This summer, we were delighted to meet Tanya Talkar, a MIT student with the Most. Awesome. Sweater. Ever. who talked about combining her love of tech with her desire to better human-kind. How? Oh, only working on a cancer vaccine, helping autistic children and enabling nursing home citizens to communicate more easily with their care-givers. You know, NBD.
Tell us a little about you.
I’m a rising senior at MIT getting ready to finish my Masters and head out into the real world. I’ve always been drawn to technology - finding ways to make school projects easier by writing a short program or exploring the new applications of computer science in biology and linguistics. Over the summer I worked in the OneDrive Mobile team, which was a great experience.
We were super impressed to find out that Tanya spent the year working in MIT’s Speech Communication Department, where she analyzed speech waves to identify differences in speech modification between children with autism, typically developing children, and children with a specific language impediment to be used for diagnosis of autism. This is an incredibly important field and a wonderful application of using tech to better other industries.
How did your style evolve to what it is now?
I pretty quickly realized that I wanted to dress in things that made me feel comfortable and fit me well, even though they might not be the ‘right style’. I love solid colored tops paired with more subtle bottoms. But of course, I can’t resist the occasional print or sequined item (we loooooove sequined items!).
We loved Tanya’s practical, yet chic style. This amazing, sequined, sparkly sweater that was exactly the right thing for the warm summer morning but also for the day spent inside an air-conditioned office as well. We were very excited to hear that she had interned at ShopStyle, one of Dona’s favorite sites, the previous summer!
Any advice for a young person thinking about getting into a STEM field?
Experiment. Go and explore the field to see what exciting new things are happening. If you find yourself wanting to just read more and more, then you know that STEM is for you. After all, you want to make sure that you’re really passionate about whatever you choose to follow in life.
Tanya lives this motto. For the past few years, she has been fully immersed in one very important cause: using tech to diagnose and treat cancer. She spent almost two years working in the MIT Chemical Engineering department to create a cancer vaccine using a device to deliver proteins to immune cells, causing an immune response against tumor cells.
What would you say is the project you’ve done that you’re proudest of?
As part of an assistive technology class at school, I worked on a project which brought a nurse call system to a residential nursing home in Boston. We were able to create an iOS application that worked on iPads and would enable residents to call for help from anywhere within the home, not just within their rooms, so that they could get the aid that they needed.
Talk about an understatement! A few years ago, Tanya put her passion for bio + tech into practice by working with people at a nearby assistive living facility + few other MIT students to create InstaAid, an iPad app that allows the residents to communicate their needs and emergencies with the nursing staff.
The residents at the home all had call buttons in their apartments that allow them to seek help from on-site nurses. However, since most of them have limited mobility due to conditions such as advanced multiple sclerosis or other progressive neurological diseases, it made reaching the buttons a challenge. Also, what had to be kept in mind was that the residents weren’t necessarily in their beds the whole time. A much more “mobile” solution had to be built for the active group!
Since so many residents used iPads attached to their wheelchairs, the idea of making an IOS app was a great one, and something that was adopted by the whole facility!
Dona’s excited to run into Tanya again at an MIT event she’s speaking at this week; this sparkly superhero eally stole our hearts with her passion for bettering the medical field with her expertise in tech. We hope you enjoyed getting to know Tanya as much as we did!
To find out more about Tanya, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.
Dona & Beth