Neurochemistry, Cognition, and Collaboration

I have really been enjoying my time as an undergraduate research assistant at the Neurochemistry and Cognition Lab. It has exceeded my expectations in every way possible. As an undergraduate, I assumed all I would be doing was the grunt work for the lab, However, that is so far from the truth. I feel valued as a member of the lab and know that my work is necessary to achieve the lab’s goal of understanding aging and cognitive decline more thoroughly. Likewise, the people in this lab are invaluable to work with, making this position that much better. The members of the lab cultivate such a warm and supportive environment for academic growth. Initially, coming into this internship, I was nervous of what to expect since the last time I worked in research was during high school. After working in the lab for some time, I now know that I had nothing to fear. The researchers in this lab are such great mentors who are happily willing to help me out when I have questions about my work. They are so knowledgeable about a variety of different topics related to psychology, research, graduate school and life and they always share their advice. Through this job, I am learning so much about the research process, but also so much more than I expected. 

Our lobby provides a great, collaborative space to work and share ideas with one another!

My experience at this lab has taught me a great deal about how the World of Work differs from university/academic life. In academia, there are defined roles for students and professors. The student’s main role is to learn as much as they can from the professors who are supposed to teach them all they know. It is a logical method as the professors have much more experience in their fields compared to students, but it can be flawed in its rigidity because it does not allow the professor’s much opportunity to learn from their students. In my lab, there are clearly defined roles of each individual based on experience in research, but there is still much more of a sense of collaboration than in class. Every lab member’s opinion is valued during lab meetings and input from anyone, no matter how much expertise they have in a topic, is taken seriously. The world of work in this lab in particular is very supportive because, even though every individual has their own work they are responsible for, each time a lab member succeeds, it advances the lab as a whole in achieving its goal of learning more about neurochemistry and cognition. 

This cooperative spirit is a skill that I will try to apply to my academics, extracurricular activities,  and hopefully through my medical career. Working with others in an environment where we all win when someone succeeds is so valuable to creating a productive space. Likewise, as I have spent more time in the lab, I’ve learned much more about the neuropsychological exams that we administer in the Brandeis Aging Brain Study. I better understand how to administer and score them as well as analyze their results. These more specific skills in neuropsychology and data analytics help me comprehend how neuroscience research is applied in a clinical setting which is very beneficial to me as I would like to become a doctor. I’m so glad I’m working at the lab and for all the knowledge it has given me so far!