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Student Stories

Fresh Encounters: Nina Cragg

"Every person has a story to tell, so be curious and listen." Freshman Nina Cragg shares her recent exploration into tech + synthetic biology with a patch that detects a person's nutritional values and then transfers the data to a mobile device. Here, she shares how she spends her time collaborating on new projects and how she is committed to going the extra mile...

Tell me a little bit about your journey to IYA? 

I left high school after three years to participate in a design and engineering program. I loved working on projects every day and collaborating with people. I wanted something similar in college, but with the ability to actually follow my ideas through to market. IYA offered all of that; the cohort, the connections, being in a small environment, and getting to know people who are really super amazing to collaborate with.

Collaboration with Max Ingersoll

Describe a passion project you’re currently working? 

I was working with a group to create a patch that sensed a person’s nutritional values and would send that data to your phone. This project didn’t get too far beyond research and prototyping, but it was such a fun thought experiment into the future of tech + synthetic biology that I really want to revisit it.

What inspired the project?

It is a pain for people to keep track of nutrition intake through their phone and often not totally accurate. So, we wanted to use synthetic biology to create something that could do that for you, using your body’s biology.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you? 


My teacher Rosa from my design + engineering school. She is someone who I always go to if I need to flesh out an idea. Also, she is amazing at networking! No matter where we are she is always advocating to get people to come speak, or just meet with to learn from.

Collaboration with Max Ingersoll

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” -Steve Jobs

What are three goals you have this year?

  1. Connect with new people
  2. Become more comfortable pitching.
  3. If I don’t understand something 100%, go the extra mile to get there and learn

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?

I competed in freestyle skiing for four years, but started off with a fear of heights (as you can imagine, I didn’t start out great at it). Also, I have five siblings.

What is one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?

Two things, since I have very different parents!

  1. Every person has a story to tell, so be curious and listen.
  2. Grit is exponentially more important than success.

Collaboration with Nya Rudek and Teresa Lourie

Fun Facts

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
Cinnamon or mint gum, headphones, watermelon lip smackers, a nice and sharp pencil, a good quality unruled notebook that is usually a cute color (like pink).

Favorite app or website?

Favorite class at USC and why?
Innovators Forum. It is getting me out of my comfort zone which is scary, but so rewarding. Also, I feel like I’m learning super important skills that I’d otherwise learn way past college. And, it is so cool to learn and then actually get to pitch to people in a range of industries.

Favorite way to de-stress:
Baking chocolate chip cookies cookies, watching the Office and Parks and Recreation.

Guilty Pleasure?

Cereal, any and all cereal.

Thank you, Nina!