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About Us

Hajim Spotlights

Kristin Smith

Class of 2020 (Take 5)
Major: brain and cognitive sciences (neurolobiology track)
Minor: health psychology
Challenge: engineer better medicines

“I enjoy a challenge, and seek out new experiences,” says Kristin.

Consider the wide range of experiences she has participated in at the University of Rochester.

In addition to the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, Kristin:

  • Currently is completing her Take 5 year studying Race and Gender Biases in Marketing.
  • Interned with GHS Healthcare, a leading precision medicine biotech startup in Cambridge, Mass., during the summer of 2019.
  • Was project team member in the ROC HCI (Human Computer Interaction) Lab applying machine learning techniques to analyze and model the effects of real-time social interaction in the brain using fMRI and a web-based intelligent interface.
  • Tested non-human primates on a variety of touchscreen and real object paradigms as a research assistant with the Concepts, Actions and Objects Lab during the summer of 2019.
  • Assisted Susan Carey in investigating how development of cognition shapes adult cognitive function as a summer intern at the Harvard Laboratory for Developmental Studies during the summer of 2018.
  • Co-founded ASCEND (Awareness, Support, and Community Efforts for Neurodegenerative Diseases), a student organization partnering with community-based organizations to raise awareness on the treatment of different neurodegenerative disorders.

Here’s a Q&A with Kristin about her participation in the Grand Challenges Scholars program.

Q. Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges Program?

I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to create a capstone project that would allow me to connect all of my seemingly unrelated undergraduate experiences under one program, working towards one solution.

Q. Which of the five competencies did you most enjoy completing? Why?

I enjoyed completing the entrepreneurship competency the most. I interned at a precision medicine, biotech, startup in Cambridge, MA. This experience was perfect for my Grand Challenge: Engineer Better Medicines, because I was working on the front lines for a company whose causal AI algorithm took in big data from the healthcare industry, and created in silico patients, to see what treatments work for what patient, at what time. Before this experience, precision medicine was just a concept to me. Yet, after working for this internship, I realized it was a reality, and it gave me the drive and passion to want to be a part of the precision medicine effort for my career. 

Q. Are there things you learned while completing the competencies that you would not have learned in a classroom or lab? For example?

Yes, I think completing the competencies made me realize that my challenge, Engineer Better Medicines, had to be approached from multiple perspectives. Completing all 5 competencies allowed me to come up with a solution that was both global and looked at the big picture.

Q. After you graduate, do you think you will want to continue to work or pursue graduate studies in the same field as the challenge you tackled? How will you do that?

Yes, I definitely plan to continue to work in the same field by pursuing a career in the biotech industry. I plan to work for companies that are working towards making, or engineering, medicines personalized to patients, through the use of big data, such as genomics. As a Brain and Cognitive Science major, I have always known I wanted to work in a science-related field. Yet, it wasn’t until I completed my Entrepreneurship competency, that I realized I wanted to continue working in that same field for my career.

Q. How did being at the University of Rochester help you complete this program?

Being at the University inspired me to think bigger, and work towards a global problem that benefits society as a whole. Without the University, I would not have had the opportunities or resources that I was fortunate enough to have throughout this program, which was the key to my success.

Q. What is the value of the Grand Challenges program for a student?

Students can gain a lot from this program, but the main value of the GCSP is having a structured program that allows you to work towards a global problem. Through this program, students are able to engage in a public health issue that relates to your career interest and explore solutions through a multi-faceted approach. Without this program, that would be a hard feat.

Kristin's GSC Poster

Kristin's GCS poster

Kristin Smith '20—brain and cognitive sciences