New Research: Unfamiliar Territory

From the series, Badges: Trials and Tribulations on the Road to Graduate/Professional School Success, by Adam Feinman

New Research: 
Unfamiliar Territory
By Adam Feinman 

We all enter graduate programs with an idea of what we are looking to get out of it. Some may wish to make a change in the world; others may be looking to better their employment opportunities. Perhaps there is a historical era of fascination, or a physiological question unanswered. For some of us, however, that goal (or set of goals) may not be as well-defined. One may be aware of their skills or areas of interest but unsure of how they intend to apply them. Even if one has plans in mind upon entry, for various reasons students sometimes end up with an advisor whose research focus is out of their comfort zone.

One thing is assured: if you are going to do research in graduate school, even if you have done research previously, you’re going to have to traverse uncharted waters.

This can be particularly scary if you aren’t well-equipped to do the research in labs who do work you care about. Even nice graduate advisors have notoriously high expectations of their graduate students. Laura is a young lady I met who is doing some clinical training now to boost her academic CV after a prestigious postdoctoral position. She recalled to me that when she was first meeting with her graduate advisor, he told her flat-out that he considered it a reasonable expectation for Ph.D. students to design, execute, write, and defend in three years (regardless of former research training).

It is extremely easy to allow oneself to get caught up in frustrating things like this, but knowing what you stand to gain can help.

Firstly, I think that sometimes it’s good to have a balance when starting research between what you know and what you don’t. If you always do projects that are close to home, your CV will end up looking very narrow. You’ll also run out of topics quickly, and even the projects you do will be minor contributions to your field. Keep an open mind, and always be ready to either learn something new or pull in a collaborator who knows what they’re doing. Or both!

I’d also say that it’s really important in an academic career (and in life in general) to avoid stagnation. We have to keep our minds sharp, especially when you’re in a competitive field.

I wish I had thought of this quote myself, and I can’t remember who said it, but here it is: “Be a jack of all trades and master of one.”

I’m an engineer and a scientist, so most of the stories I have to draw on come from those fields. If you are reading this and have a different spin (professional school, humanities, etc.), please email me at, I would love to hear your experiences! Anonymity will be protected.

Guest Blogger Jonathan Dentler Introduces “Pius Aeneas”

Introducing the series, Pius Aeneas
By Jonathan Dentler 

Jonathan Dentler is a first year student in the History Department Ph.D program. He is interested in the history of visual cultures, philosophies and theories of history, and modern American and European history.

Los Angeles begins with the grunts and bellows of elephant seals on the beach, bloated creatures that live most of their lives a mile deep gorging on squid and crustaceans. It starts there, on the beach near the golden bluffs of Hearst’s mansion, Disneyland’s alter ego. 

It continues with the drive down, through San Luis Obispo, down through Santa Barbara, the first dull and lazy pastels of Spanish memories. Down over the mountains, more cars, automobiles in communion on the highway, through the valleys, then you see it. Hollywood – the number of churches surprised me. “The Asiatic city of the innumerable churches, holy Moscow!” I felt like Napoleon – same hubris. There’s a church near my casita; its bells ring out the hour as I look out my window at the palm tree hills, gradients of social capital. The light here never changes – that’s what almost everyone who ever wrote about Los Angeles says. The pleasurable go-with-the-flow monotony lulls one to reverie: washed out light blue, brown, dusty green, until the cars seduce the evening sky to mimic their color palate. That’s when the acrylic ecstasy hits.

What is USC? It’s the University of Southern California. What is Southern California? It’s the last true American frontier. Southern California is the Wild West, it’s cowboys and Indians and Mexicans and it’s the expanse of the Pacific with the dull beat of the surf, the dull beat of dreams, it’s Space. Follow me; follow me like the acolytes of a bizarre, fatalistic Sun Cult worshipping spirits from outer space. Follow me as I blog about being a grad student in the history department at USC.

I came here to study the history of images in a city built on images. It’s not just the moving pictures; it’s the whole panorama city of postcards, orange groves, wax museums, car wash billboards and the miasmic Americana dreamscape.

The Not-So-Small Price for Scientific Research

From the series Science Through Unpolished Glass

The Not-So-Small Price for Scientific Research
By Brian Leung
Brian is a PhD student in the USC Neuroscience program

These past few weeks, every news organization and social media website has been posting about the discourse happening in Washington DC and the employees affected by the shut down. To go off on a tangent, I have friends who are in science who are being funded by the NIH and NSF whose labs had to be shut down because of the government.

This lab that studies soil chemistry and the co-habitation of many microorganisms, it’s implications for sustainability and how understanding the fundamental building blocks of agriculture can influence human health. Yes, it’s not about drugs and disease, but everything in science is related. Although some science headlines mentioned NASA and the NIH, not very many talked about the nitty-gritty details and the exorbitant price to maintain your typical biomedical laboratory. With that in mind, let me give you a sense for how much biomedical research costs per scientist.

Let’s ask the first question: what goes into biomedical research? Off the top of your head, you might say things like: the drug, animals, animal food, veterinary care, chemicals, and supplies.

So how much do drugs cost?
Let’s go to this drug LY-364947 from Sigma Aldrich (L6293-25MG) and order a gram of this drug. They sell this drug in quantities of 25mg priced at $531.63. Now multiply that by 40 to get 1 gram of this drug, we get $21,265.20! This doesn’t even include shipping and tax! How much does 1 gram look like? Imagine your thumbnail covered in a pile of salt. That’s roughly how a gram looks like. 


Animal care & food:
Let’s continue using this hypothetical scenario. We want to know whether this drug, LY-364947 actually is beneficial. Let’s use adult rats (12 months) to get an estimate for how much animals cost. If we have 15 animals that get the drug and 15 animals that don’t get the drug, then there are a total of 30 animals. If we need to raise these animals to become old enough to receive this drug from birth to experimentation date and the price to raise one animal is $.45 per day, then it would cost: 30 animals x $.45 x 365 days = $4,927.50! This doesn’t even include the price of the vets, the antibiotics for the sick rats, and other overhead costs. What’s even crazier is that scientists juggle more than 2 to 3 projects simultaneously! We are now looking at $14,782.50!

Chemicals and supplies:
Chemicals and supplies can range and vary depending on the need and the type of project. For example some antibodies (aka fluorescent dyes and stains) that are used can range from $300 to $1,800! These antibodies are used to generate pictures like this:

(reference: Breuning, J., Gate, D., et al.)

Also, chemicals, supplies, and other resources we see on CSI don’t come cheap. Typically, each researcher may spend an average of $1,250 per month on supplies. If we multiply that by 12 months, we get $15,000!

So what’s the point of talking about all these numbers? Well, during the shut down, scientists couldn’t go to work. If we continue using our hypothetical example, animals that need the drug treatment did not get the drug, then the entire scientific study has been jeopardized. That means, the entire project would need to be re-done. Especially if these animals were already sick and needed this drug to be “cured,” the animal veterinarians on site would most likely sacrifice these animals and put them out of their pain. That also means, lost data and $51,047,20 lost! (Imagine if you were a grad student on this project. Well, there goes graduation, delayed by another year!) Now imagine how many clinical research labs at the NIH that are affected by this shut down… hundreds!

The price for how much money was wasted and invested in these projects is just astounding. To set up these experiments, it will probably take several more months to get things back in line. Now that the government is running again, rumor has it, several months from now, there may be another shut down. At this point, I don’t even want to imagine how much this will hinder the biomedical sciences in the US.

Introducing The Graduate School Guest Bloggers for Fall 2013!

We are excited to announce that eight graduate students are joining the Graduate School team this fall to blog about their experiences as USC graduate students. Our guest bloggers will discuss topics ranging from adjusting to graduate student life, to balancing studies and outside life, to preparing to enter the job market.

This week, Adam Feinman, a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering, kicks us off with the introduction to his blog series, “Badges: Trials and Tribulations on the Road to Graduate/Professional School Success.” Check in regularly for more stories from our graduate student bloggers.

Have comments or questions about the guest bloggers’ series? Email

Join us in welcoming Adam!


Trials and tribulations on the road to graduate/professional school success

By Adam Feinman

I despise the days when new students arrive on campus. They are so bright-eyed and cheery. They are giddy with anticipation about what the future holds for them. They are excited to learn and discover (amongst other things). After 4+ years of working on my Ph.D., it can be a deeply painful reminder of how long I’ve been here, what I’ve had to struggle with to get this far, and how far I have yet to go.

But it also fills me with joy. I look at who I am today compared to who I was at the beginning of graduate school, and I don’t regret it. The hard years of attaining a professional or graduate degree are not merely the road to graduation. The process is itself the goal. It is important to attain knowledge in the process, but the struggles behind accomplishment are what shape us, personally and professionally, for the rest of our lives.

My column for this blog, “Badges” is about the process. It is about the struggles we all face in these school years, but more importantly, it is about the fulfillment created by facing those struggles and achieving greatness in the process. These stories can raise awareness of issues students face, but can also inspire us take pride in our own personal processes, past, present, and future.

My first post(s) will be about adapting to doing research in an unfamiliar area. Later topics may include such things as: being married (or a parent) in graduate school, dealing with stress and the potential emotional and mental issues that come that, adapting to a new culture, etc. If you have stories to tell of your graduate/professional school woes, how you felt through them, and how you have (or are currently) facing them, or if you have other topics you would like to hear about, please contact me at All names or potential personal identifiers will be changed in blog posts for privacy.

USC Fellow Co-Productes Launch of New Autism Resource

USC Fellow Co-Productes Launch of New Autism Resource
by Lauren Evashenk 

Laura Cechanowicz, an Annenberg Fellow and PhD student in the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ new iMAP program, is looking forward to the upcoming launch event for the Interacting with Autism website, for which she has been a team member for the last two years. The launch marks the end of a three-year process, and the beginning of a new journey forward. The event is free and open to the public, and will take place Saturday, September 28, 2013 from 10am to 3pm in the new Interactive Media building within the School of Cinematic Arts.

Cechanowicz is co-producing the Launch Event with Shelbi Jay, which celebrates the unveiling of the video-based website, Interacting with Autism. Cechanowicz joined the team as the Project Manager while a Master of Fine Arts student in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, during which time she studied neuroscience in addition to animation to further her artistic exploration of the connection between the body and the mind. She lends to the project her skills in animation and video production, as well as her dedication to assisting those touched by autism.

Cechanowicz also directed a film for the site, “Exceptional Minds in Transition” (link to video). The focus of the piece is Exceptional Minds, a non-profit vocational school and studio that teaches young adults on the autism spectrum technical and creative tools in animation, facilitating their independence and entrance into the job market. An animator herself, Cechanowicz lent a further creative hand to Interacting with Autism by supplying animated watercolor and ink for the backgrounds in the video “Sensory Overload,” which explores what it might be like to live with Autism, and also created the animation for the short, “Treatment Overview.”

As the creative contributions by Cechanowicz’ indicate, Interacting with Autism takes a new approach to providing information about Autism. Begun by USC University Professor Marsha Kinder and USC Distinguished Professor Mark Harris, the website features documentary-style videos in a format that invites site visitors to interact with the topics at hand. Dr. Kinder conceived and directs The Labyrinth Project, an interactive digital initiative, and Dr. Harris is an Academy-Award winning documentary filmmaker. By combining their areas of expertise, the co-Principal Investigators created an innovative online resource that offers extensive information in easily-accessible videos. Interacting with Autism currently hosts more than thirty videos separated into three main sections: understanding autism, treating autism, and living with autism. Scott Mahoy, the project’s Creative Director of Design, is responsible for the site’s visually appealing layout and easy-to-navigate functionality.

“Our aim was to create a video intensive resource for families and people on the [autism] spectrum, a database they could reference when they have questions about the experience of autism and their options for treatment.  We wanted to help them understand what their options are as they move forward toward independence.  We also hoped to share the experience of autism with a wider audience.” Cechanowicz said.

The upcoming launch event furthers this mission. In addition to featuring multi-screen presentations of the website for visitors to interact with, three panels will discuss causes of autism, choosing treatments, and the process of building the website. Cechanowicz will participate in the panel discussing the creation of the project. The event will also host outside booths with individuals sharing their research on autism, and a poster session will feature research on autism taking place at USC.

“The information we present is based on the most current scientific research and we hope that this material helps to empower people touched by autism by providing the best knowledge about steps they can take,” Cechanowicz said.

In addition to providing useful information to visitors, the launch event will also have fun, interactive stations for children and their families. Cechanowicz’ influence is seen in an animation table where people can participate in a live animation workshop, which students from the Exceptional Minds school will help to teach. The Miracle Project, an organization dedicated to building community for children with autism through music, will give a live performance. To add some high-tech fun, the Nao Robot, a research project by Maja Matarić, Professor of Computer Science and Vice Dean for Research at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, will be present from 10:00am to 11:00am to play copy-cat behavioral games with children.

Cechanowicz and the rest of the Interacting with Autism team look forward to the launch of the site, and to the community’s opportunity to interact with it for the first time. They thank the event co-sponsors, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the USC Division of Occupational Science and Therapy, and the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study. They also thank the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Autism Treatment Network (CHLA ATN) site for their contributions by way of experts, parent advisory board involvement and sponsorship for the event.

Event details are available here.

USC Graduate School Honors Two-Time Trojan with Rockwell Dennis Hunt Award

Kenisha Strong works as a graduate assistant for the USC School of Social Work and an English instructor for the Office of International Services. (Photo/Nathan Carter)

Kenisha Strong ’09 remembers the first time she visited the USC Campus.

“My grandmother rounded up all her grandchildren, drove us an hour to the USC campus and proudly gave us a tour of her alma mater,” Strong recounted. “I remember how happy, excited and proud she was, and I vowed then that I would also become a Trojan.”

Strong made good on her promise when she earned her bachelor’s from USC with a double major in anthropology and communications in 2009. She is now in her first year as a master’s student in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) at the USC Rossier School of Education.

It’s not surprising that Strong will be a two-time USC alumna — Trojan blood runs in the family. Besides her grandmother, who received a master’s degree in psychology in 1984, Strong’s grandfather earned his PhD in education in the 1970s.

In honor of her achievements and dedication to USC, the USC Graduate School recognized Strong with the 2013 Rockwell Dennis Hunt Scholastic Award. Each year, the award is given to one graduate student who also completed his or her bachelor’s degree at USC. The award is given in honor of Dean Hunt, who in 1920 became dean of the USC Graduate School, a position he held until his retirement in 1945.

In addition to pursuing two degrees at USC, Strong has been a vibrant presence in the USC community — athletically, academically and professionally. During all four years of her undergraduate career, Strong was a pole vaulter on the USC track team, and ultimately earned a place among the top 10 women pole vaulters in USC history. She accomplished this all while maintaining top marks in her coursework: Strong earned the scholar-athlete recognition during her junior and senior seasons.

Strong also got involved with AngeLingo, an undergraduate online writer’s magazine sponsored by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. She became an editor for the magazine during her senior year and also worked on a blog connected with the publication.

Taking advantage of the many opportunities USC had to offer, Strong studied abroad for a semester in Brisbane, Australia, in 2007, where she became interested in learning about other cultures. The experience influenced not only her anthropology major, but also her future career trajectory.

Following commencement in 2009, Strong moved to Stockholm, where she began teaching English-language courses to children between the ages of 5 and 14. It was during this time that her interest in education as a profession really took hold.

After nearly a year in Stockholm, Strong returned to California, where she taught English as a second language to adult learners at the University of Laverne. Now, as a graduate student at USC Rossier, Strong is an English instructor in the Office of International Services’ English Language Program, which helps the families of international students at USC transition into their new environment.

Strong has continued to work as an instructor of English as a second language because of the tangible difference it makes in people’s lives, and, in joining USC Rossier’s PASA program, she is preparing herself to make the greatest impact possible in the lives of students.

“I know the transformative power of education,” Strong said. “I hope to work in a community college environment where I can aid students with their transition into a university, opening doors for them that they may have never considered themselves.”

The USC Graduate School will present Strong with the Hunt Award at the Academic Honors Convocation in April. Strong’s family, including both of her Trojan grandparents, plan to attend the ceremony.


Published March 12, 2013 on USC News

Gifted musician joins USC Thornton’s composition program

Georgi Dimitrov selected USC in part because of its strong composition faculty. (Photo/Kadi Lee)

By Lauren Evashenk
January 22, 2013

Georgi Dimitrov loves the contrabass clarinet and the uniqueness of a really high contrabassoon. And though he prefers the alto flute to the flute, Dimitrov is quick to point out that writing for “instruments that are not among one’s favorites is often a welcome challenge.”

Dimitrov is a first-year composition major in the Master of Music program at the USC Thornton School of Music. One of two students to enter the composition program this year, he studies under Distinguished Professor of Composition Stephen Hartke, who has been lauded as one of the foremost composers of his generation.

Though he is only beginning his graduate career, Dimitrov is already a promising composer. Last summer, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recognized Dimitrov with the Graduate Arts Award.

Presented to a maximum of 15 graduate students each year, the award provides individuals who display exceptional creative or artistic talent with a scholarship to be put toward graduate studies in his or her chosen artistic field. Dimitrov was one of only two students nominated for the award by the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), his undergraduate institution.

Thanks to the Graduate Arts Award, Dimitrov was able to pursue his graduate studies at the institution of his choice. After completing his BFA degree in music composition at CalArts, Dimitrov joined USC Thornton in the fall. Dimitrov selected USC because of its strong composition faculty and for the opportunity to have outstanding musicians — namely USC Thornton peers — play his music.

“I hope to draw from [the faculty’s] experience and knowledge,” he said. “They’ve been successful composers for 20 or 30 years and have had their own music performed around the world. They will help me to see what I can’t see on my own, and thus my notes will get better.”

During his first semester at USC, Dimitrov crafted solos and chamber music while completing an orchestral piece. Though the accomplished musician learned to play the violin as a boy, he is also now studying the viola, and he looks forward to concerts scheduled for March when USC players will perform his pieces.

Following the completion of his master’s degree, Dimitrov hopes to pursue a doctoral degree and to teach composition.

Dimitrov’s website,, is under construction, but music lovers can preview a few of his compositions on his SoundCloud stream.!/article/45899/gifted-musician-joins-usc-thorntons-composition-program/

USC Chemistry Ph.D. Candidate Awarded the STEM Chateaubriand Fellowship

Elena Ferri began asking big scientific questions at an early age. Growing up in Novara, Italy, Elena was wondering how the human body works long before it was time to head to university to discover the answers. Now, years and degrees later, Elena is the recipient of the prestigious Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Chateaubriand Fellowship.

Awarded by the Office for Science and Technology (OST) of the Embassy of France in the United States, the Chateaubriand Fellowship encourages collaborations, joint projects, and partnerships between the United States and France by providing funding for doctoral students at American universities who wish to perform research in a French laboratory as part of their Ph.D. studies.

Elena’s career began at the University of Milan, where she earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Industrial Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry and Management, respectively. After completing her coursework, Elena worked in a university lab for a year, where she fell in love with research.

“I love science,” Elena said. “Chemistry allows me to answer the biology questions I’ve had since childhood… As a researcher, I get to solve a few [of those] little problems every day.”

To continue her studies and research, Elena joined the USC Chemistry Ph.D. program and the lab of Dr. Charles McKenna, professor of chemistry and Vice Dean for Natural Sciences in USC Dornsife.

Dr. McKenna laid the groundwork for Elena’s current project when he formed a partnership with scientists at the Institut de Biologie Structurale Jean-Pierre Ebel (IBS) and the Institut Albert Bonnoit of Grenoble, France, for which he was awarded a Partner University Fund (PUF) grant in 2010. This collaboration brings together scientists of both countries, including student researchers, such as Elena. The Prime Minister of France recently recognized Dr. McKenna’s scientific accomplishments and collaborations with French scientists and institutions by naming him a Chevalier, or Knight, of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms), one of France’s oldest and most prestigious civic honors.

Elena has now also made a name for herself with the Chateaubriand Fellowship. She is the lead chemist on the PUF grant-funded joint project. For the past year and a half, she has researched bromodomains, proteins that are able to recognize particular modifications of chromatin (part of the cell nucleus). Bromodomains are involved in cancer, viral infection and inflammatory diseases. For this reason, the team’s research has great implications for the future of medicine and the development of drugs to treat harmful diseases. “Our project aims at designing potent and selective inhibitors of bromodomains, utilizing our expertise in molecular modeling and organic synthesis and our collaborators’ expertise in structural biology and biochemistry,” Elena says of the collaboration.

This December, Elena will travel to the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, France, to test and continue her work alongside the partnering French biologists in the lab of Dr. Carlo Petrosa, the project’s primary French collaborator. Other partners in the project are Saadi Khochbin and Mary Callanan of the University of Grenoble, and Jerome Govin of the Center for Atomic Energy. The team is working on epigenetics, or cell memory, which is a hot area of research. Elena is honored to be researching the same question as so many masters in the field.

As well as being eager to continue her research, Elena is excited to live in Grenoble, a city of scientists. Home to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), a university, and numerous institutes and research facilities, Grenoble attracts scientists from around the world. Elena looks forward to spending nine months in Grenoble’s vibrant scientific community.

Elena will enter the fourth year of her doctoral studies upon returning to USC in August. She hopes to continue her career as a research scientist upon graduation.!/article/43432/doctoral-student-earns-stem-fellowship/

USC Annenberg Graduate Fellow brings Krump Dancing to the Screen and Stage

USC Annenberg Fellow, Jessica Koslow, grew up dancing. Last year, she attended a “krump” class by Marquisa Gardner a.k.a. “Miss Prissy,” one of the founders of the energetic and expressive dance style born on the streets of South Los Angeles. Miss Prissy invited her after class to attend a weekly midnight krump session in a North Hollywood supermarket parking lot. When Jessica arrived to the midnight dance circle a few weeks later, she discovered an enthralling and thriving underground culture.

This first encounter with the midnight dance circle, nicknamed the “818 Session,” occurred while Jessica was completing the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) degree from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. As part of her coursework, Jessica took a Documentary Production class with Cinema’s William Yahraus in which she created a 15-minute documentary titled The 818 Session with fellow classmate Tshego Tee Letsaolo.

Jessica continued investigating the 818 Session beyond the completion of this course, and developed the documentary into her master’s thesis project. Although The 818 Session was her first time handling a camera, the film has seen great success. The piece premiered at the USC Annenberg Graduate Symposium in April 2012, and was later accepted into the Dances with Films and the Dance Camera West Media Film Festivals, screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in June 2012.

Exercising her journalistic muscle, Jessica is expanding her coverage beyond print and film by bringing krump to the stage to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the dance style. Over the next week, USC Visions and Voices will host three krump events that Jessica has organized with the collaboration of Dr. Sasha Anawalt, Director of the Arts Journalism Programs and Associate Professor of Professional Practice in the Journalism Department of USC Annenberg, and Taj Frazier, Assistant Professor for the USC Annenberg School for Communication. The first is the live show, The Underground: From the Streets to the Stage, taking place Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 8:00pm in Bovard Auditorium. The Underground features two of krump’s founders, Christopher A. Toler a.k.a. “Lil’ C,” and “Miss Prissy.” The show explores issues such as gender, the use of space, and fame, through the lens of the birth and growth of krump, touching on its links to historical community dance rituals. RSVP and find out more about the show here:

The second event features Jessica herself, and takes place Tuesday, September 11, at 12:00pm noon, in Annenberg 207: Journalism Director’s Forum –Krump on the Screen and Stage: A Conversation with Miss Prissy, Star of “Rize,” and Journalist Jessica Koslow.

The final event is a krump dance workshop with krump legends, Lil’ C and Miss Prissy, which will take place Wednesday, September 12 at 5:00pm in the North Gym in PED:

Jessica earned her degree in May 2012, and thanks the USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship and the Master of Arts in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) programs for providing the opportunity to explore her interests as a mid-career journalist: “One of the greatest gifts of going back to grad school is to be able to write stories that interest me.”

Congratulations, Jessica Koslow!

Grad Student Writes about the Road to the Olympics

Samantha McDonald

Samantha McDonald

USC sent 36 athletes to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, which began July 27th. As we celebrate their achievements,we must also recognize the hard work and perseverance that has carried them this far.

Samantha McDonald, who earned her Master of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism this past May has done just that. For her thesis, “Training for the Olympic Trials,” Samantha followed three USC Olympic hopefuls, Bryshon Nellum, Brysun Stately, and Reggie Wyatt, on their journeys to the Olympic Trials for track and field. Samantha takes a unique perspective in her piece, shifting focus from athletic prowess to the obstacles the athletes hurdled to reach their goals.

A runner in middle school, Samantha’s interest in track and field and the experience of competitive athletes peaked watching her brother become a member of the USC Track team as a pole vaulter, despite battling Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. Further investigation revealed that many other USC team members have also overcome hardships to pursue their dreams.

In her broadcast journalism thesis, Samantha weaves a narrative of suffering and redemption, saluting not only the athletes themselves, but also the coach, team masseuse, and teammates who helped them along the way. She tells the story of Bryshon Nellum, a redshirt senior and 400 meter runner, who made a remarkable come-back after suffering three gunshot wounds to his legs in 2008. Bryshon earned his place on the US Olympic team at the Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Samantha also followed 2009 USC graduate, Brysun Stately, who fought to compete for a second time at the Olympic Trials in pole vaulting, and Sophomore Reggie Wyatt, who runs the 400 meter hurdles. Wyatt, a sophomore at USC, suffered a great personal loss with the death of his grandparents, but fought through to make the Olympic Trials. Although all three overcame obstacles to qualify for the Olympic Trials, a great accomplishment in the career of any athlete, only Nellum ultimately made the US Olympic team.

Samantha’s compelling narrative illuminates the dedication and grit in the face of struggle that so many competitive athletes exhibit. As we watch the best of the best compete on the world stage, Samantha’s thesis provides a glimpse into the athletes’ personal journeys, helping us to more fully empathize with their triumphs and disappointments.

To continue her excellent work in the field of broadcast journalism, Samantha has joined Fox 40 News in Binghamton, New York. She is enjoying watching the Trojan athletes compete on the Olympic stage, and hopes to continue supporting and reporting on such individuals in her budding professional career.