Neuroscience, German Excel, and Finding Myself in Berlin

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CIEE Berlin
Photo for blog post Neuroscience, German Excel, and Finding Myself in Berlin

My name is Madison Dennehey and I am a rising junior at Susquehanna University, where I am double-majoring in Neuroscience and German Studies. As we’re starting to “come out” of the pandemic, I was excited to finally study abroad and tackle an internship, where I could use what I learned during my first two years at college. I’ve also been studying German for about 6 years, which I spent learning about German literature, history, and culture, so I was more than happy for the opportunity to intern in Germany’s capital through CIEE. Through the internship, I was able to combine my passion for neuroscience and German.

I’m currently interning at Charité’s Institut für Neuroanatomie. Charité is one of the universities in Berlin, where students can study various fields of science. The majority of my work focuses on analysis and reconstruction of neurons. As part of my day-to-day responsibilities, one of the Ph.D. students I work with shows me how to use a specific program, shares her data with me, and then I analyze the data and compile the information into an easy-to-read format. I’ve also been able to shadow some of her experiments and learn various neuroscience techniques, such as making solutions and patching. Through my work at Charité, I learned how to use several analysis programs, how exactly the research is conducted, and learned more about the structure of neurons, while simultaneously struggling to use a German keyboard, testing my German skills by using Excel in German, and navigating a multicultural workplace. Even though I faced some challenges along the way, I refined my problem-solving skills and built the confidence to ask questions when I needed to. I’ve learned so much about neuroscience research and I can’t wait to bring what I learned back to my studies and work at Susquehanna!

Outside of work, I was able to take a lot of time for myself and build my self-confidence. I realized how important it is to spend time doing things that you enjoy without the pressure of catering to other people, so I treated myself to museum visits, relaxing evenings in the park, and journaling by the Spree River (my favorite spot is right by the Reichstag and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus). Overall, my summer in Berlin helped me achieve my academic, professional, and personal goals, which will help me as I navigate the rest of my time at college!