Neuroscience Personal Statement
Musings of the nature, boundaries and complexities of the phenomena of consciousness plague my neural networks frequently. This occurrence of consciousness arising from matter is, in itself, a field of study that particularly interests me.
As Robert Lanza writes in ‘Biocentrism’, with a solid understanding of physics, biochemistry is perhaps the leading scientific perspective of the time. I love this book as it draws on many different subjects in a concise manner. In my AS year I struggled to decide on which subjects to pursue as each contained so much fascinating content! Alongside personal circumstances this led to me dropping out for many months and switching subjects then predominantly self studying whilst working full time throughout. This was not an ideal situation however, in a way, it greatly benefitted me as a break from formal education allowed time to contemplate exactly what I want to study and analyse my personality and what I would be suited to better. I believe I am now in a better position to focus on a more structured and secure course of study.
Biocentrism also particularly interested me (aside from its innovative approach) due to Lanza’s previous behaviourist approach and his study on animal ‘‘self-awareness’’ in collaboration with B.F. Skinner, whose theories were introduced to me as part of the A level syllabus. The edX MOOC I completed on ‘Cellular functions of brain function’ focussed on the mammalian brain and - despite the similar cortical nuclei arrangement - the differences to a human brain, which has a larger cerebral cortex, explaining how higher order brain functions are thought to be derived. I find it fascinating that we can find neural correlations between brain areas and certain aspects of behaviour and experience. I believe my motivation to thoroughly delve into concepts and question their validity is something important for academic study.
Like Lanza’s changing fundamentals over time I find it intriguing how the understanding of the brain has developed, from the disregard of its importance by the ancient Egyptians and Aristotle to the intensive study of today. ‘A History of Western Philosophy’ and ‘Sophie’s World’ gave me great insight as to how thought has developed over time, leaving me with a sense of wonder of how much there is to uncover. My particular interest with ancient philosophers is how they were often polymaths and accomplished mathematicians, deriving thought problems and paradoxes. I enjoy the challenge of real world practical maths problems and particularly enjoyed partaking in UKMT papers gaining seven successive gold awards and three Kangaroo qualifiers.
In Biocentrism Lanza writes of the works of neuropsychologist Luria whose work alongside Vygotsky led me to read ‘Seeing Voices’ by Oliver Sacks. I enjoyed this book as it allowed for thorough study of science and learning more of Vygotsky’s works such as ‘Defectology’ and ‘Vision of Language and Mind’. Though I prefer Sacks’ other books, this book plunged me into a linguistic adventure of learning ASL and German to B1 standard. Whilst abroad I became acutely aware of the potential and necessity for language fluency and opportunity for greater understanding that it brings. I also discovered that the German for consciousness, 'bewusstsein' is far easier to pronounce than the English! I found learning a foreign language to be an incredible experience and appreciate that I can now understand excerpts of the works of Kant and Nietzsche in their mother tongue.
In the coming months I plan to continue my SIT training for Samaritans' phone volunteers, partake in work shadowing in Berlin’s MIND foundation and take the Oxford 'Philosophy of mind' short course.
I strongly believe that neuroscience - with its multidisciplinary potential encompassing many varying methods of study - allows for a well rounded education and thus it is a field of incredible interest to me that I would greatly enjoy pursuing into higher education.
Best of luck with your applications! I hadn't done Biology or Chemistry A levels which really limited my options for a bioscience course, however received offers for: University of Manchester: Neuroscience B140 (AAA CF) University of Bristol: Neuroscience B140 (ABB CI) University of Edinburgh: Cognitive Science C859 University of Leeds: Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Thought V551 Just a bit of encouragement if perhaps your situation isn't the simplest, despite only doing a handful of months at a sixth form over two years, resitting and learning a new A level in 3 months due to entry requirements and many other things going on in my life, I'm now on the way to an academic career that I believe I really will love! Keep going, things will start falling into place! Ended up not doing too great in my resits (BBC just missing ABB but a couple of marks) but I still got offers for first year entry on results day including from: Man Met for Biomed first year, Dundee for neuroscience and Bangor for Psychology with Neuropsychology...though I decided on doing a foundation year at Uni of Manchester :)