Monday, December 18, 2017

Entrepreneur Alexandra Szakats (CAS ’12) on the Importance of Learning to Think

Photo Credit: Jason Smith
We caught up with Alexandra, co-founder of trüFORMAT, a brain and body training company. She shared what it is like to be an entrepreneur, her early job experiences, and what motivates and inspires her.

What did you study at NYU?

I graduated with a degree in Metropolitan Studies and German. I didn’t declare until midway through my Sophomore year; there were plenty of interesting classes and coursework available, but, at eighteen, I was puzzled at the idea of having to pick a major that would guarantee a career. Instead, I chose based on my interest in the content and a confidence that it would teach me how to think. Cities are complex. My classes taught me to break down big subjects, understand the parts in relation to the whole, and reimagine their configuration. I’ve used this thinking in every (non-city related) job since graduation.

What was your first job after graduation?

My first job started before graduation on the Equities trading floor at Barclays Investment Bank. The summer before senior year, I was interning at a bank across the street. I met up with a friend who was completing his internship at Barclays, and he insisted I meet with his boss. I earned a job with her to help design strategies that generate and source new revenue streams for US equity products globally. With time, I led the equity education program designed to highlight the team’s thought leadership. I had the opportunity to travel all around the US and Asia.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Suzanne Dikker, PhD (GSAS ’10) on Merging Neuroscience and Performance Art

Photo credit: Thaddeus Rombauer
An Amsterdam native, Dr. Dikker is a researcher in the NYU Psychology Department Poeppel Lab and at Utrecht University. We visited her lab to find out how she merges cognitive neuroscience with education and performance art in her research. She also shared her experiences working with performance artist Marina Abramovic, who is best known for sitting immobile for 736 and 1/2 hours while spectators took turns sitting across from her in The Artist is Present at MoMA.

What did you study at NYU?

I was a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics. My experience as a graduate student was fantastic. I learned a lot from the faculty and my fellow students. In the Poeppel Lab in the Department of Psychology, where I am now a Research Scientist, there are some researchers who are just geniuses. It is an honor to be in this environment and among this community on a daily basis.

During my graduate studies, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work on projects that required group work, as opposed to only solitary efforts. I had a lot of collaboration with fellow students (most prominently: Hugh Rabagliati) and interaction with research subjects. I also had Liina Pylkkanen, Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, as my advisor. She was very hands-on and invested in her students, so I learned a great deal from her.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Author Denise Kiernan (WSC ’91, STEINHARDT ’02) on the Stories that Interest Her

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Denise Kiernan enjoys writing stories that focus on topics we are familiar with, but may not know entirely.  Her previous book, The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped to Win World War II, explores the history of the women who worked in Oak Ridge, TN, one of the Manhattan Project sites.  Her new book out September 26, The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, investigates the connection one of America’s most famous families, the Vanderbilts, has with the larger history of America during the Gilded Age.  In our interview, Kiernan shares what narratives she loves to explore and how her education at NYU helped foster this passion. 

What did you study at NYU?

As an undergrad, I studied biology. I also got my masters at NYU, and studied environmental conservation education, which was then part of the Philosophy of Education department.

Based on your educational background, how did you get into the writing profession?

There is no easy, straightforward answer to that, unfortunately! I have written since I was a kid—journals, plays, stories. However, I never considered writing to be a viable career. While I was in my grad program at NYU, I had a lot of courses that required writing—more than I had done while studying biology. I enjoyed them. During grad school I spent a semester at the University of Washington while working at an internship in Seattle. While there, I wandered into the offices of the university newspaper and…that was it. I was hooked. I ended up spending way too much time in the newsroom and on my next trip back to New York I pestered my way into an internship at The Village Voice. 

In what way has your educational experience at NYU shaped what you do now?

My professors, especially at the graduate level, were big believers in the importance of communication and being able to discuss and write about what you thought and believed. Tom Colwell and Millard Clements, my grad advisors, were incredibly intelligent and really embraced discussion and debate. I think in many ways they helped shape my desire to look at situations from a variety of viewpoints. And of course living and learning at NYU, in the Village, surrounded by such wonderful minds and enthralling history, was incredibly inspiring.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Spotlight on the Class of 2017

We caught up with recent alumni who are starting careers in medicine and public policy.

John Messinger (CAS '17)

What did you study at NYU?

I majored in Neural Science and was also on the pre-medical track, granting me a minor in Chemistry.

What is your favorite memory of your time at NYU?

My favorite memory from NYU was all of the time I spent with the wrestling team. From October to Mid-March each year I would travel all over the country each weekend to compete. Wrestling was one of the most challenging parts of my NYU career, especially when balanced with academics. However, because of how demanding the sport was, it was also extremely rewarding. My closest and dearest friends are all from the wrestling team. I was able to achieve some amazing feats such as competing in 150 matches and winning 115, qualifying for nationals twice, and earning Academic All-American honors three times during my career. Most importantly, wrestling gave me the discipline and focus to accomplish everything I have in my four years. I truly do not know where I would be without having wrestling as my center piece.

What are your current plans?

Right now I am finishing up the project I completed as a part of my senior honors thesis in the Glimcher Lab in the Center for Neural Science. This project works with recovering opioid-addicted individuals in Bellevue Hospital's Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program to study the effects of drug craving on their decision making abilities. The hope is to eventually publish this work in a peer-reviewed journal.