Categories
Viewpoint

Snow days

A few days ago on my way across campus, instead of hurrying to get to where I was going like I normally do, I took time to admire the snow. I noticed how beautiful the Golden Dome looked as the snow fell down and how much people seemed to be embracing the moment. Being from Chicago, I don’t have as much appreciation for the snow as most people do. I love when it snows around the holidays, but not so much when it’s March and nearing April. However, given that we’re still in January, I’ve chosen to embrace the snow for the time being. 

As a little kid, I would always get so excited at the possibility of a snow day. I remember sitting and staring wide-eyed at the TV as a five year old hoping and praying that my grade school would be listed in bold red font as one of the schools that would be closed for the day. At five, a snow day meant that I could drink hot chocolate and go sledding with my friends. In high school, I had the same feelings when it came to snow days. I vividly remember checking snow day calculator apps and refreshing my email numerous times per day in hopes that we had received an email stating that classes had been canceled. Only, in high school, instead of drinking hot chocolate and going sledding with my friends, I mostly chose to take the time to sleep in, something my normal 6:30 AM wakeup had prevented me from doing. 

Needless to say, snow days were always great. During the pandemic, however, I realized that snow days had become a thing of the past. Classes could get moved online and carried on as normal. As nice as it was that people were able to adapt their daily routines to working remotely during a time when the whole world had seemed to stop, there was a huge part of me that longed for the traditional snow day. 

Last year, during my first year of college, there were one or two days where the weather was so bad that classes were moved online. Some of my professors conducted classes as normally as they would have had we been in an actual classroom, while others told us to go out and enjoy the snow. During one of the snow days, I took advantage of the extra time and caught up on some sleep. And during the other, once classes had finished, I remember going over to my friend’s dorm room, where we ordered Domino’s pizza and watched Gossip Girl. Despite having to go to class online, we still managed to make a “snow day” enjoyable. 

As much as I could say I am not a fan of the snow, I realize that snow can bring a lot of joy if you choose to embrace it. Snow reminds me not only of snow days, but also of skiing and snowmobiling with my family. It reminds me of the time I was little and built snow forts with my cousins. And, most recently, it’s given me memories of being here at Notre Dame in South Bend.

Isabelle Kause is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying sociology and minoring in journalism. When she’s not busy, you can find her listening to country music or Taylor Swift or trying out new makeup/skincare products. She can be reached at ikause@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Categories
News

BiotechND launches science majors into industry

When junior biology student Maeve Murdock, BiotechND founder and president, transferred to Notre Dame in the fall of 2021, she found a gaping hole in the University’s career development planning for undergraduates in the sciences.

While Notre Dame advises sending science majors to medical school or postgraduate research, at Xavier University, where Murdock studied her first year of college, and Northwestern University, where Murdock spent summer 2022 as a research intern, she said there is a much greater awareness of the job possibilities in the $2.9 trillion U. S. biotech industry.

“Notre Dame really, really pushes sciences for pre-med, and they don’t really tell you about any other options. If I say I’m a bio major, people [assume I’m] pre-med, because people don’t even know what the other options would be here,” Murdock said. “Notre Dame is behind that they didn’t have a biotech club. This is a big thing that’s been going on the last 20 years.”

Murdock founded the Biotech Club of Notre Dame (BiotechND), alongside vice president Jack Meyer, to alleviate this discrepancy and to educate and inform Notre Dame science undergrads of career opportunities in biotech.

The club defines biotech as “the integration of natural sciences and engineering in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells and molecules for products and services in industry.” The three main sectors of biotechnology are agricultural, biomedical and environmental.

Murdock added that anyone with an interest in biotech can join the club, whether they’re looking for more of a “hands-on science” or business role.

“Some [opportunities in biotech] are more finance-related or marketing and sales-related, but there’s also many where you’re applying your science background in a business way,” Murdock said. “At the end of the day, these are all companies that need to be making money. It’s not just people from a science background, you can learn on the spot.”

Although the group is technically not a Student Activities Office (SAO)-approved club until next semester, BiotechND held their first-ever meeting, “Introduction to Biotech,” on Nov. 29 in Duncan 512. Murdock said it was a long time coming.

“Starting a club at Notre Dame was a really tedious, bureaucratic process that takes an entire semester, and [SAO] turns down probably two-thirds of the clubs that try,” she said. “You need to have a whole team and all these prospective members. You have to write a 10-page club constitution, make an event list for your first year and for future years, make a budget for your first year and for future years, have an officer list and have a mentor.”

Murdock admitted that the lack of SAO approval is “frustrating.” The club has yet to receive access to crucial perks including a bank account, a real email address and easy access reserving event space on campus. In the interim, BiotechND hasn’t wasted any time, counting on creative solutions like partnering with the Center for Career Development to get the ball rolling.

“We have a joke that we’re the prospective biotech club of Notre Dame,” Murdock said. “Chris Washko is the [representative] at the Career Center working with Biotech. He has a lot of contacts and he’ll be working with us closely. He was super excited for us to do the first meeting, and he reserved that big room for us, which was great.”

One of the club’s goals is to facilitate networking between undergrads in different colleges with alumni and industry representatives in the biotech field. BiotechND already has plans for a networking trip to Chicago in 2023.

Murdock dispelled the myth that biotech only exists in places like Silicon Valley.

“We went to the dean of the College of Science to request money for a career trip to Chicago next fall. We’ll do a day trip where we visit three biotech companies, and students can network and see what it would be like to work there,” she said. “There’s a ton going on in Chicago now. We have too many good options to choose from.”

Notre Dame junior Emily Chudy, a neuroscience major, joined the BiotechND leadership this fall as secretary. She has enjoyed getting to know her fellow officers and feeling more involved.

“Up until this year, I worked on leadership for a different club. We had one big event a year, but other than that I felt like we weren’t really doing that much,” Chudy said. “[BiotechND] feels more hands-on. We get along well as a team, which is pretty awesome … The little things like that make a difference.”

Chudy started off as pre-med but decided that she’d rather not go to grad school immediately after Notre Dame, hoping to work for a few years before earning another degree.

“I’m still a little burnt out from studying to be completely honest,” she said. “As a STEM major not wanting to go to graduate school, [Notre Dame] doesn’t give you any options and they don’t really give you any resources. If you look at the neuroscience newsletter, it’s all about, ‘Here are these post-grad opportunities for research,’ or it’s like, ‘How can we help you for grad school?’”

Through her BiotechND leadership position, Chudy will educate underclassmen about biotech industry positions open to students such as investor relations, fundraising and equity research. Chudy interned as a biotech equity researcher last summer.

“Many people hate equity research because it’s researching about gas and oil, but I was working for a group that specifically focused on central nervous system drugs,” she said. “I’m interested in the business side because that’s a little bit more of a social role.”

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.

Categories
Viewpoint

A Tale of Two Cities

You may not know it, but if you live in Chicago, Illinois, you’re actually a citizen of two cities.

One Chicago features some of the best public high schools in the country according to the U.S. News & World Report. The other Chicago is marked by the kind of school buildings where if it rains hard enough, the roof just might cave in. We typically think of educational inequity as a problem of resources. If state and local governments were simply willing to allocate more funding to schools in lower-class neighborhoods, maybe the problem could be solved, right? Not quite. The primary source of funding for the vast majority of school districts in America isn’t state or local governments, it’s the taxes collected on properties in the district. The more valuable the properties in a school district, the more funding the schools in that district receive. It is because of this system that schools in the Chicago Ridge district (on Chicago’s south side) are so underfunded that three schools share one nurse, while the Rondout District (in the suburbs to the north) can afford to pay its teachers an average of $90,000 a year and craft individualized learning plans for each of its students. According to Binyamin Applebaum (lead writer on business & economics for the New York Times’ editorial board), it’s not even as simple as just living on opposite sides of Chicago: “It can be on the same block that the town line runs through the middle of it, and if you live on one side of that line, you’re consigned to an inferior education… and if you live on the other side, you’re basically a member of a club that is sponsoring a private school essentially, for the benefit of that small group of kids.” In Chicago and many other places in the US, the disparity in education quality is so vast that students from virtually a block apart may as well live in two different cities.

If a bill were raised to amend the current school funding system, it’s easy to imagine that progressives would be the ones to champion it. But when we return to our case study of Cook County, Illinois (the county that Chicago is in), we find that progressives aren’t doing as much to promote justice in the realm of education as they claim to be. Even in a county that voted 74.2% Democrat in the last presidential election, wealthy liberals still lobbied to keep the property tax-based resource allocation system in place for their school districts. Members of a party whose platform is “providing a world-class education in every zip code” have gerrymandered Cook County’s school zones so badly that there are school districts that only have one school. So, this isn’t a question of blue vs. red or conservative vs. liberal. It is, quite literally, rich vs. poor. The property tax school-funding system is one of the greatest perpetrators of the wealth disparity problem in our country.

We live in a nation that has historically disadvantaged its lower-class citizens. Isn’t education the institution that’s supposed to set that right? Education is supposed to empower children to change their circumstances generationally. It shouldn’t be the wall that keeps them on the south side of Chicago. It should be the vehicle that brings them to the hallowed halls of the University of Notre Dame. Sometimes it can be. But by and large, the property tax system causes those who are disadvantaged in American society to become even more so, because their inferior quality of education prevents them from pursuing opportunities (like attending a trade school or university) that would allow them to break into the middle class. This fosters the sense of disenfranchisement that causes people from places of poverty to distrust America’s established methods of attaining upward mobility. I saw this firsthand in Baltimore when I tutored children from the inner city. Some of my kids had, even at their young ages, completely disassociated themselves from the “American Dream” and the idea that doing well in school would in any way change their lot in life. This mistrust also explains why there is such rampant criminal activity in areas where educational inequity is most glaring.

The question of why there is so much disparity in our country’s education system is a complex one, but the answer begins and ends with the property tax funding system. Amending this system in favor of one that allocates resources more equitably would allow children from low-income areas to develop the same sense of curiosity and self-belief as their peers in higher-income areas. Inevitably, this would entirely transform their futures. It would entirely transform cities like Chicago and Baltimore too, shattering the glass ceiling of educational inequity that divides them in two.

Oluwatoni Akintola

first-year

Nov. 29

Categories
Scene

Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball celebrates the battle

“Have you ever had to battle for your life?” Chicago’s Wrigley Field, completely sold out and packed with 45,000 concert goers, erupted in passionate cries at Lady Gaga’s posed question. After fighting through the past few grueling years, the pop-star’s highly anticipated Chromatica Ball was nothing short of a smashing celebration of life’s triumphs and its tribulations. Originally released in May of 2020, Gaga’s album “Chromatica” has waited two years to be performed live around the world. The tour had been previously postponed twice due to the worldwide pandemic, but was finally given the green light earlier this year, and it was well worth the wait. 

Fans from all over flocked to the venue dressed in vibrant colors, mesh, leather, high-heels, glittery makeup and even monster claws, displaying their die-hard dedication to the singer who made them feel seen. It was clear that the concert was about to be quite a spectacularly mind-blowing experience, and Gaga went above and beyond with the mise-en-scéne of her show to blow that expectation out of the water. Her set included a second stage in the middle of the crowd, a revolving platform, and even plumes of fire so large that every person in the audience could feel the heat on their skin. The costumes were absurdly extravagant and uniquely Gaga and yet always had another layer of meaning that told a deeper personal story. While the superstar has a knack for keeping her fans on their toes with surprises, she also has a talent for remaining in touch in all that she does, and obviously that balance is the foundation of her stardom. No matter the shoes she steps into — popstar, film actress, jazz singer, beauty mogul or something entirely different — she will always be truthfully and uniquely Gaga. 

Each song on the setlist was a distinctly different experience, varying from ground-shaking bangers to powerfully vulnerable ballads. Gaga had the entire stadium jumping up and down with their hands in the air to “Replay” and then grabbing onto each other wordlessly at her acoustic version of “Always Remember Us This Way.” Digging into both the joys and sorrows of her complex past, the singer told a full story and expressed the full range of human emotion. She tapped into the souls of her audience in a manner that was simultaneously fierce and tender, a mixture that seems to capture Gaga’s essence perfectly. 

After parading through the crowd during the beautifully unifying “Free Woman,” Gaga was led to a platform in the middle of the field where she sat down at the piano and truly let her bleeding heart show. Her rendition of “Born This Way” was the pinnacle of the 130 minute-long performance, where she began by earnestly asking, “Do you dare to even try to be who you are? That’s brave.” She then allowed the jazz side of her to take over, improvising the phrasing and the melody as she crafted an surprisingly quiet and yet incredibly powerful moment within her otherwise high-energy, vivacious set. 

Lady Gaga’s larger-than-life personality and confidence has allowed her to be incredibly influential to the people in the world with unheard voices. Her knowledge of her audience was evident in the way she addressed the crowd and encouraged them to always be true to themselves. While she avoided politics, she acknowledged the recent divisions in America and promoted love and acceptance above all else with admirable grace. Her ability to wow a stadium full of fans while also connecting with them on a more personal, sincere level is undeniable. After waiting four years to see the pop sensation live on tour again, Lady Gaga has delivered a performance that not only acknowledges the recent hardships the world has endured, but also celebrates our resilience and strength with the bash of a lifetime.

Olivia Seymour

Contact Olivia at oseymour@nd.edu