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Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Danielle Sychowski ’19 - Synapse President

Danielle Sychowski is the student president of Synapse, whose goal is to make neuroscience accessible for all. Synapse is at the forefront of coordinating Brain Awareness Week.  


“Synapse is constantly looking for ways to branch out and include other departments in an effort to learn how the brain works. This is reflected in our membership, where we have many members who are majoring in studies other than just neuroscience.”


Brain Awareness Week is coming up soon, how involved is your organization in planning these events? What is the overall experience of coordinating a week long program such as BAW?

Synapse is a major contributor to organizing Brain Awareness Week (BAW) and all of the events that go into it. While BAW is a highly collaborative week, Synapse is the group that truly brings it all together by reaching out to faculty/staff/students and inviting them to give talks/presentations or participate in events. Synapse also organizes the catering for several of the events because we know the power of free food! Overall, coordinating BAW is a highly stressful, yet very rewarding experience. Because we are a student organization, we rely on our members to volunteer time out of their busy college schedules to contact professors about participating, work with the Gates Center, order catering through Parkhurst, create and distribute advertisements, and collaborate with the other groups and organizations that help with BAW.

While the week is highly focused on academics, one of the goals of Synapse is to make neuroscience accessible for all. There are two of our BAW events that I think truly brings this together: the Friday, November 16th showing of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and the Saturday, November 17th entertainment featuring Chris Carter, a mentalist. These two events will be a fun way to close out BAW while also mixing in some facts about the brain.

What other programming events can students look forward to besides those for BAW?

While BAW is the most significant programming that Synapse participates in, we also host several other events throughout the year to make connections between neuroscience and other departments on campus in a meaningful and fun way. This past weekend, Synapse coordinated the Lake Forest College Walk to End Alzheimer’s team. As a team, we raised nearly $5,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association. This is a yearly event, and for the past several years now we have surpassed our fundraising goals.

Other events include movie showings featuring Lake Forest College faculty members on a discussion panel, experimenting with Miracle Berries, brain outreach for third graders, and collaborations between Synapse and other departments on campus such as Athletics, Music, and Religion.

The Neuroscience department has won an award for leadership innovation. What went into making you and your team innovative leaders?

I think that neuroscience in and of itself is a highly innovative field, and Synapse takes advantage of that. Neuroscience is a beautiful blend of biology, psychology, chemistry, philosophy, mathematics, and other fields. We are so lucky the Lake Forest College places such an emphasis on the liberal arts, and we us this to tie neuroscience in with all sorts of other fields on campus. Synapse has done collaborative events with nearly all the other major academic departments on campus to make neuroscience accessible for everyone - even if they are not a traditional “science student”.

Synapse is constantly looking for ways to branch out and include other departments in an effort to learn about how the brain works. This is reflected in our membership, where we have many members who are majoring in studies other than just neuroscience. This year, we have members majoring in art, English, religion, mathematics/computer science, and history,among several others.

As a student leader of Synapse, what is one lesson you’ve learned the hard way?

One lesson I have learned the hard way is that even if you are the most prepared you can possibly be for something, there are so many ways it can still go wrong! However, it is always important to focus on the many ways things go right. Being a student leader is challenging - some weeks it is extremely difficult to balance my course load, 3 jobs, Synapse, a social life, and sleep. Sacrifices are sometimes needed (often in the social life and sleep categories), but the outcomes are always going to be worth it.

How can students apply what they learn being part of this organization in the real world?

I hope that Synapse members can take away several things from this organization and apply them to the real world. Neuroscience is a highly collaborative field, and collaboration is essential in almost any career or real-world experience. You will often need to work with a variety of people who may have varying backgrounds to come together towards one goal. Synapse members are always collaborating and working together with other organizations/departments towards a common goal.

There is something for everyone in Synapse, and everyone contributes something. I think this group is very special in that we are all passionate about how the brain works and at the same time, have other passions that can be incorporated into learning about how and why the brain works.