Published on June 21, 2012, by in Internships, Research.

Nikki Sanford in front of Duke ChapelThis summer I’m working at Duke University/Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL), where I am conducting research. TUNL is the nuclear physics and astrophysics collaboration between Duke, UNC- Chapel Hill, and NC State. In the past 3 weeks I’ve been here, I’ve learned about the various labs and instruments on site, such as the particle accelerators, Free Electron Laser, and the Lab for Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics.

My research deals with simulation models for the Helium and Lead Observatory (HALO) at SNOLAB in Ontario, Canada. HALO is being constructed to study neutrinos emitted from supernovae. Billions of neutrinos pass through us daily, but with their tiny size and neutral charge, we don’t even feel them! 

Bursts of neutrinos shoot out of supernovae first, up to a few hours before photons which make them visible. The high-density nucleus of HALO’s lead blocks can react with a neutrino to form a neutron, which will hit the Helium-3 detectors and produce a signal. So this can let scientists know where to look for a supernovae, and watch the entire explosion. 

I’ve been editing and running simulation programs for HALO, which will let scientists know what signals to expect when an influx of neutrinos comes into the detector. To do this, I’m using Geant4 and ROOT, which are C++ based, CERN developed platforms for simulating and graphing particle interactions. Learning these programs have been challenging, but the work is definitely paying off. I’m currently constructing the water shield around the detector within the simulation program, and testing the neutron counter efficiency. 

I’m having a great time so far at Duke, getting to know all the other interns, and meeting many professors/grad students. I’ll check back next week with updates on everything going on here!

Published on June 21, 2012, by in Business, Internships.

Rising HPU Senior, Johnathan Jones, and the Entrepreneur Center’s youngest Entrepreneur age 10.

When I began my search for an internship this summer, a friend told me about the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, TN. This place has been the perfect fit! I get to actually use what I am learning in my major on a daily basis.

As an intern at the EC, I get to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into working start-up businesses by preparing business pitches, creating business plans and working on marketing strategies. In future entries, I will go into detail about what I have done with some of the start-ups.

The Entrepreneur Center is home to the Jumpstart Foundry. JSF puts new companies through a 14-week intensive bootcamp that prepares them to raise investor capital. This summer is going to be non-stop, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

-Johnathan Jones ‘13


This picture is of me and Coleen (another research assistant). I was practicing attaching physiological measurement sensors, and she was my participant. These sensors measure things like body temperature, respiration, heart rate and sweat response.

To be a well-rounded researcher, you have to be creative enough to design and advertise an experiment, resourceful enough to find funding, aware enough to keep participants engaged, and intelligent enough to properly organize and analyze data. This week the Yale Positive Emotion and Psychopathology (YPEP) laboratory has helped me sharpen my data organization/analysis skills. This technical, and sometimes tedious, component of research is a huge part of being a psychologist. Data can come in all shapes and sizes, including questionnaire responses, neuroimaging, and even sweat production. A great psychologist knows how to combine different types of data from research participants in order to flesh out the big picture.

My first task this week was to write excel file MACROS for eye tracking data. A current experiment in the lab involves tracking participants’ eyes while they review a series of emotionally charged photographs. Recorded eye movement is then turned into ‘fixation’ data that is measured in milliseconds and ‘eye measurement’ data which measures the dilation of the pupil. This data helps researchers understand what specific stimuli within photos elicit emotional responses, which can be confirmed by the participant’s self-reported feelings. My job was to modify formulas to organize this eye tracking data.

My second, and more exciting task this week, was reviewing fMRI images. These images are a series of photographs that are taken using a magnet that is 60,000 stronger than the earth’s natural magnetic pull. These photos require the participant to lay very still while the photos are taken. It was my job to review these 3D photographs of the brain and ensure that they were not out of sync because of a fidgety participant. It was really cool combing through various brain images and seeing real examples of the brain regions. Speaking of which, I need to go make sure that I complete this MRI pre-processing before the week’s out. Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in on my next post!

Published on June 20, 2012, by in Internships, Journalism.

I started my Internship at the Huffington Post, on May 14. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I hadn’t even been to their office yet! I was interviewed over a series of phone calls in March, while I was still in North Carolina at High Point University. The Friday before I started, I received an email with the address of the AOL Building, who owns the Post, in New York City along with what time I was supposed to meet my college recruiter. 

I boarded my train with this information, my train ticket and two pairs of shoes. (My mom, who has been commuting into the city for the last 10+ years, told me I should always have two pairs of shoes.)

After the hour long train ride into Penn Station, the HopStop app on my iPhone told me I needed to walk two blocks to 32nd street to board the N. subway train.  Three stops later I was on 8th and Broadway. I walked around the corner to enter ny new home for the next three months. I checked-in with security and they directed me to the 5th floor of the AOL building. Through locked glass doors I was buzzed in by a receptionist, and told to wait on the couch.

There were TVs playing though all of the AOL logos, fun paintings, people walking around carrying a MacBooks and chairs. A lot of really funky chairs.My college recruiter, Caitlin, met me soon after, and greeted me with a “Swag Bag” full of AOL goodies. I could definitely get used to this. 

She went through the companies standards and policies.  An hour later, we were upstairs picking up my lap top. I was completely floored. I had no idea what to say or think except that this was amazing. 

After that, she delivered me to the Huffington Post area. It’s a giant room that consists of rows and rows of large white desks and tons of hardworking people. Large flat screen TV’s hang from the ceilings, constantly playing the news. I looked around and everyone was busy buried into their computers, their desks piled high with books, AOL items and Starbucks coffee cups (I quickly learned, it’s free here). 

I searched through the Huffington Post page, there was endless amounts of information and something for everyone to read. My editor, Jessica, introduced herself and began to show me the software behind the blog. 

I began meeting more people on the Impact Section and even joined a staff meeting on my first day! That goes to show that who my friends thought I’d be getting coffee and making photo copies were wrong about my responsibilities here. (Come to think of it. I have been here almost a month and still don’t know where the copy machine is.)

I spent the rest of the afternoon researching story ideas that we could write on and add to the blog. 

I raced to my subway and caught the train home to do it all over again.


Hello everyone!  So last post I was trying to find out if the receptor GPR109a was present in the retina of the eye. Luckily it was present in the endothelium cells!  My next step is to perform immunocytochemistry. In this procedure, primary antibodies target the peptide of interest, then a secondary antibody binds to the primary. The secondary antibody has a fluorescent tag that allows you to tell if the protein of whatever you’re looking for is present; in this case I am looking for the actual protein expression of GPR109a.  

During the middle of the experiments, a camera crew came into my lab to video tape one of our professors.  They asked my post doc and I to be in the background of the promotional video!  There also was another grad student who returned from his vacation in India who brought some food treats for everyone. It goes to show that doing experiments is not the only thing that happens in the lab!