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From the Apocalypse to Essential Tremors

A Rich and Rewarding Honors Journey

Born and raised in a small town outside of Darmstadt, Germany, senior Honors student Christian Metzner spent his time reading, playing chess, and running (marathon-length distances, just to be clear.) At five years old, his family spent a year in New York City where he tackled English, and years later his mission call to Argentina would prove him to be trilingual. With both of his parents being BYU graduates, Christian was excited to follow in their footsteps and continue his education in the US. When asked about the differences between Germany and America, Christian joked that “It’s not too different– but it’s hard to know what’s Utah weird and what’s America weird sometimes.”

The first class Christian took here at BYU was a late summer’s Honors class, one that studied the apocalypse from both an environmental perspective as well as a film and literature perspective. From that point on, Christian was in the Honor’s program to stay. “I really loved examining foundational principles that span disciplines, and I knew I wanted to keep learning about those,” Christian says.

While Christian has had countless academic achievements while here at BYU, he took me through some of his favorite projects he worked on as part of the Honors program. One of the standouts for Christian (and instructors who read it) was his Great Questions Essay, a hefty 25-page paper required for all Honor’s students. Titled “Why We’re Wrong About Being Right (Until it’s Too Late)” Christian poses the question why we as humans are we often wrong about the things we feel totally right about? Christian examined this question from three perspectives: finance, economics, and math. He explained to me that in the 1990’s, a set of theories surfaced where specific formulas could theoretically eliminate financial risk, specifically in the stock market. This idea was short lived however, as the pioneers of this approach (who also had a Nobel Prize) saw their hedge fund collapse completely, almost marking the end of Wall Street as we know it. Christian said that an important takeaway he gleaned from this research and writing this essay was that we should recognize that there is always a chance we’re wrong; even about the things of which we’re absolutely certain. “I think it’s a healthy practice to leave yourself an intentional 5% uncertainty that recognizes you could be wrong about any given thing,” he said.

Another experience that stood out for Christian was his Leadership Development Experience, where he served as a representative for international students on the BYU Student Advisory Council, and then later as a research director. During his time there, he worked on projects to improve diversity and inclusion here at BYU. Additionally, he had the opportunity to sit as a student representative for the university diversity training committee, where he was able to learn more about how administrators are working to increase awareness surrounding issues facing underrepresented populations on campus. When I asked Christian what he learned from this experience, he told me that people just need to be genuinely listened to. “Students really just want to know that somebody hears them and is registering what they’re saying and doing what they can to actively solve the problem.” One of the highlights for Christian were the people he met during that time, and he’ll cherish those experiences forever.

One of the last hurdles Christian will tackle before he graduates this December is wrapping up his Honors Thesis. In his thesis, Christian analyzes the electromyographic effects of peripheral stimulation below motoneuron threshold on Essential Tremor patients. Thankfully, Christian was able to graciously explain that to me in simpler terms. Essential Tremor is the most common movement disorder in the world, and many people aren’t even aware of it. It’s a nervous system disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking, which can largely interfere with the daily lives of those who deal with it. In his thesis, Christian studies a new method used to suppress such tremor, called sensory stimulation, where a patient’s limbs are electrically stimulated to suppress the tremor. Additionally, Christian studied neural signals racing through the limbs as they were stimulated, and which strategies have the largest success rates when it comes to suppressing these tremors. Christian’s final step in this process is to defend his thesis, which will mark the culmination of this incredible project.

Christian encourages upcoming Honor’s students to not be afraid to dive into the scientific aspects of their Honor’s classes, because these connections can make their experiences that much more interesting.

Going forward, Christian is eager to continue his education at a PhD program where he will study computational neuroscience. Clearly, big things await him as he graduates with Honors this December!