My work focuses on science communication, education, and outreach. These projects highlight some of the major trends in my work.
Allen Institute education program
Starting in 2018, I developed the Allen Institute’s education program from the ground up. This program reaches college and high school educators and their students with free teaching resources that introduce and support the Institute’s openly available data and research resources as teaching tools. My efforts on this program include:
- Developing, refining, and continuously updating the mission and goals of the education program to support the next generation of scientists through access to cutting-edge scientific knowledge, data, and other resources
- Creating lesson plans on neuroscience, cell biology, and immunology
- Curating lessons developed by educators, and developing relationships with high school and college faculty to support them to do so
- Overseeing and mentoring scientists to develop lesson plans that teach their area of expertise and target appropriate learning goals and levels for students
- Developing two webinar series (one for teachers and one for students)
- Developing a formal field trip program (on hiatus due to Covid)
All materials and webinars are available at alleninstitute.org/learn.
Imaginary Minds: Talks
Part public science talk, part theatrical experience, my Imaginary Minds presentations blend fictional narratives with real science to entertain as well as educate. For each presentation, I take a creature from folklore or classic horror literature, dive into real neuroscience and psychology related to its story or powers, and create a narrative that ties the fictional inspiration and real science together. Past topics have included zombies (functional specialization in the brain), Frankenstein’s creature (neural development, regeneration, and engineering, and research ethics), and werewolves (comparative neuroanatomy).
Learn more about the series and watch the videos here.
As a PhD candidate, I studied how different parts of the brain coordinate and communicate, how those patterns spontaneously shift over time, and how they shift in ways that can specifically be linked to learning a new skill. Patterns of brain connectivity, which I studied principally across the cortex, drift significantly from day to day or even from morning to afternoon. My work exploring these patterns could contribute to developing brain-computer interface decoding algorithms that can distinguish between natural drift and directed changes such as those caused by learning, which I also investigated.
I identified connectivity patterns particularly influenced by attempts to learn a new skill – in my study, we asked participants to play a computer game that was like a sideways version of Pac-Man. Those who successfully learned the task particularly experienced increased connectivity within the inferior parietal lobule, a region associated with sensory integration. Even unsuccessful attempts at learning caused changes in connectivity patterns, which were significantly different from the changes seen in those who did successfully learn the skill.
For a list of my publications, see here.