STEM graduate combines her academic success with her passion for neuroscience

Hanna Karpstein looks to pursue a career within neuroscience at Grinnell College this fall.

With the top of her decorated graduation cap reading “Momma I made it,” Hanna Karpstein took to the stage to accept her diploma, celebrating her academic success while also paying tribute to her biggest fan.

Karpstein graduated from Tesla STEM High School on June 13, capping off a four-year experience filled with valuable memories and academic accomplishments.

Growing up, Karpstein had many career interests but has always been the most passionate about neuroscience and the aspects of mental health as it pertains to the psychology of humans. At STEM, Karpstein remembers doing a project on the roots of homelessness within the Seattle area for her AP psychology class.

Instead of finding a sole issue, Karpstein discovered that a good amount of the homeless population dealt with mental illnesses. This knowledge of understanding how mental health issues can affect an entire population really helped influence her interest in neuroscience and human psychology.

“As time goes on, we’re starting to get a better appreciation for the necessity of treating mental health issues,” Karpstein said. “I really want to be a part of that.”

At STEM, Karpstein was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. These activities included being a student ambassador for incoming students and their families, assisting and mentoring incoming students as part of the Link Crew Leadership team and being a member of the National Art Honors Society.

One of Karpstein’s greatest experiences at STEM came from Model United Nations, which involves attending multiple conferences and conventions throughout the year, debating current events and discussing global issues. Karpstein joined the club her sophomore year and spent her time on the club as a delegate, representing countries at a number of conventions through research and representing their stances on various topics of interest.

Aside from her passion for neuroscience, one of Karpstein’s other major interests is global politics, which is the main focus of MUN. Karpstein expressed that being able to have structured political arguments in an organized setting and being able to listen to a variety of intellectual viewpoints was a unique and valuable experience for herself as an MUN delegate.

“Being able to have that outlet was not only intellectually stimulating, I think that emotionally it makes you feel like you’re having a bigger impact on the world,” Karpstein said. “I really liked that.”

One of Karpstein’s greatest accomplishments at STEM came during her junior year when she participated in the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair. For the event, Karpstein did a population survey within her community in an effort to identify the prevalence of a specific behavioral trait. The trait that Karpstein focused on was technology addiction.

Karpstein earned first place at the event in the behavioral sciences category. At the same event, Karpstein also earned the Olympic College President’s Award, which was a special award given out to only a select number of students who were attending the event.

“I was shocked,” she said. “It was so awesome to have my work recognized.”

In the summer of 2017, Karpstein was an intern for the Insight program at Harborview Medical Center’s Injury Prevention and Research Center. She and her group organized a public health campaign targeting distracted driving. Karpstein said the main focus of the campaign covered the implementation of the new distracted driving law in Washington State known as the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act

“Our campaign was basically to raise awareness about the implementation of the law,” Karpstein said. “I was so proud of myself and all of my teammates for all of the effort that we put in.”

Karpstein plans on attending Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa in the fall where she hopes to study neuroscience. With this type of specialty, Karpstein hopes to one day start up a career in neurodevelopmental psychiatry. Her main goal is to work with kids who have neurodevelopmental disorders. Karpstein was interested in the liberal arts college because of its flexibility toward allowing students to pursue research opportunities.

“I really want to do research, that is my biggest goal,” Karpstein said. “I want to get a PhD and an MD.”


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