Rebecca Brenner, 2016

Student, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis

How has being a P&N graduate helped shape your professional success?

I am currently an MD-PhD candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. Duke’s Neuroscience program both helped me decide to become a physician scientist and gave me valuable tools to succeed in academic medicine. Specifically, I discovered my passion for research while doing my interdisciplinary thesis project in developmental neurotoxicology and philosophy with Dr. Ed Levin and Dr. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. My mentors’ thoughtful discussions sparked my interests in the development of morality, psychiatric illnesses, neural networks, the effects of drug abuse, neuroprediction and neuroethics. They taught me to think critically about the gaps in our current knowledge and how to design experiments to fill those holes. In addition, Duke's Neuroscience program more broadly allowed me to explore how people think about and conceptualize the world given their unique neural structures and environment. This knowledge will help me better understand my patient's perspectives and connect with patients from a variety of backgrounds.

What advice would you give students in Neuroscience?

I would encourage students to explore all the areas of Neuroscience from neuroethics to molecular neuroscience. Neuroscience is an expansive field with lots of distinct approaches to studying the brain. By exploring different areas, you can get a more complete picture of how the brain influences people's actions and how genetics plus the environment influences the brain. In addition, I think it is crucial to find good mentors who challenge you, listen to you and are willing to be your advocate. Mentorship is a large part of all disciplines so I would encourage students to find a faculty member or members whom they connect with and whose work they find intriguing. Discussing other people's passions with them is a good way to discover what excites you intellectually (and what does not). I would take advantage of all opportunities to have thoughtful conversations with your professors such as FLUNCH, individual meetings and even simply chatting after classes.

Rebecca Brenner, 2016