Alumni

From Fruit Flies to Cognitive Impairment: Problem Solving at it’s Finest, Ketura Berry ’13

From Fruit Flies to Cognitive Impairment: Problem Solving at it’s Finest, Ketura Berry ’13
February 02, 2018 03:25pm

As a student in Patsy Dickinson’s Neurophysiology course, I began to learn that problem solving was a more important skill than memorization.

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After graduating from Bowdoin in 2013, Kacey spent two years living abroad—first in Germany as a Fulbright grantee, investigating the neural circuitry of fruit fly factory behavior, and then teaching Biology in Italy. She then worked for two years as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Stanford’s Stroke Center, studying delayed cognitive impairment in stroke patients and correlated immune changes. Kacey began medical school at UCSF in 2017.

How did your Neuroscience degree from Bowdoin prepare you for your current career?  

An important turning point in every young scientist’s development is the transition away from consuming science as a collection of dogmatic principles. As a student in Patsy Dickinson’s
Neurophysiology course, I began to learn that problem solving was a more important skill than memorization. Discussing the merits of scientific articles in seminars further reinforced this point—that scientific discovery is a deeply nuanced collection of results and their interpretations. Thanks to Hadley Horch’s incredible mentorship inside and outside the lab, I soon gained the tools and confidence to design and interpret my own scientific experiments. As a woman who started college feeling like a scientific outsider—with no one in my family in the field or in medicine—these experiences were especially empowering.

Presently, I am transitioning from academic research to my first year of medical school. Medical knowledge, too, is a messy compilation of facts derived from old and new studies, anecdote, and sometimes tradition. I hope to become a physician-scientist who critically evaluates current medical practices to understand how we know what we think we know, and then to design studies to improve, strengthen and deepen that knowledge.

What advice would you give to current or future Neuroscience majors?

I would tell other Neuroscience majors to take risks: Apply for summer research, graduate programs, and scholarships—even those that feel out of your grasp. I assure you, they are not! Even if individual applications do not work out as you hope, the process is among the best ways to practice refining and communicating your ideas and aspirations.

But also: remember to do what you love outside the classroom, too! Some of my proudest moments may seem far removed from neuroscience—like performing as a member of Bowdoin’s Improvabilities, living abroad for two years, or working as a running tour guide—but in roundabout ways ultimately fueled my interest in particular topics in neuroscience and led me to medicine (and are things that I got asked all about on the interview trail for medical school, too!).

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Developing and Characterizing a New Radiation Therapy Treatment Tool, Cielle Collins ’15

Developing and Characterizing a New Radiation Therapy Treatment Tool, Cielle Collins ’15
November 20, 2017 09:59pm

I would have never discovered my love for the technical side of science without getting to work with Dr. Nyhus in EEG, and learn about MRI and other medical imaging technology.

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Cielle is currently studying Medical Physics in the Radiation Therapy track at Duke University. She works in a 3D Dosimetry lab under Dr. Mark Oldham where she is helping to develop and characterize an exciting new radiation therapy treatment tool, which is a new radiochromic bolus that changes color when it is irradiated. This bolus can be scanned to reveal exactly where the radiation therapy dose was delivered. She hope to pursue a career in Clinical Medical Physics where she will be a link between the radiologist and radiation therapists and dosimetrists and will be in charge of the physics and technical aspects of diagnosis and treatment planning in the cancer treatment process. She is excited by the creativity that she will be able to use in her career to solve the diverse physical problems that arise in this area of medicine.

How did your Neuroscience education influence your career trajectory?
I am so thankful to have been a part of the Bowdoin Neuroscience department because of the different areas of the field that I was exposed to. I loved all of my courses focusing on the pure biology side of neuroscience and use that foundation daily, but I would have never discovered my love for the technical side of science without getting to work with Dr. Nyhus in EEG, and learn about MRI and other medical imaging technology.

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PhD candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program at the University of Washington, Claire Williams ’10

PhD candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program at the University of Washington, Claire Williams ’10
November 20, 2017 09:52pm

My early experience in academic research at Bowdoin led me to continue pursuing new opportunities to explore cutting-edge research in neuroscience, to my current graduate student position and my future interests.

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Claire is currently a PhD candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program at the University of Washington, where she studies the patterning and development of the nervous system, using genetic and bioinformatic approaches. After graduating from Bowdoin with a major in neuroscience and a minor in Spanish, Claire spent five months teaching English at a small high school in Chile. She then returned to the lab and worked as a research assistant studying neuronal morphology at Harvard Medical School.

How did your Neuroscience education influence your career trajectory?
I first became interested in neuroscience when I took an introductory neuroscience course my sophomore year at Bowdoin, in particular as I learned about some of the clever early studies used to understand the developmental principles driving the assembly of the brain. The following summer, my advisor at Bowdoin encouraged me to to undertake a supervised research project of my own, and I later was able to present this research at international scientific meetings, getting wide exposure to current neuroscience research. This early experience in academic research led me to continue pursuing new opportunities to explore cutting-edge research in neuroscience, to my current graduate student position and my future interests.

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Studying how our brain helps us navigate through space in Stanford’s Neuroscience Graduate Program, Isabel Low ’13

Studying how our brain helps us navigate through space in Stanford’s Neuroscience Graduate Program, Isabel Low ’13
October 16, 2017 01:56pm

My time in the Neuroscience major taught me to read critically, rigorously question scientific dogma, and communicate my science to others. I use these skills almost every day.

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Isabel Low is currently a second year PhD student in Stanford's Neuroscience Graduate Program, studying how our brain helps us navigate through space. Before that, she worked as a research technician and lab manager at Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital. Isabel graduated from Bowdoin with a double major in Neuroscience and Creative
Writing.

How did your Neuroscience degree from Bowdoin prepare you for your
current career?

My Neuroscience degree from Bowdoin was the best preparation I could have had for my current trajectory. In studying at Bowdoin, I developed a love for research science and learned basic laboratory techniques. Even more importantly, my time in the Neuroscience major taught me to read critically, rigorously question scientific dogma, and communicate my science to others. I use these skills almost every day.

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Developing statistical methods for understanding large-scale biological and artificial (AI) neural circuits, Alex Williams ’12

Developing statistical methods for understanding large-scale biological and artificial (AI) neural circuits, Alex Williams ’12
October 13, 2017 02:45pm

My time at Bowdoin taught me to be very detail-oriented and critical of my own ideas. This granted me a lot of independence and confidence to develop my own research projects later on.

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Alex is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford University. His research and graduate coursework have been largely interdisciplinary, in particular with the Engineering and Computer Science departments. Alex's current projects aim to develop statistical methods for understanding large-scale biological neural circuits as well as artificial neural networks used in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Before coming to Stanford, he worked at the Salk Institute, UC San Diego, and Brandeis University on smaller-scale computational models of single neurons and small circuits.

How did your Neuroscience degree from Bowdoin prepare you for your current career?

My time at Bowdoin taught me to be very detail-oriented and critical of my own ideas. This granted me a lot of independence and confidence to develop my own research projects later on.

How did your Neuroscience education influence your career trajectory?

Patsy Dickinson introduced me to Eve Marder as an undergraduate, and this directly led to my first job after graduating (in Eve's lab at Brandeis). Working with Eve turned out to be the perfect next step to prepare me for a PhD. I think all students interested in applying to
grad school should seriously consider working for a couple years first.

What are your future plans?

I am going to keep researching topics in computational neuroscience and machine learning. I may do in this in academia as a postdoc/professor, or as a researcher in industry.

What advice would you give to current or future Neuroscience majors?

Do at least one summer of research at Bowdoin. Do at least one summer internship/research position outside of Bowdoin.

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Resident in internal medicine and future resident of Harvard’s Neurology Residency Program, Anirudh Sreekrishnan, ’12

Resident in internal medicine and future resident of Harvard’s Neurology Residency Program, Anirudh Sreekrishnan, ’12
October 13, 2017 02:23pm

The exposure to research in a basic science lab and mentoring from all the professors were all crucial in helping me pursue this career.

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After graduating from Bowdoin, Anirudh spent three months in D.C. working as a congressional intern in the U.S. House of Representatives, specifically addressing mental health and HIV issues. He then started medical school at Yale University, where he spent an additional year
getting a Masters in Health Science (M.H.S.). Anirudh's specific research in medical school was understanding functional and cognitive recovery of stroke patients. He is currently in his first year of medical residency in internal medicine and will be joining the Harvard Neurology Residency Program (Brigham Women’s and Mass General Hospitals) next year.

How did your Neuroscience education influence your career trajectory?
In a lot of ways my neuroscience degree at Bowdoin was my first step into the world of neurology. My time at Bowdoin instilled the fundamental basic science teaching that prepared me not only for medical school, but also a medical residency in neurology. The exposure to research in a basic science lab and mentoring from all the professors were all crucial in helping me pursue this career.

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