“Challenge yourself to pursue new opportunities, even the ones that you think are out of your reach, and seek plenty of feedback along the way.”
I am fascinated by how the human brain gives rise to the mind and all its cognitive functions. How do our brains sift through the constant flood of sensory input we receive and focus our attention on the most important information we need to achieve our goals? I’m grateful to have had many opportunities to explore this and other questions in my research work in neuroscience and psychology. I am especially thankful for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for supporting my education and career path as a scientist. Thanks to the recognition of this award, I’ve been given the opportunity to attend graduate school in the Neurosciences PhD Program at Stanford University and have earned a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate fellowship. With this training, I aim to continue to grow as a researcher and facilitate opportunities for future researchers through inclusive teaching and mentoring.
I earned my concurrent MS in Neuroscience and BS in Neuroscience and Psychology from Brandeis University in 2016. During that time, I became captivated with the study of attention and cognitive neuroscience. With the mentorship of Dr. Robert Sekuler, I investigated how musicians engage in selective and divided attention to visual and auditory patterns. I also learned to record electrical signals directly from the awake and alert human brain using electro-encephalography (EEG), and through this work I characterized neural signals associated with different forms of multi-sensory attention. This work comprised my Master’s thesis, resulted in first-author publications in Neuropsychologia and the Journal of Vision, and gave me the opportunity to present my findings at numerous conferences.
In my graduate work at Stanford University with the mentorship of Dr. Leanne Williams, I have bridged my fascination with attention with my passion for psychiatry, developing a dissertation project to investigate dysfunctions of attention in individuals with depression and anxiety. Cognitive impairments such as difficulty concentrating can be among the most debilitating symptoms of mental illness and are not alleviated with current first-line treatments, so understanding the mechanisms by which attention becomes impaired has great potential to substantially relieve the global burden of mental illness. This work has led to several first-author publications: a paper characterizing attention impairments in a large sample of depressed patients in Psychological Medicine, a review paper on attention in depression in Translational Psychiatry, and a paper on modeling attention impairments in depression for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Conference Proceedings.
As my ultimate goal is to become a professor engaged in both teaching and research, I have sought out opportunities to develop as an educator, teaching at the middle school, high school, and undergraduate levels. I’ve volunteered with a number of outreach organizations such as Stanford Brain Day (teaching neuroscience in middle school classrooms), Stanford Science Penpals (corresponding with high school students), and Stanford Splash (teaching introductory neuroscience to high school students). I have also served as co-president of NeuWrite West, a scientific communication organization, and have worked with a team of students to develop articles and workshops about diversity and inclusion in science. The Goldwater scholarship has opened so many doors for me, and I’m grateful to have had this support. I look forward to continuing my journey as a scientist with the goal of opening doors for more students in the future.