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Courtney Astemborski

How I Found and Landed a Graduate Assistantship

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If you have been keeping up with my blog posts, you will know that I have been holding a graduate assistantship position during my time with the TEAM program. My title is Spirit Coordinator and my primary role is to maintain and schedule appearances of the University of Rochester mascot, Rocky the Yellowjacket, as well as participate in special events for my office. This job is a joint position through Wilson Commons Student Activities and the Athletics Department. It is a 20-hour per week position with 15 hours scheduled in the office and 5 hours available for activities on the weekends and evenings. I have chosen to write about this position in this blog post because I feel that this is a unique part of my experience as I complete the TEAM program.

Around this time last year, I was looking into options to help me with my finances while I was in graduate school. I was worried about paying rent for housing as well as having spending money for food and activities during the year. When my sister was in graduate school at another university, she held a graduate assistantship, which acted as a scholarship program. So the first thing I did was research potential positions through the University. I began by contacting many different departments from the Office of Minority Student Affairs to Admissions to Residential Life to the Office of the Dean of Students and many more. I figured the more departments I contacted, the greater the chance of finding a position. This experience taught me that it is important to put myself out there and survey all of my options, a skill I am using today as I search for a full time job. While many departments did not have formal graduate assistantships, I received a lot of positive feedback and assistance from them. From suggesting other departments to contact, to telling me about other employment opportunities that they offered, I felt the University of Rochester community was extremely supportive in helping with my search.

I eventually came across the graduate assistantship page for Residential Life and the Office of the Dean of Students on the University website. This page showed all of the graduate assistantship positions that were being offered for the upcoming year in these departments and directed me to job descriptions, application deadlines, and the contact information for the specific positions. This is where I found the description of the Spirit Coordinator position. It was past the deadline for the application; however, I figured I would still give it a shot and submitted my resume and cover letter to Wilson Commons Student Activities and Athletics. Soon I received an interview and then a job offer.

I have really enjoyed holding this position for the past nine months because it has allowed me to be further involved with the Rochester community. During my graduate work, I wanted to still feel like I was a part of the University community since I have been a student here for so many years and I think that this is just one way I have been able to give back. Many doors have been opened to me through this position, and I have developed many new relationships with other graduate students who are not in the TEAM program. Lastly, because I hold this position, I was able to financially afford staying in Rochester for one more year to participate in the TEAM program.

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney

Courtney and Bill Hader

Winterfest Weekend

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At the University of Rochester, there are four community weekends: Yellowjacket Weekend, Meliora Weekend, Winterfest Weekend, and Springfest Weekend. These weekends include some of the most treasured traditions at the University of Rochester. They are a great time for the community to come together to celebrate the season, enjoy some fun times, and remember that the University is much more than an academic institution.

This year Winterfest Weekend was held from January 30th to February 1st and it was another successful community weekend! These community weekends are sponsored by Wilson Commons Student Activities and because I hold a graduate assistantship position in this office, I worked during some of the highlighted events of the weekend.

I first attended the Winter Wonderland. I really enjoyed this event because Hirst Lounge in Wilson Commons as well as the Wilson Commons porch transform into a beautiful winter landscape (and we even got some snow the night before so there was a fresh dusting). There were many activities at the Winter Wonderland including free s’mores, the Java’s Coffee truck, huskies, photo illusions, and an ice carving demonstration. The ice carving demonstration was extra exciting this year because they made a replica of the iconic Rush Rhees Library. Lastly, each year at the Winter Wonderland there is a free giveaway. This year’s gift was a free winter hat!

The next event that was a highlight for me was the Taste of Rochester dinner in Douglass Dining Center. This dinner featured make-your-own garbage plates: a true Rochester meal! They had all of the fixings plus some University of Rochester favorites like crispy onions and Mel sauce. I feel that this was the perfect meal to have on a community weekend at the University of Rochester because it was able to connect the University community with the city of Rochester community and traditions.

Lastly, the best part of this year’s Winterfest Weekend was attending the headline event: a Q&A with Bill Hader. Bill Hader is a comedian known for his eight seasons on Saturday Night Live as well as films such as Superbad and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. He is one of my favorite comedians and I was super excited to get the chance to see him speak. Through my position at Wilson Commons Student Activities, I was able to meet Bill prior to the show. I brought him a copy of that week’s edition of the school newspaper, the Campus Times, because there was a featured article about him. Even more exciting, after the show, we were able to get a picture with him.

These community weekends have always been a great experience for me and I am lucky that my job gave me the unique opportunity of meeting Bill Hader!

 

 

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney

Taking a Closer Look: Undergraduate and Graduate Courses

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If you have read my previous posts, you will know that I completed my undergraduate education here at the University of Rochester in biomedical engineering. I received my bachelor’s degree in May and began my pursuit for a master’s degree in September. It is difficult for me to compare the core TEAM classes with undergraduate courses because I did not take any business courses while I was an undergraduate; however, since I have continued with BME as my concentration for TEAM, I have had the opportunity to take a step back and accurately compare and contrast undergraduate-level BME classes with graduate-level classes. For the most part, I have found that the differences between the two levels of courses are typically dependent on the course itself and the decisions of the professor who teaches it.

In the fall, for my concentration, I completed two biomedical engineering courses that each ran for only half of the semester, and one biology course. In September and October I took Controlled Release Systems and in November and December I took Biomedical Nanotechnology. The first difference that I noticed in these graduate-level biomedical engineering courses was that they were much more specialized. These two classes focused heavily on a particular topic, which I really liked. It was great to feel that I was becoming an expert on these two topics because of the small class size and in-depth lectures. So in general, these two classes were pretty different from my undergraduate classes.

On the other hand, the biology course that I took last fall, Developmental Biology, was very similar to an undergraduate-level biology course. In fact, it was cross-listed as an undergraduate course so I was taking it alongside many senior biology majors. I sat in the same lectures as these students and took the same tests. I thought this was an effective learning environment for me because my peers had a lot of biology background. While I do have some biology background, I do not have as much as a biology major so I was able to learn not only from my professor, but also from my peers.

The two courses that remain to complete my concentration are Bioprocess Engineering and Biomedical Ultrasound. These two courses are, in a sense, a combination of the two types of classes previously described. These two courses, similar to Developmental Biology, are cross-listed as undergraduate courses; however, the coursework for graduate students is a little bit different. In Bioprocess Engineering, I will complete an extra project at the end of the semester. In Biomedical Ultrasound, I will complete a project individually whereas undergraduates complete it in groups. Also, in this class, graduate students often have an extra question or two on our homework and tests.

So in short, as you can tell, the differences and similarities are course dependent. I would not say that graduate courses are significantly more difficult than undergraduate courses; however, they do provide more in-depth conversation, learning, and critical thinking – something I truly value about graduate school.

 

 

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney

Courtney and friends

Winter Break: Family Traditions and Quality Time with Friends

By | Blog Posts

For me, winter break has always been a great time spent with family and friends. This occurs naturally because of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays that occur over this break. These holidays are some of my favorite because they are a time of happiness, joy, and peace.

Christmas is filled with many traditions in my family. On Christmas Eve, my family attends mass at our parish, St. Pius X Church. At this mass, there is a reenactment of the nativity for children. I always enjoy seeing this play because when I was in middle school and high school I played many different roles and it is a great pastime for me. I love to see that it is still a part of the tradition of the Church.

After mass, my family goes to my paternal grandmother’s house to have dinner and exchange gifts with my father’s side of the family. Our dinner includes some traditional Polish food like pierogies and pickled herring. Prior to dinner, we participate in the Polish tradition of the breaking of the oplatek (Christmas wafer). Each family member is given a piece of the oplatek and goes around the table wishing everyone good health, joy, and happiness for the upcoming year while sharing a piece of the wafer. It is tradition that this breaking of the oplatek begins with my grandmother and follows in a sequential order based on age. This is a great way for my family to reconnect with everyone and spend some time together.mom cooking

On Christmas Day, we spend the whole day at my house and my mother’s family comes for dinner. The day begins with a gift exchange between my immediate family and presents from Santa Claus. It has become a new tradition that my sister and I assist our mother with making hors d’oeuvres for the day, as well as baking desserts for after dinner. Each year, my mother makes lasagna in order to touch on our Italian roots. She is quite famous for her lasagna and each year I think it gets better and better. It is wonderful to see my family on Christmas Day as my cousins are beginning to grow their families with marriages and children and this is a great time to see all the growth that has happened in the past year.

New Year’s has always been a fun holiday for me because it is a time to celebrate the approaching year as well as to reflect on the previous year. In 2014, I had the privilege to graduate from college, enter graduate school, and begin my adult life. To celebrate this New Year’s Eve, I traveled to Boston, MA with some of my best friends from high school. This was great because we haven’t been able to spend this much time with one another since before entering college and it allowed for a truly memorable experience. Whether it was walking the streets of the North End, grabbing lunch in Quincy Market, or stopping at the outlets for some shopping, it was a wonderful start to the year.

These holidays were the highlights of my break and I now feel rested and excited to return to Rochester for another semester in the TEAM program!

 

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney

 

HemoBox Team

Screening Technologies

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As part of the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management program, we complete a course entitled TEM 440: Screening Technologies, taught by Mark Wilson. It focuses on the assessment of whether or not technologies have desirable commercial attributes and should be taken to market. First, we look at all of the technologies that are patented (provisional, pending, or issued) and held through UR Ventures, the University’s office of technology transfer. We then narrow over 400 technologies down to two ideas that we wish to “thicken” and determine whether or not they are worthy of continuing with business and product development.

 

As part of this course, we are required to attend High Tech Rochester’s Pre-Seed Workshop. This workshop is a two and a half day event that is similarly structured to the TEM 440 course, but moves at a much faster pace. Participants work in teams to heavily research and develop the business potential of a technological idea, which is provided by an idea champion. This year, 13 teams participated in the event. Each team consists of the idea champion, subject matter experts, coaches, contributing observers, and university students. There were also some patent attorneys at the workshop to help with legal advice. The TEAM students participate by conducting market research and are there to learn firsthand what it is like to begin a start-up.

 

I was lucky to have a Pre-Seed Workshop experience that was unique from the other TEAM students’ experience. Before the workshop, when High Tech Rochester was accepting applications for idea champions, Professor Wilson encouraged us to apply. I was eager to hear about this opportunity as I have been working on a project that I felt could go through this process.

 

Hemo-Box is a product that my senior design team and I developed last year during the University of Rochester’s Biomedical Engineering Senior Design program. The Hemo-Box is a blood transport cooler for hospitals and blood banks that need to safely transport, store, and monitor the temperature of blood. Each year over $10 million of blood products are wasted due to insufficient temperature regulation. This waste puts further strain on an already depleted supply of donor blood. Many hospitals have found picnic coolers to be the most effective tool for keeping blood units cold while patients await transfusions; however, these can be unreliable and unsafe for the blood. Hemo-Box provides more reliable cooling and the ability to monitor and log the temperature to alert hospital staff when corrective action is needed.

 

Going through the workshop as an idea champion was a lot of work and was tiring; however, it was definitely a worthwhile experience. I would have to say that the best part of this experience was receiving feedback from professionals in the manufacturing and marketing worlds. Since this device started as a senior design project, most of my resources have been from the University and as a result, I was lacking the knowledge of how this device could realistically hold up in the market and how it could effectively be manufactured. I feel that coming out of the workshop, I have learned that while there are still some flaws with the business development of this device, it is definitely worth taking it to the next step.

 

 

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney

Let the Job Search Begin

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Just a few weeks ago, I gave my father a call to tell him something that I was super excited about. As he answered the phone, I blurted out “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today is the day that I officially began my job search.” You may now be wondering what it was that exactly marked this beginning. Well, for me, it was attending the first Career Lunch of the year for TEAM students. At this lunch, I was inspired and became eager to begin searching for a job.

 

I would like to step back a little now and tell you why I was so excited about this. When making my decision on which graduate program to attend, my number one requirement was career placement. I wanted to be enrolled in a program that I felt would launch my career as a biomedical engineer with an interest in management and business. As I researched the TEAM program and saw that the overall placement rate for graduates was 90% within six months, I knew this was the program for me.

 

Career Lunches are held once a month for TEAM students. At the first one, we were exposed to the many services that we are offered while here. To me, the most helpful thing to learn about was the fact that we are provided with the resources of both the University’s Gwen M. Greene Career & Internship Center and the Simon Business School’s Career Management Center. That is like getting the best of both worlds! Since I did my undergraduate degree here I was familiar with the tools from the Gwen Greene Center such as CareerLink and CareerShift and it was great to know that I still had access to these two helpful programs. A highlight of this Career Lunch was exploring SimonWorks. This program is similar to CareerLink; however, it has more of a focus on business and management since it is operated through Simon. I know that I will be using these programs extensively in my career search in the upcoming months.

 

A few days later, I scheduled a meeting with Kathy Driscoll. Kathy is TEAM’s assistant director for career management and is a part of the Career Management Center at the Simon Business School. She provides students with guidance and assistance in the job search. Our first item to tackle was my résumé. We sat down together and she provided me with feedback to make my résumé just right. From there, we discussed ways to narrow down my search. For me, we decided to narrow by location, as I am very interested in heading to Boston next. Kathy then suggested that I make a list of companies that I have an interest in. I really like this advice because looking for a job can be incredibly daunting and overwhelming. I feel that looking for a full-time job is practically a full-time job in and of itself. Kathy also provided me with some great tips to speak to alumni in my field.

 

While this is just the beginning, I am extremely excited to continue on this journey. Although it seems like it could take a long time, I am determined and confident that the support that I receive from the TEAM program will get me there.

 

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney

 

No Longer an Undergrad

By | Blog Posts

As I sit outside Starbucks in Wilson Commons and reflect on the past few weeks, I am filled with a mix of emotions. In May 2014, just a few months ago, I graduated from the University of Rochester with my Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering. I truly loved my undergraduate experience at the University of Rochester and decided that I would continue my education here for my Masters degree. When I researched the graduate programs that the University offered, I was excited about the TEAM program because of the emphasis on the fusion between engineering and business. As a senior at the U of R, I enrolled in the undergraduate Technical Entrepreneurship class, which opened the door to business for me. I was able to compete in the Mark Ain Business Model Competition, and I felt that this exposure to the Simon Business School confirmed that I wanted to stay in Rochester for one more year.

 

If I were asked to describe the transition between undergraduate life and graduate life at Rochester I would have to say: complex. The hardest part about this transition is the realization that I am no longer an undergraduate. The last time I was on campus, I was sitting on the Eastman Quadrangle graduating with some of my lifelong friends. I completed four great years of college, and I was excited to begin one more year of graduate school. It was the best day of my life and it was a surreal experience. When I returned in August to begin my graduate assistantship as the University’s spirit coordinator, I was eager to return and excited to start a life of independence. Campus was quiet, and I was finding myself in a comfortable routine. Soon, TEAM orientation was here and I was ready to meet my new classmates. But once classes began, life sped up very fast, and I quickly found myself back in the library as the rigor of classes changed. I also realized how different campus was without the people I spent the last four years with. I never before noticed how many familiar faces I saw on a daily basis on the River Campus. I was nervous that without my all of my friends from undergrad, I would not be able to enjoy this year.

 

Student on campusOver the past few weeks, I have been able to lessen this anxiety by making a simple change: moving forward with this next chapter in my life. I vow that I will no longer dwell on what life was like for the past four years, but rather forge ahead and find new things to do. While there is still room for improvement, I have made a few steps to do this already. For instance, I now pack my lunch each day rather eating in dining halls, I study in the grad-students-only study rooms in the Periodical Reading Room of Rush Rhees, and I have explored the previously unknown world of the Simon Business School. I can already see how these few changes have helped with this transition.

 

So in short, I would say that although the beginning of the year may not have begun as smoothly as I hoped it would, I have already started to find ways to improve this. I am enjoying the TEAM curriculum, I am making new friends from all around the world, and I am truly ecstatic that I have continued to make the University of Rochester my home for one more year.

 

– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)

Courtney