Economics and psychology major Vignesh Kumaresan has led the Hurricane Bhangra dance team as captain for the past two years. In addition to his artistic activities, Kumaresan is part of the BRAIN Group, a neuroscience lab researching anxiety, and interns with the Clinical Applications team at the Miller School of Medicine. He was also chosen to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) when it was held on campus last spring. After graduation, Kumaresan will go on to work for IBM Watson Health at their headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Miami Hurricane: When did you first start dancing? Was it when you joined Hurricane Bhangra, or in high school or earlier?
Kumaresan: I started dancing during my junior year of high school, when I went to a residential school called the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. That was when I was first introduced to bhangra, and it was a great social activity to participate in, so I tried it out and ended up loving it.
TMH: What is something unique about bhangra that the general public might not know?
K: Bhangra is a very traditional dance and it has its roots in the Punjab region of India. When the dancing came to the United States, college and independent teams started mixing in bhangra music with hip-hop and other modern elements, but the folk elements of the dance are still very important. Bhangra started off as a simple dance to celebrate the harvest, and now my team and I dance for two reasons: to respect the tradition and to dance for each other.
TMH: Could you tell me a bit more about your initiative for CGI U? How has that effort progressed?
K: Some friends and I started a website called CompassioNetwork, that was intended to be a platform for different nonprofit organizations and movements to post updates, share ideas and attract volunteers. Our first goal was to use other CGI U organizations as our backbone, but since they were all led by students, the communication and leadership was inconsistent at times, so we decided it would be best to not pursue CompassioNetwork any further.
TMH: Could you tell me a bit about which faculty members you do research under, and what you’ve learned during your time researching with the BRAIN lab?
K: The Principal Investigator of the BRAIN lab is Dr. Jennifer Britton, an associate professor in psychology at UM, and the director of the MRI Facility on the Coral Gables campus. I’ve learned a lot of hard and soft skills during my time at the BRAIN lab, ranging from psychophysiological testing to MRI analysis. In addition, I’ve learned a lot about the research process, from the designing of studies all the way to the final write-up, and everything in between. Attacking problems with a research mindset is something that should be done outside of the academic setting, but sadly is not. By using data and making evidence-based decisions, we could learn to be a lot more efficient.
TMH: How has UM challenged you to grow as a student, a scientist and as a person?
K: UM has taught me the ability to think critically and attack problems in an analytical but unique way. During my time here, I’ve not only learned about the way the world works, but I’ve also learned about what problems the world faces, and I’ve been encouraged to think deeply about how to help with these issues. As I head into the next chapter of my life, I am going to focus on improving healthcare efficiency, and I am confident that I now have the ability to continue to learn and apply my knowledge in this regard. I eventually hope to take what I’ve learned at UM and use it to help deal with health disparities all across the world.