The Minds of Children

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Oseme Precious Okoruwa, COL ’20

My summer could only be described as exhilarating. I was kept on my toes by a group of 9-10 year olds as we made vats of popcorn, played video games, and told scary ghost stories in the hot sun. This summer wasn’t all fun and games though, I spent a lot of time learning about the current state of groundbreaking neuroscience research.

This summer I was an intern on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, or ABCD. ABCD is the first of its kind because it is a study taking place at over 21 research facilities across the country. Because the demographics we studied are so broad and wide, we are able to learn a lot about the human brain and how it develops certain behaviors. This NIH funded study is attempting to follow more than 10,000 children for ten years as we research how brain development relates to other areas of children’s lives.

I initially was so excited to work on this study because I’m majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior. Most of my coursework is in neuroscience, biology, and psychology. This summer I was able to see classroom concepts put into action in the research field. Seeing the practical application of these textbook topics has given me a deeper understanding of what I’ve been learning at Penn.

Working on this study has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had the chance to discover otherwise. From the very first week, we were learning and discussing the ethics behind human subject research. In the past, I had only worked with animal subjects and I didn’t have any clinical research experience. However, I was able to participate in great discussions and have my questions answered by scientists who have been working on clinical research projects for years.

Another opportunity I had was to attend Science Friday talks. These were one-hour long conferences where we got to hear from researchers who discussed various topics. From suicide prevention training to data collection techniques, these talks gave me insight into the various aspects of neuroscience research. I was able to listen to top researchers and learn about their passion for what they study as well as how they got to where they are today.

But the highlight of my summer experience was getting to work with the kids. There are so many parts to making this study work: there’s MRI scans, NeuroCog activities, family histories and personal response surveys from parents. We played brain games and puzzles, and tested biological samples. There was always so much to do to make this project succeed.  But at the end of the day, I knew I was contributing to something great that would have a lasting impact on future generations.

This was an invaluable experience that I was able to have thanks to the funding provided by the Career Services Grant. The funding I received helped to support me this summer for everything from transportation costs to food expenses. I am very grateful to have been a part of this program.

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