Newest Lab Member Summer Experience

Editor’s Note: Freshman JoAnn Nguyen recently joined the ArtSciLab in an ongoing project role- but her first experience working with us was last summer through the Clark Scholars Program. Read on below to hear JoAnn’s first-hand account of her summer experience. Sound interesting? Contact us about opportunities for Summer 2018.
My first day of summer had nothing to do with my regular summer routine of binge watching Netflix on my living room couch while eating an obscene amount of unhealthy food. Instead, spent it at UT Dallas two and a half months before officially began college. I and 27 other Clark Research Scholars had signed away nine weeks of our summer break to begin research on campus.

This summer, I started interning for the ArtSciLab located in the ATEC (Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communications) building at UT Dallas and it was nothing like any other jobs I had before. I am an upcoming business student that has a knack for learning about computers and experience with sculptural art so being assigned to work for the ArtSciLab was a good fit for my background.
The first week I started interning I explored the posh looking lab and got caught up with what projects the lab was working on such as ARTECA and Creative Disturbance. After meeting Professor Cassini Nazir and Emma Newkirk, the lab manager, I was assigned to work on CDASH, Curriculum Development in the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities. The website is run by Dr. Kathryn Evans and is intended to display interdisciplinary courses globally that cross between the disciplines of art and science. As more and more professors became interested in the site, Katheryn realized there was a need to update the current webpage. I was assigned to redevelop the site which required utilizing WordPress, a website development tool, and implicating the elements of user experience to increase the site’s usability.
At first I was utterly lost. Although I had a bit of knowledge in java and design, web design was something completely new and I was scrambling around to find anything I could understand. It was daunting thinking about where to even start but luckily my professor stepped in to guide me through the process. I had so many questions throughout the CDASH project –  from making a prototype to using WordPress and HTML and every time he answered all of them patiently and with genuinely. I was lucky to be working in the lab during the summer when my professor had more free time to answer any of my concerns. Before weekly CDASH meetings Professor Cassini made sure I was prepared and that I wasn’t left astray and it was nice knowing that I had someone to reach out to when I was utterly lost.
As the summer progressed I was making progress. I created a prototype and a content map for the site and presented it at a meeting with the CDASH team and both helped with planning out the development of the site. Things were moving at a fast pace and I was trying to hold on. By the end of the summer I had created a basic website that could be expanded and core functionality. The site is still being in development and I have hopes that it will be up and running by the spring semester.
Although my summer was mostly about developing a website for the lab there were other things I got to participate in. NAEA, National Art Education Association, held its annual meeting in the ATEC building this summer and I got to volunteer with Emma. I witness the principles of design being implemented and talked to art educators across the nation. I even ran into Debra Moore who is part of the Edith O’Donnell Foundation that had hosted an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art that I was a part of. I also got the opportunity to sit in at a lunch meeting with local business leaders that were part of a group called XD Leadership Alliance and I would have never gotten these opportunities to be exposed to the professional world had I not been interning in the lab this summer.
Overall my experience in the ArtSciLab was a great experience. The biggest lesson I learned is that there are so many ways to solve a problem and for the first time in my life there isn’t a set right answer. Creating the CDASH website was challenging at times but it was worth knowing that I was learning and contributing to something.

About the author

JoAnn is an undergraduate student studying Finance and Marketing at the University of Texas at Dallas.  She interned at the ArtSciLab during the Summer of 2017 as a web developer for CDASH.