She’s heading into her third year as a UofL Cardinal, and neuroscience major Ava Peruski is taking part in hands-on research that is laying a solid foundation for her future. UofL News reached out to Peruski to learn about her summer adventure in UofL’s Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), a 10-week, funded research experience for undergraduates directed by the Center for Engaged Learning and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity.
UofL News: What are you researching this summer?
Ava Peruski: This summer I am researching autobiographical memory in the NeuroImaging Laboratory of Cognitive, Affective and Motoric Processes with cognitive neuroscientist Brendan Depue and a few other undergraduate students.
UofL News: Describe some of your experiences.
Peruski: Since we are working with neuroimaging data, I have been learning how neuroimaging works, along with how to perform preprocessing tasks and different analyses on raw data. I also will help run analyses on our project’s data.
UofL News: What are you learning about research as part of this program?
Peruski: So far, I have learned that research involves a lot of trial and error, and collaboration. Every meeting, we work through data and studies together, hypothesizing about different outcomes and sharing our thoughts. Collaboration allows everyone to learn from each other and formulate creative ideas.
UofL News: What are some of the key takeaways from your mentor (Dr. Brendan Depue)?
Peruski: Dr. Depue is a fantastic mentor! One of the main lessons that I have learned from studying with him is that it’s okay to be unsure and to make mistakes. He often has the other undergraduates and me try things for the purpose of getting hands-on experience and ‘learning by doing.’
This has included writing up my project proposal for SROP, as well as presenting a neuroimaging study to our lab group. Obviously, I have not had much experience with either of these, so I made a lot of mistakes. But, Dr. Depue was always completely encouraging and made sure I learned from my mistakes, and in the future, I’ll be better equipped. As someone who is a bit of a perfectionist, having a mentor show me it’s okay to make mistakes has been such a beneficial lesson.
UofL News: What are your future career goals and how is this experience shaping your aspirations?
Peruski: My main future career goal is to go to graduate school and then have a career in research, likely as a college professor. This experience has shown me a lot about the ‘behind the scenes’ of a college professor and a career in research. I’ve also been able to talk to Dr. Depue and other graduate students in the lab about applying to and being in graduate school, and they have given me some incredibly helpful and insightful advice.
UofL News: Do you feel this summer experience is a unique opportunity that UofL offers undergraduates?
Peruski: I know many colleges offer summer research programs for their students, however, I think that UofL’s SROP program stands out in that it allows undergraduates a lot of freedom to really make this experience their own. We also have professional development seminars we attend weekly, which I think is unique and very helpful.
UofL News: Anything else you’d like to share?
Peruski: If you are an undergraduate looking to get involved in research, I would highly recommend applying to SROP. I had no prior research experience before SROP, and this summer has been invaluable to my academic and career development.