Degree Program: Network and Digital Technology B.A.
Graduate Institution: UC Santa Cruz
Undergraduate Institution: UC Santa Cruz
Department: Computer Science and Engineering
What are you studying?
Network and digital technology is basically computer engineering with an emphasis on networking. Originally I applied as a bioengineering major and then I switched to computer engineering because I thought it would allow me more freedom to choose I wanted to work on and computers are really fundamental right now.
Data analysis and computation are extremely important to every single discipline. So being a computer engineer you can have a lot of choices, whether it’s directly related to computers and making them better and programming applications that do necessary things or whether it’s doing biology, chemistry, physics. I felt that computer engineering was more transferable and let me be able to switch to other disciplines than a hard science would have been.
What projects have you been working on?
Throughout my years as an undergrad I was working between DANSER Lab and the Haussler Lab on this project called Braingeneers, which is something we started two years ago and it started off very small but grew quite large, especially after we got funding. The Haussler Lab was growing these cortical organoids, which are 3D tissue structures that mimic real tissue in the human body. We’re able to guide this tissue, starting from stem cells, into a specific type of cell.
That’s how we get from human stem cells to human cortex en vitro. So, previously the Haussler wet lab was trying to study this gene called Notch2NL that we think is important in differentiating primates and humans. We think it’s responsible for why we have such a large cortex compared to other primates. Now we’ve been thinking of using them for different purposes.
For example, they make great models for studying the human brain. The neurons form circuits, which we find super exciting because now we can try to study neural interactions like memory and learning which are really fundamental questions in how we function as humans and how our brain works. Who are we really? That’s a question that really excites me. I’m going to continue working on this project as a PhD student here at UC Santa Cruz in the fall.
What do you like about the Baskin School of Engineering?
I find it really exciting that we have all these different faculty who are very open to collaborating with each other and that creates this atmosphere where you can explore multiple interests at the same time and be able to form your own projects or patsh you want to pursue. The environment at Baskin Engineering is very open and friendly and very flexible so you can really carve your own path.
What do you do for fun in your spare time?
I like to read science fiction novels. It lets me think outside the box and imagine a world I would like to live in so then I can work on making it a reality. Some of my favorite authors are Greg Egen and Isaac Asimov. I also really enjoyed the nonfiction book Algorithms to Live By. It’s connecting computer algorithms to daily life and showing how you can use algorithms from networking or game theory or mathematics to make your life decisions.
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