Current Students

Nick Allen

Headshot of Nick Allen

Masters Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture
HHIVE Lab Research Assistant
HHIVE Website Designer and Communicator  

Nick comes from Virginia Tech where he graduated with dual degrees in Professional & Technical Writing and Literature & Culture. Faculty members there sparked his interest in Health Humanities and lead him towards an honors thesis which considered three of Hemingway’s works as illness narratives, both to confront Hemingway through an alternative lens and to consider the value and applicability of his work to modern patients of chronic suffering, terminal illness, and aging. As an M.A. student at UNC, Nick plans to explore other aspects of the aging experience and how we might confront these inevitable challenges with grace and sagacity.

Mary Carol Barks

Headshot of Mary Carol Barks

Masters Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Mary Carol Barks holds a B.A. from Auburn University where she studied English Literature with an interest in the medical humanities and multidisciplinary research. While doing coursework at UNC Chapel Hill, Mary Carol is an Associate in Research at Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy where she studies doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making, particularly when patients experience life-threatening illness. Mary Carol hopes to continue this line of research, helping clinicians guide their patients through challenging treatment decisions that effectively coincide with each patient’s values, goals, and life as a whole.

Calvin Olsen


Masters Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Calvin Olsen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where he received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. His poetry and translations have appeared in The Missouri Review Online, Tar River Poetry, Poetry DailyColumbia, Salamander, and many other journals and anthologies. Recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best New Poets anthology, Calvin is currently co-poetry editor of The Carolina Quarterly and is completing translations of Portuguese poet João Luís Barreto Guimarães’s newest book, Mediterrâneo, and the collected works of the late Alberto de Lacerda.

Kaylyn Pogson

Picture of Kaylyn Pogson posing with a dogMasters Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Kaylyn moved to the Triangle from South Africa, completing her undergraduate career at UNC with Biology and English majors. While at UNC, she focused heavily on the medical humanities, with her study culminating in a lengthy honors thesis on breast cancer narratives at different points in time and through various genres. She used her thesis to examine why women afflicted by breast cancer seem to possess an unusual drive to write about their experiences, as well as their perceptions of the unique threats on femininity that breast cancer imposes with an emphasis on the effects of different timepoints and genres on the illness experience and its narrative, respectively.

As an M.A. student, Kaylyn is continuing to study breast cancer illness narratives with a greater emphasis on their theoretical frameworks, and is particularly interested in the question of how different and developing genres are used to address the question of how to most effectively convey the illness experience. Kaylyn is taking advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of the program with classes in English, biology, medicine, and public health. She plans to use her medical humanities training as a physician focused on humanism in patient-centered care.

Sarah Singer

Sarah Singer

PhD Student, English and Comparative Literature
Originally from Maryland, Sarah moved to North Carolina for graduate school in 2013.  She is about to finish her PhD exams and will soon be a PhD candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC. Her experiences as a Lyme Disease patient and sexual health peer-educator when she was at the University of Maryland sparked her interest in health humanities. Both of these experiences taught her that health and medicine–language, experiences, treatments, and more– are constructed rhetorically, meaning that they are interpretive and that we can understand them in different ways through a humanistic lens.
In the HHIVE, Sarah worked with Jordynn Jack and Jen Stockwell on the Writing Diabetes Project. Outside of the HHIVE, she is working on a dissertation project about the visual and textual rhetorics of Lyme Disease. Related research interests include the rhetoric of health and medicine; disability studies; visual ethnography and visual rhetoric; gender and sexuality; feminist historiography; and writing in the disciplines. She teaches ENGL 105 and ENGL 105i: Health and Medicine, and has been a teaching assistant for WMST 101, ENGL 611, and the UNC Warrior-Scholar Project.

Kym Weed

PhD Candidate, English and Comparative Literature

Headshot of Kym WeedKym graduated from Lebanon Valley College with a B.S. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. After a few years of working in a pharmaceutical company doing product testing in a microbiology lab, Kym decided to return to graduate school to pursue an M.A. in English at the University of Maryland where she began to recognize the value of using literature in medical ethics, cultural studies, and science studies. As a PhD Candidate at UNC, Kym has joined an energized community of scholars interested in Literature, Medicine, and Culture. She studies American literature from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, which was an exciting and formative period in science and medicine. Kym investigates how bacteriologists and authors in this time period understood microbes, and she considers how this new view of the world impacted human relations with one another and the world.

At UNC, Kym has been a teaching assistant for the undergraduate Literature Medicine, and Culture course and served as the chair of the graduate student Literature, Medicine, and Culture Colloquium. In the medical school, Kym has lead critical incident discussion sections and assisted with the pilot RICE course that is now part of the third year curriculum. In HHIVE, Kym is the Assistant Director and has been the Study Coordinator for the Fall Narrative Study and enrolled in the inaugural ENGL695 class.