Class of 2016
Major: Biochemistry (pre-med)
Hometown: Washington, Mo.
Science offers powerful tools for understanding the natural world, says Christ College student Ben Hoemann, but it is important to recognize that science is a human endeavor.
“The news is full of stories that illustrate the ethical issues and conflicts generated by science, like the controversy around mitochondrial DNA donation,” Ben says. “These are difficult questions to tackle – questions that science itself rarely addresses.”
The humanities curriculum at Christ College, says Ben, addresses itself squarely to the ethical and cultural issues raised by scientific research and its applications in medicine.
“Christ College doesn’t teach you formulas,” he says. “It teaches you how to think critically when science leads you to a place that’s questionable or sensitive.”
Ben describes the interdisciplinary Christ College curriculum as “very versatile.”
“It offers students a chance to select their courses and focus their work on the basis of their interests. During the second semester of freshman year, for example, we take mini-seminars. Mine was on global bioethics.
“I wrote my paper on the impact of neuroimaging. I examined the current state of the technology of visualizing brain patterns with MRI, and I used my ethical and philosophical training from first semester and applied it to this current scientific technology,” he continues. That paper has been accepted for presentation at the National Conference on Undergraduate research.
Neuroscience and related topics have continued to interest Ben at Christ College.
“During my junior year, I took a course on global humanitarianism. The professor, Dr. John Nunes, was a former CEO for Lutheran World Relief, and he introduced me to a section of humanitarianism dealing with mental health and psychosocial support.
“It directed me to take a little more interest in psychology and neurology,” Ben explains. “I applied to several research-lab positions for the summer, all of them having to do with neurobiology and neuroscience. This is an interest that may lead to a career direction, and I definitely wouldn’t have found it without my work at Christ College.”
Ben will pursue his interest in neurobiology at the Harvard-Amgen Scholars Program, a 10-week faculty-mentored residential summer research program at Harvard University for exceptional undergraduates in biotechnology.
Christ College, Ben says, is about more than “sitting around reading a bunch of texts.”
“Our coursework really engages us in current issues, often in very practical terms,” he continues. “For example, my course about nuclear physics, nuclear energy, and nuclear arms is taught by a physicist. I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with somebody who actually practices in that field.”