Fellow Feature: Carissa Samuel, Health + Tech ’23 (Molecular and Cellular Biology)
On her drive to help others, passion for dance and experiences in the fellowship.
Carissa Samuel is a Health + Tech fellow studying Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) with a minor in Dance and Performance studies. Here, she shares more about her personal and professional interests and why she chose the Fung Fellowship.
What do you study and why did you choose it?
I am a current junior studying Molecular and Cellular Biology, with an emphasis on Developmental Genetics. I first fell in love with genetics in the fifth grade when I saw the infinite possibilities that analyzing and understanding the human genome could have for medicine. With this interest in Biology, I took AP Biology in high school and further fell in love with the subject. I have since felt like I can see the world through the lens of my major. When I look around me, I can see life everywhere. When I talk to other people, I am especially fascinated by the ways in which I can see the impact of different biological processes in their daily lives. I hope to be able to continue my learning in these areas and to eventually become a physician, where I can apply this knowledge to improve the lives of women especially.
“I have since felt like I can see the world through the lens of my major. When I look around me, I can see life everywhere.”
I am also currently minoring in Dance and Performance Studies. I chose to study dance as it has always been a passion of mine. I love the way in which I can express myself and my creative side in dance. It is also a medium that I have wanted to explore more in a professional setting. Being able to learn from amazing faculty and to critique both the ideas behind dance and dance itself has been an eye-opening experience for me so far. Since I have been dancing for the past ten years with an Indian classical dance form called Bharatnatyam, I have been able to stretch myself by learning Modern Dance at UC Berkeley.
What are your professional goals?
I hope to pursue a master’s in Public Health upon graduating from Berkeley and then go to medical school to become an OB-GYN.
What kind of impact do you want to have on the world through your academic and professional work?
My goal in life has always been to share grace with the world. My name, Carissa, comes from the Greek word meaning ‘grace’. I hope to be able to share some grace with others through work, dance, and everything else that I do.
What inspired you to apply to the Fung Fellowship?
Coming out of online learning for over a year, I wanted a chance to learn with hands-on projects. When I heard about the Fung Fellowship, it felt like the perfect opportunity for me. Previously, I had been working at my community college’s Student Health Center during the pandemic and had started to love public health and the possibilities for community impact. This added to my interest.
Can you share some of the design challenges or projects you’ve worked on or currently working on in the Fung Fellowship?
Our first design challenge was to address health misinformation. My group focused on West Asian international students and we were able to understand how the mistrust of the American healthcare system could lead to more health misinformation for international college students. Now, we are working on understanding how to support the elderly population in Berkeley and are currently in the process of interviewing staff in local organizations.
What’s your favorite part of the Fung Fellowship, so far?
So far, I have been amazed by how amazing everyone in the fellowship is! Each student brings such a unique perspective and background and that has been so fascinating to discover! Thinking beyond the outward aspects of a health issue and thinking more critically about the causes and reasons behind these problems has been a new mindset shift for me as well.
What are some of your non-academic hobbies/passions, and how, if at all, have they inspired your professional goals?
Outside of dance, I also love writing. I feel like writing has been a source of comfort and motivation for me. It inspires me to better myself through journaling and comforts me through moments of joy and sadness. Writing has inspired me to continue working even through difficult situations. It has helped me think and shape my goals and plans for the future. Especially when becoming a physician seems like an impossible dream, writing allows me to see everything around me in perspective and to keep going. Continually, writing combined with my love of dance has been a great source of rest after busy school weeks.
Is there something you are currently working on/interested in that you would like to share?
I am currently a part of the National Mental Health Advisory Board which has been an amazing opportunity for me to continue mental health advocacy, an issue I am personally passionate about. Through the board, I was able to write about the mental health struggles of minority immigrant groups, drawing on my South Asian background. Exploring intersectionality in health is something I hope to continue in the future. My blog can be found here: https://wellbeingtrust.org/news/a-strong-connection-to-community-helped-carissa-samuel-find-a-path-to-healing/
What advice do you have for those who are curious about the Fung Fellowship, but unsure if they should apply?
I would definitely encourage any students interested in growing their skillset and in topics of health and conservation to apply! I feel like the fellowship is an experience that could really benefit any student. I know it can seem intimidating but in terms of time, it really only requires the same amount of time that a 3-unit class would require. On top of that, I think applying can add to your resume and to your Berkeley experience forever!
“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” — C. S. Lewis