Jack Du wants to make computers accessible to people with limited mobility. As second-year students attending BarCamp—a tech conference held at NYU Shanghai—Jack and two friends were inspired by a young girl with cerebral palsy who wanted to use a computer like an able bodied person. She could only move her index finger, making a traditional mouse difficult to use.
That was when Jack and his friends developed the JOY Mouse. “It’s basically a mouse made from a joystick that can be operated using only one finger,” Jack says. “We made a very basic prototype at BarCamp. Then for HackShanghai, a college hackathon started by NYU Shanghai students, I made a second prototype with better accuracy and more features. Now, for example, it’s programmed to rotate a photo when the user rotates the joystick.”
Jack came to NYU Shanghai to major in computer science, but when he heard about interactive media arts (IMA), he decided to add another major. IMA combines disciplines to make projects like the JOY Mouse a reality. He elaborates: “For art students, it’s a chance to design something and bring it to life through technology. For humanities students, it’s an opportunity to study media and the way information is expressed using modern technology. And for science students, it’s a chance to transform a theory into an invention that actually works.”
Double majoring gave Jack the skills to make a difference. “Computer science teaches me how to write a program, and IMA teaches me how to make a fully interactive hardware project,” he explains. When he graduates, Jack’s not sure whether he wants to go to graduate school or directly into the tech industry. But for now he’s working with kids who have cerebral palsy. He wants to make the JOY Mouse even better for them.
Krystal McLeod wants to empower underserved teenagers to achieve their dreams. With education reform and social justice at the core of her activism, Krystal, a senior majoring in politics, is a trailblazer with a mission to prepare New York City’s low income and minority youth for college and professional opportunities.
Krystal can identify with these teens because she was once in their shoes. She knows how lack of access to quality education can negatively impact confidence and leadership skills. In her sophomore year she developed a comprehensive “My” Rights curriculum for local high school students, featuring “My” Right to Truth, “My” Right to Literacy, and “My” Right to College Education. That year she recruited her first cohort and employed 12 NYU students as educational coaches who were passionate about social justice.
“I was so proud of this first class of incredible students who bravely presented their ideas so we could help them work toward their dreams. I really believe that once instruction becomes personal, rather than just teaching for tests, true education can begin,” Krystal says.
She and her colleagues have since held two additional sessions and have impacted more than 50 students from low-income families. Krystal says, “During the program, I give the students one on-one support in our weekly dream meetings. We identify their short- and long-term aspirations, and I help connect them to opportunities in line with their goals—like having a future lawyer shadow an attorney or a future biologist spend time with a scientist in a lab. It’s incredibly empowering.”
Krystal has received university-wide recognition and won prestigious national and global awards in support of her goal of showing students how to claim what is rightfully theirs—literacy, an advanced education, and an opportunity to succeed in their chosen field.
Jorge Zárate Rodriguez wants to change lives by improving the practice of medicine, and he understands that improvements begin with scientific research. In his second year at NYU Abu Dhabi, Jorge worked with biologists on a yearlong research project exploring the link between antibiotics, microorganisms, and obesity at the NYU School of Medicine’s Blaser Lab Group. He built on his past research with a new investigation into the role of microorganisms in autoimmune joint diseases and is currently conducting clinical research aimed at improving outcomes for infants and children who undergo surgery.
Jorge has shown a determination to keep doing more. He won an NYU President’s Service Award in 2013 for cofounding NYU’s public health journal, The Torch. He also established Make a Difference Week, which has become one of NYU Abu Dhabi’s annual traditions. Now, as president of his class at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the top-ranked medical schools in the United States, he has led discussions of institutional diversity and spearheaded campus demonstrations to raise awareness of systemic racism in healthcare. His latest project is a mentorship initiative through the Latino Medical Student Association, which supports high school students and undergraduates who are planning to attend medical school.
Says Jorge: “What is the role of the physician? Are we limited to the exam room? At NYU Abu Dhabi, I learned that when I ask my peers for help, there are no limits to what can be achieved. To be truly patient-centered. I think we need to push further.”