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Confronting the terror within
A walk in the garden
Why I Give
Capital Steps

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Spring 2002
Capital Steps
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James Desveaux is Melody's political science professor and the head of the UCLA program in Washington. He says the selectivity of the program guarantees that the students who are accepted are of the highest caliber. "If you take students like that and spend the time to show them the expectations and road map for an empirical-research project, they're a quick study," Desveaux says. "It's remarkable."

The Washington Center's open atmosphere also helps forge bonds among the students, who stay up to all hours exchanging ideas, working together on their projects or engaging in thought-provoking discussions. "All I did for the first few days was talk politics and things - we had these late-night conversations about religion, finance, physics and politics," Lunder says. "Interacting with other students was an important part of the education I got here."

Jeffrey Ghassemi '03 says he even learned from his roommate how to play chess. "Living with these guys has been a class in itself," he says. Ghassemi is one of the few science-oriented students (he is majoring in political science but is premed) to take advantage of the Quarter in Washington Program. His internship was with the National Health Council and his research project was on federal funding and its effects on stem-cell research. During his internship he had the opportunity to meet James Thomson, whose research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was the first, in 1998, to successfully isolate and culture human embryonic stem cells, as well as his "idol," Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) - not because of his politics, Ghassemi quickly adds, but because Frist is both a heart surgeon and a senator.

"A lot of science students think that to become a doctor, they need to focus on the science and that's it," Ghassemi says. "But there's a lot of politics in medicine. You also have to know the policies behind the science and what is involved in getting certain pieces of health legislation passed."

For example, he noted during a Congressional hearing that the scientists advocating for a broader use of stem cells failed to make a persuasive case. It was difficult to judge their level of passion, Ghassemi says, "just because their communication skills and their knowledge of the legislative process wasn't there."

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