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Four Diverse Paths, One Shared Passion: Meet the Incoming Grad Students of the MSU Neuroscience Program

Article Highlights

The 2023 Incoming Class of the Neuroscience Program

One was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia.  Another one was born in Puerto Rico and spent her childhood between the island nation and Texas. The third one hopes to one day be a professor at a tribal college while the last one wanted to be Commander in Chief growing up.

Despite the four distinct personalities, backgrounds, and goals, they do share two things in common: a respect for MSU research and the newest graduate students joining the Neuroscience Program at Michigan State University.

Daniela Anderson headshot
"[MSU] is where I discoverd my passion for neuroscience research," said Daniela Anderson.

Daniela Anderson has always loved science.

It was her favorite subject in school, and she dreamed of becoming a doctor one day. However, as she got older, her career goals started to change.

“As I became an adult, I realized I loved the investigation part of science more and decided research was the career I wanted to pursue,” she said.

The oldest of four daughters, Anderson was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico and grew up between her home country and Keller, Texas.  She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Universidad Ana G. Mendez – Gurabo Campus in Puerto Rico.

Anderson discovered her academic research interest when she joined the Bridge to Ph.D. in Neuroscience Program in 2021, which is an ENDURE (Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences) program funded by the National Institutes of Health to raise interest and opportunities in neuroscience for undergraduate students who are underrepresented in the field.

During the 10-weeks of workshops, research, and meeting with faculty and mentors, Anderson decided that MSU would be her future home where she can pursue her interest of investigating brain mechanisms that modulate behavior in males and females. 

“MSU is a very special place for me,” she said. “It is where I discovered my passion for neuroscience research. I loved the faculty, students, and overall environment.” 

Alex Chapman headshot
"It showed that MSU actually cared about my academic future and wanted me to succeed," Alex Chapman said.

Alex Chapman had a tough decision to make when deciding where she wanted to do her graduate studies.

It came down to MSU and the University of Utah but a conversation with A.J. Robison, the director of the Neuroscience Program at MSU, cemented her decision.

“He basically said that I couldn’t go wrong with my decision because both had a great neuroscience program,” said Chapman adding that her interaction with the program coordinator Eleri Thomas was influential, too. “To me, it showed that MSU actually cared about my academic future and wanted me to succeed.”

The Richmond, Virginia native double-majored in behavioral neuroscience and Spanish at Randolph-Macon College located in Ashland, Virginia. A chance encounter with a representative from MSU during an International Behavioral Neuroscience Society conference piqued her interest in what it had to offer.

“We had a conversation about the program, and it made me want to find out more,” said Chapman who plans to do research focusing on women’s health. “I did some research, and it seems to fit everything I was looking for in a graduate degree program.”

Katie Thompson headshot
"This research experience helped me discover what research I am truly passionate about," Katie Thompson said.

Katie Thompson is a dedicated student with a strong background in research, particularly in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology. She has been actively involved in full-time research for the past two years here at MSU in the Arnosti Lab investigating the transcriptional regulation of the insulin-like receptor gene in Drosophila. Her research experience has played a pivotal role in helping her identify her true passion within the realm of research, leading her to pursue a neuroscience Ph.D. at MSU.  

Notably, Katie Thompson's academic excellence and commitment to her studies were recognized through her receiving the prestigious Michigan State University Enrichment Fellowship, a highly competitive award offered by the Graduate School at MSU.   

Katie Thompson has a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a positive impact on her indigenous community. She is a member of the Batchewana First Nations Band of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Her long-term career aspirations involve becoming a professor at a tribal college, where she can contribute to the education and mentorship of future generations. Additionally, she plans to lead research projects that specifically address health issues affecting indigenous communities, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, trauma, PTSD, and addiction.  

Bridgette Weiss headshot
“The professors are not only knowledgeable and cutting-edge in their fields, but they genuinely care about their students and want others to succeed,” Bridgette Weiss said.

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Bridgette Weiss had dreams of becoming the President of the United States.

That goal, however, was put on hold after entering high school.

“I became really interested in the fields of psychology and neuroscience through my AP psychology course,” said Weiss who has a younger brother that just started his freshman year at Syracuse University. “After that, I knew I wanted to learn more about the brain, specifically with how physical and electrical connections translated into thoughts and actions.”

Weiss, who graduated from MSU this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, also knew she wanted to continue her graduate studies at MSU.

“The professors are not only knowledgeable and cutting-edge in their fields, but they genuinely care about their students and want others to succeed,” she said. “Additionally, everyone you come across in East Lansing is incredibly kind and helpful. It’s a great environment to have socially and academically.”

Weiss plans to study psychiatric and mood disorders like depression and anxiety with the broad goal of understanding how these conditions arise and discover better treatments.

“Overall, my goal is to perform work that will help someone,” she said. “So, if I aid in a discovery that improves someone’s life or perform a technique well that aids in valuable research, I will be happily satisfied.”

And as for still becoming President of the United States one day?

“We’ll see,” Weiss laughed.

By: Tyler Lee