Month: May 2017

Facilitating Memory Through Games in Children Aged Three to Five

yan-1I was born in December 1995, about a month before a major snowstorm during which my mom had a very real fear of losing me in several feet of snow. I grew up in the tight-knit little community of Glassboro, New Jersey, where I developed dear friendships that are still important to me.

I learned to love traveling very early. Before I turned one, I went to Hong Kong, where my parents were born. I’ve also traveled to various European cities. I have visited Disney World many times, and rediscover the child in me every time.

A fortune cookie I read once said, “A truly great person never puts away the simplicity of a child,” and I take that to heart. I collect hedgehog-themed stuffed animals and stickers and choose animated films over horror movies and romantic comedies every time.

I also enjoy being creative with cooking. My latest mission is to fry a perfect egg, with just the right balance between crispy edges and a slow, runny yolk. I like throwing together leftovers to create something better than the original. And I love to eat the head of a fresh steamed fish, inviting stares in restaurants!

Early on, I established myself as a “music kid.” My first love was the piano, my platonic love is the viola and my most recent interest is the cello.

My love for music hasn’t wavered. Ever since I could talk, I was singing in languages I didn’t even understand, belting out old Chinese folk and traditional songs. I simply like the feeling that music gives me: If a song makes me stop and listen, I like it. If I smile when I listen to it, I love it. If I get goose bumps every time I hear it, it’s a favorite for life!

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Exploring Narrative Identity Through Fiction

searsI was born in Manhattan and lived in Darren, Connecticut until I was seven, when my family moved to Australia. Living in Australia while my father pursued his Ph.D. gave me a different perspective on being an American. There, the academic culture was focused on obtaining knowledge and enriching one’s life, placing less emphasis on status and material wealth.

When my family eventually moved to Palo Alto, California, I was—for better or worse—able to retain a more laid-back attitude toward life and school than many of my American peers. In Palo Alto, I attended Gunn High School. I find that the culture at Carnegie Mellon is very similar to Gunn – they’re both home to many intelligent and creative people who are passionate about what they do, but there are also many who feel a lot of pressure to succeed and prioritize academic success above everything else.

I began to pursue music and writing at Gunn, where I played guitar in a rock band and bass in a jazz quartet. During my senior year of high school, I wrote the first 126 pages of a terrible novel that spurred me to major in creative writing. My friends and I also enjoyed—and still enjoy—making short films in our free time, most of which appear on YouTube under the name “We’re Bandits Productions.” At first, engaging in these pursuits clashed with my schoolwork, but as I’ve gotten older and my classes have become more tailored to my interests, my hobbies and my work inform each other more and more.

Writing a novel for my thesis is the best and most natural possible outcome of my time at CMU, and I hope it will ultimately lead to a career as a novelist.

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Pittsburgh City Programs and Their Impact on Income Mobility

navjeevanI was born in New Delhi on October 2, 1996, on what would have been Gandhi’s 127th birthday. For the first two years of my life my family lived in India, before moving to Singapore and later San Jose and southern California after my sister, Vidhu, was born. We eventually settled in the southern San Francisco peninsula, where we’ve lived since I was in fifth grade.

In middle school—in spite of puberty, society anxiety and preteen obnoxiousness—I met a couple of my closest friends, realized a love for stand-up comedy and developed a standing addiction to mobile games. An avid reader, I picked up “The Age of Turbulence” by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan the summer before I started high school. Though I’m sure I didn’t fully understand the book, I remember being fascinated with Greenspan’s descriptions of his work in economics. This sparked an interest in economics that continued throughout high school, where I discovered a love of public speaking and became involved in Model United Nations and the debate club. These activities strengthened my interest in economics as many of the issues discussed in both clubs had to do with economic policy.

After reading books like Thomas Piketty’s “Capital” and participating in conversations leading up to the 2016 election, I’ve become more cognizant of how inequality shapes our culture. When choosing an honors thesis topic, I decided to explore how we can take action on a local level to combat inequality. I hope that through this work we can shape policy that will allow people to lead better lives and focus on things that are more important and fulfilling than just getting through the day.

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Understanding Resistance to Communal Coping and Its Effect on Health Outcomes in Young Adults with Type 1 Diabetes

majidBlistering heat and the smell of car exhaust greeted my mother and me as we exited the Istanbul Airport terminal. I had just turned five. Excited to see my cousins, I cheerfully clenched my green Peter Pan bag and skipped after my mother towards the shuttle that would take us to the baggage claim. While clambering onto the crowded vehicle, my mom took my bag out of my arms and my smile vanished. “I do myself!” I protested. Despite her attempt to explain that she was simply trying to help, I tormented her during the ride to my cousin’s house, saying “I do myself!” over and over again until I got the chance to carry my own bag.

“I do myself” was a common refrain while I was growing up, whether I was climbing trees or solving math problems. In my adult life, this independent mindset has helped me handle the stress of balancing academics, research, work and extracurricular activities.

Growing up, I sought opportunities to pursue knowledge, activities and hobbies that sparked my interest. My family and I watched “The Phantom of the Opera” in New York during a visit in 2011. I came home obsessed with its soundtrack and soon downloaded the piano sheet music, which I began to teach myself. When I excitedly told my piano instructor about my new love for the song “Think of Me,” he told me that it was far beyond my abilities. I practiced for the next five days and perfected the piece on my own, despite his dissuasion.

This attitude of independence continues to teach me how to take control of my own life, be happy with the results and bounce back from mistakes, always striving to do better.

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What Can the U.S. Learn From the Health Insurance Systems of the Netherlands and Switzerland?

kimI have always been interested in providing services for those in need. For example, I enrolled in Constru Casa, an organization that recruits people to help construct houses for underprivileged families in Guatemala. I’ve also participated in programs that fought against poverty in Korea by helping the elderly without proper health services.

But as each project ended, I felt helpless and like my best efforts only provided temporary relief to a grave problem. Without a permanent solution, we are doing nothing more than chipping away at glacier.

While a part of me still asks me to jump into action so I can continue to help others, a larger part motivates my pursuit of permanent solutions. To be honest, I do not have a solid plan on how to change the world, but I humbly dream of making this world a better place for all one day, with better health services for all.

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Meet the Fellows


Front row (left to right): Naomi Sternstein, Kayla Lee, Karen Nguyen, You Bin Maeng, Ariel Hoffmaier, Amber James, Lauren Yan; back row (left to right): Mary Catherine (Casey) Devine, Ian Sears, David Beinhart, Yong H. Kim, Isabel Bleimeister

In early May, members of the 2016-17 group of Honors Fellows joined the 2017-18 cohort for lunch, where they discussed their challenges and successes and offered pointers to the new group.

Attendees included David Beinhart, Isabel Bleimeister, Mary Catherine (Casey) Devine, Ariel Hoffmaier, Amber James, Yong H. Kim, Kayla Lee, You Bin Maeng, Karen Nguyen, Ian Sears, Naomi Sternstein and Lauren Yan.

Sustainability and Technical Communications in Global Health Projects

jamesI never thought joining Carnegie Mellon’s Global Water Brigades organization would change my life. When I went to the first meeting, they told us we would be building water systems for people in Central America who didn’t have clean water. When spring break came, we departed Pittsburgh by plane to Honduras.

I didn’t realize that I would see others in living in conditions that I would never have to endure – that little girls there couldn’t go to school because they had to spend hours every day lugging heavy jugs of water to their homes, or that the water they were carrying was infected with parasites and fecal matter. I was sitting on the plane, ear buds in, oblivious to it all. After pick-axing and digging trenches that would eventually fit pipelines for the water system, I developed a deep interest in the field of public health.

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. I loved medicine growing up – my mom often found me sitting in my room watching open-heart surgeries on TV instead of cartoons! I also had a strong interest in reading and writing. Among my favorite books are “Mountains Beyond Mountains” and “Tuesdays with Morrie” because they highlight the meaning of true compassion. These books made me want to serve others in debilitating medical situations and in underdeveloped countries.

I want to be a doctor and I want to be a writer, so I decided to pursue both by aspiring to be a doctor and writing books pertaining to the field of public health. With this project, I hope to better understand the public health field and how technical communications plays a role in sustainability.

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“Vulvodynia: A Documentary”

houstonI was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on April 1, 1996 in a quaint lake house. Soon after, I moved with my family to suburban New Jersey where I grew up, not too far from New York City. During my teenage years, I discovered a webcam aesthetic used by other young girls on Tumblr and Instagram that has influenced my video and photo work. Today I am a BHA student majoring in gender studies and art.

The conceptual nature of Carnegie Mellon’s art program coupled with the spread of online activism has inspired much of what I work on now – primarily experimental video work, analog photography, accessible zines and found-object installation.

I created a duo-exhibition with artist Kate Werth titled “Guaranteed Fresh” at the Frame Gallery in March 2017, deconstructing femininity in the context of sexual dysfunction and online intimacy. I am a regular contributor to Crybaby Zine and Polyester Magazine, where I illustrate sex-ed comics for marginalized populations, and my work has been in both of CMU’s literary and art magazines, Imprint and Dossier.

As an intern with Anthropologie, I created visuals for multiple stores, developing sculptural installations and working on catalog photo editorials at their home office in Philadelphia.

My current focus is on experimental filmmaking branching off into documentary, and recently, I finished a photography book, “Paradise, Home from Work,” documenting young individuals with chronic pain in their homes with funding from a CMU Undergraduate Research Grant.

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The Balance of Powers: The Federal Court System and the Presidency

Kyanna_DawsonI was born and raised in a small military town in South Carolina. I blame my mother—a New Jersey native—for my northern-influenced southern accent. (Don’t be surprised if you hear me say “pai” for “pie” or “caw-fee” for “coffee”!) I love a good bagel with lox, grits and sweet tea. But sadly, not everyone brews sweet tea like the south, where it is mostly sugar!

One of my favorite hobbies is experiencing new cuisines from different ethnic backgrounds. My family—especially my uncle—shares the same interest. When my family travels, my uncle and I are in charge of meals and watch the Travel Channel and Food Network for recommendations. He thinks of us as foodies and wants to start a blog documenting our experiences.

My family has also been a major influence on my passion for politics. My grandmother is constantly watching C-SPAN or reading the local newspaper. Whenever she calls, we discuss our views on that day’s breaking news.

I remember sitting in the living room with my grandmother and mother as a second-grader, listening to the callers on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” During a break, I proudly proclaimed that I intended to cast my presidential ballot for Abraham Lincoln. When my mother asked for my reasoning, I cited Lincoln’s actions in response to the South’s desperate clinging to that “peculiar institution” of slavery.

My grandmother is proud of how my political views have matured since that day. In fact, when I learned that I was to intern with the Democratic National Committee for the fall 2016 semester, she bragged to her friends and fellow church members.

I am grateful for my family’s support and advice, and I hope they understand how much I love and appreciate them for all they have done for me.

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Subcortical Visual Processing

bleimeisterMy first neuroscience research experience was in eleventh grade, when I reached out to a lab at UCLA that used Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to study movement disorders. My mother had just started a repetitive TMS program aimed at reducing her depression and I sought to improve my understanding of the procedure by learning how to perform it myself.

From this initial research experience, I discovered that I truly enjoy being in an environment that fosters scientific innovation and creativity. Every lecture and discussion I attended acted as a reminder of just how expansive the field of neuroscience actually is, while every presentation I gave served to further instantiate myself in the world of neuroscience research.

A byproduct of this first research experience was that it also gave me an area of commonality with my mother. Suddenly I became her principal source for understanding the treatments she was undergoing. I was by no means an expert, but I had a background in the area and worked to increase that background over time by reading papers and attending lectures that pertained to her conditions. In this way, without meaning to, my mother inspired my passion for neuroscience and research while neuroscience and research helped me to reconnect with my mother.

With such a personal underlying motivation to do research, it is perhaps unsurprising that I remain as intrigued by the field of neuroscience now as I was in high school. Since this first research experience I have studied the lateralization of face-word processing in hemispherectomy patients and have researched the impact of different rehabilitation techniques on traumatic brain injury. I look forward to expanding the breadth of my neuroscience research experience over the coming year by continuing to investigate new areas of the field.

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