Christina Nelson: The Best of Both Worlds

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Loving both science and writing, Christina Nelson discovered a way to harness both passions in her work with Project EMAR.

(Photo above: Christina Nelson stands outside UW Tacoma's Global Innovation & Design Lab.)

Christina Nelson, ’19, Writing Studies, loves science and writing. So, when it came time to choose she couldn’t decide which path to pursue. “Did I want to be an engineer or a journalist?” said Nelson. “I didn’t think I would find something that allowed me to do both.” Nelson is walking across the Commencement stage in June but four years ago she was a first-year college student in need of direction.

Nelson found it pretty soon after arriving on campus. “I discovered technical writing,” she said. “I realized I could have the best of both worlds.” Nelson completed her degree in writing studies during winter quarter of this year. She’s already putting her skills to use. “I got hired as a content editor for a biotech company called CuraCloud,” said Nelson.

The 22 year-old will pursue a master’s degree after she’s gained some professional experience. “I’m interested in getting my master’s in human-centered design and engineering,” said Nelson. This interest in the world of usability likely comes from Nelson’s work with UW Tacoma Assistant Professor Emma Rose and Project EMAR (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot).

EMAR is a robot that is designed to measure stress in teens. Nelson found out about the project in an email she received during her junior year. “I loved Emma but I’d never worked with her,” said Nelson. “I had one class with her and knew she was a wonderful teacher and mentor.” Nelson applied for a research position and got a confirmation she’d been accepted — on her birthday. “It was a pretty great present,” she said.

EMAR is a multi-faceted project that utilizes participatory design to develop different versions of the robot. Nelson, Rose and others on the team visited area high schools to solicit feedback from students. “We were listening to these students talk about their apprehension about college and who they wanted to be,” said Nelson. “I could see so many parts of my journey reflected in them.”

Nelson’s parents and older brother all went to college, yet she was apprehensive. “I hadn’t found that place where I felt connected but then I stumbled onto EMAR,” she said. “Here I was on this team with these incredible women who were doing work that gave voice to people who have traditionally been ignored.”

Nelson’s work with EMAR and UW Tacoma’s Math Science Leadership Program has helped others explore their interest whether that’s science, writing or something else. “When I came here I thought I’d do technical communications but didn’t really know what that meant,” she said. “I thought I’d write manuals or content that no one is going to read. Instead, I found something that allowed me to give back.”

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Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 13, 2019
Photos by: 
Ryan Moriarty