Life Science

The working of the brain (like most of nature) is all about synchrony. My interest in the brain and biology of behavior gained fresh impetus during my undergraduate studies at St. Paul's. As a volunteer at the Social Involvement Program in my college, I helped with children who had cerebral palsy, attention deficit and learning disorders and were autistic. Each of them had special needs. Their individual personalities complete with likes and dislikes shone through their disorders. However it soon became clear that in spite of all their differences, what lay at the crux of their problems was asynchrony. They lacked the correct interplay of physical and chemical signals between their brains and their bodies.


I want to know why these "crossed" signals make their learning and memory processes different from mine. Is it possible for us to remedy the altered perspective they have of life? My brain communicates in synch with my body. But who is waving the baton that conducts this perfect symphony? How would it be any different if I had a glass of champagne, a snort of cocaine or was 60 years older?


As my undergraduate studies at St. Paul's progressed, I was introduced to many more players that eventually chisel out a unique brain. Aging and neuro degenerative disorders raised a few questions in my mind. In what way are the two related to each other? What effect do they have on our brain and behavior? How do the same molecules (whether hormones, alcohol, drugs or neurotransmitters) elicit a confluence of physical and emotional experiences in us?


While reading about the research being done in the Behavioral Neuroscience program at Binghamton, I have come across work that can provide answers to my questions about the brain and its link with behavior. When I graduated, I knew how the brain looked and worked. I want to continue my education with a study that will help me gain a deeper understanding of communication within the brain.


I am looking forward to being a part of the work being done in the labs of Dr. Paul Silver and Linda Steele. Like most of us, I started out with the same sheet of epithelial cells that developed into a perfect little brain. However, I think the power of this brain lies in the way it has changed with experiences, environment and me to become a structure that is uniquely mine. Aging, chemicals and disease are just a few of the many tools that chisel out an individual brain. Their mechanisms of action have been a source of interest to me ever since my first encounter with them. I hope to turn this interest into a learning experience at Binghamton.


The highlight of my undergraduate years was the Honors Program, which taught me to apply the knowledge I had gained, to achieve a particular aim. One of my projects was as a teacher at the Open Ended Experiments (OEE). I helped my juniors understand vital theories, which they could apply to perform simple experiments. Sometimes one of the best ways to learn is by teaching someone else and thanks to the OEE I have gained new insight into many aspects of my subject. I enjoyed watching the way my questions made someone think and finally learn. I see teaching as an important part of my future.


The sharing of ideas and new findings has always been a vital part of my undergraduate life. Presentations were a perfect opportunity for me to explore beyond the syllabus and were instrumental in giving me a competitive edge over my peers. I relish a chance to indulge my creative side and gaining a deeper understanding of my work in the process make presentations a good bargain! I enjoy diving into a flood of data, picking out relevant information and delivering it all to an appreciative audience! The dynamic nature of scientific research was revealed to me as I worked on my presentations. Often new theories replaced old ones so fast that I was updating my work right up till the morning I had to present.


Once out of college, I was thirsting to put into practice all my undergraduate education. Interning at Wellcome Institute of Fundamental Research (WIFR) under Dr. Ray has given me the perfect opportunity to glimpse at the career I am entering. As my education has progressed, my resolve to have a career in research has strengthened.


At WIFR I saw first hand, the effect that improper communication between the brain and body had on behavior. A defect in a transporter for cholineacetyltransferase results in a lack of acetylcholine at the synapses, which among other things gives rise to an uncoordinated fly. Besides opening up the world of scientific research to me, my experiences here have taught me that mistakes do not always have to hold you back, and often take you closer to your goal. Things often look easy to do at first glance, but a lot of hard work is involved in making them seem that way. After standardizing some protocols myself, I now understand the kind of effort that goes into developing the techniques that make my work so much easier. I have expanded on my work and my motivation to join WIFR in an attachment to this essay.


I am interested in the study of behavioral and cognitive processes because they play an important role in defining us as a species. The study of organisms as diverse as humans, birds, mice and flies brings us closer everyday to the answers we seek. Perhaps there will come a time when research about the brain will eventually culminate in an understanding so profound that it will allow us to tell just from a simple MRI, the kind of life an individual has led. Right from the substances he has abused to the molecules that make him the person he is.


My life experiences have moulded me in to a hardworking and what I would call an "unflappable" person. I have learnt that in science (and life) it doesn't hurt to have a healthy sense of humor. My future goals include establishing a career in research and educating people about science. Scientific research has its origins in a very fundamental human character -- curiosity. It is very important though, to ask the right question. Research in Behavioral Neuroscience at Binghamton has raised many relevant questions and I would like to be one of the people working towards the answers.