Zoom School, Chemistry Labs, and Art Studios

Photo portraits of Jane Zen '21 and Diana Daniela Padron ’24

Diana Daniela Padrón ’24

Major: Undecided
This Term: At home in the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas

You had a bit of a rocky start to the semester with the winter storm in Texas. What was that experience like?

Never did I anticipate that my first week [of classes this term] would be filled with portable chargers, freezing nights, and candlelight. The entire situation left Texans feeling helpless and isolated. Online learning proved to be another complication. Although most schools in Texas had been temporarily closed, the world outside kept going. That’s how I found myself struggling to keep up with my classmates from the beginning, given that I was only able to attend half of my classes through cellular data. I am extremely grateful for the support extended to me by my professors, who actively sought to accommodate and reassure me. Some professors offered me recordings of the class, while others reached out to express their concern. The experience left me with a newfound appreciation for the privileges of having resources during such hard times. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have internet access to do their studies.

After the storm, I struggled to catch up. When you’re at home most of the day, time starts losing meaning, and it becomes increasingly difficult to manage your responsibilities. I’m gradually adapting by managing my time more rigidly and knowing to ask for help when I need it.

How are you staying connected to Wellesley while you’re away from campus and Wellesley friends?

I thoroughly enjoyed the little moments at Wellesley [last fall]. When I think of Wellesley, I think about my dining hall coworkers feeding me after a long morning rush or reading comic books at Lulu or the time I made Christmas cookies with my blockmate while watching Back to the Future. Those small moments bring me immense joy when I get frustrated sitting in front of a computer all day. They serve as a reminder that it won’t always be Zoom school for this girl. This semester, I’m finding solace in sending memes to my Wellesley friends, as well as attending meetings with orgs like The Wellesley Review and Mezcla. If anything can keep people connected, it’s cat memes.

What’s the first place you want to go when you get back on campus?

The second floor of Clapp Library was probably my favorite spot to hang out when I needed a quiet place to think. When I get back to the East Coast, that’s the first stop I’ll make. I also just need to check out the second book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, so there’s that. …

Jane Zen ’21

Major: Biochemical Illustration (self-designed)
This Term: On campus
Hometown: Atlanta

What is the topic of your thesis?

The thesis centers around the research work I’ve been doing for the past two years in Don Elmore’s lab (chemistry department). The research of the lab focuses on characterizing and designing novel antimicrobial peptides, which are these short protein sequences that virtually all organisms produce as part of their immune systems to kill pathogenic microorganisms and prevent infection. Investigation of these antimicrobial peptides is important in our ongoing battle with antibiotic resistance, as they have particular advantages over conventional antibiotics and are capable of killing drug-resistant bacteria.

My thesis work has focused on combining antibiotics and antimicrobial peptides as a new therapeutic strategy for enhancing their antibacterial effects. Because I am pursuing an independent major that combines both the biochemistry and studio art degrees at Wellesley, I found this thesis to be an opportunity to combine my lifelong interests in both science and art. Thus, along with biochemical experiments, my thesis also explores the realm of scientific illustration and its applications to my research work. It has been a really exciting opportunity so far, to be able to illustrate what I’m studying and translate the information into visuals that are more engaging and understandable to the viewer.

You decided to come back to campus in the fall, in addition to studying in person this spring. How did you make that decision?

I chose to come back largely because I wanted to have access to the spaces and resources in both studio art and the laboratory. Since coming back, I have had access to both, though not as frequently as I hoped due to COVID restrictions. Having support and mentorship from both of my advisors, professors Daniela Rivera and Don Elmore, has helped push me forward and stay focused on my work.

Did the pandemic force you to adjust your senior plans?

When I got back to campus, the pandemic had caused various departments to change their course offerings, and I had to alter my curriculum for my independent major a few times to accommodate these changes. It also became more difficult to secure funding opportunities to pursue my thesis project.

What is one thing you still want to do before leaving Wellesley?

One thing I would like to continue doing is building deeper and more meaningful relationships with my professors, who have inspired me and pushed me to grow intellectually while supporting all of my endeavors throughout my undergraduate career.

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