked last year as a design coach, she said this experience was different in that she was able to take on more of a teaching role than her previous camp counselor-type position.

What inspired you to work abroad in China and Japan this summer?

I am interested in both medicine and education/nonprofit work, so it was truly amazing to be able to do both in one summer. I hope to someday be able to find a job where I can combine both interests.

What is one lesson you feel you learned after this experience?

I got to meet a wide range of people from different backgrounds and age groups. This has taught me that, in the end, it’s the human interactions that matter in our everyday lives.


Benton Summer Profile Series- Jenny Lundt ’19

By Brent Fujioka on September 25, 2018

Jenny Lundt, ‘19

Jenny on her summer travels through Indonesia and Central Asia!

This summer, Jenny spent her last undergraduate summer interning at the Institute of Southeast Asian Islam (ISAIs) at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Her internship covered a variety of incredible topics and tasks, such as being assigned to go to Bali to observe and research the local district elections that take place there every 5 years. She was also able to teach English classes in the institute, translate and proofread academic journals, and transcribe the various meetings/ lectures that took place within the institute. On the highlight of her trip, Jenny said, “The coolest part of my internship was accompanying a group of academics on a field research trip to study “The Contribution of the Ahmadiyah Muslim community for Humanity, Justice and Nationhood”. While abroad, Jenny also completed extensive research on the effect of radio stations on development within communities, a topic on which she plans to write her senior thesis. 

What inspired you to extend your study abroad and intern in Indonesia this summer?

I have always loved to travel and this summer was clearly no exception. This country and this internship are a perfect mix of both of my majors- Peace and Conflict Studies and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. Eventually, I want to visit every country in the world, but I developed a deep fondness for both Indonesia and Central Asia and hope that I will return to both very soon. 

What is one lesson you feel you learned after this experience?

My biggest lesson was about adjustment. My homestay family had a 3 year old daughter. I grew up with 4 brothers and never had any sisters so adjusting to life with a “younger sister” especially with the language barrier was really challenging. But I practiced patience, forgiveness, and my ability to laugh things off!

Benton Summer Profile Series- Sierra DeAngelo ’20

By Brent Fujioka on September 25, 2018

Sierra DeAngelo, Class of 2020

Sierra working in her research lab in San Diego, CA!

        This summer, Sierra took a paid research position with the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE) through UC San Diego/Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her team’s research focus was on answering the question of how microbes leaving the ocean to enter the atmosphere may affect our planet’s climate. She spent nine weeks in San Diego researching these topics, while also exploring other new passions in her free time! On her experience in California, Sierra said, “I worked closely with a graduate student/mentor to measure enzyme activity of seawater, sea spray aerosols, and culture bacteria, among other things. When I wasn’t working hard at the lab, I was swimming in the beautiful ocean, exploring San Diego, or learning to surf, paraglide, and throw pottery.”

What inspired you to take the research position with CAICE?

I was seeking bench research experience because I did clinical research last summer, specifically psychiatry research at UChicago Medical Center. I’m pre-med, but major in environmental bio, so I was eager to have a wide range of research experiences.

What’s one lesson you took away from the experience?

I discovered this opportunity when Dr. Kim Prather, the director of CAICE, delivered an incredible talk here at Colgate and I was inspired to introduce myself. Never underestimate the power of putting yourself out there professionally! One of the greatest takeaways from my summer experience was that I am fully capable of excelling in scientific research– something I wasn’t so sure of before my internship.




Benton Summer Profile Series- Katrina Jackson ’21

By Brent Fujioka on September 24, 2018

Katrina Jackson, Class of 2021

Katrina on campus at the Pauls Stradins University Hospital in Riga, Latvia.

This summer, Katrina traveled to Riga, Latvia to study and get hands-on experience in a foreign healthcare system. She was able to work in both the Emergency Department of the capital city’s largest hospital as an ER tech, as well as on an ambulance serving some of the poorer neighborhoods in Latvia. While the medical experience was extremely valuable, Katrina says she found the political and financial comparisons of the American versus Latvian healthcare systems to be one of the most interesting aspects of her trip.

What inspired you to intern in a foreign healthcare system this summer?

My family is from Latvia and I have many connections to the country, so I was excited to visit family and learn more about my heritage, while still gaining some intensive medical experience. I also wanted to put my training as an EMT to use in a country which is further behind in modern medicine/healthcare, partly due to its history of Soviet occupation. It was incredibly interesting to see first-hand the differences between the US emergency health system and the Latvian system. 

What is one lesson you feel you learned after this experience?

One important thing I learned during my trip was the importance of body language in medical treatment. This sounds fairly insignificant, but a smile or similar sign of reassurance can make an incredible difference in situations where a patient is in pain or is unsure what the future holds. Latvia also has a large Russian population so, while I speak Latvian, I could not communicate well with the patients who spoke Russian. It was in these times, especially, that I could appreciate the power of gestures and body language in tense situations. All people, regardless of what language they speak or where they come from, want to know that they are being helped and that someone is there for them. It’s a fairly simple lesson, but an important one which sometimes goes unnoticed in today’s busy health system, I think. 


Benton Summer Profile Series- Mae Martel ’22

By Brent Fujioka on September 24, 2018

Mae Martel, Class of 2022

Mae working with her students in Hefei, China

This summer, Mae worked as a teacher at two different language immersion camps: one in America and one in Hefei, China. She was able to teach Chinese language and culture in America, and then lead English language and STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art and Math) projects in China. She reflected on her experience, “In America, I was highly discouraged from speaking English to the students, and in China, I was told not to speak Chinese to the children, yet in both camps the children knew next to nothing about the other language.” Because the goal of each camp was complete language immersion, Mae had to challenge herself and her students to overcome these significant initial language barriers.

What inspired you to work at two different language immersion camps this summer?

I love the Chinese language and culture, so both of my teaching jobs were the ideal outlets for me to share my passions for STEM and Chinese with others. Since my sophomore year of high school, I have been bringing STEM projects to children across Central New York, in schools, libraries, refugee resettlement centers, and community events. I saw the Hefei job as a great opportunity to combine my passion for Chinese with my previous volunteer work, as well as a way to travel to China and immerse myself in a new environment. Both jobs were also wonderful chances for me to practice my own Chinese skills, stay active (since I also taught Chinese ethnic dancing, along with tea-making, paper cutting and wrapping Baozi) and have an income over the summer.

What is one lesson you feel you learned after this experience?

From these experiences, I was able to witness the genuine appreciation young children have for other cultures, and their enthusiasm to do all that they can to keep trying in the face of challenges. Many times, children would become frustrated if they could not understand my instructions, or were struggling in the immersive environment, yet their persistence and gradual improvement taught me that a passion for learning can surpass any obstacle.


Benton Summer Profile Series- Giovanni Vigilante ’22

By Brent Fujioka on September 24, 2018

Giovanni Vigilante, Class of 2022

Giovanni exploring at the São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Portugal.

This summer, Giovanni traveled to Europe for two and a half weeks with his cousins. The group stayed in Amsterdam, Lisbon, and ventured through southern Portugal. Next they explored the cities of Spain, and then flew to Edinburgh, Scotland. Some of the highlights of Giovanni’s trip included Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, the Alhambra, and the Sagrada Família. “It was an amazing experience,” Giovanni said, “I have always loved to travel and I want to see as much of the world that I can.” His summer trip served as the perfect way to fulfill his love for exploration while also pursuing his personal interests in art and architecture.

What inspired you to travel to all these places this summer?

My cousins and I did some research and knew that we wanted to see Spain and Portugal for the history, culture, food, architecture, etc. We went to Amsterdam and Edinburgh because the airline we flew on didn’t go direct to Spain or Portugal. We had to stop in those countries anyway, so we took some time to stay in them too. I loved trying new things, foods, and experiencing new cultures. 

What is one lesson you took away from the experience?

I feel like I learned a lot about becoming friends and interacting with all different kinds of people. I stayed in hostels, which was a great way to meet people from all around the globe and learn more about where they came from. It made me realize how two places can be even more different and unique than you may initially think.


Benton Summer Profile Series- Tavy Alford ’22

By Brent Fujioka on September 24, 2018

Tavy Alford, Class of 2022

Tavy was ready to help at the City Smiles Dental office!

Over the summer, Tavy worked her first job at City Smiles Dental. Through her work, she was able learn about the many different aspects of dental hygiene and office logistics. She first started working in the front, making appointments, getting medical files, and managing schedules. From there, Tavy worked her way to the back, cleaning rooms and setting up for procedures. She was then able to work in the lab, taking X-rays and organizing lab work or equipment, such as dentures and partials. She also gained experience working on the administrative side of the office, by learning how to do payroll and filing all of the expense reports for the last year. On working hands-on with all these different areas of the dental office, Tavy said, “It was a really rewarding experience and I got to learn a lot about a field that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to experience.”

What inspired you to work this summer at City Smiles Dental?

I wanted to work at City Smiles because I have always been interested in the medical field. People usually forget about dentistry being a part of the medical field, as I had. I wanted to work there because I knew so little about it. I’ve studied a lot about other more traditional practices of medicine and dentistry just never came up. I used the opportunity to work there to broaden my horizon and understanding of the body as a whole.

What’s one lesson you took away from the experience?

I learned that dentistry is actually a really intricate field. People forget that the mouth is a part of the body as well and that you have to take care of it as such. Taking care of your mouth is like a first line of defense for a lot of illnesses and should be treated that way.