Next Step: HARVARD
Graduating senior Ya'el Courtney, has had quite the impressive undergraduate college experience, and it comes as no surprise that she will now be attending Harvard this coming fall of 2019, to complete a PhD program in neuroscience.
After earning her G.E.D., Ya'el enrolled in Kent State University and was admitted into the Honors College, and dove straight into lab work, first in psychology, then for her biology major with a cellular molecular concentration, and minor in chemistry.
Throughout her college career, Ya'el says she was fortunate to gain valuable knowledge through various lab work, including wet labs, of which she states she had no prior experience. This added knowledge and networking with Kent State faculty in the lab led her to programs such as The Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) Neuroscience Pipeline program, an undergraduate summer research experience in neuroscience. As a program that provides phenomenal research training, the Pipeline program, in conjunction with the NIH Blueprint ENDURE Program and Washington University, prepares undergraduate college students from many different backgrounds for PhD neuroscience programs. The Pipeline program allowed for funding for two summers and a trip to the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting.
After Ya'el completed her junior year at Kent State and had acquired the foundations of working in a wet lab through faculty at the university, she spent the summer before her senior year at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (referred to as the Broad Institute), working 70 hours a week on the psychiatric research floor. Ya'el explains that this summer experience was not only about completing research, but also about understanding and practicing professional communication in regards to research findings, and mastering the skills of communicating your findings to the general public. Ya'el believes that these valuable skills greatly contributed to her admittance into both Harvard and Stanford. She further explains that through her professional communication training that she received, she has learned how to communicate her knowledge, market both herself and her experiences, and make science relatable to everyone.
With regard to the Honors College, Ya'el notes that as an honors student, the personal honors advising offered to her was very beneficial, as she describes herself as a "planner." Ya'el mentioned that the financial assistance provided by the Honors College was also a great benefit, along with smaller class sizes, and a fun discussion setting, as she experienced this first-hand in her Honors Ethics course with Professor Linda Williams. Ya'el credits her Freshman Honors Colloquium professor Dr. Sara Newman with providing an open structure for learning and creating an enthusiasm for learning. Ya'el says that Dr. Newman inspired her to collaborate with Dr. Josh Pollick, from the Department of Sociology, to explore regions of the brain and the theory of the mind in autism through a thirty-two electrode EEG study. Through this research, Ya'el was able to create a 30-page paper on the topic and her findings for her Freshman Honors Colloquium course. Ya'el explains that combining her work and research from two completely separate departments might not have been as widely accepted or supported in other coursework, as it was in the Honors College.
Ya'el credits the Honors College with its flexibility to allow coursework credit for conducting research, as she was able to complete a Senior Honors Thesis/Project her final year at Kent State. Over her time at the university, Ya'el has been fortunate to have several peer reviewed journal articles published, has presented at networking conferences, and still has multiple articles pending for publication.
As her career continues at Harvard and beyond, Ya'el hopes to complete complete significant and influential research in the area of psychiatric diseases, specifically schizophrenia, while looking for the cellular, molecular and/or genetic reasons for the disease, and then partner with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that her research and findings are used to further develop cures and medications for these diseases. She sees this as a longitudinal effort, and hopes that her efforts and findings will create a significant impact someday in the world of neuroscience.
The Honors College wishes Ya'el Courtney well, as she travels to Harvard University in August 2019!