Two to Enter Neuroscience Program – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Two to Enter Neuroscience Program

Nick D’Alberto ’13 and Casey Sherwin ’13 have been accepted into the highly competitive University of Vermont (UVM) Neuroscience Program. Two of only five students accepted to the program for the 2013-2014 academic year, they were both accepted in the first round of admissions and both received generous scholarship support.

“The Neuroscience Graduate Program at UVM is included among the top neuroscience programs in the nation based on the most recent data collected by the National Research Council,” explains Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Greenspon. “The Neuroscience Graduate Program at UVM is a very progressive program and was recently selected by the Carnegie Foundation to participate in their ‘Initiative on the Doctorate’ that provides funds to doctoral-granting departments to develop initiatives designed to improve the structure of their programs to better prepare their graduates.”

D’Alberto and Sherwin were in Greenspon’s “Research in Behavioral Neuroscience” course in their junior year and continued doing research with him throughout their senior year. Both are coauthors with Greenspon on a conference presentation of their work, “Musicians Have Enhanced Ability to Locate Sounds in Horizontal Space,” which they presented at the 25th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science. Additionally, Sherwin conducted an independent study with Greenspon as her adviser and D’Alberto completed an honors project under the advisement of Greenspon,”The Effect of Reward on Inhibitory Control: An Electrophysiological Study.”

He conducted his honors research in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Mapstone ’89, associate professor of neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He researched deep-brain stimulation of patients with Parkinson’s disease, and how that treats the cortical activity of Parkinson’s patients.

D’Alberto is particularly interested in brain imaging techniques, comparing healthy versus abnormal brains through images to determine how differences in behavior or output (speech or cognition for example) can relate to any differences in the brains’ physical structure.

This summer, he’s participating in a lab rotation at UVM, working with a researcher whose focus is on cortical activity and use of imaging.

“One of the reasons I wanted to attend UVM is the opportunity to do two or three lab rotations throughout the first year to decide who I’d like to work with as my thesis mentor,” explains D’Alberto. “I enjoy neuroscience and brain imaging a lot, but this gives me the ability to make an informed decision through a holistic approach to lab work.”

D’Alberto earned his B.S. in psychology cum laude and with honors. He minored in cognition, logic and language and biology. He arrived at Hobart interested in pursuing a medical career, but found his interest was more related to neuroscience and research than medical school.

“I’d like to be able to gain insight and increased knowledge to help physicians treat patients with brain disorders,” he says.

Sherwin also begins her first UVM lab rotation in July, researching cellular physiology to determine the loss of function experienced following a stroke. She notes she is most interested in neurodegeneration such as that found with traumatic brain injury or stroke.

Among the areas of research she’s interested in pursuing at UMV is that pertaining to stem cells.

“It’s a fairly new field with a lot to learn. It’s an exciting time to be in the field,” says Sherwin.

She says her biggest inspiration for pursuing a career in neuroscience is Greenspon. “He pushed my understanding of what was going on with the brain and I wanted to keep going with it,” she says.

Sherwin earned her B.S. in biology summa cum laude with minors in psychology and cognition, logic and language. She participated in the semester in Copenhagen program and was an award-winning member of the William Smith swimming and diving team. She completed research internships with Beth Israel and Harvard Medical School, which she says confirmed for her what research would be like, that she could do it and it was what she wanted to do.

“Liberal arts is all about what you want to put into it. I love HWS because even though there’s no neuroscience major I was able to prepare myself as well as anyone I interviewed against for admission,” she says.

“Both Casey and Nick are outstanding students and represent the very best students at HWS. Each was extremely successful with their academic programs at HWS and took the initiative to participate in the vast opportunities available to students. Through their conscientious planning and hard work they achieved remarkable success,” says Greenspon. “I am very glad I had the opportunity to mentor both of them. I enjoyed our time together doing research in the lab and the time we spent socializing. They are among the nicest individuals and top students I have experienced across my 30-plus year career at HWS.”