Research Interests

Most of my research tries to bring together cognitive science and literature in one way or another. My dissertation draws on literary studies, neurocognitive research, and intersectional feminisms to reconsider the relationship between empathy and literature. Do we really become better empathizers by reading fiction? I question this popular idea with a focus on the way in which it is closely connected to individualist ideals and ask how two feminist writers—Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison—have provided expanded models for thinking about empathy. Woolf and Morrison’s narrative experimentations expose the patriarchal and racialized “I” that underlies empathy as a myth and can help us imagine new ways of thinking about individuals and the feelings between them.

Mentoring Experiences

I am not exaggerating when I say that my experiences mentoring undergraduates have been the most rewarding experiences I have had at UCSB. In 2018, I created the “Story and the Brain Undergraduate Discussion Group” as a continuation of my summer course “Story and the Brain.” Through this student-led discussion group, I worked with students through the process of preparing and leading meetings in which undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty come together to discuss cognitive science and literature. The way I see it, my main role as a mentor is to encourage students to pursue their ideas and to help them find the confidence needed to recognize themselves as scholars, teachers, and writers. Seeing students follow their intellectual curiosity and develop their own ideas is the best part of my job! I have also worked with students on a range of fascinating topics such as interdisciplinary work on biodiversity and creative writing, neuroscience and morality, the role of literary theory in legal studies, the political and personal potential of empathy, loneliness, and archival studies. Today, I have the honor of continuing my mentoring work as the Research Coordinator for the newly founded Trauma-Informed Pedagogy project, a project that addresses barriers to student success by identifying trauma as a concrete cause that impairs students’ learning experiences.

Meaning of the Award

This award is a special one for me because a big reason I value my time in grad school so much is the outstanding mentorship I’ve been fortunate enough to get. Particularly my advisor, Professor Sowon Park, has mentored me to be a better thinker and writer in more ways than I can count, and her support has made the unavoidable struggles of a PhD program so much easier to get through. To me, this award means that I am on the right track to one day becoming the type of kind, rigorous, and brilliant mentor as I’ve had the luck of meeting throughout my studies. More than anything, however, I am beyond grateful to the undergraduate students I have had the honor of learning from and with during my time at UCSB. I’d like to send a final note of appreciation to those who took their time to write about their experiences to support my nomination for this award. Thank you!