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As a McNair Scholar, Serena Dow '19 is researching tactile sensitivity in rats.


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Serena Dow '19

McNair Scholar

Major in Creative Writing, Minors in Biology and Psychology

Through her work in the McNair Scholars Program, Serena is studying how oxytocin impacts tactile sensitivity in rats.

As a McNair Scholar, Serena Dow '19 is researching tactile sensitivity in rats.

What motivated you to become a McNair Scholar?

I always wondered if research was for me and I wanted to know if it could lead to a possible career path. I knew that the McNair Scholar Program would offer me the opportunity to explore my interests through research while exposing me to a wide range of new professors and resources. I also wanted to be surrounded with a team of individuals who were just as passionate as I am. The biology professor and chair of the neuroscience program, Judy Thorn, also encouraged me to apply for the program. I am so glad that she did.

Describe your research. What inspired you to pursue this project?

For my research, I'm seeing if the neuropeptide oxytocin impacts tactile sensitivity in rats. My brother, Aidan, has autism and often experiences the world differently than me, especially through touch. Because of this, I wanted to investigate how something as simple as a neuropeptide could influence the way people feel things. I was also interested in oxytocin because research suggests that it can impact people on a social level so I wanted to see if it also had physical effects.

What Knox resources might've influenced or assisted this project?

Professor and chair of psychology Heather Hoffmann helped me shape my project into what it is today. I took an independent study with her called "Research on Autism" where I read a vast amount of literature on the developmental disorder and neurotransmitters. The psychology class Research Methods & Statistics II (PSYC 282) also helped my project tremendously. I created the backbone of my project in that class. I'll be eternally grateful for professor of psychology Tim Kasser's outstanding lectures, which will help me over the summer and beyond.

What are your future plans? 

After Knox I plan to go to medical school and specialize in either psychiatry or pediatrics for my residency. I was recently accepted into the Early Selection Program at the George Washington School of Medicine. The McNair Program gave me the confidence to apply for the GW program and definitely helped me during my interview. I also plan to continue to continue my research at the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute at the George Washington University.

Serena Dow '19 is one of 10 McNair Scholars. Among her involvement on campus, Dow acts as the Director of First-Year Experience of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, is the co-president of the Neuroscience and Psychology Club, and participated in Student Senate. She also volunteers for Blessing in a Backpack.

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Printed on Tuesday, August 20, 2019