Class of 2017
College of Human Ecology
Major: Human Biology, Health and Society
Minor: Global Health
Karen is an undergraduate student majoring in Human Biology Health and Society with a minor in Global Health who is currently working in the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab under the mentorship of Mitch Pender and Nozomi Nishimura.
During high school, Karen spent the majority of her summers volunteering on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. While volunteering on the reservation, Karen helped to design a summer camp as well as a mentorship program for the Hopi youth. Through these experiences, she was able to see firsthand many of the health issues that come hand in hand with poverty. As a result of the friendships she built while on the reservation, Karen decided to pursue a career in medicine in order to combat health inequalities in resource limited environments.
Brain-machine interfaces allow for direct communication pathways between the brain and an external device. They are typically used to restore or repair human cognitive functions as well as sensory-motor functions. My project is focused on developing a method to enable neurons to emit light when an action potential is fired so that neural activity can be optically measured. This involves the delivery of viral vectors to transduce neural cells to produce the photoprotein, Aequorin. Following transduction, an awake-imaging set up will be used to coordinate neural activity with physical activity in the mouse. In the long run, this project aims to refine technologies for the advancement of brain-machine interfaces, first by developing a mouse model.
While Karen is not in lab, she enjoys playing intramural sports, babysitting, being involved in Cru, and volunteering in Cayuga Medical Centerâ€™s emergency room.