Morgan Prust '06 -Neurogenetics Research Assistant, Children's National Medical Center
Morgan is currently working in the Neurogenetics Group in the Department of Neurology at Children's National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, D.C. When he graduated from Middlebury, Morgan worked in the Genes, Cognition, and Psychosis program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he was a postbaccalaureate research trainee in NIH's prestigious Intramural Research Training Award program. While at NIH, Morgan conducted research examining neurocognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia using fMRI. This past year, Morgan moved to a position at Children's National Medical Center, also in Washington, D.C., where he is working in the Neurogenetics Group, assisting physicians in the clinic and conducting clinical research on rare neurological disorders that are genetically-linked. In addition to his work at Children's National Medical Center, Morgan is in the process of applying to medical school. Morgan notes that "Working at NIH and CNMC has given me an extremely valuable exposure to a wide variety of research methods, to the clinical practice of medicine, and an appreciation for how research and clinical practice are intimately tied to one another."
While at Middlebury, Morgan collaborated on research with numerous faculty and completed a senior honors thesis examining how fear responses affected unconscious decision making. In reflecting on his time at Middlebury, Morgan noted that "Middlebury is such a special learning environment, and I had so many great classes and professors throughout my time there, but the highlights that stand out most are my senior seminars and working on my senior thesis. The really special thing about the neuroscience major is how interdisciplinary it is, and how it allows everyone to appreciate all of the levels at which one can approach the study of the brain. My senior seminars exposed me to papers on mouse-models of brain function and mental illness, and to the intellectual history of the study of mental illness, which made me appreciate the brain in a broader context. My thesis project was an invaluable experience, and the first time that I had been charged with the responsibility of digesting an entire literature, designing and carrying out and experiment with human subjects, and writing up the results. The experience was challenging, but one that I continue to use today when I'm reading papers and running analyses."
Laura Batterink '07 - Ph.D. student, University of Oregon
Laura is currently working on her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oregon, where she is a member of the Brain Development Lab (http://bdl.uoregon.edu/). Laura's current research examines the neural mechanisms of language, with a focus on the contribution of conscious and unconscious processes play in language processing. Her ultimate goal upon completing her Ph.D. is to pursue a career as a scientist at a research institute or research university.
While at Middlebury, Laura completed a senior honors thesis examining the physiological responses of trauma survivors to expected, unexpected, and trauma-relevant stimuli. Laura believes that working on her senior thesis "was really valuable, because it allowed me to be involved in all aspects of conducting research, including programming experimental stimuli, recruiting participants, getting practical ERP experience, and analyzing and writing up results." In addition, Laura noted that "Opportunities to participate in hands-on research at Middlebury and to collaborate closely with faculty members, both as a summer research student and by doing senior thesis work, were very important in terms of figuring out whether research was for me or not, deciding what type of research I was interested in pursuing, and getting valuable experience for graduate school."
Beyond her senior thesis work, Laura also found the Neuroscience Program's curriculum to be an important contributor to her decision to attend graduate school: "The quality of teaching at Middlebury was also excellent and contributed to my continuing interest in the field of neuroscience. The classes were interesting, engaging and challenging, which encouraged me to continue studying in this area and pursue a graduate degree. Being able to take classes from a number of different disciplines, mostly biology and psychology but also areas like chemistry and philosophy, gave me a broad foundation in neuroscience and also allowed me to decide more specifically what areas within neuroscience were really interesting to me.