Kaylin Tsukayama

Kaylin Tsukayama headshot.
From discovering new directions, to gaining skills, to building relationships, Bass Connections was truly a life-changing experience for me.


Neuroscience T'15

Project Team

Current Position

Videographer and Photographer, Meredith College

As a junior undergraduate, I — like many college students — wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take in my career. I was a neuroscience major, and had already spent nearly three years studying the subject and working in labs. Yet, I was starting to question whether I wanted to continue in a natural science field. That’s where the Neuroplicity: Leveraging New Media and Digital Storytelling to Connect Society to Neuroscience Bass Connections team came in.

Kaylin and Jill standing in front of a whiteboard; Kaylin and Jill standing in front of a poster.
Jill Wentzell (left) and Kaylin Tsukayama (right) at the DIBS Discovery Day in 2016

I got involved because one of the team leaders, Nina Sherwood, was also my professor. I had been talking to her and postdoc Jill Wentzell about my career quandary. They recommended that I check out the team to get a sense of other paths I could take. I started with the team during my senior year (2014-2015), and after I graduated, I continued as a mentor.

The crux of the team’s mission was figuring out how to communicate complex scientific concepts in a simple way. The beauty of the team was its profound interdisciplinarity. It was led by Professor Sherwood, a biologist and neuroscientist, and Mark Olson, a professor of visual and media studies. All of the undergraduate students on the team in its first year were neuroscience or psychology majors who were interested in science communications.

Kaylin in a lab.
Kaylin Tsukayama working on the Neuroplicity team

The team leaders really let us talk through why we were interested in this topic and what we thought might enhance communications between scientists and lay audiences. They encouraged us to generate our own ideas of the best way to bridge this gap and make communication easier. That year, we decided to build a website and create videos explaining neuroscience concepts.

The next year, we went through a similar process — first discussing what the team had already accomplished and then assessing how the group, with its members’ specific interests and skills, could move forward. We continued making videos, integrated animation, and eventually explored ways to gamify science communication, such as with an alternative reality game. 

Each new group of students added to the project by identifying science communications challenges that were important to them and thinking through their own approach. We were able to explore things that interested us, capitalize on our skills and learn from each other rather than following a prescribed set of tasks.

The team’s interdisciplinarity and student-led ethos ultimately had an incredible effect on my career. It was through Bass Connections that I fell in love with video production. As a neuroscience major, I felt like I had two options: medicine or research. It seemed like I was at a point of no return. Yet, this project and my mentors inspired me to see new possibilities and redirect.

Kaylin in front of a fountain with a camera.
Kaylin Tsukayama on the job as a photographer

I’m now a full-time photographer and videographer at Meredith College (Raleigh, NC), a pathway I never would have imagined before Bass Connections. This project helped me cultivate videography skills that I use every day. Beyond that, though, it was the first true experience I had of working on a group project that I had ownership over. The teamwork and collaboration skills I developed with Neuroplicity are different from anything I would have found in a traditional classroom setting: we got to follow our passions, work together and be responsible for the outcome.

Not only do I continue to use the skills I gained during my Bass Connections experience, but I also stay in touch with the people I met. By emphasizing the student-led nature of the project, the Neuroplicity team leaders, Nina Sherwood and Mark Olson, fostered a supportive mentorship dynamic. In fact, both of them recently attended my wedding! From discovering new directions, to gaining skills, to building relationships, Bass Connections was truly a life-changing experience for me.

March 2023