Tag Archives: Steve Balsis

From Intimidated to Inspired: Joshua Fuller’s First National Research Conference

The post below comes from Joshua Fuller, an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, former President of Honors Student Council, former Junior Advisor and Sophomore Advisor for the Honors Housing Community. Fuller is a senior psychology and Spanish double-major, with a minor in neuroscience. You can find his ePortfolio at http://joshuafuller.weebly.com.

– By Joshua Fuller ’17

Exhilarating. Intimidating. Inspiring.

These three words explain my four-day long journey at my first national research conference, the 36th National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) annual meeting.

Applying to NAN 2016 was admittingly somewhat of a last-minute endeavor. I remembered my research mentor, Dr. Steve Balsis, talking about his experience at NAN 2015 in Austin, Texas, and thought NAN 2016 would be a great forum to present my most recent work, a first-author publication on the nature of neuropsychiatric symptom presentation in Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, we caught the abstract deadline two weeks before it passed (which still blows my mind since the abstract deadline was in February and the conference was in October). As an undergraduate interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychology, or the assessment of neurological conditions, this conference was an obvious place to submit my work.

Undergraduate Research Ambassador Joshua Fuller '17 with his poster at the 2016 National Academy of Neuropsychology annual meeting.
Undergraduate Research Ambassador Joshua Fuller ’17 with his poster at the 2016 National Academy of Neuropsychology annual meeting.

As a seasoned undergraduate Alzheimer’s researcher and an aspiring neuropsychologist, I was simultaneously excited and timid as I exited my cab and walked into the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle, the site of NAN 2016. Sure, I had presented my lab’s work before at the Texas A&M Student Research Week (and even took home an award), but this was clearly a whole different ball game. Instead of answering A&M student or faculty members’ questions about my work, I was going to be fielding questions from actual real-life neuropsychologists (some of whom are faculty at the Ph.D. programs I am currently applying to, so that was also terrifying).

I attended two long lectures the morning of my poster presentation, the first on neuroimaging and the second on diversity in clinical practice. Following the lectures, I immediately went to the exhibit hall where I hung my poster and talked to passerby for two hours. In the mix of visitors, two judges came by my poster and seemed to be very impressed by the quality of my work (especially because I was an undergrad among a sea of graduate students and post-docs). I had also networked some via email with Dr. Laura Lacritz, the President of our conference, because she studies Alzheimer’s disease is a professor at the UT Southwestern Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program (one of the Ph.D. programs I applied to this application cycle). Well… if there’s one thing I have learned by now it is that networking sometimes can really pay off! Dr. Lacritz stopped by my poster, talked to me for about fifteen minutes, and as we parted ways she complimented my research me that if I ever have any questions or would like to collaborate she’s just an email away.

After my poster presentation, I had the chance to listen to other world-renown Alzheimer’s experts, like Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia and Dr. Dorene Retnz of Harvard, give lectures on their inspirational research. I also had a chance to go to a few events for students where I met many graduate students (including a large plethora from UT Southwestern) who talked to me about their experiences and their research, giving me more encouragement during my Ph.D. application season.

I was sad that I had to leave the conference early to get back to College Station for a fundraiser, as I was truly in nerd-heaven. Before I left, a new graduate student friend told me to be on the lookout for the student poster award recipients (as I was going to miss the award ceremony). I knew I had a nice poster and that I gave an excellent presentation, but my poster was one of several hundred at the conference eligible for five awards. Surely I was not going to win a student poster award…

Well, I did… and I am still surprised and humbled to this day. Honestly, though, receiving such an honor is not a testament to my ability, but rather the time and energy that Dr. Balsis and so many other mentors have poured into me throughout my undergraduate research career. Being among the top poster presentations at the conference was an amazing way to close my first ever national research conference.

When I left College Station for Seattle, I felt anxious. When I returned, I was inspired. Undergraduate research has been a winding (and sometimes cyclical) journey for me, but I am so proud of the relationships I’ve built and the projects that I’ve been a part of over the years. As someone who was cynical about research before coming to A&M, I encourage you to keep an open mind! There are so many different questions that need to be answered, and you have an incredibly unique opportunity to explore alongside some of the world’s most talented research faculty. If I got involved in research (and have now won multiple awards and first-authored a publication currently in review) simply because I asked my professor about research opportunities in the Alzheimer’s arena, so can you! Get started today by visiting the LAUNCH website and talking with your professors about topics you would like to research.

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Three Exceptional Undergraduates Nominated for Truman Scholarship

By Macy Moore –

Three exceptional Texas A&M students have been nominated for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a foundation recognizing college juniors who aspire to work in public service. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students. Each year, 55 to 65 applicants are chosen from a pool of approximately 600 nominated students. This year, the nominees from Texas A&M are psychology and Spanish major Joshua Fuller, civil engineering major George Gillette, and a third student who has asked to remain unidentified for the time being.*

2016 Truman Nominee Josh Fuller '17
2016 Truman Nominee Josh Fuller ’17

For Joshua Fuller ’17, the coordination of research and response efforts to large public health concerns is paramount to his career goals. Fuller believes molding research and public policy together is the way he is best equipped to serve the public. During his time at Texas A&M, he has conducted research about Alzheimer’s disease in the lab of psychology Professor Steve Balsis. Through the use of large datasets that track Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, such as brain volume and cerebral spinal fluid, he has worked with Dr. Balsis on creating empirical models of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis that can be used by researchers and clinicians in the fight against the disease. Fuller also studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador where he volunteered at the Fundación TASE Alzheimer’s Center for five weeks in the summer of 2015, gaining valuable clinical experience working with dementia patients. As part of his commitment to TASE, Fuller developed and led an English class as a cognitive therapy for five patients who had some bilingual proficiency, synthesizing research about bilingualism being a protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. Fuller intends to pursue a joint doctorate in clinical psychology and a Master of Public Health. Through his involvement as a leader in several student organizations at Texas A&M, such as the Honors Student Council and the Student Affairs Fee Advisory Board, as well as his acceptance into the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP), Fuller has learned that the greatest impact he can have in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and other public health concerns is not just in the laboratory. Rather, through the amalgamation of research and policy, Fuller plans to serve as an ambassador between the research community and lawmakers in the hope that we can globally coordinate the present and future study and response to diseases that threaten our way of life.

2016 Truman Nominee George Gillette '17
2016 Truman Nominee George Gillette ’17

George Gillette ’17 is a civil engineering student with a focus in transportation and data science. He began working in research at Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in his freshman year under Melisa Finley to evaluate the impact of impaired driving. Since then, he has worked on a variety of projects with TTI, including determination of how distraction impacts start-up time, entropy of eye-tracking glances to evaluate driver attentiveness, and estimation of tire debris volume through image processing. His work at TTI has resulted in publications to Transportation Research Board and has earned him ATLAS Undergraduate Student of the Year Award and Trinity Undergraduate Student of the Year Award. Outside of his research, Gillette serves as the president of Engineers Serving the Community, a student organization that applies engineering skills to real-world projects to benefit the community. Additionally, he is the co-founder and under-secretary-general of Texas A&M Model United Nations. Gillette aspires to be the first secretary of transportation with a technical background in order to better move the industry forward.

Two hundred students will be selected as finalists after their applications are reviewed by the Truman Finalist Selection Committee. The finalists will then be interviewed by a series of Regional Review Panels before the 2016 Truman Scholars are announced. In the past 10 years, nine Aggies have advanced to the finalist round.

For more information, please contact Adelia Humme in LAUNCH: National Fellowships, at 845-1957 or natlfellows@tamu.edu.

Update 3-28-16: Our third nominee contacted us and asked to be unidentified for the time being. This post has been edited accordingly.