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Spring 2012
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Senior Portraits

Kaitlin Hardy

Text: Hannah Stamler ’12 | Photo: Kent Loeffler

Kaitlin Hardy

Kaitlin Hardy’s fluid performances on the beam belie the jarring realities of a challenging medical condition she has faced since a teenager: epilepsy.

The varsity gymnast doesn’t only put on a brave face in her battle to overcome the condition, she is also applying her biology education and winning attitude to advance research and educate others.

After an especially turbulent sophomore year in which she began having grand mal seizures and spent almost as much time in ambulances as she did in classrooms, Kaitlin co-founded FACES (Facts, Advocacy and Control of Epileptic Seizures), with fellow seizure sufferer and hockey player Dan Nicholls ’11.

Their first event was a charity James Bond-themed fundraiser party, Shaken Not Stirred, at former Collegetown staple Dino’s. Since then, the organization has grown enormously.

It has established the first student-run laboratory on campus, where experiments are conducted to examine the effects of different anti-epileptic medicines on “bang-sensitive” fruit flies, flies that are conditioned to have seizures.

Kaitlin also takes some of these experiments into the community, using the fruit flies to demonstrate to children how seizures work. Thanks to a generous grant from the Community Partnership Board, she and Nicholls also penned a children’s book that they use as a teaching aid.

Outreach initiatives like these help promote a better understanding of epilepsy and get kids interested in neuroscience, an exciting result for Kaitlin, who studies biology with a concentration in neurology and behavior.

FACES also works with other age groups to combat the negative stigma associated with epilepsy and to offer support to seizure sufferers.

Cornell students are a key audience, as seizures are mainly triggered by sleep deprivation, stress, and drinking—or, as Kaitlin jokes, “college.”

Because of this, it is crucial that students have an outlet through which they feel comfortable discussing their condition. FACES runs a mentorship program that pairs Cornellians and children with epilepsy. She also started a chapter of Delta Alpha Pi, an honors fraternity for students with disabilities.

Kaitlin credits Cornell and its community for allowing her to get so far.

“There’s making good of a bad situation, and there’s having the chance to do what I’ve done here,” she said.

Kaitlin was recently recognized by the CALS Alumni Association with the Richard A. Church Senior Service Award.

After pursuing a graduate degree in neuroscience at King’s College, London, she plans to work toward making FACES a national organization.