Student Story

Irene Nguyen '21: The Human Brain is a Testament to our Uniqueness

What inspired you to pursue a BS in neuroscience and behavior?

I've always found both psychology and biology fascinating subjects, and I felt that majoring in neuroscience would provide a perfect opportunity to connect those two academic disciplines. As a neuroscience major, I would be able to study the human mind and behaviors as well as the biological processes that govern our health.

I also enjoy learning about the nervous system. Not only is it responsible for basic — but important — functions like breathing, moving and eating, but it's crucial in shaping our behaviors, personalities, emotions, cognition, speech, and so much more. After all, the human brain is a testament to our uniqueness.

Tell us about your project: "DMD-10 is dispensable for the initial development of amphid sensory neurons and their survival in mature C. elegans."

I assisted Dr. Eric Luth with a research study on the relationship between a gene mutation and specific behavioral issues in C. elegans worms. The dmd-10 mutant worms exhibit challenges with ASH-mediated behaviors. (ASH is a glutamate-releasing sensory neuron that comes in a pair and detects aversive chemosensory and mechanosensory stimuli). This impairment may be attributed to a reduction in glutamate release from ASH upon sensory stimulation, which would inhibit glutamatergic signaling. One possibility for this reduction is that one or both of the ASH neurons do not develop/survive in the adult worms.

Were any of your findings surprising?

I would say learning that C. elegans have 302 neurons!

What did you learn from this experience?

In addition to lab techniques, I was able to better understand the scientific research process: understanding background information pertaining to the topic, developing hypotheses, collecting data, and formulating conclusions. I was also able to improve on communicating about the research project with others whether verbally or written.

If there was one thing you'd like us to learn from your project, what would that be?

Even small creatures like C. elegans have “complex” nervous systems that help guide their behavior and survival.

What inspired you to apply for the Undergraduate Symposium?

I decided to apply for the Undergraduate Symposium because I wanted to showcase my research project with the Simmons community. The video presentation allowed me to organize and summarize important information regarding my research project.

Why did you decide to come to Simmons?

I came to Simmons because I was really attracted to the location, small class size, and the strong sense of community that Simmons had to offer. 

Do you have a favorite Simmons memory?

My favorite Simmons memory is going to New York City with my friends. The tickets were really cheap, so it was a perfect opportunity. I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to go because I had a lot of assignments due, but I’m glad my friend convinced me to. It was such an amazing experience and we were able to take a lot of pictures and explore the city — including Times Square, Madison Avenue, and many different food places.

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