BC Talks: Nine Students, Nine Stories

Modeled after the well-known TED Talks series—which focuses on “Ideas Worth Spreading”—BC Talks began in 2011 as an initiative aiming to showcase the scholarly work and interests of Boston College students. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Talks will return to campus from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in the Heights Room of Corcoran Commons, featuring nine students speaking about their perspectives on issues ranging from the technology boom and gentrification to the BC Lookaway.


muj stuff-3Tucker Davey, MCAS ’16, Political Science

“A Layman’s Wisdom”

“We give thoughtful, honest advice to others, yet fail to follow this advice ourselves,” Tucker Davey, MCAS ’16, said in regard to his upcoming talk in an email.

In his speech at BC Talks, Davey plans to address how people to neglect their own wisdom and make choices that often result in suffering. Essentially, he argues that people are unable to follow their own positive recommendations because they give in to laziness, complacency, and egocentrism. Davey instead encourages mindfulness and introspection. If people can grasp their habits and faults, he said, they can better understand the failure to follow personal wisdom.

Davey’s personal interests in philosophy and Buddhist philosophy have led him to seek out the subject beyond his philosophy minor. He listens to podcasts and reads about these teachings in his free time. In regard to the nature of his talk, he specifically quoted Sam Harris’ book, Waking Up—”On one level, wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one’s own advice.”

Despite all of the time he has devoted to this phenomenon, Davey said he falls into the very traps he describes. He frequently fails to follow his own advice, but the fact that he fails, he said, is what inspired him to give his talk.


muj stuff-2Ninutsa Nadirashvili, MCAS ’19, Political Science

“Eighteen Hours in Ten”

After growing up in the Middle East and immigrating to the United States five years ago, Ninutsa Nadirashvili, MCAS ’19, has grown passionate about immigration. She currently majors in political science, but hopes to transition eventually to international studies, which will involve immigration even more in her education. She will give a speech at this year’s BC Talks about immigration into the United States from her own perspective.

Here in the U.S., immigration is currently a heavily debated topic, commonly featured in the recent presidential debates. Typically, U.S. citizens speak about immigration in a negative manner. Many call for greater restrictions involved in the process and some advocate for the strengthening of border security. Nadirashvili wants her audience to see immigration in a new light. Growing up in a different country has provided her with a unique vantage point. Though she cannot convey her entire experience in just a short talk, it will include what she knows and has learned—insights that will hopefully inspire listeners to think about immigration differently.

“Of course my talk will never completely encompass all the things I want to say … but it might come close, and I think that might feel like a heavy burden lifting from my shoulders,” Nadirashvili said in an email.


Nick Genovese_onlineNicholas Genovese, MCAS ’16, Theology & Film Studies

“The Gift of True Solitude”

During Genovese’s time abroad in Ecuador and home in Long Island, he wrote, “I learned to confront myself in an entirely new way—to spend time with God, and God alone”

Over this past year, Genovese’s idea of solitude has greatly changed. He now describes it to be “one of the most vital and life-giving qualities” in both his personal and communal life. In his talk, he is looking to draw the distinction between loneliness and solitude. He then wants to convey how solitude can help us personally and the implications it holds with people around us. “Ultimately, solitude is both paradoxical and active—it allows us to immerse ourselves in the world, but withdraw daily, to know ourselves well, but live to serve others,” he said. “Most importantly, it allows us to be in the world, but not of it. Solitude not only makes us aware of our self-worth, gives us depth, and keeps us centered, but it also makes us a better friend, a better lover, and a better member of society.”


Bradford Gerber_onlineBradford Gerber, MCAS ’16, Biology

“The Brain at Boston College”

When Bradford Gerber, MCAS ’16, began to take classes in neurobiology, he fell in love with the insights they provided into the fields of mental health, spirituality, and imagination. He said that because of this deep interest in the subject, he decided to speak at the upcoming BC Talks event about neuroscience—the study of the nervous system and how the brain processes information—as it relates to philosophy, especially in regard to free will.

“The subject has frequently been approached from a philosophical or theological perspective, and there needs to be more love for its physical origins, or lack thereof,” Gerber said in an email.

Though many may view the topic of neuroscience in the traditional scientific sense, Gerber hopes to apply it to students’ everyday lives. He wants people to gain real insight from this area of science. To do this, he will try to connect neuroscience to life at BC, tying together the functions of the brain with the Jesuit ideals his listeners learn during their four years as undergraduate students. Gerber’s goal is to express how science supports what BC students learn and how it relates to their education so that more people may better understand the compatibility of science and “men and women for others.”


Isra Hussain_onlineIsra Hussain, MCAS ’17, Psychology & Arabic Studies

“An Aching Heart and the Stigma of Mental Health: BC, Boston, and Beyond”

During a trip to visit family in Pakistan in 2013, Isra Hussain realized what she describes as her “calling” regarding mental health. Since then, the junior has initiated projects and dialogues to better understand the topic. In her talk on Wednesday, Nov. 11, she will reveal and comment on what she considers her life-changing moment.

In her talk, Hussain would like to connect the dialogue surrounding mental health on campus to the larger picture by sharing her research and experiences. As she articulated in an email, “How can we apply this acceptance and concern of mental wellbeing to those outside of our campus? How can factors such as culture, religion, race, and socioeconomic status contribute to stigma and lack of resources? And how can we, as students, commit to better understanding aspects of human experience that we feel passionately about?”

“By sharing how I’ve been translating my own heartache into concrete action, I can inspire others to also find their passions and take steps to pursue them,” she said in an email. “As students, we have the unique opportunity to wholeheartedly pursue our interests.”


Danielle Rutigliano_onlineDanielle Rutigliano, MCAS ’18, Economics and Philosophy

“This Is Your Captain Speaking”

Not all learning takes place at 9 a.m. in a classroom full of tired students. Instead, sometimes the best things are taught in the most unexpected places—sometimes, 7,000 feet above the ground. While this may not be a favorite educational environment for those afraid of heights, it is an incredibly familiar and well-loved setting for Danielle Rutigliano, MCAS ’18, who will speak about her experiences in aviation at this year’s BC Talks.

With so few young adults interested in aviation, Rutigliano hopes to promote the field. Personally, it has provided her multiple benefits that go beyond what one might expect while working toward a pilot’s license. Rutigliano believes that flying is not only liberating, but also an insightful, introspective adventure. She thinks it can help people better understand themselves. “I’ve learned more about myself than I could have in any classroom. Everyone should experience that feeling,” Rutigliano said about her in-flight experiences in an email regarding the nature of her talk.


Jesse MuJesse Mu, MCAS ’17, Computer Science

“Computers as our Doctors: Unveiling Parkinson’s Disease Subtypes with a Data-Driven Approach”

Jesse Mu spent last summer in the Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain, and used machine learning technologies with an interdisciplinary group. There, he worked on innovative applications, including Parkinson’s disease. “Academically, I’m interested in artificial intelligence (AI), and a benefit of all of the research towards this area is the development of some technologies and algorithms that have really found ubiquitous use outside of the lab,” he said in an email. The research is still ongoing, and his talk will cover the work his group has done as well as some of the higher-level concepts he has learned along the way.

Mu’s talk will cover a field of computer science called machine learning. He explains machine learning to be “the study of algorithms that can automatically ‘learn’ from data without being explicitly programmed. With this knowledge, machines can discover patterns, identify anomalies, and are bolstered with enormous predictive capabilities.”

The goal of this talk is to educate people about machine learning and its potential across other fields. “I think it’s a universally applicable technology, and once you learn a little bit about it, it’s easy to see how these technologies have changed daily life, especially in the digital world,” Mu said. He added that knowing what machine learning can do across other fields will hopefully lead people to think about how this can impact the future.


Andre GomesAndre Gomes, MCAS ’18, Mathematics and Philosophy

“The Tech Boom and Gentrification”

Andre Gomes, MCAS ’18, believes that often forgotten amid the modern tech boom is the effect the growth of technology firms in Silicon Valley has had on the communities that previously inhabited the area. Gomez seeks to shed light on the issue in his upcoming BC Talk.

“I grew up in the shadow of the Silicon Valley,” Gomes said. “Constant news of corporations buying startups for millions or startups finally making it big. It was an exciting atmosphere to be in that brought a flush of young innovators to the area. But with all this excitement and money being thrown around, my community of East Palo Alto never felt it.”

Gomes seeks to share his perspective as a BC student who grew up in East Palo Alto, a town not far from some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. As technology companies have continued to grow, the influx of software engineers and other employees to the area has improved the real estate in certain towns and driven up housing prices. At the same time, it has left other areas without many gains.

Gomes believes that these improvements to cities such as Oakland serve to push out residents who perhaps are not involved with tech companies and earn less money in favor of constant waves of new employees working in the booming industry. With his talk, he hopes to bring to light an issue that is seldom discussed and must be addressed as the gentrification of communities continues to be at the forefront of the modern tech boom.


John Warner_onlineJohn Warner CSOM ’16, Finance & Theology 

“Looking into the Lookaway”

John Warner’s talk covers the infamous “BC Lookaway.” He was inspired by his experiences over the last four years with this trend. Warner would like to challenge people by asking why they cannot bring themselves to say hello to people from class or other settings. He will be exploring what actually causes the BC Lookaway and his ideas about the realities of it. “There is a struggle on this campus of understanding how to balance our multiple identities, and how to hold ourselves responsible for our personhood and the personhood of others in the face of greed, shame, fear, and indifference,” he said.


Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic

Images by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor