COVID-19 doesn’t stop research.
Just last year, Sarah Greenwell graduated from West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School.
Being involved in research has been part of Greenwell’s academics since her sophomore year of high school, but started even before that when she took her first biology class.
“I like the scientific process,” said 19-year-old undergraduate sophomore Greenwell.
Majoring in neuroscience, Greenwell’s current research focuses on how variations in edge functional connectivity correlate with day-to-day changes in mood and physiology. Being part of the Women In STEM Summer Research Program has brought Greenwell a chance to connect with other like-minded students.
Greenwell wanted to find a smaller community at IU that cared about research the way she did. That’s when she met the floor leaders in the Women In STEM LLC program. Greenwell mentioned that the women are focused not only on their careers but on their love for STEM.
“I like that they are focused on academics,” Greenwell adds.
This summer Greenwell is working remotely working on her research project with Assistant Professor Rick Betzel, in the Department of Psychological and Brain Services research lab.
The Brain Networks and Research Lab focuses on the analysis of network data to understand underlying principles that shape the organization and function of biological neural networks.
Although the coronavirus has made research in coding and statistical analysis for Greenwell difficult, Greenwell continues to connect with Dr. Betzel through seminars, lectures, and Friday meetings over Zoom.
Greenwell and Dr. Betzel meet on Mondays over Zoom to review results and game plan for the week. During this time, Greenwell spends time researching and running code in MATLAB. By making brain maps from MRI scans, Greenwell is able to see how compartments of the brain change in shape and activity level on a day-to-day basis.
Greenwell spends most of her time running and tweaking code to find trends and correlations in brain networks and sleeping and emotional patterns. Dr. Betzel and his lab invite guest speakers around the world to speak about their latest neuroscience research.
This opportunity lets Greenwell and other lab members read their research and discuss it with them.
“In many ways, this is the most important part of my research because I hear how experts in the field discuss and tackle issues at the forefront of neuroscience research,” Greenwell said.
Meanwhile working at the lab, Greenwell has been able to widen her knowledge of neuroscience and understand new methods to better understand why people think differently, especially individuals with mental disorders.
Greenwell is one of the Women in STEM LLC residents to receive the summer research program scholarship that allows her to continue doing research.
Her love for science comes from her mother’s influence. Greenwell’s mom is a clinical assistant professor for the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at Purdue University. Her mother’s expertise in identification, evaluation, and clinical management of speech and language disorders in children.
Greenwell remembers her mother talking about mental abnormalities and her interest in developmental cognitive neuroscience in specifically atypical development.
Greenwell’s work in Dr. Betzel’s lab allows her to grow in her studies.
“It’s humbling and exciting to learn what they work on, I learn more from grad, Ph.D. students from talking to them,” she said. “I love working with them in the lab, they are a whole piece of the learning process.”