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Engineering  |  Grand Challenges Scholars Program

Kaleia Kramer

Junior, Biomedical Engineering
GCSP Theme: Health
Experience: First Annual White House BRAIN Conference, Washington, D.C.

Kaleia Kramer was invited to the First Annual White House BRAIN Conference in Washington, D.C., which was hosted to encourage conversation and ultimately collaboration between large research groups, national laboratories, foundations, companies, and other key contributors across America that have aligned their research goals with those outlined in the Obama Administration’s BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). The BRAIN Initiative seeks to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain by mapping the brain, linking neural activity to behavior, and integrating computation with neuroscience experiments. The White House BRAIN Conference served as a place to initiate this conversation and collaboration between groups by holding three panels of discussions uniquely tailored to address and answer questions regarding the main focuses of the BRAIN Initiative.

Kaleia was chosen along with another Grand Challenge Scholar from Duke University to co-author a blog that will be posted on the Whitehouse.Gov website in the Office of Science and Technology Policy page.

Why are you involved in GCSP?

I have wanted to pursue neuroscience and study the brain since I was in middle school. My best friend at the time was diagnosed with an illness called Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy, and since I was an overly ambitious teenager, I wanted to be the one to provide a cure for her. Watching my friend suffer from this disease was heartbreaking and inspired me to pursue neuroscience as well as biomedical engineering in hopes of finding a means of alleviating the pain that she was experiencing. Although she has gone through intensive therapy, she is now a successful student at NYU and functioning normally again. In light of her recovery, I have not lost my drive to pursue this research and better understand this disorder, as well as other aspects of the brain.

When I started my freshman year of college as a biomedical engineer, I was enthusiastic about not only the Biomedical Engineering Department’s neural engineering focus, but also their encouragement of undergraduates to pursue research. After joining Dr. Marco Santello’s Neural Control of Movement Laboratory, I discovered the Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Since I already planned on focusing on neural engineering, I was delighted to discover that one of the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 grand challenge areas was Reverse-Engineering the brain, which I am currently pursuing.

How did this experience enhance your engineering background or studies?

This enhanced my studies in several ways, first, participating in a conference like this is an invaluable experience, the connections I’ve made are remarkable and I can now tailor my research to the needs and goals of the BRAIN Initiative. I hope to continue on the path that I am now on, to assist in reverse-engineering the human brain, and collaborate with or work under major corporations and research institutes with this call to action instituted by President Barack Obama.

ASU student Kaleia Kramer (second from right) joined engineering Grand Challenge Scholars from other universities at the recent White House BRAIN Conference. Photo by: Randy Atkins/National Academy of Engineering

ASU student Kaleia Kramer (second from right) joined engineering Grand Challenge Scholars from other universities at the recent White House BRAIN Conference. Photo by: Randy Atkins/National Academy of Engineering