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Jennie Reisman: Maymester in Paris with HART Professor and Classmates

Posted by on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 in Events, HART, News, Student/Alumni, Vanderbilt University, VRC.

EiffelTower2Imagine taking an immediate left out of your home to cross the street and stand on a bridge above the flowing waters of the Seine. Well, somehow that happened to my Maymester classmates and me … for an entire month. Having never been to Paris, I was astounded by the pure beauty of seeing the sun set over the Seine in the evening and the flickering lights of the Eiffel Tower at precisely 11:10 each night, without fail. I never imagined having the opportunity to walk along the streets of Paris observing an entirely different culture or weaving through the rooms in the Musée d’Orsay.

Prior to beginning my sophomore year at Vanderbilt, I never thought I would have a passion for learning about art. For the longest time I could not walk into a museum without wondering where the nearest exit was. Now, thanks to this Maymester trip led by Prof. Leonard Folgarait and the wealth of art history knowledge I have acquired in my HART classes, I no longer wander around in search of the red, glowing exit signs. Instead, I see art as a way to escape and a means of expression. Art does not have to make sense; in fact, it can be as abstract as a toilet seat containing a small signature, “R. Mutt.” I fell in love with the presentational, colorful components of Kandinsky’s art, Picasso’s distorted portraits of women, and the intricate designs of Yves Saint Laurent’s dresses. I also enjoyed sharing small vignettes with friends about some of the most famous works of art while wandering the halls of the Louvre.

GIvernyWhile in Paris, one of my most favorite mini-adventures was at Giverny, where Monet lived and painted his water lilies. Despite many days of rain and dreary weather before my visit, it appeared as though the flowers were unaffected. The gardens are the most picturesque site I have ever seen; I literally could not stop taking photos (in portrait mode, of course) of the amazingly unique petal designs and the wonderful arrangements of flowers. Continuing along the outskirts of the gardens, my friends and I arrived at the exact spot where Monet painted the water lilies. The weeping willows hung over the waters while the vines wrapped around the wooden beams of the famed bridge. The lily pads floated upon the surface of the water while the sun reflected off each and every pad. Now, this work of nature is one of the most beautiful works of art I have ever seen.

On the second weekend, I traveled to Amsterdam where I was greeted with delicious stroopwafels and bikers that nearly ran me over. Aside from the fact that my friends and I finally found a place that understood what iced coffee was, Amsterdam presented the opportunity to experience unique Dutch art alongside an emotional journey through the Anne Frank House. Not only was I exposed to a different style of art, but also I connected with my religion, Judaism, in an entirely new way.

Looking back, I still cannot believe that I managed to squeeze all of these events into a single month. The more I think about it, the more I want to go back. Although I felt as though I did so much, there is still so much more to see and experience. While in the Anne Frank House, a speaker in one of the short films said the following about Anne Frank, “All of her ‘would haves’ are our opportunities.” This quote perfectly sums up my experience in Paris for the month of May. In a way that I had only dreamed about, I experienced another beautiful part of the world from an entirely different perspective.

MaymesterClassParisI hope to continue to learn new things and create my own stories, whether it be via traveling, immersing myself in different aspects of the Vanderbilt community, or attempting to discover something new about myself. I am so grateful to have had that experience, and for the remainder of the summer, I will continue to ask my parents when I can hop on the next flight back to Paris. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Jennie Reisman is a junior majoring in psychology, minoring in history of art, and following the pre-med track. After her month-long Maymester experience in Paris, she returned to work in the lab of Constantinos Koumenis in the Radiation Oncology Department, University of Pennsylvania.

“Specifically, my project focuses on the study of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) pathway, a series of signaling cascades activated in response to Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) stress. When ER stress is mild or acute, the UPR has a pro-survival role; when the stress is chronic or severe, the UPR induces cell death. Identified as a potential target that regulates this dual role of the UPR was Survivin, a protein highly expressed in cancer cells but not in normal tissues. The aim of my study is to understand not only the mechanism by which Survivin regulates ER stress via the UPR, but also how its pharmacological targeting can be paired with ER stress-based therapeutic strategies to develop an effective cancer treatment. Through my participation in this research I hope to broaden my understanding of developing targeted cancer treatments as well as further pursue my interest in becoming a pediatric oncologist.”

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