Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Novall Khan

khanName: Novall Khan

Occupation: iOS Developer and Memory Researcher (Website:

Education (UR and additional): Bachelor of Science, Brain & Cognitive Sciences (’09), Master of Mind, Brain, & Education (’12), Harvard University

Current city/state/country of residence: Boston / MA / USA

Current Community activities: Developing iPhone apps to raise money for underserved communities

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I helped found Active Minds while at U of R, and it quickly grew into a passion of mine that I’ve weaved into my career, as a Clinical Interviewer at Emory’s Mood & Anxiety Disorders Program, and now as a freelance iPhone app developer, creating mobile apps for mental health.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

Too many to count! I considered every professor I had at U of R to be a mentor, especially Michael Tanenhaus, Richard Aslin, Ben Faber, and my advisor, Florian Jaeger. I also looked up to the UR Library Staff as wonderful mentors when I worked there, including Trina Lowery, Katie Kinsky, Marc Bollmann, and Stephanie Frontz.  I’ve found social networking sites to be a great way to stay connected.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take this path?

I decided to work after graduating, and I’m so glad I did. It may seem scary diving into the workforce as many of your peers continue directly on to graduate studies, but there is so much to gain both personally and professionally by jump-starting your career before starting grad school.  Full-time work experience really helped me figure out what it is I’m good at outside of an academic setting, and what it is I’m truly interested in. (Keep in mind, what you’re interested in academically does not necessarily translate to what you’re interested in professionally!)

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m a memory researcher at Harvard University’s Schacter Memory Lab, researching online learning, specifically how interspersing memory tests throughout lectures may aid learning. I’m also an iPhone app developer, having recently launched a stress-reduction app, ThoughtCloud+, on the App Store.  I chose this career path because of the interdisciplinary nature of my work, and the ability to apply my background in cognitive science to technology.

What is your fondest memory of the University?

Sledding down the Danforth hill on trays. I hope this is not an outdated pastime! :) 

What advice do you have for current students?

Take computer science. No matter what field you go into, having skills in computer science will go a long way. Think about it: what field doesn’t use computers?