Brandon Brewster has always been interested in research. He earned his BA in 2018 from Avila and returned to complete his Master of Science in Psychology in 2020. He is currently a 2nd Year Graduate Student in the Experimental Psychology – Cognitive Neuroscience Program at Saint Louis University.
Why was Avila and its psychology program the right fit for you?
Being a research assistant in the Emotions Lab gave me first-hand research experience writing research proposals, running participants, and analyzing results. The program also provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with The University of Kansas Medical Center for my master’s thesis, which investigated how resting-state functional connectivity of the brain is related to changes in inhibitory control in older adults. These experiences made me more competitive when applying for Ph.D. programs and provided me with the knowledge needed to further pursue a career in cognitive neuroscience.
What would you tell someone who is considering a similar path about Avila’s program?
Though it is not necessarily a cognitive neuroscience program, Avila provides a great opportunity to gain research experience, which is often essential when applying to Ph.D. programs. It is also possible to gain neuroscience experience through collaboration. Not only is the research experience beneficial, but the courses taught in the master’s program (cognitive and biological/physiological psychology and research statistics and methods) are also closely related to what I research in my current program.
How did Avila prepare you for your career?
The courses and research opportunities as a graduate student at Avila prepared me for my career by making me more competitive during the Ph.D. application process. Thanks to my experiences at Avila, I am now in an Experimental Psychology program, where I continue to use the knowledge I accumulated throughout my academic career to further pursue my aspirations of becoming a research scientist who investigates the development and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.
What professional goals do you have for the future, and how is your Avila education preparing you to pursue these goals?
My professional goal is to complete my Ph.D. at Saint Louis University and then pursue a post-doc position where I can continue to develop my research expertise, specifically using fMRI techniques. After my post-doc, I plan to become a research scientist, where I can then set up my lab which will investigate the development and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, in hopes of discovering/understanding risk factors and biomarkers of AD, to provide treatment much earlier, during the pre-symptomatic stages of AD. Avila has helped prepare me to pursue these goals by introducing me to neuroscience research through my undergraduate internship and master’s thesis and by providing me with the opportunity to develop as a researcher through research stats/methods coursework and as a research assistant in the Emotion’s Lab.
Who at Avila did you form an inspired relationship with, and how did they assist you?
I formed a very inspired relationship with Dr. Wagge and Dr. Pasqualini.
Since I was so interested in research, I took many research graduate courses taught by Dr. Wagge. She not only played a huge role in the development of my research knowledge, but she also served on my Master’s Thesis Committee. We also met frequently to discuss the Ph.D. application process. She helped narrow down the best possible programs for my specific interests, served as a Ph.D. application reference, and provided assistance when preparing for the GRE.
Dr. Pasqualini was my advisor and also ran the Emotions Lab. Dr. P is the reason I came back to Avila to earn my master’s degree. Once I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I applied to many research positions to gain additional research experience before pursuing a Ph.D.; however, all of these opportunities fell through. I reached out to Dr. P and she told me about the research opportunities available as a graduate student at Avila and encouraged me to apply for the program. I was accepted and was even given a research assistant position in Dr. P’s Emotion Lab, which not only provided necessary research experience but also helped cover course costs.
As my advisor, she provided me with insights into the Ph.D. process, helped me decide on the best programs for my career goals, and served as an application reference as well. Additionally, she served as a member of my Master’s Thesis Committee. We met frequently to develop my research ideas and also provided thorough feedback throughout the process. Since my time at Avila, we have also worked closely to get my thesis published in a research journal (currently in review), which would be my first publication.
I am very thankful for Dr. Pasqualini and Dr. Wagge as they both significantly contributed to where I am today.