Meet the Researcher - Tushya Mehta

Breakout Room: 22

Tushya_Mehta_Headshot_CURResearcher Name: Tushya Mehta
Co-Presenter: Grace Bonnema
Title of Research: Narrative Processing of Music: How Culture Influences Our Perception of Music
Division Representing: Arts and Humanities
Institution: Michigan State University 
Institution Location: Michigan
Home State: Texas
District Number: 8
Advisor/Mentor: Natalie Phillips
Funding Source: MSU Honors College Research Scholarship, NSF-Project funding (student stipend); National Science Foundation 

Research Experience: 
Tushya Mehta (Biology and German major and Honors College) is a sophomore at Michigan State University. Tushya Mehta has played a strong role in leading the DHLC lab since his arrival at MSU. In addition to taking on the music and narrative research, he has embraced the role of an undergraduate lab lead, working as a centerpiece throughout the grant writing process for the Lab's recently received Mellon grant, Creativity in the Time of COVID-19” ($3M) and organizing collaborative meetings across the lab. Tushya is also working on advancing the cutting-edge neuroscientific method, utilizing the fMRI stimulus technology to DHLC's already existing complex set of behavioristic experiments. He was also named the Honors College Wielenga Research Scholar and was awarded a 1-year fully funded research assistantship with a professor. For his leadership and volunteering service, Tushya has also received the Spartan Volunteer Service Award: A Presidential Recognition. 

Presentation Experience: 
Tushya Mehta has presented on diverse topics in the fields of Natural Science, Neuroscience as well as Arts and Humanities. He has used posters and power points to share their research and have a good experience in research-based writing. Tushya has also given 10-15 minute talks on his research in front of international scholars and researchers. Tushya has presented his research on Effects of different chemical ions on Seed Germination and Plant Growth at the international Japan Super Science Fair 2018 (as a High School Student). Tushya has also presented at many interschool research showcases in High School. At MSU, he presented at the 2020 Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences on the Music and Narrative project. Tushya has also showcased his diversity and inclusion based research at university conferences like Digital Humanities THATcamp, MSU's 4th annual Diversity Research Showcase and is preparing to present at the Global DH Symposium and 2021 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). 

Significance of Research:       
This presentation explores parts of a larger NSF-funded interdisciplinary study conducted at Michigan State (McAuley, TAP Lab; Phillips, DHLC lab), Princeton University (Lisa Margulis), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Patrick Wong). The study investigated if and when people imagine and/or hear stories when they listen to musical stimuli. One of the experiments had participants from across the US and Dimen, China listen to instrumental music and asked them to give a narrative to their story, if they heard one; a surprising number of people did. Many of the narratives had incredible similarities, such as the same topics, themes, and even specific words. The similarities in participant answers were often startling, and so were the cultural perceptions of different themes, like war. In many narratives, we observed that Western and Chinese listeners have contrasting stories around these themes and also reveal powerfully different moods while writing their narratives. For example, in two excerpts, western listeners wrote narratives that portray wars in the name of remorse (Keywords: battle, violence, sadness, fear) while chinese listeners portrayed wars in the name of national pride (Keywords: Excitement; Nationalism; victories). As we investigate these moments of cultural alignment and divergence in music inspired stories, we point toward an innovative model for linking specific structures and time-points in music to the kinds of stories people hear. Through this presentation, moreover, we aim to provide an understanding of when and why instrumental music yields culture-influenced narrative listening.

Uniqueness of Research: 
Combining methods from literary studies with cutting-edge scholarship in cognitive science, digital humanities, musicology, and neuroscience, this interdisciplinary work is a unique and valuable addition to more traditional works in Arts and Humanities.