What's in your backpack?

“My laptop computer,” says Max Shinn, ’15. Both his backpack and laptop are soon to become world travelers, as they head with him to Cambridge University in England this fall. As one of 14 U.S. recipients of the prestigious Churchill Scholarship, Shinn will work toward a master’s degree in medical science in the university’s psychiatry department.

Shinn, who is also a recipient of the U of M’s William L. Hart Scholarship, came to the U with an intense curiosity about the human mind, how it works, and how to study it. He graduated in May 2015 with majors in neuroscience and math and minors in statistics and astrophysics, and was in the U’s Honors Program for two years.

His fascination with the human brain, he says, comes from the fact that there are so many unanswered questions about how our brains function. “If you ask a physicist what electromagnetism is, she can tell you,” he says, “but if you ask a neuroscientist, ‘What is sleep?’ or ‘How do we think?’ we don’t know.”

His undergraduate research at the U—which he’ll continue at Cambridge—focused on building computer models of brain functions and analyzing the resulting data, which gives scientists a better understanding of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.