“Every moment, the brain integrates diverse inputs from a complex and dynamic visual environment in order to resolve perceptual ambiguities and guide behavior. I’m interested in unraveling the neural circuits that lead to this higher-order visual perception,” says Ashley Juavinett ’11, a neuroscience graduate.
A second-year graduate student researching visual perception with Ed Callaway at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., Juavinett won a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, along with Ashley Kaminski ’13 (Springfield, Pa.), who is majoring in chemical engineering. These fellowships provide a $30,000 annual stipend for a maximum of three years. Recipients are selected based on overall abilities and accomplishments, as well as potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the United States science and engineering industries.
Juavinett’s research will involve in vivo optical and two-photon calcium imaging in mice, techniques that allow her to watch neurons in action.
She also earned a Socrates Fellowship in 2012. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the award provides full funding for one year of graduate school to University of California, San Diego Ph.D. students and stipends for San Diego-area teachers to work together to enhance the science classroom. Along with Amanda Pisetzner ’10, she also received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to reduce recidivism among female inmates at Santa Cruz County Jail in California.
Juavinett credits Lafayette’s LEARN (LafayetteE Alumni Research Network) internship program with giving her the research experience that has allowed her to reach this level. She spent a summer working with Lisa Schrott ’87, associate professor, Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Neuroscience, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-Shreveport. She also completed an honors thesis under the guidance of Elaine Reynolds, associate professor of biology, using eye-tracking and skin conductance measures to see whether people responded differently to crime scenes with white or black offenders.
Juavinett believes that the NSF application was “indicative of the type of interdisciplinary training that Lafayette offers. At Lafayette, I had the chance to gain both inspiration and technical skills for a career in neuroscience; most institutions don’t operate at both of these levels.”
Kaminski will be pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Cornell University. While she has not yet narrowed down her research topic, she has been looking at subjects ranging from muscular dystrophy to cartilage regeneration and cancer research.
Working through the EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research program since fall 2010 with Lauren Anderson, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Kaminski believes that the research opportunities she has had at Lafayette have made this fellowship possible.
“The experiences I had not only gave me a lot to write about in terms of past experience, they taught me how to think critically about science and research methods,” she says. “Learning how to approach research, and how to ask valuable questions, can be transferred to any project or proposal.”
Kaminski is looking forward to beginning her research in the fall.
“This is a huge honor,” she says. “The ability to have funding so that I can spearhead and direct my project in its beginning stage opens so many doors. I’m very excited to see where this takes me.”
Four Lafayette alumni received honorable mentions for the NSF Graduate Fellowships: Chelsea Leigh Mandell ’12, who is studying chemistry at Texas A&M University; Julie Lippincott Martin ’12, psychology, Duke University; Eric Walton ’11, microbiology, Duke University; and Hallie Zeller ’12, mechanical engineering, Brown University.
For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, associate dean of the College, (610) 330-5521.