Student Spotlights

Neuroscience Graduate Students shares their experiences about being a part of the NGG program. If you have questions about their experiences, feel free to reach out.

Adama Berndt (He/Him)

Adama Berndt (He/Him)
Matriculation Year: 2020

Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana

Undergraduate Institution: Kenyon College

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neuroscience

Why did you choose Penn?

I chose the NGG for its strong emphasis on promoting a collaborative environment. This point was regularly reiterated and demonstrated in the track record of PIs. Additionally, the number of PIs whose research preferences matched my own made me feel I had a strong chance to find a lab that fit me.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

We are strongly empowered to independently pursue research questions and the program offers an amazing level of flexibility to help you succeed, regardless of the crazy things’ life can throw your way.    

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

Peers, group counseling sessions

 

Yuzhang Chen (He/Him/His)

Yuzhang Chen (He/Him/His)
Matriculation Year: 2019

Hometown: Hangzhou, China

Undergraduate Institution: University of California Berkeley

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Chemical Biology

Why did you choose Penn?

I liked the program's flexibility in letting us chart our own course. I also felt at home with the community of students here.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

The collaborations that I work in, the network that we have, and the friends that I found here make NGG a great place to be!

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

I use my friends. I have used CAPS.

Diego G. Dávila (He/Him)

Diego G. Dávila (He/Him)
Matriculation Year: 2020

Hometown: Dorado, PR

Undergraduate Institution: Boston University

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Psychology

Why did you choose Penn?

The environment is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary - my work cuts across many fields, and I felt that at Penn I could do the research I wanted to and be fully supported. Importantly, the students are extremely kind and foster a community feeling where advice, support, and inclusion flow freely.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

My fellow students, and the breadth of opportunities for collaboration and true exploration.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

Senior Students

Lindsay Ejoh (She/Her)

Lindsay Ejoh (She/Her)
Matriculation Year: 2020

Hometown: Bamenda, Cameroon & Upper Marlboro, MD

Undergraduate Institution: University of Pittsburgh

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neuroscience & Music/ Chemistry

Why did you choose Penn?

I chose Penn NGG because it has a diverse, supportive, and non-competitive community.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

The sense of community, and flexibility of program requirements.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

I often reach out to older students in NGG and in BGS that have gone through what I’m struggling with. I am also happy to do this for NGG students and applicants. Reach out if you need me!

Evan Gallagher (He/Him)

Evan Gallagher (He/Him)
Matriculation Year: 2018

Hometown: Arlington, MA

Undergraduate Institution: Middlebury College

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neuroscience

Why did you choose Penn?

4 main reasons: 1) I did not have a specific project in mind when applying, so a large school like Penn offered a huge number of faculty and projects to choose from; 2) Penn is well-known and well-funded; 3) Penn is geographically close to my home city of Boston, making visiting my family very easy; 4) Living in Philadelphia offered the best job prospects for my fiancée.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

The people I've met here. My classmates are incredibly smart and accomplished scientists, but in spite of this everyone is extremely friendly, and this contributes to an atmosphere that is much more collaborative and supportive than competitive.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

My friends and family first and foremost, but also my PI/lab-mates, CAPS, NGG leadership, and GLIA professional development events.

Catrina Hacker (She/Her)

Catrina Hacker (She/Her)
Matriculation Year: 2019

Hometown: Greenwich, CT

Undergraduate Institution: University of Southern California

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neuroscience

Why did you choose Penn?

I saw that NGG students are both dedicated scientists and supportive of hobbies and activities outside the lab. I felt like this was a program where I would be able to grow both as an academic and as a person.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

The community. NGG is full of people who are not only willing but eager to give advice, participate in events, and support each other.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

Fellow students, CAPS, partner, friends from college

Adriana Hernandez Vasquez (They/She)

Adriana Hernandez Vasquez (They/She)
Matriculation Year: 2020

Hometown: Long Beach, CA

Undergraduate Institution: California State University Long Beach

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Psychology

Why did you choose Penn?

I knew I wanted to attend graduate school in a city and I really like Philly. The institution itself has a lot of resources and research that I am interested in.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

I like NGG for its collaborative and friendly environment. There is always someone who is willing to help and reaches out to others to provide support without hesitation.  

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

I have a therapist through CAPS that has helped me throughout the last year. I talk with people within my cohort as well as the upper years about the struggles of grad school, as well as reach out to my friends from undergrad.

Ilenna Jones

Ilenna Jones
Matriculation Year: 2017

Hometown: Lebanon, PA

Undergraduate Institution: Dartmouth College

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neuroscience

Why did you choose Penn?

Penn seemed to provide the most options for me when I wasn't sure exactly what research path I would take. The students were also very welcoming and social at Penn.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

I appreciate how much effort NGG students put into fostering a sense of community.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

I've used CAPS, I have family in Philadelphia, and I have friends in NGG and outside of Penn.

Hannah Loo (She/Her/Hers)

Hannah Loo (She/Her/Hers)
Matriculation Year: 2019

Hometown: Flushing, NY

Undergraduate Institution: SUNY Geneseo

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Biology and Music (Vocal Performance)

Why did you choose Penn?

I really liked the PIs I met with and felt like I had multiple good options for thesis labs where I would grow and thrive throughout my PhD.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

The students here are really supportive, and it's a completely non-competitive atmosphere.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

My church community (Renewal Presbyterian Church), my housemates and neighbors, my family, and my friends both in and outside of NGG!

Jaffna Mathiaparanam (She/Her)

Jaffna Mathiaparanam (She/Her)
Matriculation Year: 2019

Hometown: Appleton, WI

Undergraduate Institution: UW Madison

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neurobiology

Why did you choose Penn?

I was interested in Penn for its large and varied research faculty as well as its highly active graduate body, in regard to both career development and community outreach.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

I really like being a part of GLIA and the administration staff and faculty are very available to support you.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

NGG administration, my PI and lab mates

Kelsey Nemec (She/Her/Hers)

Kelsey Nemec (She/Her/Hers)
Matriculation Year: 2018

Hometown: Big Bend, WI

Undergraduate Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Neurobiology, Psychology

Why did you choose Penn?

The size of the program and cohorts were key. Tons of mentors to choose from, lots of friends to make!

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

The flexibility - the ability to add certificates and take classes outside the core curriculum.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

Cohort, NGG

Gianna Perez (She/Her)

Gianna Perez (She/Her)
Matriculation Year: 2019

Hometown: Jackson, NJ

Undergraduate Institution: Villanova University

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience / Psychology

Why did you choose Penn?

I chose Penn due to the quality of research here, the quality of life I could have in Philly, and the overall culture of the program.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

My favorite part of Penn NGG is the community amongst students and the opportunities for students that want to pursue non-academic careers.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

Community amongst fellow URMs, mentors, friends

Lilly Ryll (She/Her/Hers)

Lilly Ryll (She/Her/Hers)
Matriculation Year: 2021

Hometown: Lexington, MA

Undergraduate Institution: Northeastern University

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Behavioral Neuroscience

Why did you choose Penn?

The vibrant and collaborative research community and the lovely people!

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

Everyone is genuinely kind and wants to get to know you and help you succeed. NGG has an amazingly supportive culture.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

Peer study groups, near-peer recitation sessions, professors as resources, ARC

Vanessa Sanchez (She/Her/Ella)

Vanessa Sanchez (She/Her/Ella)
Matriculation Year: 2019

Hometown: West Covina, California

Undergraduate Institution: California State University, Fullerton | Community College: Citrus College

Undergraduate Major/Minor: Psychology/ Cell and Molecular Biology

Why did you choose Penn?

I chose Penn because of the DEI initiatives put in place and the feeling of support and encouragement from faculty + awesome research! I also chose Penn because I felt that moving away from home was the only way I could grow professionally and personally.

What is your favorite part of Penn NGG?

I have yet to feel any competitive/cut-throat energy; only, a tremendous amount of support from my peers/cohort. I love how many opportunities there are to get involved in outreach and science communication through GLIA.

What support systems do you use that are available to you?

My lab, my cohort, NGG peeps, EE Just Biomedical Society, LAGAPSA, Penn INSPIRE, Fontaine Society, SACNAS, La Casa Latina, etc.