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Hi! My name is Jade Jones, and I am a junior neuroscience major with a minor in chemistry on a pre-med track here at UNC Chapel Hill. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, so I’ve ventured quite a distance from home to pursue my academic passions as my hometown is about a six-hour drive from the Chapel Hill area. As an out-of-state student, creating my own community at Carolina and connecting with like-minded individuals who share my interests and ambitions has been essential. Whether through study groups, group projects, or venting about the horrors of a common hour chemistry exam, I have developed many worthwhile relationships through the UNC Neuroscience department. Additionally, college has made me embrace the new responsibilities that come with being an independent adult. While I still often call my mom for many of my “adulting” questions, I have significantly grown out of my shell. I have learned the importance of self-advocacy and self-direction in order to get the things that I want from my college experience and life in general.

Taking initiative has been key, whether it’s pursuing research opportunities or engaging in meaningful relationships with faculty. For example, my willingness to apply helped me secure an undergraduate research position with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Sabrina Robertson. In high school, I had already had a fascination with the idea of a growth mindset. Sparked by my psychology class, this interest led me to collaborate with my teacher on developing study methods that incorporated growth mindset learning techniques, ultimately enhancing my academic success.

Transitioning to UNC, I’ve continued to apply these strategies, contributing to my achievements in my coursework and my passion in pursuing research that expands on the intricacies and efficacy of implementing growth mindset into college courses. Despite lacking prior research experience, I committed myself to Dr. Robertson’s Growth Mindset study, which has been a rewarding journey so far. This experience has not only deepened my understanding of neuroscience but has also honed my skills as a researcher. I have been working with Dr. Robertson for over a year now, and I plan to embark on a senior honors thesis to continue our work.

In addition to my research with Dr. Robertson, I have had the honor of participating in the Gil Internship Program this spring. I am currently interning at the UNC Neuro Image Research and Analysis Laboratories (NIRAL) under the guidance of Dr. Martin Styner. Here, I’m involved in investigating the correlation between head size and developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome using neuroimaging techniques. So far, I have analyzed over 300 cases for subjects’ ages 6-24 months, noting how various stipulations (slice number, rotation, threshold) influence the measurements. While the NeuroRuler software that I used to analyze these images is pretty effective, we have recently run into an issue in which Vitamin E pill skin markers used to indicate the orientation of the head are being included in the head circumference measurement, inaccurately increasing the measurements. Despite the efficiency of the NeuroRuler software, it does not have the capability to automatically remove these obstructions, meaning I must do this manually for each individual subject with the Vitamin E pill obstruction, which is quite time-consuming. However, my internship has taught me the importance of resilience and adaptability in the research process.

As I reflect on my journey thus far, I am grateful for the opportunities that UNC has provided me to pursue my passion for neuroscience and contribute to meaningful research. Looking ahead, I am eager to continue exploring the intersection of neuroscience and computer science, deepening my understanding of the complexities of the brain and investigating how biological markers may hold predictive power for certain conditions. Finally, I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Martin Styner, for being patient and supportive as I have learned to navigate new technology this semester. I would also like to express my gratitude to my Gil program coordinators, Dr. Steven Buzinski and Emily Dolegowski, for their mentorship, as I have made significant improvements in many aspects of professional development this semester. As I enter my final year at Carolina, I am grateful for the research experiences I have gained, and I am confident that these experiences will propel me forward in my pursuit of a career in healthcare.

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