The Mellon Foundation awarded $150,000 to Knox College for a research project entitled “Pedagogies, Communiti...
Loves Park, IL
Major in BS Neuroscience, Minors in Biochemistry and Psychology
How do you define the benefits of a liberal arts education?
As part of a liberal arts college I not only have the freedom to explore new studies, but I have also found great benefit in the variety of educational opportunities and expertise within the disciplines that interest me, such as in psychology, neuroscience, and biology. My current research on campus focuses on behavioral pharmacology, experimental psychology, and cognitive psychology.
What are your top three strengths? Tell me a story that includes them.
My top three strengths are organization, being comfortable with making mistakes, and motivation. When I first joined the Knox Cognition and Aging Lab (KCAL) to work with Patricia Xi, assistant professor of psychology, I had not performed research before. I didn’t know what to expect from this new experience, but I relied on three important values. One, everyone makes mistakes at the start in order to learn. Two, do not cut corners, even if it is time consuming or difficult. Three, commit to learning the concepts and the background behind why we ask the research questions. This is all tied together by organization because it is also important to stay on top of my classwork and well-being.
Which other Knox professors or faculty have helped guide you?
For one of my research projects I work with Heather Hoffman, Robert M. & Katherine Arnold Seeley Distinguished Professor and chair of psychology, assisting her with the administrative aspect of her independent study. She is my faculty mentor for my senior research, and I was a teaching assistant for her in the fall. I love that I can ask her questions that most people don’t have the answers for.
I really appreciate Mary Crawford, Associate Dean of the College and Philip Sidney Post Professor of Chemistry. I have been her teaching assistant a couple of times. I will always look back and appreciate all the conversations and insights she has given me.
Esther Penick, associate professor of biology and chair of neuroscience, has been my advisor since the end of sophomore year when I officially declared my major in neuroscience. She has been a point of reference as I planned my academic path, encouraging me to explore my interests and take classes outside of the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center (SMC). I am grateful for the encouragement to do something outside my comfort zone, even though I still spend a lot of time in SMC.
Which courses did you take outside of your comfort zone?
During my first and second years I took MUS 100 Music Reading and Skills with Pierce Gradone, assistant professor of music, which was fun. ART 119 Digital Photography 1 was super cool. I have vivid memories of walking around campus an hour per week with my first-year roommate taking photos for assignments. I took photos of him, some of which I heard are still used as examples in the class. The Spanish course I took was the biggest challenge. I had to put in a lot of effort to speak Spanish when opportunities arose. I think that these challenges apply more generally to other facets of my life that are complicated and confusing. Ultimately, it is more important to make the effort.
What do you cherish most about the Knox campus?
There are a lot of really unique, very experienced people here. Particularly students because so many come from such diverse, unique backgrounds. Something 19th President Teresa Amott said during my incoming meeting is, “You are always going to learn the most from those who are the least like you.” Put yourself out there, talk to people you wouldn’t think to talk to. Doing so will allow you to fall into and embrace the diversity and the opportunities that Knox has to offer.
John Brent IV will participate in the post-baccalaureate program at the University of Minnesota College of Medicine in the Department of Neuroscience as part of the Minnesota Inclusive Neuroscience Development Scholars (MINDS) program doing neuroscience research and working with experts in the field. He wants to work in neuropharmacology and investigate how different therapeutic drugs can be used to treat neurological disease and disorder.