Grand Challenges Scholar

Abbey Kampel

Abbey Kampel standing next to her poster presentation.
Abbey Kampel, biomedical engineering

Class year: 2023
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Challenge: Reverse-Engineer the Brain

Can you provide a short summary of your project?

My project involves optogenetic research to better understand neural circuitry, using Hydra vulgaris as a model organism. The interdisciplinary nature of the program gave me a solid foundation to draw connections between different fields; I double majored in biomedical engineering and psychology, which provided relevant background on the anatomy of the human brain as well as engineering principles. My project also involved service, entrepreneurship, and global competencies.

Why did you want to address this particular challenge?

I wanted to address this grand challenge because of my curiosity to better understand how the human brain works. There are many neurodegenerative diseases and mental disorders where the cause is not fully known, so I found this area of exploration to have the potential to leave a meaningful impact on society.

What was the most important takeaway or thing you learned through the course of the project?

The most important takeaway I learned through the course of this project was how important it is to look at problems through various lenses. Exploring different perspectives highlights many possible solutions and ways to go about solving a challenge.

Now that you are graduating, what are your next steps?

The next stage in my career as a scientist is to begin a PhD program at Cornell University to dive deeper into research. I hope to use my research to bring insight into challenges that lie at the intersection of healthcare and innovation.