Middlebury College & Harvard
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Hello, Patriots Nation!
With less than two weeks before the first home game, it’s so exciting to be back in New England getting ready for another season with this amazing team. I say it’s nice to be back because I’ve been spoiled by some fantastic travel this summer – first Cancun for the 2015 swimsuit calendar shoot, then two weeks in Santa Barbara at the Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience…otherwise known as “Brain Camp.”
Brain Camp has been conducted each summer since 1988, and is currently funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. I was so excited when I found out I was accepted because this is one of the most prestigious opportunities a trainee in my field can have. I am currently a fourth-year PhD student in Cognitive Neuroscience, supported by a grant from the US Department of Defense to assess how sleep and stress affect emotional memory (e.g., being held up at gunpoint or fighting in a war). If cognitive neuroscience is going to progress successfully, it’s critical to bring together researchers from the various disciplines that comprise what we study so that we can collaborate and learn from each other (e.g., neuroscience, medicine, psychology, computer science, etc.) – and Brain Camp does just that.
This year, the topics were “Emotional Learning and Memory” and “Attention and Brain Function.” These were absolutely perfect for me because my dissertation research focuses on the effects of sleep on emotional memory, and also the link between what you pay attention to and what eventually ends up being stored in memory. It was incredible not only to hear the experts in the field speak about their research, but also to get to know them over meals and between sessions. Additionally, we participated in several different labs about cutting-edge neuroimaging methods, and even experienced what it would be like to have a temporary brain lesion (using transcranial magnetic stimulation). It wasn’t only serious though – during our scientific “debates,” my group rapped about emotional memory to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (and of course I couldn’t help dancing as well)!
It was such a humbling experience to have been selected as one of this year’s fellows because my peers there were amazing – intelligent, thoughtful, and so much fun! It is so important to get to know those who will be my colleagues for decades, and this will make each conference I attend not only a place to present my research and learn about others’, but also one where I can catch up with friends. Between the conversations about our similar research interests and also forming new life-long friendships, I can honestly say that these two weeks have changed both my thinking about my research and how excited I am to be part of this field. Cognitive neuroscience is in great hands, everyone.
That being said, there is another field that I am equally excited about…and that’s the one at Gillette Stadium! While it was amazing to be immersed in science all day and spend nights on the beach, now it’s game time. Let’s go, Pats! Cheers to the best fans & team in the NFL!Kelly