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Our Alumni

Jenny Do ’18 --- M.S. student, University of Texas Genetic Counseling Program, Houston, TX

young woman wearing pink striped shirt, dark rimmed galsses and long dark hair, blue backgroundJenny is currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, TX (link). Here, she rotates in the largest medical center in the world and counsels patients on a variety of unique genetic indications. Most recently she finished a 5-week rotation in Texas Children’s Hospital’s metabolic diseases clinic. Upon graduation, she hopes to continue pursuing her interest in pediatric genetics with a focus on critical NICU consult cases.

Upon graduating from Middlebury in 2018, Jenny spent 2 years as a post-baccelaureate IRTA fellow (link) at the National Human Genome Research Institute. As part of Ellen Sidransky’s laboratory researching Gaucher disease, she performed behavioral studies on a mouse model of Gaucher-associated Parkinson disease, as well as wet lab duties sequencing patients. On the post-baccelaurate program, Jenny says, “This program is a valuable stepping stone for gaining research experience and communicating science effectively. The responsibilities, resources, and patients I encountered all contributed to an overall preparedness for graduate school.”

At Middlebury, Jenny majored in NSCI with a minor in Japanese. Her senior honors thesis in Clarissa Parker’s lab was a pilot study investigating the utility of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on amphetamine-induced withdrawal in mice. Reflecting on her time at Middlebury, Jenny says, “The NSCI program here was tight-knit and allowed me to take on many responsibilities that being in a larger university might have precluded. Doing a thesis here allowed greater insight into the research process and critical thinking skills that made me a competitive applicant.

Erick Masias ’18 -student, Northwestern University Feinberg, School of Medicine

Erick is currently a medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of medicine where he is the co-President of their Latino Medical School Association (LMSA) chapter and conducts community-based research. His research focus is in expanding professional mental health access to communities of color, particularly in boys and young men. His career goal after receiving his M.D. is to contribute to the reduction of health disparities in his hometown of Chicago.

At Middlebury, Erick completed a senior honors thesis in Professor Clarissa Parker’s behavioral genetics lab. His project dealt with identifying the genetic underpinnings of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). He found working on his thesis to be very valuable: “It was the first time I was really undertaking self-directed learning to contribute novel findings to the scientific community.” The research experiences he had in the lab were a huge asset in applying to research jobs for his gap year, which he ultimately did at a Harvard Medical School Lab in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “There’s no way I would have gotten the job and excelled early on without my research experience at Midd.” While his research focus shifted upon arrival to medical school, he still finds parallels in the patience and dedication it takes to carry out a research project.

Erick found that in addition to his thesis work, he really appreciated the mentorship that the Neuroscience Program faculty provided support and guidance when seeking out opportunities after graduating. The relationships he made with his professors are what he values most when looking back at his Middlebury experience: “I was really fortunate to have professors that I keep up with regularly and will serve as life-long mentors!” 

Morgan Prust '06 -Neurogenetics Research Assistant, Children's National Medical Center
Morgan Prust '06

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
Neuroscience alum Laura Batterink '07

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 ( 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.

Program in Neuroscience

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