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Selected Undergraduate Students

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Catherine Abou-Nemeh

Catherine Abou-Nemeh

Class of 2005
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"I graduated from Northwestern with a double major in Science in Human Culture and Communication Studies in 2005. I am deeply grateful to Science in Human Culture for encouraging my initial passion for history of science and for providing wise counsel on graduate school. Thanks to their guidance, I continued my studies in the doctoral program in the History of Science at Princeton University. The SHC program at Northwestern instilled in me the value and methods of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of science, medicine, and technology. In May 2012, I successfully defended my Ph.D. dissertation on the enigmatic, Dutch-born lens maker Nicolas Hartsoeker (1656-1725). This summer, I was a Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA. I'm currently a Lecturer in History at Princeton, and preparing a book chapter on the reception of Newton. And my love for history of science continues." Catherine is a lecturer in the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University in New Zealand.

Andrew Benedict-Nelson

Andrew Benedict-Nelson

Class of 2006
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"When I was an undergraduate at Northwestern, I was able to experience many different courses, activities, and people who have enriched me throughout my life. But the Science in Human Culture program provided the soul to my time in Evanston. The intellectual grounding I gained from the program provided structure and meaning to much of what I did at NU, helped determine the direction I took when I graduated, then helped sustain me when that direction changed unexpectedly. Through SHC, I was introduced to a wide range of subjects: the philosophy of science, the history of medicine, the anthropology of public health, the critical study of imperialism, the literature of nature and wonder. To an outsider it might have seemed a jumble, but the SHC faculty understood what I was doing: developing the capacity to think critically about the categories that structure the modern world. Because of their guidance, I came to understand that it was possible to critique the institutions of medicine while still believing in healing or question science as a method of seeking truth while still believing that truth exists. I quickly came to see that SHC faculty were the kind of people who were happy to discuss such questions whether they were on the syllabus or not." Andrew is a lecturer for the Department of Social Change and Innovation Virtural Academic Center in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.

Jessica A. Hurst-Bender, MD

Jessica A. Hurst-Bender, MD

Class of 2006
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"As a freshman at Northwestern, I knew that I wanted to major in Biology given my interest in the subject and desire to go to medical school. My first Freshman Seminar, “The Crossroads of Biomedical and Research Ethics,” made me realize that not only did I want to learn about biology and medicine but that I also wanted to learn about how these fields influence and are influenced by society. I was delighted to learn that I could explore this interest through an adjunct major in Science in Human Culture. Courses in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and medicine were the foundation of my curriculum in SHC. Since graduation, I have had ample opportunity to observe the interplay between culture and medicine on a daily basis. Working at the American Red Cross in the International Services Program, I saw the difficulties of immigrants and refugees in adjusting to the American medical system. I then attended medical school at the University of Washington where I participated in the Global Health Pathway. Through this program, I was able to spend time in Madagascar, initially to complete a public health project and later, at the end of my studies, to participate in a clinical medicine clerkship. Currently, I am completing my residency in internal medicine in the Primary Care Program at Boston University/Boston Medical Center. I am reminded of the importance of the biopsychosocial model of medicine every day in practice, as approximately half of my patients are immigrants and refugees." Jessica is a Clinical Instructor of Internal Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Ashorne Mahenthiran

Ashorne Mahenthiran

Class of 2019
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"The Science in Human Culture (SHC) program at Northwestern has provided me with the rare opportunity to construct an educational experience catered to my personal interests. With my access to a personal adviser, I was able to select a theme of concentration, Medicine and Society, that encapsulated the topics of study that I wished to learn more about. Like most pre-med students, my class schedule was filled with core science requirements, but through my SHC concentration, I was able to explore other important aspects of medicine and healthcare that I truly believe are equally as important as the science. In my SHC classes, I have learned about a large breadth of societal health topics ranging from analyzing how issues with the Indian Health Service have affected Native Americans to debating fundamental bioethics issues such as the use of embryonic stem cells and CRISPR. The courses that I have taken as part of my SHC curriculum have challenged me to think critically about how healthcare has changed as a result of advancements in the structure and stratification of modern societies. Due to my experience in SHC, I truly feel that I have obtained a holistic education that has significantly developed my understanding of the aspects of humanity involved in pursuing a career within the healthcare industry."  Ashorne is a Research Assistant at the Surgical Outcomes & Quality Improvement Center (SOQIC) at Northwestern University

Ben Parr

Ben Parr

Class of 2008
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"I graduated from Northwestern with degrees in Science in Human Culture, Political Science and Business Institutions. Which one has had the biggest impact on my life? That's easy: Science in Human Culture. There is no program like it, and it still turns people's heads when I tell them about it. I studied history, philosophy, engineering, literature, biology and more in order to understand humanity's relationship with the sciences. No other major has the breadth and depth of the SHC program when it comes to science. SHC was the foundation that helped transform me into a thought leader in the tech industry, the Co-Editor of Mashable at 24 and the co-founder of my own venture capital firm, DOMINATEFUND, at 27. Science in Human Culture ideal for anybody who wants to become a leader in science or technology. If that sounds like you, then get a degree in SHC."

Kellie Perkins

Kellie Perkins

Class of 2012
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was introduced to the Science in Human Culture program through Ken Alder's "History of Modern Science and Medicine"class that I took to fulfill a distribution requirement. His enthusiasm and love for the program inspired me to consider it as a second major. I was initially pretty confused about what sorts of careers SHC could lead me to, but after taking a few more classes in the Medicine and Society concentration, I began pursuing public health as a career option. A lot of the classes took historical events related to medicine and analyzed them using a few different disciplines, which gave me a broad understanding of how those events shaped society or vice versa. It also allowed me to look at current events and predict the societal changes that might result. Aside from the knowledge I gained about the relationship between medicine and society, my favorite thing about SHC was that all of the classes really enabled me to enjoy the learning process (rather than stress out about grades)! Most of the classes felt like they were being taken just for fun, but I actually learned a lot of fascinating things about the world around me."

Christina Shehata

Christina Shehata

Class of 2019
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"I declared my adjunct major in Science in Human Culture (SHC) pretty late in the game, at the end of my junior year. When I started my studies at Northwestern, I had interests in global health, which I realized could fall under SHC in addition to so much more. In addition to exploring my passion for global health through SHC, I have also learned about the ethics underlying scientific and medical practices and the ways in which scientific knowledge is produced and applied in daily contexts. Despite coming from a strong science background, my studies in SHC have taught me to question the assumed objectivity of science and develop a more nuanced perspective surrounding the applications of science to multiple facets of society. SHC truly brings the arts and sciences together in a unique way and I recommend it to any student interested a genuinely interdisciplinary liberal arts education." Christina is currently a Post-Baccalaureate IRTA Fellow, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Intramural Research Program (IRP).

Lisa B. VanWagner, MD, MS

Lisa B. VanWagner, MD, MS

Class of 2003
Adjunct Major - Science in Human Culture

"I graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Cum Laude from NU in 2003 with a dual degree in Psychology and Science in Human Culture. After graduation I attended medical school at the University of Virginia where I graduated AOA, then completed my internship and residency in internal medicine back at Northwestern. I have very fond memories of my SHC classes and the wonderful experiences and interactions that they afforded me. I firmly believe that my experiences through the SHC program have greatly shaped the physician researcher I am today offering a solid understanding of the history and ethics of science and the scientific process, in addition to a unique understanding of the complexities of health and its implications for society. I cannot think of a better major for an aspiring physician at Northwestern and I am proud to be affiliated with this program. Good luck in your undergraduate career and please feel free to contact me with any questions about the program!" Lisa is now an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Preventative Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

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