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Bioengineering Scholar Plays Dual Role

Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2019

 “I love that it is a complex and difficult instrument. I love a challenge,” said ARCS® Foundation Pittsburgh Scholar Alum, Michelle Heusser.

As a fourth-year PhD student in the Bioengineering Program at the University of Pittsburgh, it might seem like Heusser is referring to the devices she uses to study the human brain. In actuality, she is talking about how much she enjoys playing the French horn, an instrument she first picked up in the fifth grade. 

It all started at “Meet the Instrument” night at her elementary school, where students were introduced to each type of band instrument. Her mind was set on the clarinet, but once she played the French horn she had a change of heart. The instrument’s complex nature intrigued her, and she has been playing it ever since.

Heusser also enjoys the challenges she faces researching how the brain receives visual information and uses this information when generating eye movement. Her findings, through use of various machine learning algorithms, allow scientists to better understand how neurons in a healthy brain coordinate to produce eye movements.

Heusser gives credit to ARCS Foundation Scholar funding for her success in the field so far.

“ARCS funding allowed me to shift the weight of financial burden to focus on my work,” Heusser said. “It also allowed me to be a part of a large, supportive community.”

Although her academic research is quite a contrast from being a musician, she has found a way to combine the two. By performing her French horn at two ARCS Foundation fundraising events, Heusser was able to give back to ARCS for the funding and opportunity it provided her.

You can support multi-talented scholars like Heusser through your donation to the ARCS Foundation. Click here to find out more.