Meet Jason Kalin
In this year's Graduate Student Research Symposium, Jason Kalin was awarded second-place honors in the Humanities and Design category. A doctoral student in Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media (CRDM), his winning poster is entitled, "Genetic Information and the Constitution of Medical Subjects: Critical Junctures in Genome Sequencing."
Originally from Cleveland, OH, Kalin earned a B.A. in both English Literature and Religious Studies at the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) in 2005. But he returned to Ohio after graduation to pursue his Master's of English Literature at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
While at Case, he became interested in rhetoric and digital media. He says that he was intrigued by NC State's program in Communication, Rhetoric and Digital media and ". . . knew that the program had faculty who were respected scholars in their fields." He is currently in his second year in the CRDM program.
Kalin's graduate research builds upon previous research in the field because the rapid development of genome sequencing ". . . has created new possibilities for and areas of study, such as the social and personal consequences of this technology."
His research analyzes popular news articles that discuss recent advancements in personal genome sequencing. Kalin uses discourse analysis –- a research method that codes and tracks patterns within written texts -– to discover how genome sequencing is being communicated to the public. He specifically wants to know how these articles describe the relationship between genetic information and the individual medical subject.
Kalin discovered that genome sequencing companies promote ideas that people will have "greater self-knowledge and empowerment" through this technology. However, those who have been subjects in genome sequencing don't always see genetic information as a positive form of self-knowledge. In fact, they are forced to confront questions and insights they might not want to address. As Kalin states: "For example, what does the individual who has genetic markers for Alzheimer's or breast cancer do with that genetic information? The popular news articles I analyzed suggest that individuals may feel unsettled and burdened by such genetic information."
The more intriguing aspect of Kalin's research is that for those who are ready to confront the emotional and social consequences of this new information, what can they actually do with the information? "The answer, at this time, remains, 'Not much.' Not surprising, some critics have suggested that this technology should be used for more recreational purposes, such as genealogy, rather than serious medical applications."
So, just how did Kalin create his award-winning first poster? He said that he was able to distill a long research paper by focusing on key sections and the most important points within those sections. "Rather than describe or explain my research in detail, I used short quotations from the popular news articles to illustrate my argument. I also included graphics taken from the articles themselves." One lesson that he learned from the poster presentation was that viewers generally would read the title, look at a picture, and move on to the next poster. He says that posters need to have ". . . catchy, but descriptive, titles to draw viewers in, and images, graphics, or charts to illustrate the main points while using text strategically."
When not scouring and analyzing public communications, Kalin likes to play sand volleyball and tennis with some of his colleagues. And with two degrees in English literature, it's also natural for him to enjoy reading for pleasure. He says that he recommends '. . . Colum McCann's recent and widely acclaimed novel, Let the Great World Spin."
And Kalin has a simple -- but important -- piece of advice for his fellow graduate students: "Remember to have a social life."
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