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College sophomore Dan Liu spent his summer doing research and drug testing on heart cells. // Courtesy of Dan Liu

For Penn students, summer is a time to build resumes, travel the world, take classes or even just relax. But for many, it’s also a time to do some good.

College junior Rebecca Composto spent her summer months wielding a chainsaw and protecting small birds from extinction as part of the Nevada Conservation Corps. While camping in the Great Basin National Park at night, Composto worked tirelessly cutting down trees to prevent forest fires during the day.

“I definitely want to get into environmental and conservation work after I graduate, so this was an amazing opportunity,” Composto said. “College is going to try to give me the academic and scientific knowledge I’ll need, but there’s something unique about physically going out and cutting down trees. It taught me to appreciate how much effort goes into conservation.”

On the other side of the country, College sophomore Alden Terry interned at the Fresh Air Fund, a New York-based nonprofit founded in 1877 that helps get children from low-income families in New York get out of the city for a few weeks during the summer.

Terry — a photographer who works for Humans of UPenn — ran the Fresh Air Fund’s social media accounts and helped publicize their events.

“I’ve been doing photography for a while now and just incorporating it into a job, is just any photographers dream,” Terry said. “It was an amazing opportunity to work for such a great nonprofit that helps kids.”

College sophomore Dan Liu put his summer to good use as an intern for the United States Food and Drug Admistration’s Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories.

Even as a summer intern, Liu was on the front lines of heart disease research. In his lab, scientists differentiated stem cells into heart cells. Liu then tested new drugs on these cells and observed if they caused arrhythmia, an unwanted side effect of many heart disease medicines. By testing the drugs on differentiated stem cells, Liu could determine their effectiveness with no risk to patients.

“The really cool thing about working with these stem cells is that this is something that is just completely novel,” Liu said. “All my research is going to be published and help bring new drugs to market.”

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