Student Researcher Interview with Nicole Hershkowitz

Interviewer: Akshani Patel

Interviewed: Nicole Hershkowitz

A: Hi! Can you please tell me your name, major, and department of research?

N: Hey Akshani, my name is Nicole Hershkowitz. I am a biomedical engineering and applied math and statistics double major, and my department of research is biomedical engineering.

A: Follow up question what specific lab are you a part of?

N: I am part of the Chan lab, which focuses on obesity research.

A: That’s really cool! Can you tell me how you got into research and what inspired you to do so?

N: I wanted to be involved in research since my first semester at Stony Brook, because my original career goal was to go into academia and possibly work for a university. I started doing research the summer after my freshman year in a different lab, but I quickly realized I wasn’t interested in that kind of research. During my sophomore year, I went to a BME upperclassmen panel and a couple of the students on the panel were in Dr. Chan’s lab. They spoke so highly of Dr. Chan as a mentor and since I had TA’d for her the previous summer, I decided to ask to join her lab!

A: You’re definitely an established member of her lab then! Considering that, have you contributed to any posters or publications and if you have, what was your role in those projects?

N: As of now, I haven’t contributed to any publications yet, but we are currently working on one! As for posters, I was in the URECA program this past summer so I will be presenting in the URECA symposium this year. Also, my abstract was accepted the BMES Annual Event, but I unfortunately am not able to attend this year.

A: URECA is definitely a noteworthy event! Can you go into detail as to what your lab studies?

N: My lab specifically studies obesity. My particular project is developing a family-based fitness band which uses a friendly, competition-based integrated video game to motivate children to exercise and monitor childhood obesity. The fitness band allows the child to compete with their parents in a “race” which is displayed on both the parent’s and child’s fitness band screen. The more you exercise, the more your character moves around the track. Right now, we are using heartrate data to determine how much the user is exercising. We are also collaborating with a local program called ‘Fit Kids for Life!’ which focuses on creative ways to incorporate exercise, healthy nutrition, and stress reduction into families’ every day routine. We hope to begin clinical trials with ‘Fit Kids for Life!’ participants this year!

A: It seems like you are really working to make a difference in the lives of a broad group of people. Can you tell what your favorite part about doing research is?

N: I love the design aspect of my research and being able to come up with new, creative ideas when we run into problems. Designing a fitness band is definitely not something I ever thought I would be doing since it involves so much 3D design and coding, and I love that I was able to learn new skills and expand upon existing ones!

A: Do you feel that your research will fit into your inevitable career goal?

N: Yes! My current career goal is to become a veterinarian and to also go into the BME industry. I hope to continue to do research in veterinary school and even after I graduate!

A: Last question, do you have any advice for undergraduates looking to get into research or looking to get more out of their current research experience?

N: Don’t be afraid to email professors, and don’t be discouraged if they don’t respond! A great way of finding a professor you would like to do research for is looking at your department’s faculty directory. The directory will usually tell you something about that faculty member’s research and can help you decide if you are actually interested in their research. If a professor doesn’t respond, try attending their office hours to see if they’re available to talk. And whether you’re a freshman or a senior, there’s never a bad time to get involved in research so don’t be afraid to ask!

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