I cannot recall what generated my interest in science; it seems as if I have always been fascinated by the physical world. After sampling several fields of science, I became especially attracted to cognitive science and the life sciences. My interest in neuroscience began before I even knew such a field existed. I have always been curious about how the brain works and its relationship to the mind and by studying biology and psychology independently I was sure to find the answer. It was not until I read Evolve Your Brain by Dr. Joe Dispeniza that I realized neuroscience is a field that combines both biology and psychology. This discovery was the beginning of my interest in neuroscience. Through reading this book, I got a clear understanding of how the brain processes the thoughts that our minds create and how that affects our behavior. I am particularly interested in Affective Neuroscience. I believe that research on the neural mechanism of emotions is an emerging field of neuroscience that is of great use in understanding human behavior. I feel emotions are the main motivation for behavior. A clearer understanding of Affective Neuroscience is not only beneficial to people with mood disorders but to every human being. Everyone experiences emotions. Knowing how these emotions affect physical and mental health interest me the most.
I was awarded with the opportunity to partake in the Honors College University Assistantship program beginning my freshman year. Intrigued by the field of neuroscience, I chose to work for the Neuroscience Institute, in Dr. Aras Petrulis’ lab. The lab has a general interest in the neurobiology of social behavior and recognition. Specifically, the lab focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying odor communication that guides sexual behavior in Syrian hamsters. During my first year in the lab, I was trained to handle the hamsters, assist with surgeries and immunohistochemistry, prepare chemical solutions, and analyze behavior. Receiving first hand experience in a neuroscience lab definitely influenced my interest in the subject.
I began searching for other opportunities to be well versed in neuroscience. I came across a brochure on campus with information on a program directed by a professor here, at Georgia State University, Dr. Kyle Frantz. Every summer the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience hosts a 10-week summer program for undergraduate students across the nation. Forty students are selected as B.R.A.I.N. fellows. In addition to weekly workshops and journal club, fellows are randomly place in either LeftBRAIN or RightBRAIN. The LeftBRAIN format is similar to a professional workshop. Fellows learn various techniques, including pharmacology and molecular biology, from a rotating team of scientists. Then, using the crayfish model, fellows design an experiment with a group using the techniques learned. RightBRAIN fellows join an ongoing research project and assist their mentors, while learning techniques applied in that lab. At the end of the program fellows from each format present their research at the BRAIN research symposium. I was selected to be a LeftBRAIN fellow. My group’s project, Social Plasticity: The role of urine release on fight dynamics in Procambarus clarkii, won Honorable Mention at the research symposium. Our research focused on the effect of pheromones on social hierarchy in crayfish.
Soon after I completed the BRAIN program, Georgia State University launched the undergraduate neuroscience major, which I declared right away.
I have not had one bad professor since I’ve been here. In high school it seemed sometimes like the teachers were just doing a job, but here you can tell the professors love what they do and are passionate about their field. At the start of this fall semester, I returned to Dr. Petrulis’s lab, this time working on a project of my own.