Marlene Berke

Class of 2019

Hometown: New Milford, CT

What is your College Scholar project?
My project is on empirical approaches to the mind-body problem. That is, I want to use a variety of experimental and computational techniques like fMRI and machine learning to explore how the body, brain, and mind interact. I'm particularly interested in how internal physical states (like hunger or the microbe communities in the gut) affect cognition. A big, hot topic question right now is What does the brain know about the gut? I recently joined a lab that studies exactly this. I'm taking classes ranging from neurobiology and cognitive science to computer science and math. 

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?
I really enjoy TAing. It makes me so happy to get people excited about the topics that I love. Last semester, I TAed Intro to Neurobiology, and this semester, I'm TAing Introductory Statistics for Biology. It's a required class for biology majors, and many of the students have never done statistics or coding before. It's a privilege to help them discover the power of these methods. It also forces me to be very clear in communicating and think on my feet when faced with a surprising question. I love the challenge.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended.
I've spent the past two summer in Ithaca doing research. In particular, I related the computations performed in early vision to those performed in olfaction. I find summer a really productive time to focus solely on research.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?
After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school. I'm not sure exactly what the program will be called, as I believe it depends more on the labs I could join than the department's title. That said, I think it will be something along the lines of Cognitive Science, Psychology, Neuroscience, or even Neurophilosophy. Basically, I want to continue to do what I'm doing now -- studying cognition and the mind-body problem -- but at a higher level, with more opportunity for sustained, continuous research. After that, my dream would be an academic position, but who knows what other opportunities will catch my fancy!