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While running memory experiments in Associate Professor of Psychology Matthew Kelley’s cognitive psychology lab, Sydni Cole ’12 developed a new technique that explores how we remember lists of words—one that has practical and theoretical implications for understanding memory. She shared these results in her award-winning senior thesis and as first author of an article written with Dr. Kelley in the prestigious Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition.
Journal publication demonstrated her research had substance, aiding her acceptance into Northwestern University’s Medical Scientist Training Program, a highly competitive MD/PhD program that will prepare her for a career in medical research and clinical practice. “In Dr. Kelley’s lab, I got autonomy that I don’t think I would have had at another school and gained skills that helped me after graduation,” said Sydni, a neuroscience major and chemistry minor who now works in a cognitive neuroscience lab at Northwestern until she starts graduate school in fall 2014. “A big part of research is problem solving. Having gone through that in a nurturing environment, I know that all scientists have to deal with these types of challenges. I gained skills that allow me to overcome them.”
Sydni increased her undergraduate research experience through a Lake Forest College partnership with Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine and Science, and also credits the research-oriented neuroscience classes for training her to think and act like a scientist. Coursework included reading and reviewing dozens of current journal articles, writing a grant proposal, and giving presentations from the perspective of an assigned neuroscientist. “Lake Forest College teaches you skills that you will use in your career,” she said.