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Building A Scientist

Alex Lombardo '21

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Headshot of Alexandra Lombardo '21

Alexandra Lombardo '21

How ‘Brain Power’ Fueled One Scotties’ Path through STEM in the Liberal Arts

它的重量约为3磅,由与银河系中的恒星一样多的细胞组成. It uses 20 percent of the body’s total oxygen and, when awake, generates enough electricity to power a small light bulb.

The human brain, by nature of its complexity, remains one of sciences' biggest mysteries still to this day. But first in this story, came the human heart… 

In 2008, all that seven-year-old Alexandra Lombardo knew was she wanted to be a doctor, a cardiologist, to be exact, and it was “all heart, all the time” in her El Paso, Texas home. 但10多年后,我们来到了正规博彩十大网站排名校园里的一个神经科学研究实验室, 你会发现一个“亚历克斯”,她的本科STEM经历永远地改变了她的职业抱负轨迹. 正是在那里,她研究Rett综合征和精神分裂症等神经发育障碍时,意外地接触到了人类大脑的神秘,并对医学研究产生了热情.

A self-described learner and an “innate explorer,” Alex found the unknowns within science particularly enticing. “There are so many things we don’t know – about the human body and how it works, about how diseases develop,” Alex said. “There needs to be a group of people passionate about understanding these unknowns, 那些有动力的人,他们可以用他们所问的研究问题的答案来最终帮助我们的社区以他们最好的心态和健康状态来过他们的生活. 我确信我的目标就是成为这些人中的一员——通过为生物医学研究的变革进步做出贡献,成为我所在社区的仆人.”

Alex’s desire to be helpful to her community is indicative of the nature of a Scottie. According to the Science Center for Women, Agnes Scott women believe they have a leadership role to play in health care, in agriculture, in technology, in the medical ethics issues of this century. One-third of students enroll at Agnes Scott intending to major in the sciences, 文理学院STEM专业的女性毕业生比例高于其他类似机构(25%对10%)。. 

Though Alex majors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology on the pre-med track, 她在艾格尼丝·斯科特的研究经历影响了她将来攻读神经科学研究生的计划. 

这一切都始于她在艾格尼丝·斯科特大学大二的时候,当时她选修了一门分子生物学课程,在副教授兼生物学主席博士的指导下,该课程包含了一个以探究为基础的实验室. Jennifer Larimore. 这是亚历克斯上过的第一门实验课,要求她用一整个学期的时间来完成自己的研究项目. Dr. Larimore’s own research was incorporated into the inquiry-based lab, 亚历克斯和她的两个实验室伙伴的任务是研究一种细胞系统,这种系统可以在Rett综合征或精神分裂症模型系统中被改变. Their findings culminated in poster presentations at the college’s Spring Annual Research Conference (SpARC) and the Scotties with Nerves Symposium for which they were awarded runner-up for Best Poster Presentation.

This was the jumping off point for Alex’s newfound love for research, and she decided to apply for the college’s STEM Scholars Program. The STEM Scholars Program为艾格尼丝·斯科特的学生提供各种STEM学科的全日制暑期研究经验. STEM Scholars students are mentored by STEM faculty to conduct cutting-edge research, helping them gain essential skills for STEM scholarship and workforce leadership, while giving them a stronger understanding of how researchers build new knowledge.

For Alex’s summer research experience, she was placed in the Larimore Lab, a cellular neuroscience lab, and mentored by Dr. Larimore, who later asked Alex to be a permanent lab assistant in her working lab.

“While there’s an overall research goal that the lab works toward, 每个学生助理也有他们自己独立的分析和分子实验, analyze and report back to Dr. Larimore on,” Alex said. “Most recently, we helped each other put the data and images into a manuscript, which we then submitted to a peer reviewed science journal. This experience, among others, 在我的专业发展中发挥了不可或缺的作用,并帮助我了解自己在STEM领域的定位.”

With Dr. Larimore as a faculty mentor, 她的学员100%都通过海报展示获得了展示科学工作的经验, and 24 percent have their work published. Mentee names have appeared alongside Dr. Larimore’s in research published in no less than 13 peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Neuroscience and Frontiers in Genetics. “我们的学生经常说,基于这些体验时刻,他们更好地了解了自己的职业道路,” said Dr. Larimore, who is also the co-director of the college’s popular Neuroscience Program. “In addition, 小型文理学院的课程可以提高STEM学生的批判性思维能力和在其他主题背景下看待科学的能力.”

Alex has also benefited from the college’s various resource centers, such as the Resource Center for Math and Science where she sought guidance from tutors, and the Center for Writing & Speaking where her personal statement was reviewed and improved upon. She credits Dr. Molly Embree, Director of STEM Mentored Research, 为她的研究生计划提供建议,并教她如何更好地表达自己的研究. 

“虽然STEM学者计划的主要重点是真实的研究经验, 我向学生强调的另一个方面是每个人在培养他们想要工作的社区中的作用的重要性,” said Dr. Embree. “有时需要一段时间才能让学生们相信STEM学者项目不是提供的 for them but created by them, by all of us together.  Alex is a natural at creating community, and was from the beginning – it’s something she does everywhere she goes, of her own accord.”

这方面的一个典型例子是,亚历克斯利用了提供给她的机会来回馈她的领域, both on campus and off. On campus, as a member of the GEMS Program (Generating Excellence in Math and Science), Alex has been the GEMS STEM Day Director for the last three years. 这个一年一度的校园活动将20名来自亚特兰大欠发达高中的女孩带到校园进行互动STEM实验室, with the purpose of opening their minds to potential careers in STEM. 亚历克斯负责活动的后勤工作,并作为学院与高中代表的联络人. 亚历克斯希望在这么小的年纪接触STEM将有助于增加女性在STEM领域的代表性.

在校外,亚历克斯是三AAA计划的创始人-艾格尼丝和Arbor联盟. As a first-year, Alex began volunteering at the Arbor Terrace Assisted Living Center, a seven minute drive from campus, where she would work with elderly patients suffering from dementia, offering activities such as Yoga and brain games. She quickly noticed a shortage of volunteers at the center, which meant less physical and mental activities for the patients. 亚历克斯每隔一个周末招募更多的STEM苏格兰人加入她在中心做志愿者的行列, officially forming the Triple AAA Program. 六人小组一起和病人一起做运动,或者单独拜访他们.

“Dementia is an irreversible disease, but it can be slowed with consistent physical and mental exercises,” said Alex. “I wanted to help the center solve the problem of their shortage. It is a small thing, but probably the accomplishment I am most proud of.”

亚历克斯在艾格尼丝·斯科特的所有经历让她意识到“她是谁,她的未来想要什么”,” which is a career in research. 她在艾格尼丝·斯科特的最后一年一直在准备申请美国国立卫生研究院(NIH)一个竞争激烈的后学士学位项目的材料, 她希望在那里做两年的研究员,然后进入一个双学位的医学博士/博士项目. She’s leaning heavily on her SUMMIT 400 Digital Portfolio 给她的申请材料一个独特的视觉吸引力,反过来又会让她在竞争中占得先机, and words from her portfolio, written during her second year, sum up her journey through STEM at Agnes perfectly, still relevant in this moment…

艾格尼丝教会了我,实现目标的过程可能比目标本身更重要. Learning is a divine and powerful process... Learning at Agnes Scott goes beyond the mental processes; simultaneously, it provides the most difficult challenge and the greatest fulfillment.”

作者简介:卡蒂·伯恩斯·马洛斯是艾格尼丝·斯科特大学招生营销总监. 当她不是一边喝着大量的咖啡一边为招生办公室表演超人的营销壮举时, she enjoys writing creative fiction and poetry, and has been a writer for more than 20 years. She especially loves telling the authentic stories of Agnes Scott’s Scottie community.

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