2016 Olivia
Senior - Boston University
Major: Neuroscience
Olivia is a rising fourth year at Boston University, pursuing a major in neuroscience. After seeing firsthand the stigma against mental illnesses, she seeks to uncover genetic and environmental factors that play into the onset of depressive and anxiety disorders. Olivia’s goal is to use neuroscience research to prove the legitimacy of such pervasive conditions, as well as find behavioral and pharmacological therapies to improve treatment. Her passion in neuroscience lies in cell and molecular biology, physiology, and pharmacology.

At Boston University (BU), Olivia is heavily involved in a variety of STEM-related clubs. She serves as Vice President of the BU SASE chapter, and as Vice President of the BU Mind and Brain Society. In these pursuits, Olivia seeks to unite a community of passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds interested in mentorship and the expansion of leadership skills. She also pursues creative outlets, serving as editor-in-chief for the student run neuroscience magazine, ‘The Nerve’, and as a radio DJ for WTBU: The Beat of Boston University. Olivia currently investigates the comorbid condition of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder and addictive disorders at the Kaplan Lab at the Veteran Affairs hospital in Boston.

How have you impacted the community through your STEM involvement?

I’ve always focused on visibility toward marginalized groups of people. Through BU clubs, I’ve participated in event planning for events that focused on mental health, racial inequality, and gender/sexual orientation inequality in the STEM fields. Facilitating a dialogue about the inequalities we feel due to certain aspects of our identity has allowed for a broader understanding for individuals in our community, and awareness of the obstacles faced in STEM due to those aspects. Some examples of events I helped contribute to our community were a student led discussion about Asian American identity in media, a presentation about the neuroscience of transgender identity, a ‘gender inequality in STEM professions’ panel, and the development of two mentorship programs for Asian American students.

What motivates you to expand STEM outreach? How do you think STEM outreach will change the world?

Fostering creativity, collaboration, and initiative in others is what motivates me to expand STEM outreach. Science and engineering fields are dynamic in the sense that it’s not a solo effort, and it builds upon existing creations in order to find new solutions. By expanding outreach, we’re able to create a network of motivated individuals who share a passion for an idea that can create something that benefits hundreds, thousands, even millions of people! STEM outreach can change the world by the compound knowledge of an entire community of like-minded people with the intent of helping others. It’s important for the spread of knowledge, experiences, and technologies that allow us to drive society forward through collaboration.

What do you like to eat?

Basically everything—I’m not picky at all! My most recent obsession has been lychee/lychee-flavored foods (frozen yogurt, milk tea, soju, etc). It’s so refreshing, especially in the summer!

If you had to choose: rice or noodles?

Rice is one of those foods that can go with basically anything, serve as a palette cleanser, and allows me to eat spicy food without dying. I could probably eat rice for all three meals, honestly.

What are your long-term motivations?

When I was in high school, a lot of my friends suffered from depression and anxiety disorders. I realized after spending most of my high school career trying to cheer them up that it wasn’t a “feeling down” problem; it was a genetic predisposition and a variety of environmental factors that allowed for chronic conditions to manifest. These conditions were made worse by the stigma of mental illness being characteristic of “crazy people” (deterring people from seeking help) and available treatments often creating more problems than solutions. I’m motivated today knowing that all the research I contribute and all my efforts should be dedicated to helping those marginalized by mental illness by developing more effective treatments. Mental illness infrastructure in this country is lacking, and I hope to help improve it through my academic and professional aspirations.