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Research Helps Pre-Med Student Stand Out from the Crowd

by Patty Deviva

With his sights set on medical school, Yanni Kleopoulos, a neuroscience and Spanish double major, knew he’d need research experience to stand out from the crowd.

He never expected to dive into a project searching for themes in tales of magical gemstones that prevent aging, or of a woman who cried so much she created a lake. But when he took Global Cultures: Issues and Perspectives with Professor Gina Zanolini Morrison, she invited him to the team.

“It helps to show I’m well-rounded,” says Kleopoulos, a senior from Smithtown, N.Y. “I have my feet all over the place.”

On this project, all over the place is an understatement, even if the students’ work has been via Zoom. One data analysis meeting crossed five time zones. While Kleopoulos was visiting Greece, joining in at 4 a.m., others participated from Malaysia, Indonesia, Utah and Pennsylvania.

The global team seems fitting for Morrison’s cross-cultural research, which focuses on the melding of spiritual beliefs and modern sensibility for Bornean women in leadership roles. “They live with these two worlds,” Morrison says. “Though it’s not two worlds for them. It’s one world.”

Kleopoulos and the other students on the research team transcribed interviews Morrison had previously conducted in Borneo. Their work required far more than listening and typing. They combed material for common themes to help prepare an article for submission to the Borneo Research Review.

“They’re actually part of the data analysis team. They’re researchers. They have impact,” says Morrison. “These students have a different way of seeing things. You get five different perspectives.”

“It’s opening our eyes. There are such different things out there in the world,” says Kleopoulos. He’s always had an interest in other cultures, and Kleopoulos has no doubt the work will improve his relationships with future patients.

Kleopoulos also interned at the NeuroTraining and Research Center on campus. The unique resource, available to students, faculty and staff, can help reduce stress, enhance focus and even improve sleep. He gained additional experience as a tutor and teaching assistant in biology. As Kleopoulos thinks about applying for the Fulbright Program or taking a gap year before medical school, he encourages students to take advantage of big opportunities. “Wilkes is a global school. We’re doing research all around the world.”

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