Summertime Standouts: Michelle Hefner

Chemical Engineering student conducting research in Germany

Michelle Hefner on the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) in Heidelberg, Germany, where she attended the annual DAAD RISE conference.
Michelle Hefner on the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) in Heidelberg, Germany, where she attended the annual DAAD RISE conference.

Chemical and Biological Engineering/Biomedical Engineering junior Michelle Hefner is spending her summer in Aachen, Germany, on an 11-week research internship funded by the German government. Prior to her trip to Germany, Hefner concluded a semester studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Currently, Hefner is conducting research at the Psychiatric, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics department at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen University hospital.

“I analyze fMRI scans of depressive patients, half of whom receive neurofeedback and half who do not,” Hefner said. “In this case, the neurofeedback is a virtual reality first-person shooter video game my supervisor created. I attempt to map when and where the patients’ brains observe activity of aggression or impulsivity, and further, we will explore machine learning applications if this neurofeedback paradigm proves to be effective.”

Hefner said the highlight of her internship was being able to meet incredible people. She said she met many scholars at the annual DAAD conference in Heidelberg, Germany.

“I have been so lucky to be a part of such a lovely group of people to work with from fellow interns, to postdocs, to our PI, ‘Dr. Dr.’ Klaus Mathiak,” she said. “They are all incredibly intelligent and very caring, making my adjustment to everything very smooth.”

University of Edinburgh

Prior to arriving in Germany, Hefner was a visiting student for a semester in Scotland,  where she attended the University of Edinburgh and took courses ranging from chemical engineering to global history to developmental biology. She also partook in a brief workshop with Amazon and created an Alexa applet with her friends, using Amazon Web Services cloud computing, and received training from an Amazon machine-learning scientist.

When Hefner isn’t studying or in the lab, she enjoys traveling and discovering other cities around Europe, getting to know other students and interns, and interacting with the city life.

“There’s something to be said about the quality of life and the work-life balance in Europe,” she said. “I’ve really come to appreciate it, but I know I’ll have to get back into the speed of things in the U.S. soon, so I try to keep busy and dive into things that interest me and pick up some new skills. I learned Python in my free time throughout my semester in the spring, and currently am attempting to refine my knowledge and expertise with SPM, the software I work within my research.”

About Summertime Standouts

Summertime Standouts is an annual feature on SOURCE that highlights students who made an impact this summer around the globe, across the country, and even close to home.

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