Kunga Chonyi 17F on His Div III Journey to Neurobiology and Nursing

Recent graduate Kunga Chonyi 17F came to Hampshire College in the fall of 2017 through a student exchange program with the Central University for Tibetan Studies. We sat down with Chonyi [virtually] to learn more about his divisional journey toward neurobiology, his Div III case study, and how that project convinced him to pursue his nursing certification after graduation.

Where are you from? What brought you to Hampshire?

I was born into a Tibetan refugee family in India. While I was attending the Central University for Tibetan Studies, I learned about the relationship between our school and Hampshire College, including the student exchange program. Through this program, I was able to attend Hampshire College starting in the fall of 2017. The two major things that attracted me to Hampshire College were its interdisciplinary curriculum and being part of the Five College Consortium, which enables students to access various resources between the five colleges.

Talk a little about your Div I and II experience and journey to your Div III. Were there any surprises along the way?

At the beginning of my Div I, I did not know much about the fundamentals of western science, especially coming from a Buddhist philosophy background. I wanted to learn cognitive psychology in western science so that I could do collaborative research with that of Buddhist psychology and epistemology. However, I realized that neurobiology was an inseparable discipline that engulfs the foundation needed for understanding brain function in general. So, during my Div II, I changed my focus towards neurobiology, and I carried it forward in my Div III as well. Events in my personal life and the pandemic crisis motivated me to become a nurse, hence, I also took pre-nursing courses along with neurobiology. After a thorough discussion with my advisors and loved ones, I decided to pursue becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) as my career after graduation. This path enables me to stick with my calling, as well as use my background in neuroscience.

Tell us a little about your Div III project.

My Div III project revolved around a real-life case study of a patient who developed catatonia during the pandemic. While my initial idea was to focus on the catatonia, after a lot of personal research into the patient, there were many other medical problems that existed as well, all of which I knew I had to include. I found the process very interesting, as it allowed me to connect the dots between the physiological and psychological aspects of this patient, almost as if a mystery were being solved. Since this patient had many different aspects to consider, a lot of time went into the research for the final product. Under the guidance of my two advisors, I completed multiple drafts of each aspect. While this may have taken a long time for me, I was pleased with the final product.

My decision to pursue nursing has been an incredible journey, especially during my Div III process. The various courses I was able to take, and the course that I was able to TA for, all allowed me to gain confidence in what I have already learned to teach to others. My biggest moment of growth during this process was learning how to properly find and understand research papers, to then write about their content in my own words.

Who was on your committee?

Cynthia Gill [associate professor of physiology] and Kaća Bradonjić [assistant professor of physics] were my advisors.

What are your plans / hopes / aspirations for after Hampshire?

To continue my studies in nursing school and be able to use the knowledge and compassion in comforting sentient beings as much as possible.

Describe Hampshire in one word.