Meet the 2019 BLUE Fellows


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Alireza Morsali

As a PhD student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill, I am working on Massive-MIMO techniques for 5G wireless systems. My scientific interests also include information theory, quantum computation and physics. Being in contact and eventually working on daring projects that are only feasible at B21 was the main reason I applied to BLUE. Moreover, the amazing opportunity to be in a room with many smart, visionary and brilliant individuals was indeed very important to me. My BLUE project focuses on designing a modern social network architecture that natively addresses three main issues: security, control over content and freedom of speech.

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Jason Blakeburn

I am a PhD student in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University. I study nothing. That is, I study the concept of nothing, mainly its development through Plato reception in 19th and 20th century German philosophy of religion. I grew up in Clinton, OK, where Route 66 intersects the Washita River at the edge of the southern plains. BLUE seemed to be an exciting opportunity to try out some of the broader implications of my investigations of nothing - to play conceptually and artistically with technology to represent a philosophical concept without any kind of curmudgeonly or Luddite-esque offhand dismissal. My project is the representation of nothing, stemming from Plato's notion of the chora, in a Virtual Reality experience. I will combine my study of nothing with the literature of VR to best theorize about possible representations of nothing. I will also catalog various VR experiences, laying the groundwork for a phenomenological account. Finally, I will build a VR experience of nothing.


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Guilherme Franzmann

I'm a 5th year PhD student doing research on Theoretical Cosmology, and mostly interested nowadays on Philosophy of Cosmology, Philosophy of the Early Universe and Philosophy of Time. I'm originally from Brazil, but have moved to Montreal in 2014, and, sadly/excitingly, will be moving away this year to start my first postdoc in Stockholm. I was driven to BLUE because I enjoy quite a lot interdisciplinary research, and in particular I had my own ideas waiting for a space and opportunity to be explored. BLUE provides exactly that, a chance for students to explore more freely topics they are interested and that may not fit so closely to academia's paradigm. My project is on the nature of consciousness, and is being developed together with a friend of mine, Dan Petrescu. We plan to explore consciousness in a complementary way, meaning we will be looking to more objective accounts, roughly represented by the sciences developed in the West, and complement them with more subjective approaches, namely using the framework and methodology developed mostly in the East. We hope that such holistic approach will have something to tell about consciousness that may be insightful whatever the perspective one takes.

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Dan Petrescu

I am a PhD candidate in Chemistry at McGill and I study light-matter interactions at the nanoscale with the aim of fabricating materials with exotic optical properties. BLUE appealed to me because it legitimizes side-interests in their own right, and encourages the McGill community to be creative, open-minded, and daring in the pursuit of non-academic endeavors. My friend Guilherme and I applied as a pair, and our project will attempt to gain some insight into the fundamental nature of consciousness. We plan to identify elements essential to models of consciousness developed in different fields of study, with the hope that some elements might recur between fields. It is our belief that insights gained through the subjective empirical approach of the Eastern Contemplative Arts may complement those acquired through the objective empirical approach of the Cognitive Sciences, effectively yielding a more complete model of consciousness.


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Laura Gallo Tapias

Laura is a Colombian graduate student in the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, currently conducting her research on intersectionality and refugee mental health. She has backgrounds in Literature and Psychology with a special focus on feminism, social justice and ethics. She is interested in exploring the crossroads between social sciences, humanities and art, especially in contexts of social conflict or tension. Her BLUE project seeks to analyze the ethical and philosophical concerns that intersect with practical and political aspects of encountering others. By examining examples from various disciplines, such as sensory and performance studies, she proposes to understand listening not only as an act of auditory perception but also as an intentional, corporeal and relational disposition to others.

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Matthew Morvan

I am a first year student in cognitive sciences from France. I like to see my education as a large buffet of food. For most of my education I’ve been spoon-fed knowledge and the diet hasn’t always been very healthy. BLUE was the first setting for me to explore without constraints the extents of my interests all the while acquiring tools to better visualise how/what I want to learn for a good knowledge diet. My project explores the boundaries and uses of memory. I base it off the postulate that memories can not be revisited exactly as they were live - that they are rewritten every time they are revisited. This is true for both individuals who use this modularity of memories to justify themselves in the present moment, or for collectives who select memories to give themselves an official version of history. What I am researching is how narrating these memories can change people’s decision making habits.


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Chris Medary

I'm an undergraduate student from Florida specializing in applied ecology, a lover of all life on earth, and an advocate for learning from our nonhuman neighbors. BLUE was recommended to me by Yves Abanda (Founder of Symbiosyn) who's very active in the B21 community. Immediately I was excited to conduct self guided research in an interdisciplinary exploratory format. My research has two directions. I'm curious to trace the ideological lineage of Descartes and his contemporaries, how this has influenced modern identity, and facilitated devastating social and environmental actions. I'd also like to stimulate empathy for other beings on earth by creating a framework in which participants can engage with their own ideology, identify harmful thinking, and change it.

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Auguste Nahas

Auguste recently finished his BA in philosophy. His academic interests include a number of topics ranging from philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology. Over the last few years his main area of interest has been in philosophy of biology, especially questions regarding the definition of life, complexity, and emergence. His project aims to investigate the meaning of creativity within a biological context, specifically by grappling with the following question: how, when, and why does novelty emerge in the universe? He is originally from Paris, France.

Talk to Auguste about: philosophy, biology, time, and bouldering


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Hanna Osterwoldt-Pelletier

BA in Psychology

From Ottawa, lucky to have experienced life in Suisse and Laos too; into witch stuff.

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MJ Gauthier

BA in Philosophy & International Development

Born in MTL, grew up in a Loire Valley village; the kind with dolmens - fun.

What’s going on in the human realm? What’s at stake if we fail to empower the feeling of planetary unity we need to finally live in peaceful equilibrium with Mother Nature? - a whole lot of avoidable pain and the fumbling away of 4 billion years of glorious evolution. With BLUE, we want to capture in a video the sublime mystery of Being and existential vertigo thereof, in the form of a stream of consciousness submirrored by a wild flow of eclectic images coiling from the chaos of human + gaian imagination, sailing through ecstatic, despaired, musing, and numinous seas of the soul. Hopefully it’ll be moving, and illuminating. Stay tuned!


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Liam Halloran

My name is Liam Halloran, and I'm from Boston, Massachusetts in the US. I just finished up my U3 year as an undergrad at McGill studying physics. I joined BLUE to be a part of a fun and creative community that would help me delve into an unorthodox project and support my passion and interests! My project is exploring the scientific boundaries of Astrology. By digging into the history, the physics, the neuroscience, and the societal effects of Astrology, I hope to reconstruct the pseudoscience from the ground up, with a little less pseudo and little more science.

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Olivia Norrmen-Smith

Olivia is a graduate student in the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry at McGill University. Olivia uses various media — notably the medium of film — to tell stories that incorporate the sensorial and emotional, seek to validate different modes of experience, and attempt to legitimate ways of living meaningfully that go against the grain of objectivist science. She is drawn to investigate systemic crises and barriers to resources, examine divergent ways of understanding and experiencing, celebrate the search for meaning, and highlight the idiosyncratic folly of human life. Her BLUE project takes shape as an exploration of our dynamic relationship to our digital social platforms, viewed through the lens of critical neuroscience and expressed through autobiographical, experimental film.


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Christina Isaicu

The conclusion I drew from my undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science is that Other People are what matter. I started this project with an interest in exploring community as "the people you eat with" but allowed my exploration to evolve as I started learning about complex dynamical systems, embodied cognition, iteration, and ultimately the discontinuity that conditions continuous experience. The progression of my project itself mirrors these interests - a self similar set of interacting elements that maintains a sense of continuity through the overarching humanistic ideal, even as the ideas and interactions between them evolve with every iteration. All the physics and cognitive science and art still brings me back to the importance of Other People.

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Sarah Hollyer-Carney

I am a U2 art history student with academic interests spanning queer and feminist studies, English literature, and geography. My BLUE project looks at online transgender communities, examining trans forums, advice websites, and blogs (among others) as an archive of trans experience, thought, and desire, which very rarely find a place in traditional avenues of publishing. I was born in Toronto, grew up in Vancouver, and now live in Montreal.


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Iris Rapoport

Iris is completing a B.A. in Philosophy and Psychology. Her research interests include philosophy of psychiatry with an interdisciplinary lens. She aims to integrate a positive view of neurodiversity into models of psychopathology. Iris’ BLUE project explores how we learn best; in particular, what are the cognitive underpinnings of academic success? Given no material and practical constraints, how would we choose to learn? What does it mean to think, and to what extent does thinking rely on our exchanges with others, on the technologies we engage with, and on our sense of (dis)ability in relating with these interfaces? How can technology bridge the gap between attention scarcity and information overload? Is attention like a muscle that can be trained, or is it a reservoir with limited capacity? Finally, how do political realities shape learning, and how can our generation address political, economic, and ecological upheaval through education?

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Megan Kamps

I am an undergraduate anthropology student from a small-ish town outside of Toronto. I was drawn to BLUE by the program's emphasis on exploration and curiosity for its own sake. My project examines the various tools that we use to extend or enhance our "naked" capabilities. I will be conducting multi-sited ethnographic research with the aim of better understanding individuals' experience of the self - its boundaries or lack thereof - in the use of different tools or technological appendages. Through the creation of a sensory ethnography style film I intend to explore this question of the boundaries of the self, as well as the conceptual boundaries of technological extension.