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2019 Seminars

HVIET 2019

seminars & Seminar leaders

Alyssa Britton.jpg

Hi, everyone! I’m Alyssa, a sophomore earning a double major in Environmental Science & Public Policy and Studies of Women, Gender, & Sexuality (hopefully with a language citation in Spanish). I have passions for both sustainable development and social equity, so after graduation I hope to pursue a career in field research studying the impacts of climate change on marginalized and vulnerable communities worldwide. I spent last summer researching sustainable development in Costa Rica, and I hope to spend the second half of this summer studying sustainable agriculture in India. I’m also a writer, a visual artist, and a hiker. At Harvard, I work as an advocate for first-generation and/or low-income students and as a peer adviser for first-year students. My real passions, though, are my many plants, my ever-growing collection of herbal teas, and my ongoing search for the best noodle soup in Boston. I can’t wait to meet and get to know you all!


Feminism, Intersectionality, and Queer Theory: An Introduction to Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

What is queer theory? What does it mean to be feminist? How are elements of our lives socially constructed? What assumptions do we make that shape our everyday lives? How do different elements of our identities affect each other? Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality seeks to provide the tools to answer these questions and to offer solutions to systems of oppression and marginalization. This seminar seeks to provide an introduction to key foundational topics in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, including different schools of feminism, the uses and limitations of intersectionality, and some applications of queer theory. Using examples from pop culture, everyday life, and landmark works of feminist theory, we’ll also explore methods of identifying and deconstructing binaries, assess flaws of activist movements, and apply our learned principles to actions we can take in daily life.

Alyssa Britton


Hey everyone, my name's Bryan, a recent graduate from Harvard with a degree in stem cell biology, and I'm really excited to return to HVIET this year and get to know you! I am originally from Lima, Peru but moved to sunny Florida when I was seven. At Harvard, I've been super involved researching at a genome editing lab, organizing social events for Latino student organizations, editing and publishing student-led research for the Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal, playing the violin for Harvard Mariachi, and designing graphics for our school newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. In my free time, I love to play the violin, go hiking, and learn new languages.


Aging and the Biological Fountain of Youth

Why do we get wrinkles? Are there medicines that can help you become younger? Why do the elderly get cancer more often than younger people? In this course, we will examine the phenomenon of aging from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students will be exposed to the challenges that an aging population poses socially and economically and collectively propose strategies that policymakers might take to address them, such as rising healthcare costs, determining how healthcare must be rationed, and decreases in a productive labor force. We will also investigate the biology behind aging in order to understand the cutting-edge research that is attempting to reverse aging, as well as discuss controversial topics such as gene editing, cell therapy, and gene therapy. By the end of the seminar, participants will have a deep understanding of why people age and whether it is possible to reverse it.

Bryan Peacker

Deriam Chirinos.png

Hi everyone! My name is Deriam and I was born and lived in a small town within the Peruvian Andean region before moving to the United States for High School. I study Economics at Harvard and my ultimate goal is to return to my country and work in Government (if any of you want to work in jobs related to Economics or Government, let me know and we can talk about it). That aside, while many of you may first think of me as a serious person, I'm actually quite easy to get along - especially if I start talking about my childhood days! For example, when I was about 8 years old I used to have a lot of animals (rabbits, guinea pigs, cows, goats, chickens, etc) and I really loved playing with them. I remember one time I had just finished watching a movie about the European Middle Ages and wanted to replicate the fight between two knights in a horse. So what I did was to get one of my cats to ride on top of my dog and pretend it was a "Knight in a horse." Of course, this didn't really work out well because my cat got a bit too annoyed and started scratching me instead of playing along with me. Looking back at stories like these, however, made me appreciate a lot of things in my life and I hope you will also feel the same way. I really look forward to meeting all of you!


Impact of Sustainable Development Goals

on Developing Countries

This seminar aims to teach students about the impact of Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs) around the world. We will discuss the history behind SDGs and analyze
the performance of developing countries prior to the introduction of SDGs by analyzing
economic data provided by the United Nations and the World Bank. After doing so, we
will look into what makes SDGs so effective (or ineffective) in terms of political,
economic, and cultural contexts. While many seminars on SDGs attempt to mainly
highlight the overall positive results that our society has achieved, this seminar will also
take a more realistic look into many of the effects that SDGs and foreign investment
tends to have on developing countries by looking into several case studies found in
Africa, Southern East Asia, and South America.

Deriam Chirinos

Hi guys, my name is Ellen and I recently graduated Harvard where I studied Integrative Biology. I'm super excited to be a seminar leader in HVIET and to get to know you all! Last year, I was a HVIET SL as well, and I had a great time learning so much from the students, eating delicious pho, and exploring Hanoi. I've lived in all parts of America from the East Coast to South to Midwest. At Harvard, I'm very involved in research, public service in the Boston community, and creative writing. In my free time I enjoy baking, eating, and hanging out with friends. I'm especially looking forward to doing the last two here!


Journalism Throughout Time

This course will look at how the role of journalism has changed throughout time, the art of reporting, and the writing of narrative stories. The course will delve into the ethics of journalism and its importance during this time. Then, the bridging of journalism and narrative writing will occur through selective pieces of best works in the field of journalism. Through this seminar, students will not only understand the value of news—which they are faced with daily—but also have the opportunity to write profile journalism pieces of their own. Students will also learn the skills necessary to scope out stories, investigate, and break news

ellen zhang

Ema Schumer.jpg

My name is Ema and I am a freshman at Harvard. Born and raised in New York City, I love my hometown and talk about it way too much, so I've been told. I am an avid basketball player — I scored 1,000 points in high school — and spectator — I once won $400 in my school's March Madness bracket. I also love journalism. I report on crimes that occur on Harvard's campus for the school newspaper. Ask me about what crimes I've covered; there have been some pretty strange ones...


The Era of #MeToo

This seminar examines the recent history of the #MeToo movement. The movement, which began at the end of 2017, seeks to empower victims of sexual assault and to expose perpetrators of such crimes in an attempt to hold people in power accountable and ultimately to change the culture surrounding sexual assault. Already, the #MeToo Movement has forced a global reckoning and has had far reaching implications across the top tiers of nearly all industries. All the while, have these gains come with unintended costs? Despite these significant strides, to what extent has the movement altered the structure of unequal power dynamics?

Ema Schumer

Irene Kim.jpg

Hello! My name is Irene. I study philosophy as an undergraduate, and live in Eliot House. I am excited to be a seminar leader in HVIET 2019. I was born and raised in Korea until I was ten. My family moved to New Jersey, then. At Harvard, I am currently doing research at Radcliffe Research Center for Advanced Studies and work at the house Grille in the weekdays from time to time. Outside of academics, I love to sing, bake, and play board games. My all time favorite games are Monopoly and Catan. I am looking forward to meeting all of you!


Girl Crush and Flower Boy; The Evolution of Gender Roles in Kpop

How much does pop culture reflect our perspective on gender role? Do the words “Girl Crush” and “Flower boy,” typically used to describe K-idols, mean something more than just nicknames? Korean music, a.k.a. Kpop blew up in a couple of decades, taking places in US billboard chart, appearing in the 2018 Winter Olympics promotion, and receiving global recognition. The question that concerns this seminar deals with the idea of gender roles in Kpop. As a contemporary music genre, Kpop displays and reflects the evolution of gender role in our society, showing a greater implication even outside the Korean Peninsula. From Girl’s Generation to Mamamoo, and from TVXQ to BTS, the seminar will explore the changing ideals of gender, perhaps beyond the male-female binary distinction.

Irene Kim

James Lee.jpg

Hi friends! My name is James and I'm a sophomore in Adams House studying Computer Science and East Asian Studies. I was born in Seoul, South Korea, but now I live in "America's Finest City" located in the better coast of the States - San Diego, California! I have a broad range of academic interests and like to explore a wide-variety of fields in school, from STEM topics to humanities. Outside of the classroom, I play offensive tackle for the Harvard Football team, and much of my time is spent across the Charles river for practice and workouts. In my free time, I love to play guitar and sing - especially Korean music. I look forward to the good times to come!


China and the World

Why do countries ally with or fight against each other? What are the underlying motives in the creation of alliances and international conflict? In this seminar, we explore such perplexities of international relations theory in the context of Chinese Foreign Policy. We attempt to offer various explanations to the foreign policy decisions made by the Chinese government, beginning from the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to the recent developments of Xi Jin Ping's regime. The goal of this seminar is to teach students how to critically examine foreign policy behavior through various lenses and further apply the newfound knowledge of international relations theory to the current state of Vietnam.

Jaehyun "James" Lee

John Schaefer.jpg

Hi! My name is John and I’m a sophomore at Harvard College, studying History and Science. I’m from a very small town in Michigan and love hiking and spending time outdoors. I have never been to Vietnam before, but I am very excited to be a Seminar Leader for HVIET and to learn more about Vietnamese tradition and culture from all of you. When I’m not busy with school, I love watching movies, reading good books (I always welcome new recommendations), gardening, and exploring Boston with friends. I’m also very passionate about improving access to educational opportunities in rural and under-served communities. If any of those topics sound interesting to you, I’m always happy to chat about them or anything else that may be on your mind. Looking forward to meeting you all soon!


Bioethics and Human Life

Genetically modified organisms. Stem cell therapy. Resurrecting extinct animals. Genetic privacy. These are all controversial topics that fall under the scope of bioethics and this course, which will aim to provide you with a framework for understanding these diverse, rapidly changing issues by exploring them both in a historical and contemporary context. We will examine why ethical oversight is important in medical and biological research through the lens of real-life historical case studies and the analysis of popular science fiction novels and films like Brave New World, Frankenstein, and Jurassic Park. Together, we will also look at the many roles that governments and private entities play in regulating this research. By the end of the course, you should be well-prepared to weigh the potential benefits and risks of these emerging technologies in the future and keep up with the rapid pace of scientific innovation in genetic research and beyond.

John Schaefer

Malia Ellington.jpg

Hi, my name is Malia Ellington, and I will be graduating from Harvard in May with a degree in Human Evolutionary Biology. My personal academic interests are in the fields of biomechanics, physical therapy, and nutrition. I have conducted research on ankle joint biomechanics and worked as a research intern at the Spaulding Hospital National Running Center in Cambridge, MA. In addition to being a focus of my research, running also plays a large role in my life since I am captain of the Harvard Varsity Cross Country and Track and Field Team. I spent last summer working at the World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland as an intern in the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. I was able to attend the 71st World Health Assembly and many other high-level conferences. This summer after HVIET I will be one of the directors of the World Youth Economic Forum in Shanghai, China where I will be presenting on Health Economics. When I'm not running or doing research, you can find my singing karaoke, attempting to do yoga (unsuccessfully), or baking desserts with lots of chocolate!


The Art of Public Speaking

Do you have big ideas? Do you want to share those ideas with the world? We communicate to each other every day by talking and using body language, but becoming a great public speaker can be difficult. In this seminar, we will discuss the art of public speaking while practicing communication skills. We will examine various qualities of powerful public speakers including authenticity, word choice, use of emotion, and storytelling. The goal of this seminar is to help you find your voice's unique strengths and to help you grow in both confidence and effectiveness whether you want to inspire an audience with a ground-breaking research proposal, captivate an auditorium with a personal story, or impress your college interviewer. While public speaking takes practice, it is a vital skill that all students can benefit from!

Malia Ellington

Matthew Mardo.jpg

Hi everyone! My name is Matthew Mardo and I am super excited to be one of the seminar leaders for HVIET this year! I am a second year student at Harvard interested in studying Neurobiology with a minor in Philosophy. I am super passionate about anything related to science, but I like to approach it from an unconventional way through the perspective of philosophy! At Harvard, I am also involved in neuroscience research, taking photographs for the school newspaper, various volunteer groups, and the Harvard TEDx team. Aside from academics, I am very passionate about music, both listening and playing the guitar, and love to go to concerts. I also enjoy playing sports, soccer being my favorite, and spending time with friends!


Neurophilosophy: Exploring the Integration of Neuroscience and Philosophy

As technology becomes more and more advanced, modern day science has begun to uncover some of the many mysteries that exist regarding the various functions and processes within the human brain. However, the answers that science seemingly brings also raises many new questions with regards to philosophical dilemmas that have been around for several centuries. This neurophilosophy seminar aims to bring the fields of neuroscience and philosophy into discussion with one another in order to explore how new scientific advancements are changing the way we think about abstract questions. Among the questions that will be considered from both scientific and philosophical perspectives includes: Do we have free will? Where does the inner self reside? What is the origin of our morals? This seminar will allow students to gain insight into new and exciting questions while exploring various perspectives throughout science and philosophy.

Matthew Mardo

Stephanie Wong.JPG

Hi! My name is Steph, and I'm a third year student studying chemistry and economics. I'm thrilled to be joining HVIET this summer and getting to meet everyone! I'm from New Jersey, not too far from New York City, and I've spent my entire life there until coming to Harvard for college. While at Harvard, I volunteer to teach health classes in Boston high schools, and I work in a lab that's focused on finding new ways to target proteins in the hopes of developing a new field of pharmaceutical drugs. In my free time, I love to go hiking or skiing, watching sports (hockey, soccer, and baseball, but I'm open to all!) and writing fiction. I'm always happy to talk about medicine, politics, mental health, or sports, so I'd love to have a chat anytime. This is my first time visiting Vietnam and I am so excited to learn about it from all of you!


Game Theory: Social Applications to Cultural Evolution

This seminar will introduce game theory and explore its applications to social behavior through an anthropological and psychological lens. We will begin with classic game theory models to develop an understanding of incentives and strategic interactions before using these models to understand biological phenomena such as animal territoriality and our innate sense of rights. We will then explore more games such as costly signaling, buried signaling, and the omission-commission distinction, which will give us a framework for answering questions such as: Why do we consider certain traits beautiful? Why is art difficult to understand? Why do people buy expensive clothing that doesn’t look that good? Finally, we will explore the game theoretic roots of social learning and social imitation to explain cultural evolution, or the reason why specific cultures have developed the values and traditions that they did. This seminar will give students the tools to understand their own strategic behavior as well as the strategic behavior ingrained in all of us, which has shaped our societies.

Stephanie Wong

Vaibhav Mohanty.jpg

Vaibhav is a senior at Harvard studying Chemistry and Physics, with a secondary field in Music, and pursuing a joint master’s degree in Theoretical Chemistry. He does research in theoretical physics, studying the quantum mechanics of electrons in 2D materials. Vaibhav enjoys composing classical and jazz music and playing saxophone and piano. During his time at Harvard, he has served as Co-President of the Society of Physics Students and of the Harvard Composers Association and has been a teaching fellow for classes in physics and at the intersection of science and sound. Following graduation, Vaibhav will study theoretical physics at the University of Oxford as a Marshall Scholar, after which he will join the Harvard Medical School-MIT combined MD-PhD program as a Medical Scientist Training Program student. In his free time, Vaibhav enjoys musical jam sessions with friends and playing ping pong.


The Science of Sound: Physics, Cognition, and Computation

We are constantly surrounded by sound. Our bodies and minds take in and convert complex streams of information that we perceive as music, speech, and more. In this seminar, we investigate the nature of sound and how humans interact with it through the lens of physics, neurobiology/psychology, and computer technology. Throughout each lecture, each module is supplemented by demos and hands-on activities that will allow students to gain an intuitive understanding of the concepts presented. Students are first introduced to the wave nature of sound and how this perspective provides a useful tool for understanding any type of audio signal. Then, by being presented with a series of “sound illusions,” students investigate how the mind interacts with auditory stimuli while learning the psychological and biological basis of these interactions. Lastly, students are exposed to modern computer software that is used professionally by musicians and sound researchers. They will design and test their own psychoacoustics “sound illusion” research experiment, and by participating in enjoyable and mind-boggling demos, students will develop scientific thinking skills and will tackle unintuitive and complex natural phenomena.

Vaibhav Mohanty

Zeel Patel.jpg

Hi everyone! My name is Zeel and I'm and undergraduate studying Computer Science and Neuroscience—with a little bit of economics here and there. I was born in India, but immigrated to Canada where I did 12 years of schooling before starting at Harvard. I'm highly interested in startups and companies driven by innovation, and I'm a strong believer in the potential of meaningful innovations to change the world. Outside of my academic interests, I LOVE basketball and am a major fan of LeBron James (greatest player in the world, no question); I also am an avid traveller and love exploring the world. This will be my first time in Vietnam, and I'm super excited to meet you all in June!


Innovation in Medicine and Healthcare Companies

The future of healthcare depends on sustained innovation in drug discovery, diagnostics, and treatment therapies that work at the nexus of technology and medicine. In this seminar, we will will explore the world of medicine and how new drugs are synthesized/discovered, how diagnostics are engineered and the product design criteria overarching such innovations, and how upcoming disruptive technologies are poised to play a role in accelerating medical innovation. We will dive deep into the promises of protein folding, machine learning and AI for diagnosis, genetic engineering, and developments in cancer treatments including as Immunotherapy. Finally, we will look at the overall picture and examine how startups in healthcare are at the forefront of innovation, and how medical research is undergoing a paradigm shift from laboratory driven innovation to corporate-side research—and the ethical implications of such. Students will enjoy a high-level oversight on the future of medicine for humanity!

Zeel Patel

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