I’d always had a nagging interest in neuroscience, but I had decided early on in my undergraduate studies to major in mathematics, since I love solving problems and quantifying ideas. Part of me knew, though, that math alone wasn’t enough – I wanted to pursue something that could be more of a life passion, and that would allow me to make a bigger contribution to society. So, the summer before my junior year, I decided to enroll in the Synapses, Neurons, and Brains course from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Coursera.
That course was the push I needed to really realize my passion for the human brain. I learned about research initiatives that have been developing for studying brain science, and I was able to quickly grasp the basics and history of the field. I knew immediately that I wanted to hone the skills I would need to contribute to neuroscience research.
Although it wasn’t feasible to change my major so late in my degree program, I began looking for opportunities to work with biologists and neuroscientists in the context of my mathematics studies. The following summer I applied and was accepted into TECBio, a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. And this past spring, I was accepted into the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s MS program in computer science. As a graduate student and research assistant, I will be involved with collaborations between the Computer Science and Engineering Department and the University’s Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior – a state of the art facility dedicated to studying brain functioning and how it is related to human behavior.
The knowledge that I gained on Coursera has already given me a head start in some of my university artificial intelligence and psychology courses. I’ve also taken some programming courses, which have been very valuable and enjoyable. I’m constantly seeking opportunities to learn – even when I’m no longer enrolled in courses at university, I want to discover new things, and the availability and quantity of content on Coursera always meets my expectations.6