I am Katie Castell, a senior behavioral neuroscience major (class of 2021) and I am enrolled in a program to get my MHS in biomedical science at Quinnipiac in 2022.
I chose to be a neuroscience major because it married a passion for and curiosity about humans and human behavior with an interest in biology. I sometimes compare myself to a toddler because I am constantly wondering “why?” and neuroscience is a way to investigate all those questions about people and the whys and hows of complex human behavior. Neuroscience, especially at Quinnipiac, is a really diverse and multidisciplinary department which was also a big draw for me. The actual behavioral neuroscience major is pretty small so you get a really amazing community of peers in your major, but you also work closely with the rest of the psychology department, the biology department, the chemistry department, and many others. I think that is one of the really special things about neuroscience, the fact you can really go anywhere with a neuroscience degree. There is such a broad range of classes and experiences that you can find out what you like and you have a huge faculty base to gain information about what kind of jobs are in your area of interest, whether it is the nitty-gritty biochemistry, or something completely different like cognitive psychology, in the neuroscience major you can see and experience it all.
I have gone back and forth a lot about what to focus on after graduation, but each time I questioned what to do next, I had a mentor to turn to who helped guide me in the right direction. I have worked with two different faculty members on research projects in my time at QU. One is a psychology professor studying writing differences in and out of the classroom and how we can adapt the curriculum to support students better. The other is a neuroscience professor with whom I am currently collaborating on a study about brain injuries in fruit flies. These are two very dynamic and different research opportunities that I have had outside of the classroom that helped me find out what specifically interests me and how I can go about working toward those specific goals. I also studied abroad my sophomore year and I will recommend it to anyone who is able to do it. Even in a fairly demanding major like neuroscience, if it is something that is important to you, there are so many people who can help you make it happen. Studying abroad is an opportunity that legitimately changed my life and not only learning about but being a part of another culture is an experience that I feel so lucky to have had and I think it makes me a more open minded and compassionate person which is important to me, especially as a student of the psychology department.
If I had to give advice to an incoming student in neuroscience, it would be to make yourself known to your professors. It can be intimidating to go to office hours or speak up in class, but your professors are one of your biggest assets for advice, mentorship, help with a class, or extracurricular opportunities like research or attending conferences, so meeting them and putting in the effort to communicate well and have a relationship with your professors is definitely worth it.