Why neuroscience?

My interest in neuroscience began as a 12-year-old school bus passenger en route to the sixth grade. While looking out the window I began to notice that the pictures in the clouds would change as what I thought about changed: first a dog, then a dragon, and then space ships engaged in a celestial battle; it was here that I realized that mind and body are two side of the same coin. I knew that what we perceive is indicative of what we think. The clouds were the canvas, my perception the paint. From that October day onward I began reading the classic psychoanalysts Freud and Jung, bent on understanding the nature of the perceptual process.

The thought of neuroscience as a career first occurred to me in the Summer of 2008 when I was invited to participate as a Scholar in the Texas Governor’s School (TGS), a residential honors program for high-achieving Texas high school students. The School’s director, Dr. Dorothy Sisk, a UCLA-trained psychologist, quickly became a mentor for me. At TGS, Dr. Sisk encouraged me to consider the importance of the mind, its life, and the study of its mechanics.Studying the mind and the factors which give rise to it consumed my thinking and I was determined to learn more. The
next year of high school, my junior year, I took a college-level psychology course that formally introduced me to the psychological discipline. It was here I first learned that psychology, the Theory of Mind, arises from the brain, and that personality and individual difference were actually precise products of differential brain states; neurodegenerative diseases are the byproducts of dysfunction and misregulation of the crucial neurological patterns. I was hooked – there was no
question that I was to be a neuroscience major.

When deciding where to pursue my bachelor’s degree, three factors weighed heavily on my mind: a formal brain-based neuroscience major, strong opportunities for undergraduate research, and strong merit-based scholarships. I found all of these at Baylor University. As a University Honors Fellow, I have received a university funded grant (research project: Effects of Aniracetam, a Cognitive Enhancer
in Healthy Subjects); presented at the Society for Neuroscience in San
Diego (2013)) and founded a non-profit, “Movement,” that is providing psychotherapy to some of the local homeless population. I also had the good fortune to become research director for Elevated Labs, LLC, a small-scale brain science company which has since been acquisitioned. In addition, I am the elected president and manager of Baylor’s chapter of Nu Rho Psi, the undergraduate neuroscience honors society affiliated with the Society for Neuroscience.

“Movement” operates within Mission Waco’s My Brother’s Keeper shelter. I founded it because I believe all people, even those who are without homes, have a right to strive for better lives. Borrowing Abraham Maslow’s notion of “self-actualization” as a model of human capability, Movement is a cognitive-behavioral approach of helping an individual move from the most basic physiological needs to higher planes of his/her self-actualized capability. For about a year and a half we have operated through weekly sessions, creating intentional community and identifying
latent ideas and aspirations in the lives of men and women who are destitute and see themselves as powerless.

I have learned the vast importance of and opportunity for society burgeoning with the world of neuroscience. What began as a means to self-discovery has since become a calling, and I cannot imagine a career other than that of a neuroscientist. To that end, I am dedicated to the neuroscientific discipline and to advancing the understanding of the brain and central nervous system.