Ann Fan Yang ‘17 used her study away year to take classes in Accra, Ghana, and New York, where she worked on a biomedical engineering project that aims to improve the postoperative monitoring process. The biology major from Portland, OR, shares her global story.
How did you choose your major?
I'm a biology major on a pre-med track. I really committed to the major after doing a summer placement, which solidified my desire to pursue medicine. I volunteered at a marine station in the Indonesian Wakatobi National Park at the end of my sophomore year to explore my interest in marine biology, but I left the station feeling that policy-makers were at the heart of the conservation movement, not marine biologists. I also left feeling like I wanted to have a more direct impact on humanity through research. I found myself looking up to the doctors that helped people at the clinic heal lionfish stings and to the midwives who played such an essential role in the community.
As a pre-med student, how did you plan your study away year and what was it like?
I went to New York for all of junior year, with a J-term in Accra, Ghana, where I took a Culture and Reproductive Health course on the CIEE J-term program at the University of Ghana. Living in Accra, the culture shock was very real but overall I had a really good experience. Every day was an adventure and as travelling often goes, I got to meet some very wonderful people.
In New York, I took a variety of classes such as Vertebrate Anatomy (dissections every class!), Immunology, Organic Chemistry, Bioinformatics, African Dance and Healthy Policy. I was curious as to how my global college path would compare to a relatively "standard" college life in the US, as standard as life can be at NYU! I felt very integrated into New York while studying there, but despite the excitement of the city, I found I missed the close-knit community at NYU Shanghai. I was lucky though to have great roommates who kept our dorm suite full of life and chocolate. When I wasn’t studying, I was with Synchronic dance crew, probably getting curly fries at UHall.
Tell us about the research you were involved in?
I was working on a biomedical engineering project with Dr. Vittoria Flamini and Peter Garcia from NYU New York, Hassan Nahas, and Jean N. Edwards from NYU Abu Dhabi, and Yichen Sun and Che Wang from NYU Shanghai. We had the opportunity to work with plastic surgeons from NYU Langone during the project (we got to watch them stitch together arteries once!), and spent a good amount of time in the NYU Tandon Prototyping Lab. The goal of the research we were doing was to make the postoperative monitoring process able to detect blood flow complications earlier, reduce the need for hourly disturbances, and be more accessible to surgeons.
Our prototype for “Post-operative Monitoring of Microsurgical Tissue Transfers” reads data from a handheld doppler device, and determines whether a steady pulse is present. We envision our Doppler signal analysis algorithm to be applied to a monitoring app that allows for automated and remote monitoring from a mobile device.
What are you planning next?
I'm still developing the answer to the classic question, "Why do you want to become a doctor?" I was really interested in marine biology and the environmental conservation movement prior to committing to the pre-med track. So perhaps in the future I will still study marine organisms like corals and lionfish, but in the context of something like the use of corals as a bone graft substitute.
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