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Neuroscience personal statement
Statement of Purpose
A momentary break from extreme stress led to my first major “aha” moment. Out of nowhere, my brain is suddenly overtaken by an electric explosion of informational assimilation. Well I guess not out of nowhere, Ooman et al. (2010) reported findings which evidence that early life exposure to severe stress enhances hippocampal synaptic plasticity and emotional learning under high-stress conditions in adulthood. My experience and attention to social detail evolved into an etiological examination of autism spectrum disorders with conjugate gradients in sociological change and psychological stress. Winding occupational paths in drug counseling and behavioral childcare along with compounding interests in psychology led to a perceptual black hole of autism and neuroscience curiosities.
Although independent research is not required for school psychology majors, I chose to complete a thesis for project completion assurance. After chatting up a storm about the central nervous system and autism with Dr. Sweet-Darter (my mentor) she said, “Well I’m not sure where your head is going but I trust it will get us to where we need to go; sounds like you’re about to go on a fun adventure!”. I was finally free to explore my interests without limitation or restraint. It was not long until I stumbled upon the influential work of Dr. Sapolsky; whose research on glucocorticoids and the central nervous system had a tremendous influence on my first meta-analysis, Evo Aut (The Evolution of Autism Spectrum Disorders). I knew I had to apply to doctoral programs when my mentor said, “Jaymi, I was like you. I didn’t want a Ph.D - I just had an itch that I couldn’t scratch”. I have applied to Stanford with intent to verify and expand upon my work under the guidance of Dr. Sapolsky. As a graduate student, I have greatly benefitted from collaboration with several professors on various research projects and clinical tasks. Ideally, pursuance of a doctoral degree will entail the same collaborative effort of professional expertise. Dr. Wagner and Dr. McClelland’s work in neurocognitive development and function over the life span has piqued my interest in Stanford. The opportunity to learn from these professors would advance my understanding of autism and foster my emerging interest in Alzheimer’s.
My journey into the constructs of autism, stress, and aggression led to a self discovery of cat eye syndrome (trisomy 22) as marked by a coloboma of the iris in each of my eyes. My initial finding was the precursor of several discoveries which evidenced traits of mild Asperger’s. I examined my history of above average aggression and demonstrated ability to thrive within my environments despite disadvantaged conditions and compared my experience to my collective family experience. The few members of my family to rise above their ascribed circumstance also have characteristics of mild Asperger’s. I have always admired my grandfather for rising above his circumstance and making scholarly contributions as a professor. I was incessantly conditioned by him to maintain an open mind; to experience and learn in depth about the present environment as a way of sorting out truths from fictions of moral belief. I asked my great aunt what my grandfather was like growing up and she replied, “He was always thinking of something new and unusual to do…he was always thinking”. Inheritance doesn’t always imply inherent genetics. Like my grandfather, I am always building upon interests and ideas while maintaining an open mind to presented opportunities. My second independent study resulted in a theoretical framework about cetacean behavior, intelligence, and ethics in hopes of comparing oxidative stress between captive and non-captive cetaceans. I would also like to use my background in applied behavior analysis and developmental psychology to analyze public school systems and contribute to education reform. It is difficult to understand why neurodiversity and critical thinking has not been embraced by academia. I look forward to blending my experiences into my future as I continue to integrate the process into a meaningful and useful whole.
“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does.” - Michel Foucault
Ooman, et al. (2010). Severe Early Life Stress Hampers Spatial Learning and Neurogenesis, but Improves Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity and Emotional Learning under High-Stress Conditions in Adulthood. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30 (19): 6635-6645; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0247-10.2010
This personal statement was written by Jaymi for application in 2011.
Applied to: Stanford, Georgetown, and U of Colorado.
This personal statement is unrated