Taylor Ariko / Hannah Alderson & Samuel Grant

Questions for student:

Where are you from?

Orlando, Florida

In a few sentences tell us about your honors thesis! How would you describe it to someone not in your academic field?

I am investigating structural changes in the brain as a function of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) progression as well as Ischemic Stroke Recovery. I acquire this data using MRI scanners at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL). The purpose of the AD study is to develop a biomarker earlier in the disease progression than currently available, so patients have the best chance for increased quality of life. The purpose of the stroke study is to develop a baseline to measure the effectiveness of future ischemic stroke treatments.

How did you choose your mentor, and what do you recommend students interested in starting an honors thesis look for in a mentor?

I was introduced to Dr. Grant when he was my teacher for Quantitative Anatomy and Physiology. When speaking with him about research opportunities, I learned his area of research in neurodegenerative diseases closely aligned with my research interests. I began working with Dr. Grant in March of 2019 before starting my honors thesis the fall of 2019 to start learning the methods and gaining experience with the equipment. I would recommend to future students to be proactive in their community to find a mentor with research that interests them. I think it’s also important to develop a strong relationship with your mentor so try to find someone who you enjoy working with.

What are your plans after you graduate from FSU?

I will be pursuing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Miami. My decision to continue research in graduate school was fundamentally due to my positive experience in my undergraduate honors thesis. This experience was made possible by my amazing mentor, Dr. Grant, and I would not be the researcher I am today without his guidance.


Questions for student:

Where are you from?

Amelia Island, Florida

In a few sentences tell us about your honors thesis! How would you describe it to someone not in your academic field?

Hannah: My project was a part of an ongoing effort to understand what happens in your brain during the beginning of a migraine. I specifically focused on the blood flow and using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate how the blood flow changes during migraine and how migraine medications effect these changes.

How did you choose your mentor, and what do you recommend students interested in starting an honors thesis look for in a mentor?

Hannah: I was introduced to Dr. Grant when he was my teacher for Quantitative Anatomy and Physiology. When speaking with him about research opportunities, I learned his area of research in neurodegenerative diseases closely aligned with my research interests. I began working with Dr. Grant in March of 2019 before starting my honors thesis the fall of 2019 to start learning the methods and gaining experience with the equipment. I would recommend to future students to be proactive in their community to find a mentor with research that interests them. II chose my mentor because for one, he was really approachable. He was a professor for one of my core courses and I performed really well in his class, so I felt comfortable reaching out to him. Additionally, I was just really interested in his migraine project. When looking for a mentor, find someone who values you, wants to facilitate your growth as a researcher and ultimately wants to see you succeed. It’s hard to know if a mentor exhibits those things until you are working with them, but it’s important that they do. They should challenge you, but never should they make your life and research feel impossible.

What are your plans after you graduate from FSU?

Hannah: After I graduate from Florida State, I will be attending Vanderbilt University in pursuit of my PhD in Biomedical Engineering.


 

Dr. Samuel Grant - Thesis Director

Samuel Grant, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, chemical & biomedical engineering

Thesis Director

Questions for mentor:

What motivates or inspires you to mentor undergraduate students?

I enjoy engaging undergraduates in research because such activities reinforce and expand upon concepts and techniques developed during coursework. It is fulfilling to see undergraduates experience that special “ah-ha” moment when an open-ended problem of their own design clicks into focus with respect to their training. Most importantly, undergraduate research is a proving ground for graduate school, giving students the chance to develop critical thinking and analysis skills while being exposed to a graduate-level research environment to determine if it is the correct choice for their futures. Mentors get the unique opportunity to audition undergraduates as future graduate students.

What do you think characterizes a good mentoring relationship between student and honors thesis mentor?

An honors thesis mentor provides a framework and possibly an initial direction in which an honors student can blossom. I treat honors students as graduate students, and I treat graduate students as colleagues. Paring honors students with graduate students reinforces this mindset and generally proves mutually beneficial to both. It is important to provide guidance but also freedom for individual discovery (experimentally but more importantly in thought) as part of this process. After all, the mentor and student are together on common journey of investigation, which may lead in interesting and novel directions—an exciting prospect for both.

 

 

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