Finding My Niche

By: Dimitri Johnson

    Science is an act of self expression for me because I’m a deeply curious person and I have many questions about life.  These questions are usually answerable by science or science can give me a brief introduction to whatever pathway I am interested in.  My specific scientific interests lie with the brain,  the effects of nutrition on the body, and the effects of exercise on the body and mind.  Besides these specific interests I love learning about the ‘root’ of things and being a biology major has taught me about how intricate life and the world around us is.  Going from a biology class to a chemistry class really puts life into perspective and it was fun for me to view one discipline through the lens of another. 

    The brain has always been fascinating to me and seemingly most people.  This is likely because it controls everything we perceive.  I’m deeply curious about where consciousness stems from.  I am really curious about anything that science has trouble localizing in the brain such as memories as well as conscious thought. As for doing an actual research myself I do have experience doing psychology research on anxiety responses in hamsters.  I enjoy this research because I get to work with my hands a lot and think about why the animal might give a certain response.  I did work in a neurobiology lab one summer and I found out neuroscience would not be the right field for me.  While I enjoyed doing the benchwork for running an electrophysiology experience and learning new lab techniques, I did not enjoy spending half a week performing computational data analysis that involved coding.  I like figuring things out but not when it comes to numbers.  I might spend a whole day figuring out a line of code to run a task.  Once I found out that this sort of analysis is very common in neuroscience I no longer was interested in doing further research in the field.  I still enjoy reading the papers and learning more, but sitting at a computer for half the week is not for me.  

    Growing up I always was in some sort of sport, but I didn’t realize I loved exercise.  After high school I no longer did a sport and that’s when I realized I missed the physical and mental effects.  I started to explore what effects exercise has on mental health and I found that it in general had a stronger effect than medication on treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.  This really has helped me in college with keeping me grounded and motivated.  The physical effects of exercise people generally know about.  Being healthier and feeling stronger is always a benefit.  Another physical benefit I enjoy is somewhat mental, and that is the endorphin rush I get during a long bout of cardiovascular exercise.  I have always been into optimizing what I can about myself that is within control and exercise is an outlet for this. Science questions that ask if certain types of exercise give you a cognitive boost are typically what I am interested in now.  I am also interested in questions that relate to long term cardiovascular health. I have not previously done any research in this area but it is definitely a goal of mine. 

    I’ve been interested in diet as long as I’ve been lifting weights since high school.  I’m curious to know how nutrition can maximize my exercise recovery.  I have also not done research in this area, but I want to explore how nutrition can affect long term health outcomes. Another niche area of this is how nutrition ties in to cognitive performance. I would like to explore questions like, how come after we eat some of us feel a slump?  Changing my diet has made me feel physically better and mentally more clear. This is a key area I want to explore in my career.

    In my eyes my interests revolve around a healthy lifestyle and how that impacts the body physically and mentally.  The brain, exercise, and nutrition all play a role in this ultimate interest. 

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