Students' experiences in Neuroscience
During the summer, I had the honor of working for the Johns Hopkins Department of Neurology as a lab Technician in Dr. Li-Rong Shao’s lab. This tremendous opportunity was created by the Johns Hopkins Neuroscience Scholars Program which is a three-summer long internship for underrepresented students which focuses on training students to develop scientific, personal, and professional skill sets while also doing research.
Dr. Li-Rong Shao is interested in understanding the cellular mechanisms of epileptogenesis, treatment and prevention of the disorder, as well as developing new animal models of pediatric epilepsies. I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in the classroom and labs at Virginia Tech in a real life setting which truly felt empowering. This experience invigorated me to bring what I learned at Johns Hopkins back to Virginia Tech and vice versa for the next three summers. I also had the chance to observe Dr. Eric Jackson, a neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of patients with a broad range of neurosurgical disorders. Not only was I able to work in the lab, but I was able to continue my shadowing experience in the operating room, which was honestly, excitement galore.
I was a peer mentor in the Johns Hopkins Internship in Brain Sciences program, over the summer as well. This program gives high school students a pre-college exposure to research, alongside long-term mentoring and educational resources. I had the chance to help guide these students through this important process in their lives and witnessed many young students’ dive into complex research concepts, undiscouraged by the level of difficulty.
During the school year, I work in Dr. Susan Campbell’s lab as she looks at how changes in the microbiome can lead to hyper excitable neuronal properties, which can be characterized in epilepsy. I am also a student ambassador for the School of Neuroscience!
A thought for the road: On rare occasion, we can successfully internalize a fraction of just how much information our brains can store. If we truly have the means to acquire and spread knowledge, whatever that may be, I fail to see the reason why we should stop as soon as we leave the classroom!
Sophomore, Clinical Neuroscience and Biology double major, University Honors
I am a second-year Stamps Scholar living in the Honors Residential Commons (HRC.) Since coming to Virginia Tech, I fell in love with the neuroscience program’s dynamic and challenging curriculum. Meeting with the welcoming and supportive neuroscience faculty and advisors solidified my decision to pursue it as a major.
This year, I am looking forward to taking more in-depth neuroscience classes and exploring the multitude of majors within the School of Neuroscience. I am also excited to get more involved in Virginia Tech’s Honors College as a peer educator.
Outside of classes, I'm an active member of Active Minds and Delta Chi Gamma. I also enjoy volunteering in Blacksburg, including assistant coaching a youth soccer team.
Junior, Experimental Neuroscience and Chemistry double major, University Honors
Hi, there! My name is Christine Faunce and I am a third-year student studying Experimental Neuroscience and Chemistry. The development of the School of Neuroscience was a driving factor in my decision to attend Virginia Tech. The School’s mission for embracing individuality and creativity was an essence that I had not felt at any other school. Throughout my coursework at Virginia Tech, I have developed a passion for chemistry along with furthering my fascination with the human brain, which is why I decided to dual degree in Chemistry. I am hopeful to combine these interests in a neuropharmacology Ph.D. program upon graduation with the thought of eventually pursuing a career in pharmaceutical patent law.
During my time at Virginia Tech, I have supplemented my coursework with volunteer ambassador programs, pre-law clubs, and cultural enrichment programs. As an Honors College Admissions Liaison, School of Neuroscience Ambassador, Student Intellectual Property Society Vice President, and Resident Advisor, I strive to positively represent women in STEM to underclassmen and cultivate communities of civility among students of diverse backgrounds. I joined Dr. Matt Buczynski’s research lab during my sophomore year. In Dr. Buczynski’s lab, our research goal is to create an effective, non-invasive drug exposure and dependency model in mice to eventually test and develop novel therapeutics for addiction and related neurological disorders. I have been fortunate enough to be supported by the Honors College at Virginia Tech through two separate Enrichment Grants, one of which financially assisted my opportunity to continue my undergraduate research during the summer of 2018. Working with Dr. Buczynski and the entire research team has been an unparalleled opportunity to gain experience with nicotine pharmacokinetics, liquid-liquid extraction methods, and behavioral analyses of mice.
Junior, Clinical Neuroscience, minor in Leadership and Social Change, University Honors
My interest in Neuroscience started early, when my middle school science teacher said we would not cover the brain in class because she didn’t know enough about it and that the material was too complicated for her to understand, let alone explain. I was instantaneously hooked on the idea that our most important body part was also the most mysterious, and that spark soon became a flame.
I spent the first two years of my undergraduate career in the lab of Dr. Matthew Buczynski, researching nicotine addiction. I won the Fralin SURF award as a freshman and spent a summer hard at work running behavioral assays and cell culture. This past summer I joined the lab of Dr. Bin Xu and began work, researching protein misfolding, funded by the Commonwealth Health Research Board. I focused on the role of Tau Proteins in Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias. During the semester, I will continue this research and will also be investigating a link between Alzheimer’s Disease and Type II Diabetes.
During the academic year, I will involve myself as a College of Science Representative in Student Government, the Undergraduate Liaison to the Virginia Tech Commission on Research, and as an Ambassador for both the School of Neuroscience and the Office of Undergraduate Research.
I will seek knowledge where I can find it, and spread it to those who will listen. I am blessed to be a part of the neuroscience community at Virginia Tech, and would not choose to live my life any other way.
Senior, Dual Degree in Chemical Engineering and Clinical Neuroscience, University Honors
I am a senior working towards a dual degree in chemical engineering and clinical neuroscience. I came to Virginia Tech with two opposing dreams: to become a neurosurgeon and to get an engineering degree. Math was always something that came naturally to me; I could easily do problems in my head before other students finished. Additionally, growing up I loved figuring out how things work and how to maximize efficiency. Therefore, engineering seemed like the ideal career for me, but over time I realized engineering and medicine are tied more closely than most people imagine. Chemical engineering is built off the construction of systematic chemical schemes. Combine that with a solid understanding of the principles of neuroscience and I offer a unique skillset that can further me in the healthcare field.
Over my time at Virginia Tech, I have gotten to experience so many unique opportunities. I have spent almost 3 years in research so far, created and carried out a research project through the SURF program, and have been able to present my work at multiple different schools. This past year I had the idea to create the first, Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Research Conference at Virginia Tech. I was inspired by my experience at the Harvard Conference, and wanted to bring together the brightest, most diverse minds at Virginia Tech. This conference will be held in March 2019 and will be open to applications from students of all different STEM backgrounds. In addition to research, I have spent my time in two Greek organizations, Zeta Tau Alpha and Delta Epsilon Mu, I volunteer at the local hospital and through College Mentors for Kids, and I have helped run Relay for Life. I truly believe that life is short, so we should make the most of all the opportunities that come our way.