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May 17th, 2013 by Lauren

Hello, world!

Ladies, gentlemen, those in-between, and/or none of the above: welcome! I am proud to present my LEEP Pioneer blog. Over the course of the summer, this blog will chronicle the thrilling journey of my LEEP project from confused, blundering beginnings to slightly less confused, triumphant completion. And, hopefully, I’ll uncover some prize nuggets of knowledge along the way.

First things first, let me introduce myself.

My name is Lauren Koppel. I’m a rising senior here at Clark University, pursuing a double-major in Psychology and Biology.

Psychology has been my passion ever since my very first term of freshman year, and my enthusiasm and fascination has only grown over time. While the human mind is too tremendously complex to ever understand completely, it’s my desire to one day understand it well enough that I can fulfill the capital ‘G’ Goals of psychology: “prediction and influence”. Whether it be through research, consultation, counseling, or any other field of work, I want to use my passion for psychology to improve the lives of others in whatever way I can.

My love of biology quickly developed as I began to branch out into neurobiology and studies of the brain itself. Though often ignored or undervalued by the psychological community at large, the physical body is equally intricate, elegant, and relevant compared to the metaphysical “mind” it houses. In fact, the dualist body/mind distinction is fundamentally inaccurate: no activity, even just thinking, is “purely” psychological. There are always underlying biological processes at work, even if we can’t yet measure, observe, or fully understand them. Therefore, as I see it, an understanding of biology is not only helpful but necessary if one is to truly understand the human mind.

This reasoning is what motivates my double-major, and my passion for neurobiology is what inspires my LEEP Pioneer project.

For my LEEP Pioneer project, I will be working with Professor Néva Meyer here in Clark’s own biology department, researching the development of neural stem cells in the embryos of Capitella teleta. As the annelid’s central nervous system is analogous to human brains and spinal cords, insight into C. teleta’s neural development can be applied to further understanding human neural development. Research of this nature has relevance in a number of fields, including neurobiology, phylogenetics, medicine, and mental healthcare. The significance and potential utility of analogous model organisms like C. teleta cannot be overstated.

It is my hope that through this project, I will be able to contribute to the larger community of neurobiological research, thus aiding (in my own small way) in the betterment of human lives. More realistically (and more quantifiably), I have a few smaller, more personal goals. My objectives include cultivating an understanding of the neural systems of annelids, developing my research & procedural skills, and refining my ability to write & present scientific material. And, of course, I aim to thoroughly enjoy myself along the way!

Here’s to the journey ahead. Cheers.

My project doesn’t officially start til the beginning of June, but until then I’ll try to provide relevant updates and background info!

Tune in next week for a brief introduction to annelids, nervous systems, and development!

- Lauren

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