I'm originally from Milwaukee, WI - that's where I was born and raised. I attended Tamarack Waldorf School from kindergarten all the way through eigth grade, and let me assure you, that was one long ride. At Tamarack, you have one teacher for all eight years, and your class size is roughly twenty students. We all, at some point or another, accidentally called our teacher mom. I grew up with pretty good hand-eye-foot coordination, playing basketball initially in gradeschool and middleschool, and also soccer from middleschool through the end of college. Soccer truly became a passion of mine - on and off the field. I'm an avid Premiere League follower. After Tamarack I moved into Pius XI High School, and then my senior year over to Menomonee Falls High School. Playing soccer in highschool actually opened up a few opportunities to move for college, but I didn't really see soccer as an endall for myself, and felt stongly about staying in Milwaukee for my undergraduate studies. I'd found the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) was truly the place for me. They have a great campus right on Lake Michigan, a record of excellence in serving the community and producing very successful members of society, and it was home. And as Dorothy once said, "there's no place like home".
Mental illness is I think a key window into why I eventually went on to study what I did in college, and really what continues to drive me today. It was just something that ran in my family. And while I felt like I had grasped a solid understanding of it, the one case that really impacted me the most was watching a close friend of mine progress from a gregarious all-loved person in highschool, to a totally socially and societally removed person, searching for what was real and battling what wasn't. These experiences gave me a whole different perspective on the brain-body interactions, and cued my interests in human behavior, the mind, and eventually the brain. When I first arrived at UWM, my undergraduate studies were broadly distributed - I was unsure about exactly what it was I wanted to get out of my education. For most of my undergrad, I'd worked at La Fleur Law Firm in downtown Milwaukee advancing my professional experiences. I think originally going into school I had law in my gameplan, it ran in my family long back when one of my (great x 5) grandfathers started a law firm in Milwaukee. I read and learned a lot of really cool things about law at La Fleur, but something was missing for me. I guess it didn't check the "mental" window I'd opened. This is a good cue for Psychology; I started with a few introductory psych courses through UWM’s undergraduate program in psychology. Everything clicked. My interests in mental health found a home in studying cognition and neuroscience. At the midway point, I joined Professor Deborah Hannula’s MINDfull Memory research lab. My experience with Debbie was awesome, and the work in her lab helped me sharpen my scope of study. Of course, life is never actually that fairy-taleish; my plans for post-graduation became very muddled as I grew into a key figure at La Fleur Law Firm.
Fast-foward, I completed my bachelors in psychology at UWM in December of 2015, at which point I had an excellent offer to work as the firm administrator at La Fleur Law Firm. But again, something was missing. Further, I'd met the most awesome person (my now wife) at the end of college and she really made me think deeply about what I wanted in return from my efforts in school. I spent a few months searching for a fitting post-baccalaureate position as a professional research assistant, and landed a great hit in July of 2016 when I assumed the position of Clinical Research Associate working with Dr. David Warren, Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). In Dave's lab, I learned in great detail what it meant to be a researcher. There's much more to research than plotting some graphs and mailing them to Elsevier. There I helped establish the groundwork for the lab while advancing my knowledge base in memory research, neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and neurostimulation methods, and strengthening key skills that would later benefit me in my career going forward. After three years working with Dave, I felt that changing my angle on research and broadening my experience would be greatly beneficial for my eventual applications to graduate school.
In September of 2019, I joined Dr. Tony Wilson's DICON Lab at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. I'm reaching my one-year mark with Tony and can say it's been an awesome experience. I'm learning in-depth how to process and analyze Magnetoencephalography (MEG) data, and have helped develop key tools for the lab to use in our processing pipeline.
Firstly, I believe that each of my research experiences thus far has blended exceptionally well, giving framework for a successful career in cognitive neuroscience. I'm currently building my portfolio as I work toward graduate program applications. More to come!