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ESP Biography



MELISSA KO, STEM Teaching Fellow at Stanford




Major: Cancer Biology

College/Employer: Stanford

Year of Graduation: 2018

Picture of Melissa Ko

Brief Biographical Sketch:

I am a current teaching fellow at Stanford, working with freshmen as part of the Thinking Matters program. I love teaching anything from poetry to personal finance to computational biology!

I did my undergrad work at MIT and returned to California where I grew up to continue my education. I recently graduated with a PhD in cancer biology from Stanford.

As a student, I was involved with Splash for several years (both at Stanford and at MIT) and love to volunteer/teach in my free time. When I am not volunteering, I like to cook, play video games, and go for walks.



Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)

L6935: Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Spring 2019 (May. 04 - 05, 2019)
What does it mean to take out a loan? How do we effectively use credit? Why are so many Americans in debt? Learning about personal finance can help you avoid money problems down the road and empower you to reach your goals. In this class, we will discuss what you will want to know about finances to make smart decisions with your money. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits. Please bring any questions you would like to discuss about personal finance. Note that this is NOT purely an investing class, though we may talk a little about how investing may fit into your saving strategy.


L6666: Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Fall 2018 (Dec. 01 - 02, 2018)
What does it mean to take out a loan? How do we effectively use credit? Why are so many Americans in debt? Learning about personal finance can help you avoid money problems down the road and empower you to reach your goals. In this class, we will discuss what you will want to know about finances to make smart decisions with your money. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits. Please bring any questions you would like to discuss about personal finance. Note that this is NOT purely an investing class, though we may talk a little about how investing may fit into your saving strategy.


L5216: Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Fall 2016 (Dec. 03 - 04, 2016)
The average American household is thousands of dollars in debt. Learning about personal finance can help you avoid money problems down the road and empower you to reach your goals! In this class, we will discuss what you will want to know about finances to make smart decisions with your money. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits. Please bring any questions you would like to discuss about personal finance. Note that this is NOT purely an investing class, though we can talk a little about how investing may fit into your saving strategy.


B5219: Apoptosis: How Cells Die in Development and Disease in Splash Fall 2016 (Dec. 03 - 04, 2016)
In the lifetime of a multicellular organism, such as a human, millions of their cells will die in a coordinated manner. All of this cell death is a natural part of development and disease prevention. How do these cells decide to die and how does death occur? We will discuss the process of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, that occurs in development and can happen (or fail to happen) in many diseases.


B4753: A Crash Course in Cancer Biology in Splash Spring 2016 (Apr. 09 - 10, 2016)
What is cancer? What happens in the body when cancer starts and spreads? What causes cancer? How can we treat it? What would it take to cure this disease? We'll discuss all of these questions through a whirlwind lesson on genetics, cell biology, evolution, medical research, and more! Be ready to participate and bring any questions you have on cancer and scientific research.


L4754: Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Spring 2016 (Apr. 09 - 10, 2016)
The average American household is thousands of dollars in debt. Learning early on about personal finance can help you avoid money problems down the road! In this class, we will discuss what you will want to know about finances to make smart decisions with your money. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits. Please bring any questions you would like to discuss about personal finance. Note that this is NOT purely an investing class, though we can talk a little about how investing may fit into your saving strategy.


L4473: Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Fall 2015 (Nov. 07 - 08, 2015)
The average American household is thousands of dollars in debt. Learning early on about personal finance can help you avoid money problems down the road! In this class, we will discuss what you will want to know about finances to make smart decisions with your money. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits. Please bring any questions you would like to discuss about personal finance. Note that this is NOT purely an investing class, though we can talk a little about how investing may fit into your saving strategy.


B4474: A Crash Course in Cancer Biology in Splash Fall 2015 (Nov. 07 - 08, 2015)
What is cancer? What happens in the body when cancer starts and spreads? What causes cancer? How can we treat it? What would it take to cure this disease? We'll discuss all of these questions through a whirlwind lesson on genetics, cell biology, evolution, medical research, and more! Be ready to participate and bring any questions you have on cancer and scientific research.


L4069: Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Spring 2015 (Apr. 11 - 12, 2015)
The average American household is thousands of dollars in debt. Learning early on about personal finance can help you avoid money problems down the road! In this class, we will discuss what you will want to know about finances to make smart decisions with your money. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits. Please bring any questions you would like to discuss about personal finance. Note that this is NOT purely an investing class, though we will talk a little about how investing may fit into your saving strategy.


R4070: Let’s Talk About Poetry in Splash Spring 2015 (Apr. 11 - 12, 2015)
Like to read and talk about poetry? Join us for a casual discussion of a diverse selection of short poems! This is intended to be a relaxing space to read and share in our interest in poetry. If you want to meet other poetry fans and enjoy discussing your opinions, this class is for you. Feel free to bring your favorite short poem to share, but please keep it PG-13.


L4054: Managing Money: An Intro to Personal Finance in Splash Fall 2014 (Nov. 08 - 09, 2014)
The average American household is thousands of dollars in debt. Learning about finance can help you avoid a bad money situation. Come find out little steps that you can take now to practice and build better money habits.


R4055: Let’s Talk About Poetry in Splash Fall 2014 (Nov. 08 - 09, 2014)
Enjoy reading and discussing poems? We will take it easy, eat some snacks, and talk about poems. Feel free to bring a short poem that you want to share, but please keep it PG-13.


M4064: Intro to Algorithms in Splash Fall 2014 (Nov. 08 - 09, 2014)
An algorithm is a list of instructions that helps you accomplish a particular task. Something as simple as sorting a list of numbers can be described as an algorithm! If we were to ask you and a friend to tell us how to sort numbers, you might not come up with the same answer. In the science of algorithms, there is no single correct answer. Multiple algorithms can all come up with the same sorted list, though they may differ in how efficient they are or how easy they are to understand. We will talk about what algorithms are, how you design algorithms, and how you evaluate algorithms to find the best one to get your job done fast!


B3356: Intro to Epigenetics: From Development to Cancer in Splash! Spring 2014 (Apr. 12 - 13, 2014)
Does DNA determine exactly how a living organism will look or behave? How do all the many cells in the human body function differently despite having the same DNA? Discover how non-genetic factors in our cells lead to a diversity of cell states or identities, allowing us to function as complex, multicellular organisms, but also causing serious problems such as cancer when these factors go awry.


B3044: Intro to Epigenetics: From Development to Cancer in Splash! Fall 2013 (Nov. 02 - 03, 2013)
Does DNA determine exactly how a living organism will look or behave? How do all the many cells in the human body function differently despite having the same DNA? Discover how non-genetic factors in our cells lead to a diversity of cell states or identities, allowing us to function as complex, multicellular organisms, but also causing serious problems such as cancer when these factors go awry.


W3342: Pixel Art with Post-Its in Splash! Fall 2013 (Nov. 02 - 03, 2013)
Make huge works of art out of post-it notes! Using each individual post-it note as a single color pixel, you can recreate sprites from your favorite retro video games. Choose your design, or create your own, and work as a team to make awesome murals of Pokemon, Mario, and more.


B2634: Finding a Cure for Cancer in Splash! Spring 2013 (Apr. 13 - 14, 2013)
It has been more than forty years since President Nixon declared “war” on cancer, starting a nationwide effort to research and develop more effective treatments for cancer. So now, in 2012, many are wondering: where is the cure? Learn about the complexities of cancer and tumor biology, the kinds of questions we are answering with research now, and why “finding a cure for cancer” is not as simple as it sounds.


W2635: Pixel Art with Post-Its in Splash! Spring 2013 (Apr. 13 - 14, 2013)
Make huge works of art out of post-it notes! Using each individual post-it note as a single color pixel, you can recreate sprites from your favorite retro video games. Choose your design, or create your own, and work as a team to make awesome murals of Pokemon, Mario, and more.


H2637: Splash Focus Group in Splash! Spring 2013 (Apr. 13 - 14, 2013)
Come and discuss Stanford Splash! Splash is a growing program and we are looking for feedback on how we can continuously improve and change this event. This class will be a small focus group where you can talk directly to current Stanford students who organize Splash. We will share our perspective on how we put Splash together and you can let us know what we can work on.


B2367: Finding a Cure for Cancer in Splash! Fall 2012 (Nov. 03 - 04, 2012)
It has been more than forty years since President Nixon declared "war" on cancer, starting a nationwide effort to research and develop more effective treatments for cancer. So now, in 2012, many are wondering: where is the cure? Learn about the complexities of cancer and tumor biology, the kinds of questions we are answering with research now, and why "finding a cure for cancer" is not as simple as it sounds.


H2632: Pixel Art with Post-Its in Splash! Fall 2012 (Nov. 03 - 04, 2012)
Make huge works of art out of post-it notes! Using each individual post-it note as a single color pixel, you can recreate sprites from your favorite retro video games. Choose your design, or create your own, and work as a team to make awesome murals of Pokemon, Mario, and more.


B1247: Cancer Biology: Causes and Cures in Splash! Spring 2011 (Apr. 16 - 17, 2011)
Did you know that one in every two males is expected to develop cancer in his lifetime? Did you know that one in every three women will do the same? What puts people at risk to develop cancer? Why are smokers 10-20 times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers? Why does having more children reduce a woman's chance of getting breast cancer? Cancer is a disease where a single cell transforms over time into a malignant growth, a tumor that can spread and take over the rest of the human body. While research scientists have struggled to find a cure for this leading cause of death, many questions about cancer are still unanswered. In this class we will talk about risk factors for cancer and how a cell becomes a cancer cell at the molecular level. Through this understanding of what differentiates a transformed cell from a normal cell, we will understand current treatments today like Gleevec, the "magic bullet" for cancer, and how they work.