Updates on My Research Project
If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that a major component of my Vanderbilt experience has been undergraduate research in a neuroscience laboratory. I am one of several undergraduates that do research in my lab, and it has been a really cool experience throughout the last couple of years. But what exactly do I do?
My lab is a bit unique in that our research is done on computers, not in the sort of laboratory setting people tend to imagine, one with test tubes and microscopes. All of my work is done using data that has already been collected, so my research is largely statistical. Doing this sort of research has really enhanced my ability to use large-scale data processing computer programs which is a skill I’m happy to say I’ve gained. The data I have worked with so far comes from the Tennessee Twin Study, a study run by a previous lab member that evaluates pairs of twins in Tennessee using a various number of measures at multiple time points. Using this data, I have been able to look at relationships between mental illness, regions of the brain, behavior, and more.
My research is actually starting to take on a new direction this year. In looking at data from the Tennessee Twin Study, one thing that really interested me was a measure called the brain age gap estimate, which uses MRI scans of subjects to determine their perceived age based on what their brain looks like when scanned. Because of my interest in this measure, I was actually given the opportunity to submit a proposal to Vanderbilt’s Institutional Review Board asking for permission to access our medical center’s database of MRI scans for further review. Hopefully this request will be approved, and I can continue my study of this measure from a number of new angles.
My time in a research lab has taught me many valuable skills. I have been able to work alongside a variety of people with different educational backgrounds, learn about the research process, and display initiative through a project of my own. If you are interested in science or medicine, I would definitely recommend trying out undergraduate research. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions regarding life at Vanderbilt, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.