A Summer of Curiosity

Racquelle Moxey, COL ’23, Orlando, FL

This summer I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant in the Changing Brain Lab, a Penn Child Development Lab focused on studying how the brain changes as people grow and learn new things. As a neuroscience major and individual interested in the processes of learning and education, my experience intersected many facets of my own academic interests. My work this summer allowed me to learn new skills and hone existing ones to better assist with lab projects related to curiosity and learning in early childhood.

As a research assistant, my tasks included a mixture of technical responsibilities as well as ones directly related to interacting with children. Skills that I was able to learn and employ included performing cortical thickness reconstruction and hippocampal segmentation on MRI brain scans, coding for child affective responses to explore how curiosity influences learning in children, administering neuropsychological assessments, and training children to be still during MRI Scans while accompanying them in the scanner room to keep them calm and still. With the camaraderie and support of fellow lab members and mentors, everyday in the lab created new learning opportunities in an environment where I was able to comfortably grow as a researcher.

Growing up in a large family and having prior experience as a tutor and mentor, working with children was not new to me. Despite this, I was initially intimidated by the prospects of working with children in a research setting as I was worried it would make interactions more rigid and unnatural. Luckily, I soon realized that this was not the case as kids will always be kids, and some of my most memorable moments from the summer included getting to enhance their experience with research through conversation and fun. Whether it be comparing MRI sounds to robots, playing word games together, or simply asking them about their day, these collective moments all contributed to me better learning about them and their curiosity.

Overall, my summer was thoroughly enriching and allowed me to further explore my curiosities as a researcher while making it fun for others. I am beyond grateful to the Changing Brain Lab and Penn Career Services for making the opportunity possible.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services