STUDENT VOICE

How Explore Led to My Post-Grad Career

I felt like I was asked what I was going to major in a million times in the months leading up to my arrival at Northeastern, and each time I answered with confidence: “I’m undeclared, but I’m probably going to study Biology.” I took a few months during my first semester to explore Health Science and Environmental Science, but I was so confident in my future path that I talked it over with Kim Irmiter that semester and was just a few signatures away from cementing my future in the Biology department. However, after hearing about Behavioral Neuroscience (BNS) from a friend and learning that the major combined Biology and Psychology, I decided to wait one more semester before following through with my decision to declare Biology. I’m so thankful that I waited because just a few weeks into Foundations of Psychology I knew that BNS was the right major for me and I officially declared BNS that semester.

During my middler year, I landed the co-op of my dreams in a center for noninvasive brain stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and went on to do two of my three co-ops there. While on co-op, I had the chance to work on two studies: one examining the effects of exercise on cognition and neuroplasticity and the other assessing the efficacy of noninvasive brain stimulation combined with cognitive training as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. The studies were fascinating, and I was given a level of responsibility that pushed me out of my professional comfort zone and helped me grow and gain confidence. I also had the opportunity to make lasting connections with wonderful colleagues and mentors who I keep in touch with and seek guidance from to this day.

I loved my experience at BIDMC so much that I returned full-time after graduation. This time around I joined the center’s clinic where I use noninvasive brain stimulation to treat individuals with depression, along with other various psychiatric and neurological conditions. I still do research at the center, but my research now focuses on determining whether or not neuroplasticity can be used to predict which patients will respond well to the depression treatment. This combination of clinical work and research has been a great balance for me and has allowed me to work one-on-one with patients and get comfortable in a clinical role. This has also allowed me to dive deeper into research and be involved in the analysis and presentation of our data. I had the opportunity to present our findings at a conference last spring and I’m currently in the process of preparing the results for publication. My experience here over the years has helped me learn that I want to pursue a career in medicine along with some other component to complement my clinical work, whether that be research, getting involved in healthcare policy, or something different all together.

Over the past few years I have spent time preparing for and applying to medical schools, and I am now nearing the finish line as I anxiously await post-interview decisions from several schools. It has been a stressful and intimidating process, but my experiences at Northeastern and in my job helped me feel confident and well-prepared every step of the way. The experiences I had on my co-ops, in leadership positions on campus, and as an undeclared student finding my path all pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow personally and professionally.

Despite my confident declarations early on, I now recognize that I always had some degree of hesitation about declaring Biology as my major in undergrad, and there was a reason for that: it wasn’t the right path for me. Had I enrolled as a Biology student right off the bat, I may still have ended up applying to medical schools in the end, but I would have missed out on a number of opportunities and experiences that I feel really defined my time at Northeastern and were important for my personal growth. Until a few years ago, I was always someone who needed an answer and a plan, but my exploration as an undeclared student and the opportunities that I was granted as a result helped me become more comfortable with the unknown. This has been incredibly valuable to me during the medical school application process because I am essentially an undeclared student once again–the difference now is that I’m always asked what type of doctor I want to be in the future. Thanks to my undeclared experience, I can comfortably respond that I don’t know yet, but I’m very excited to explore my options in the coming years and I’m confident that I will know when I’ve found the right path.

 

 

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