St. Olaf Campus News
St. Olaf College students Taylor Knopf ’18 and Morgan Turk ’18 are getting a glimpse into the day-to-day work of a physician through an internship created by Chris Johnson ’76.
A practicing physician and adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Johnson designed the internship to provide St. Olaf students with an experiential and educational opportunity. The students are shadowing Johnson and members of his Consultative Health and Medicine team as they visit with the patients and family members in Twin Cities assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.
“The internship is set up as an educational opportunity to engage students early on and provide them with a depth of experience and understanding that enhances their application and interviewing for medical school,” says Johnson, who works with the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to provide the opportunity to students.
It’s one of a number of pre-health internships that the Piper Center supports in an effort to provide St. Olaf students with in-depth experience in the health care field.
The mission at Consultative Health and Medicine is to deliver attentive, relationship-based, compassionate medical care that maximizes the health, comfort, and quality of life seniors experience as a resident of these communities.
“Everything we do at Consultative Health and Medicine is about establishing a relationship with the patient and the family,” says Johnson.
Knopf and Turk have spent approximately 18-20 hours per week for seven weeks shadowing and working with Johnson and nurse practitioners, consulting with patients, their families, and other health care providers. The internship emphasizes the opportunity to learn and practice skills in medical interviewing and physical examination.
“Every patient is interesting and endearing in their own way, so each day brings new challenges and surprises,” says Turk. “One surprise has been that the most difficult part is often speaking with the family and helping them understand the realities of their loved one’s disease. I’ve learned a lot about how to navigate difficult and emotional conversations, which I think is a crucial skill in practicing medicine.”
Every day Knopf and Turk go to a different memory care/assisted living facility and care for patients that need to have a certain problem addressed or just need a check up. They get to be active in the physical exam process by completing blood pressure readings, listening to heart and lung sounds, and using the otoscope to examine the ear.
“I have tried to model it on what they can expect to experience during their medical school clinical rotations,” says Johnson. “We visit with patients and families each day and then take time to discuss interesting aspects of what we learn from each person we see. The interns have an opportunity to do patient interviews and basic physical examination. There is also time to learn about the business and regulatory aspects of today’s healthcare.”
Knopf is considering a career that involves dementia care, a high priority for the Consultative Health and Medicine facilities.
“I was interested in working with Dr. Johnson because the opportunity to work at Consultative Health and Medicine allows me to see a variety of ways that health care professionals interact with their patients on a daily basis,” says Knopf. “I was also excited to receive the wisdom that Dr. Johnson and his staff could share on the topics of geriatrics, dementia, and provider-patient relationships, since this institution is dedicated to building relationships with their patients.”
Turk is also interested in the primary care aspect of working at Consultative Health and Medicine as well as working with geriatric patients, a field that involves the care of elders through focus on managing symptoms and increasing quality adjusted life years.
“Dr. Johnson is an incredible teacher with a friendly team; it has been an amazing summer working with his company!” says Knopf.
During her four years at St. Olaf College, Suzie Hoops ’17 was involved in a number of hands-on projects that applied mathematics to a wide variety of fields.
She joined an independent research project examining graph theory and linear algebra. She helped create a program analyzing phylogenetic trees. And she worked on a project quantifying particle movement in physical chemistry.
Hoops did much of this work through the St. Olaf Center for Interdisciplinary Research, a program that enhances communication between the different academic disciplines and engages faculty and students in problem-based collaborations.
“The CIR brings together people of completely different academic backgrounds. We talk about how we can help each other even though it may not seem like our fields of study are directly related,” says Hoops.
This spring Hoops worked with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Rodrigo Sanchez-Gonzalez, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Matthew Richey, and a team of fellow students — Michael Pearce ’17, Zach Norberg ’17, and Sasha Dmytrenko ’17 — to create a vector field describing the movement of high speed gas flow by capturing laser grid images and graphing the changes over time.
“I love being in a class where I’m with people who are experts in the field and I’m not. It’s amazing how many brilliant people there are on the St. Olaf campus,” says Hoops.
Hoops was recently awarded a Fulbright Combined Award to conduct research and teach in Austria this year. She will perform data visualization research at Johannes Kepler Universität in Linz, Austria, and teach English at a secondary school.
When Hoops returns from Austria, she hopes to work in data science and programming. “I plan to go to graduate school in a field related to biotechnology, but am looking to get some work experience first so I can figure out what field would be most helpful to my career aspirations,” she says.
In addition to her academic accomplishments at St. Olaf, Hoops was a two-time captain of both the Cross Country and Track & Field teams, sang in Collegiate Chorale, and served as co-president of the St. Olaf chapter of Habitat for Humanity. In the spring of 2016, she and co-presidents Kali Gustafson ’17 and Caitlin Nelson ’16 were awarded the Volunteer Program Directors of the Year.
“I truly would not be the person I am today if not for choosing to come to St. Olaf. I am so thankful for the academic opportunities, participation in athletics, and, above all, the friendships that have shaped me over these past four years,” says Hoops. “Being challenged by my peers and professors has given me a new perspective, and prepared me to learn for the rest of my life.”
A recent story in the Star Tribune highlights how St. Olaf College’s 350 acres of Natural Lands not only serve as a hands-on learning laboratory for students, but also play an important role in conservation efforts for native species like the bluebird.
“The 143-year-old Lutheran college is part of a greater survival story to rebuild Eastern bluebird populations that had declined in the 1960s and ’70s due to loss of savanna — their preferred habitat — and competition from nonnative birds,” notes Star Tribune writer Shannon Prather.
Since 1989 the college has conducted extensive natural habitat restoration projects on hundreds of acres of land it owns adjacent to the campus. This includes a bluebird trail comprised of 64 specially designed birdhouses through woodlands and prairies.
“Throughout the spring and summer, student biologists count and monitor eggs and fledglings. Student workers also serve as housekeepers, clearing out old nests and shooing away nonnative house sparrows from taking up residence in this prime real estate,” writes Prather.
St. Olaf College student Alison Curry ’19 is spending more than a month conducting air quality research and gaining insight from local residents in Beijing, China, with support from the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE).
The St. Olaf LIASE program, supported by a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, enables students to learn an Asian language and study environmental issues in Asia.
Curry, a social work major, is spending six weeks in an intensive language program to better her Chinese language abilities at Peking University.
“I’m really excited to go back to Beijing because I was there in January of 2017 for a study abroad trip but we were only able to spend three days there at the time, so I want to explore more of Beijing,” Curry says.
Each day Curry will record the air quality index (AQI) in Minneapolis and Beijing with the help of Megan Skelly ’17, who will be staying in Minnesota. Curry and Skelly will also collect a visual representation of the AQI through photos of the two cities.
“AQI has always interested me,” Curry says. “I will also hopefully talk to some of the native people of Beijing and ask how the air has affected their lives.”
Upon her return to St. Olaf this fall, Curry will present a poster including the AQI findings, photos, and the stories shared by the locals.
“I thought that Chinese would be a really beneficial language to learn, as they are a booming economy in the world. So I gave it a try! I have loved learning the language — although it is a challenge, the professors are so helpful and make learning it really fun,” Curry says. “I love all of the people that I have met from taking Chinese classes. Plus, there is small group of us that take Chinese classes so it’s like a little family and I really enjoy that.”
Two St. Olaf College students are preserving a 7,000 year old story told by ancient rock carvings at Jeffers Petroglyphs.
Claire Mumford ’18 and Olivia Snover ’19, with the guidance of St. Olaf Professor of History Tim Howe, have spent the summer in Comfrey, Minnesota, using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to record half a mile of Dakota religious carvings.
“RTI is a type of computational photography that captures images that you might not necessarily be able to see with the naked eye,” Mumford says. “We have a fixed camera pointing down at the petroglyphs and then we move a mobile light source around the petroglyph to capture how the light picks up surface detail from every angle. Using this method, we take about 55 photographs per petroglyph.”
These photos are later processed through RTI Builder and RTI Viewer to allow an image of each petroglyphs to be viewed on a computer from every angle and with different lighting options.
“Jeffers Petroglyphs is a spiritual site for the Dakota people,” Snover says. “A lot of the petroglyphs represent something more. For example, there are a lot of buffalo carvings and often times they represent vitality and life as they are are historically a sacred animal to the Dakota people.”
Mumford and Snover are completing this work as part of the St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.
The St. Olaf CURI program provides opportunities for St. Olaf students from all academic disciplines to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular subject by working closely with a St. Olaf faculty member in a research framework.
“With our CURI project we are looking at Dakota myths and comparing how those myths have changed throughout the years according to political climates and changing ideas,” Mumford says.
Mumford and Snover will continue their work this fall, when they will collaborate with computer science students at St. Olaf to develop a website for the Historical Society that will allow the petroglyphs to be viewed interactively.
“The idea that we can be working on this project for the next year and it can become something a lot bigger is exciting,” says Mumford. “We can pass down this data to future students and researchers so they can use it, along with the Historical Society.”
St. Olaf College student Shannon Moore ’19 is spending this month researching northern fur seals in Alaska as part of an internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“One of the main factors that drew me to this internship was, of course, the fact that it provides me with an opportunity to assist in conducting research for a scientific agency within the United States government,” says Moore. “I have an interest in polar ecosystems, and I am considering research as a potential career path. What better place to engage in research in the field as an undergrad than with NOAA?”
NOAA’s mission places emphasis on science, service, and stewardship. To fulfill this mission, NOAA strives to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts; share that knowledge and information with others; and conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
Moore, a biology major at St. Olaf, is working for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in the National Marine Mammal Laboratory on Saint Paul Island, where she is conducting research on northern fur seal populations.
Saint Paul Island — with a land area of just 40 square miles and only one residential area — is the largest of the Pribilof Islands, a group of four Alaskan volcanic islands located in the Bering Sea between the United States and Russia.
Moore’s research on the island is focused on ecology and behavior, population dynamics, life history, and status and trends.
The data collected will be provided to various domestic and international organizations to assist in developing rational and appropriate management systems for marine resources under NOAA’s jurisdiction. Along with NOAA, Moore will determine movements and migrations, critical feeding areas and depths, and other behavioral data.
Her work focuses on re-sighting flipper-tagged fur seals, making observations on rookeries (breeding sites), entering data on computers, and assisting in the management of the summer database.
Another one of Moore’s tasks is monitoring fur seal numbers at index sites within some of St. Paul’s rookeries. This data provides a repeatable and highly precise estimate of mean numbers visible on shore, enabling the detection of interannual changes and trends.
Her final task is to use a number of VHF radio-tags on adult females at six different rookeries on St. Paul to estimate migration rates between rookeries, which biases estimates on survival.
“I have always had a fascination with northern ecosystems,” says Moore. “I was born and raised in Minnesota, and I have always enjoyed spending time outside in various locations across Minnesota exploring the flora and fauna in my surroundings and learning about the natural history of the places I visit.”
In June, Moore worked as an animal care intern for the Wildlife Science Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, providing her with a wealth of information concerning wolves, lynx, and red fox.
“I am excited to continue my hands-on learning, assisting with research for NOAA through this amazing Alaskan opportunity,” says Moore.