By Lauren Foote
Craig Higham, a senior biology student at Youngstown State University, received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study in Japan this summer.
The Gilman Scholarship helps students study abroad in order to prepare them for participation in the global economy. Higham is one of 800 recipients from 355 colleges and universities to receive the honor this year. There have been 16 YSU students that have received the scholarship since 2012.
Higham will study at Kwansei Gakuin University in Osaka, Japan. He said he has an interest in Japan’s culture.
“Japan was the obvious choice for me,” Higham said.
The University Studies Abroad Consortium gave him the option of three different universities in Japan. Higham said the university in Osaka best fit his academic needs.
“By studying at Kwansei Gakuin University I expect to — among other things — further my global understanding of various cultures, foster my independence as an individual and also further my academics,” Higham said.
The Gilman Scholarship is coordinated by the Center for International Studies and Programs.
Ann Gardner, assistant director of the Center for International Studies and Programs, said there is a perception that STEM students can’t easily study abroad, but with the right planning it’s possible.
“Craig had a strong application with an excellent essay,” Gardner said. “He is a biology major with a chemistry minor, which are underrepresented fields of study.”
Although there has been a perception that STEM students can’t easily study abroad, it is possible to make it happen with the right planning in advance.
Amy Cossentino, creator of a National Scholarship Committee to help YSU students pursue prestigious scholarships, said Higham is another YSU success story.
“YSU has had a steady stream of Gilman Scholarship recipients,” Cossentino said. “YSU students receiving these prestigious scholarships speaks to the high-quality education available to our students.”
David Asch, associate professor in the department of biological sciences, said Higham is a dedicated student.
“He has really taken ownership of his education and seeks every opportunity to make his time at YSU the best experience possible,” Asch said. “It makes him stand out as a student.”
Higham assisted Asch in research using fungi as a model to study how genes are controlled.
Higham said he wants to pursue neuroscience. He is particularly fascinated by neural uploading, or whole brain emulation.
“This research should increase our understanding of the brain, allowing us to further understand certain mental illnesses perhaps curing them,” Higham said.
He said he is also intrigued by the idea of uploading a consciousness into neural network, effectively making the consciousness immortal.
“Imagine a world where we no longer have to lose our Einsteins, our da Vincis, our loved ones and so on. This sci-fi like possibility fascinates and interests me,” Higham said. “[It’s] something I’d like to pursue.”
Higham grew up in Boardman, and said he has been interested in science for most of his life.
“In my childhood, my default go-to was to become an astronaut because of the awe I feel with regards to the Universe we live in,” Higham said. “Becoming an astronaut is still my dream job.”
He credited his interest to his high school teachers and the work of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
“They are all highly intelligent people who try inspiring and educating the public,” Higham said. “I have enormous respect for them.”
Higham will begin his studies in Osaka in late March and remain there through the end of July.