SunSun Park is a fourth year student in the College, studying Biology and Media Studies with a Media Policy and Ethics concentration. Given her interest in biological sciences and her firm belief in the influence of media on society, she explores ways to connect her two fields through journalism and video production experiences. Throughout her time at UVA, Sun has also participated in research.

Brain Plasticity in Noisy Environments

Sun conducted independent research in the Neural Auditory Perception and Learning Lab in the Department of Psychology. Under the guidance of Dr. Ching-Ling Teng Ph.D., she studied the physiological changes in rodent brains when rats were raised in noisy environments. It was discovered that noisy environments induce brain plasticity, which is a huge concern in many modern cities. We hear the noise generated by devices such as television and games through physical and chemical signaling mechanisms in our ears, which may change the temporal brain wiring. This physiological change has shown to affect specifically the threshold of the noise level that startles the rodents. This research connected not only cellular response to sound signaling, but also physiological and thus, behavioral changes that ensue from the environment.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases:  Medical Science and Documentary

In 2013 Sun joined the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Laboratory in the UVA Department of Medicine under the guidance of Dr. Michael Y. Shim. There, research is focused on trying to understand ways that signaling molecules and pathways trigger excess inflammation of the lung in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Pulmonary Lab

To gain a broader and more human perspective on this chronic illness, Sun also filmed a short documentary about a man living with COPD. This narrative journey allowed her to make a meaningful connection between medical research at the bench and a person suffering from the very illness that is studied under the microscope.

Journalism—WUVA Online

Aside from her scientific endeavors, in 2011 Sun helped launch the multimedia content on the student journalism site, WUVA online.  Since then, serving as a reporter, editor and secretary of WUVA Media, she has been reporting health, science, and politics news. Recently, Sun reported on the effect of the Affordable Care Act on students and an Inside Look at ‘In the Family,’ a documentary about breast cancer BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. This is an example of information transduction. A news piece is developed through witness interviews and expert analysis of an event that is packaged and translated through a reporter, editor, and a producer under the umbrella of a media organization. The organized story is then further converted to other media for delivery through digital platforms to audiences, who understand the story based on the information that is delivered and personal assumptions. In summary, through documentary and student journalism, Sun helps to connect students and others in the university and local community with medical science advances and other relevant information.



Looking to the future of medicine, Sun is currently collaborating with the Telemedicine Department, the School of Nursing, and the Media Studies Department at UVA for her independent study on the potential of telemedicine to enhance the delivery of medical care to patients in rural southwest Virginia. Telemedicine is a method of accessing the expertise of health care professionals through telecommunication devices across distance.  From a media studies perspective, Sun is exploring the changes in the patient/doctor interaction and relationships brought about by these new technologies. The digital transmission of medical expertise is expanding in a variety of places from developing countries to prisons and rural areas of the U.S. because of its cost-efficiency. Given its impact on society, it is important to consider the effects of this expansion of telemedicine on the future of healthcare policies and medical education. As new telecommunication devices are implemented to various specialties in medicine, the way the information is transduced not only across space and time, but also between humans and devices must be investigated.

Future Work

In her ongoing efforts to connect media and medicine, Sun plans to experiment with new ways of reaching out through digital communication, in which healthcare does not have to start and end at a hospital. She plans to continue practicing medical journalism and narrative medicine using multimedia to make medical knowledge more accessible for the public.