Pre-Med Student ‘Takes 5’ to Appreciate Art

By Joseph Bailey
University Communications

Billal Masood ’13/T5 ’14 came out of his years as an undergraduate last spring with a degree in biology and all the right qualifications for medical school…but he decided to spend a fifth year at Rochester to pursue an interest in fine art. He is finishing up his Take 5 year as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he works under the supervision of Michelle Hagewood, as a spring gallery and studio programs intern in the Education Department of the Met. He serves as a teaching assistant for studio programs, and also does research for the museum’s Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art grant. He learned of the internship in 2012, when visiting the Met, and is in the “Big Apple” through the University’s Art NY program

While Masood’s undergraduate career has seen him earn a degree in biology, with a minor in English and a cluster in psychology, he sees potential in developing new art-based therapies, where he hopes to apply what he has learned during the Art New York experience with what he will learn at medical school.

This year’s program attracted a variety of majors, including biology, business, and economics majors, etc., but they all shared a common interest in art. The program seeks to help students gain insight into the marriage of art theory and practice. His internship duties include serving as a T.A. for studio art programs, educating the general population of museum-goers, and lining up specific tours for the class he assists.

With regards to theory and practice of art, interns in the Art New York program take three classes: their individual internship, a colloquium, and a new media course. For the colloquium, the professor, Elizabeth Cohen, gives many lectures, and invites frequent guest lecturers as well. The program exposes students to the art scene in NYC, through immersion as well as instruction. Masood says, “I’m proud to have been a participant.”

Masood credits his family and Rochester faculty members for nurturing his love for art and academia. It’s a passion that his Met internship is deepening. He is constantly exploring the two million square feet of galleries the Met has to offer; often taking short lunch breaks to maximize his time seeing the art. These excursions have even taken him to the Guggenheim, which has piqued his interest in the relationship between art and architecture.

Some of the pieces Masood has spent the most time appreciating are The Temple of Dendur, Shiva as Lord of Dance, and a painting, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies. The Temple of Dendur is a massive piece that includes inscriptions of many ancient Egyptian gods, including Isis, Osiris, and Horus. In Masood’s opinion, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies reflects nature’s beauty and peace. He noted how his time at the museum has helped mature his appreciation of art.“I’m constantly involved in both behind-the-scenes and readily visible preparations,” he said. “I really hope to increase my understanding and appreciation of art each day.”

Undergrad Juggles Physics, Astronomy, And … Rings

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

As a Take 5 scholar at the University of Rochester, Adam Lanman augmented his education in physics and astronomy with the study of equilibristics and manipulation. While these may sound like terms heard in a science lab, they’re actually the nomenclature of a different venue: the circus stage. And, thanks to Take 5, a program that allowed Lanman to spend a fifth year at Rochester tuition free conducting an independent study with the Department of Dance and Movement, he was able to immerse himself in the art of circus performance. His work culminated on Saturday, April 27, during No Elephants Allowed, a performance of skills and tricks he acquired during his year-long study.

A four-year member of the University’s Strong Jugglers, Lanman parlayed his interest in juggling into a research project that sent him to Bristol, UK for fall 2012. There, he studied with Circomedia, a school that specializes in four areas of circus performance: physical theater, partner acrobatics and tumbling, aerial skills including the trapeze, ropes, and silks, and equilibristics and manipulation, which includes juggling and balancing on unicycles and stilts. During his three months at Circomedia, he trained extensively to prepare his body for the twists, turns, and balancing moves required of a circus performer. After five weeks on basic skills, he focused on juggling, equilibristics, and manipulation.

For Lanman, the connection between circus performance and dance was obvious. “There’s a movement in contemporary circus performance that has shifted from the spectacle and awe you might see in Barnum & Bailey to a more aesthetic, artistic appeal that has similar goals to dance,” says Lanman, noting the rise in popularity of shows like Cirque du Soleil. When he returned to Rochester for the spring semester, he enrolled in courses that taught choreography, improvisation, and playwriting.

During Lanman’s performance on Saturday, he showcased a variety of juggling tricks, including a two-stage pirouette, in which he tossed three objects into the air, spun once, caught two of the objects, spun again, and caught the third. He also performed acrobatics and dance routines and showed off some newly acquired clowning skills.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Lanman will finish his Take 5 year this May, and head to Brown University to pursue a doctoral degree in physics.

Internship Leads to Career Ambition for Rochester Senior

Univ. Communications – Jonathan Grima is an ambitious young man. The pre-med neuroscience major is not only doing a Take 5 year in environmental economics, he also is completing a senior thesis using research from his continued work in Dr. Kim Tieu’s neuroscience lab.

Grima, originally from New York City, graduated from LaGaurdia High School, where he studied drama. He visited the University of Rochester after hearing about it from his high school mentor. Grima was struck by the willingness of students and faculty from different disciplines to sit down and work together.  “It wasn’t cut throat here and I really liked that,” he said.

His interest in drama got him thinking about the mind which led him to minor in clinical psychology. When Grima heard about the neuroscience program, which combined his interest in the mind with science, he decided to make it his major. In early 2010, after reading about the work being done at the U of R Medical Center on the neurobiology of disease, Grima became particularly interested in Dr. Tieu’s lab and emailed him expressing his interest.  “[H]e was in the process of interviewing candidates for an undergraduate position. Just my luck; I was just in time,” Grima said. “I was lucky enough to receive the position and I have been working with him ever since.”  Using his research from Dr. Tieu’s lab, Grima has been working on his thesis since May 2011.

Grima’s research focuses specifically on the treatment of Huntington’s disease, which is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder passed down through families. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Huntington’s disease comes in two forms, early-onset Huntington’s disease, which is a rare form of the disease that begins in childhood or adolescence, and adult-onset Huntington’s disease, the more common form, which typically manifests itself during a person’s mid-30s and 40s.  Physical symptoms include jerking and uncontrollable movements that become progressively more exaggerated.  Cognitive problems also worsen over time, and ultimately lead to dementia and death.

The lab in which he works is testing Dr. Tieu’s theory that by suppressing the function of a certain protein they can provide a restorative effect for individuals with Huntington’s disease.  His research focuses on two methods of suppressing the protein and treating Huntington’s disease.  One method aims to treat the condition using gene therapy, while the other method treats it through the use of drugs.  In May, Grima will present his thesis and findings to a committee gathered together by his thesis adviser and mentor, Dr. Tieu. The experience of researching treatments for the disease has been transformative for Grima. “It has given me an interest in research,” he said. “I would like to continue with it in the future if I can.”

In March he will present preliminary findings to his peers at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Utah.  Grima is one of several University of Rochester students in many disciplines to be invited to the conference.  “It should be great,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what students from other disciplines are presenting.”

After graduation in the spring, Grima plans to take a gap year to continue his research in Dr. Tieu’s lab full time.  He is currently studying for the MCAT and hopes to get into the University of Rochester Medical School where he would like to continue his research and earn an MD/PhD.  Like I said, Jonathan Grima is an ambitious young man.

Article written by Daniel Baroff, a senior at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. He is majoring in religion with a minor in Jewish studies.  His main area of study is the involvement of Jews in the American comic book industry, for which he keeps an infrequently updated blog (

In the Photo: Phillip Rappold (left), a doctoral degree student in the neuroscience graduate program, has acted as a mentor for Rochester undergrad Jonathan Grima (right) in Dr. Kim Tieu’s lab. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Grima.

Open Letter Press Opens Doors for Sophomore Taylor McCabe

Open Letter Press – Think that just because you’re an underclassman the world of challenging, productive internships is out of reach? Think again. This summer, sophomore Taylor McCabe worked in the offices of the University’s Open Letter Press and led the effort to compile a new e-book to be published this week.

McCabe made plans to stay in Rochester for the summer after her freshman year and applied for the Open Letter internship when she saw that the work involved would compliment her knowledge and skill level. A French major, McCabe has been interested in the world of literary translation and publication.

Open Letter maintains a blog called Three Percent, regularly updated by Director Chad Post and other staff members. From the start of the internship in mid-May, McCabe was assigned the task of sifting through nearly 3,700 blog posts and choosing the ones that adequately and interestingly related to current issues in the publishing industry and the world of translation. The book is essentially a 394-page anthology of 69 articles, some created from single original posts and others being longer essays synthesized from several posts.

“It’s a rare opportunity for an undergrad to help put together a book for publication,” said Post, “Taylor really rose to the challenge though, and deserves a lot of praise for making this book what it is.”

McCabe says that the book will be a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the publishing industry and the complexities involved in publishing foreign literature in English.  While it is a comprehensive resource it is also full of jokes and anecdotes from within the industry.  “I would say it’s a good book to read if you’re going to have an interview at a publisher in a couple of weeks,” said McCabe.

“Now I have such a wealth of knowledge about publishing and international literature,”  she continued, explaining that her task this summer was both daunting and rewarding. McCabe is now intimately acquainted with all of the current issues in the translation and publication of foreign literature in America.  As a result she is considering a future career path into the world of publishing.

McCabe also found the Open Letter work environment stimulating but not intimidating or overly competitive. She and the other four interns had ample time to do research independently to familiarize themselves with the field. In addition to the Three Percent e-book, McCabe also read and reviewed two published books, read and wrote readers’ reports on two unpublished manuscripts, and copy edited one manuscript throughout the summer.

Having had this experience at such an early time in her undergraduate career, McCabe has decided to apply for the Translation Certificate and now views translators as super heroes.  “I’m definitely more impressed by translators that I was before,” she said, “After this internship I wound up reading more and more [international literature]. It gives you a good idea of the viewpoint and aesthetics of other cultures.”

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications.  She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world.  An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo.  She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia ( and the other to photography (

Rochester Students Awarded Competitive Study Abroad Scholarship

Univ. Communications – Nine University of Rochester students have been awarded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships for fall 2011. Students are chosen through a competitive application process. The scholarship program seeks to increase the number of students who choose non-traditional locations, students with financial need, and students from under-represented fields, such as engineering and science.

Nine undergraduates were selected from a national pool of applicants. This year’s recipients are:

Ki Cheng (Orlando, Fla.), a junior psychology major, will study in Copenhagen, Denmark. Breanna Eng (Holtsville, N.Y.), a junior chemistry major, will study in Auckland, New Zealand. Ryan Gelfand (Laytonsville, Md.), a junior archaeology, technology, and historical structures major, will study in Arezzo, Italy. Ashley Haluck-Kangas (Greensburg, Pa.), a senior biology major, will study in Helsinki, Finland. Kindred Harris (Hermansville, Miss.), a senior biology major, will study in London, United Kingdom. Nathaly Luna (Corona, N.Y.), a junior religion major, will study in Rabat, Morocco. Zachary Palomo (Hondo, Texas), a junior international relations and Russian major, will study in St. Petersburg, Russia. Megan Roberts (Rochester, N.Y.), a senior health and society major, will study in Cape Town, South Africa. Madeline Skellie (Greenwich, N.Y.), a junior international relations major, will study in Cape Town, South Africa.

Palomo and Roberts will be abroad for the full academic year. Seniors Haluck-Kangas and Roberts are studying abroad as part of Rochester’s Take Five program, which offers participating students a fifth, tuition-free year to pursue an interest beyond their traditional majors.

“Our students continue to be competitive when applying for scholarships such as the Gilman,” said Jacqueline Levine, director of Rochester’s Center for Study Abroad and Interdepartmental Programs. “We are delighted that they have been recognized for their leadership and academic success and are thrilled that these scholarships will help them participate in study abroad programs in a variety of countries.”

Since the Gilman Scholarship began in 2002, 75 University of Rochester students have won Gilman awards. The scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Institute of International Education, which also administers the prestigious Fulbright fellowships. Selected undergraduates receive up to $8,000 each for tuition, travel, lodging, and insurance.