Maria Jaleh McTeigue ’18

My time at Mount Holyoke has exceeded what I could have imagined for myself four years ago. I am humbled by and grateful to all who have invested in me.

Name: Maria Jaleh McTeigue ’18

Hometown: Los Alamos, New Mexico

Academic focus: self-designed major at the intersection of neuroscience and law; Nexus concentration in global business

Campus involvement: I serve as president of the Mount Holyoke Debate Society and am a three-year varsity debater. Previously I served as novice trainer, tournament coordinator and vice president. I am also a three-year mentor with the Speaking, Arguing and Writing (SAW) Center, where I taught workshops on public speaking and mentored a first-year seminar. I currently co-facilitate the center’s senior thesis circle. In my time at Mount Holyoke, I have enjoyed performing with the Vocal Jazz Ensemble and being part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. During my junior year, I served as vice president of the class of 2018.

Proudest accomplishments at Mount Holyoke: I designed the first undergraduate curriculum in neuroscience and law at Mount Holyoke College. This emerging field, known as neurolaw, is typically present only in Ph.D./J.D. programs. The major was approved by the College and mapped a multi-disciplinary curriculum that incorporated coursework including neurobiology, artificial neural networks, bio-politics, electrophysiology, medical ethics, law, and jurisprudence. Affiliates of Virginia Tech have requested the listing of my courses to develop a similar program for undergraduates.

In exploring how to integrate pre-existing pathways into the field of study, I contacted Francis X. Shen, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. Under his mentorship, I evaluated case studies of neurotechnology misuse by private firms using biomarkers to screen for Alzheimer's disease. Our collaborative research has been published in the AMA Journal of Ethics, the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, and the Fordham Law Review.

I have continued my work with Shen, this year at Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics. Our current research is geared toward developing a set of instructions known in the court system as a “bench card” for federal judges of the contemporary capabilities of biomarker technology, including standards for clinical-grade diagnostic testing.

How a close connection with a faculty member has shaped you: Tim Malacarne (visiting professor of data science) is co-advisor to my major in neurolaw, and has been a consistent supporter of my interdisciplinary thinking and work. He has gone above and beyond his responsibilities as an academic advisor. He and his wife have hosted advisee dinners, stored my dorm boxes in their attic while I was abroad, and connected me to a friend so I could carpool to Cambridge for neurolaw workshops at Harvard Law School. In office-hour conversations, he pushes my closely held notions of faith, race, class and research. I am incredibly grateful for his encouragement throughout my undergraduate career.

As a self-designed major, I am deeply grateful for the direction of faculty across fields and departments, including my co-advisor Kathryn McMenimen (assistant professor of chemistry) who has encouraged me through research and application cycles. I was also supported by Mark McMenamin (professor of geology) who incorporated my ideas in the design of his first-year seminar and helped me develop counterarguments for a philosophy paper or two.

Favorite course you thought you might not like: I originally took Structural Inequalities with David Hernández, assistant professor of Latina/o & Latin American studies, to fulfill a distribution requirement. This course prompted rich reflection upon my identity as a northern New Mexico woman. Themes of the course validated my personal legacy and gave it historical and academic importance. I have grown to revel in the history of my people. This semester I am continuing to explore the history of crypto-Judaism and the “conversos” of New Mexico, Jews who were forced to convert, through a course called Women in Judaism at Amherst College.

In discussing my independent research, Hernández has encouraged me to connect interdisciplinary study with a specific cultural target by valuing the perspective that my identity brings to bear on ethics. He once remarked, “You’ve bitten the fruit of interdisciplinary studies.”

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: The most personally striking dimension of my work as a research assistant for Shen has been examining the racial implications implementing biomarker technology within the context of the private sector. Last semester I took economics professor Michael Robinson’s Labor Economics Seminar and was completely absorbed in applying economic dimensions to the legal theory of my research.

This semester, as part of a business-ethics case competition, a classmate and I explored the legal, financial and ethical dimensions of mandating blood-based biomarker screening for Alzheimer’s disease among executive board members over the age of 65. The screening is proposed to ensure that members make company decisions with an appropriate level of cognitive capacity, without which they are ineligible to serve. However, this integration of biomarkers will likely further disadvantage already marginalized people. Ethics must drive application and adoption of this emerging technology.

Favorite Five College experience: In my junior year, I began to take courses in the law, jurisprudence and social thought department at Amherst College with Adam Sitze. By treating the law as an occasion to pose epistemic questions about the essence and genesis of juridical frameworks, Sitze’s outlook has powerfully framed the foundation and style of inquisition in my scholarship and life. He is a stunning thinker and professor, whom I hope to emulate.

How Mount Holyoke has shaped your global outlook: In the spring of 2017, I studied at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. When I returned, I signed up for the Global Partners Program offered to new international students by the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, and was paired with a first-year student from China. The two of us meet frequently for lunch and discuss courses, interests and life goals. Recounting my experiences and seeing her excitement for her own journey has been such a refreshing part of my senior year. I am truly grateful for the international community that comes together at Mount Holyoke.

Future plans: Intensive training in juridical theory and legal research have prepared me to critically evaluate case studies related to neurotechnology. Upon the completion of my B.A., I look forward to continuing legal research related to neurotechnology, intellectual property and healthcare.

My time at Mount Holyoke has exceeded what I could have imagined for myself four years ago. I am humbled by and grateful to all who have invested in me. Thank you.