Brianna Gonzalez’s parents bought her a microscope for her 10th birthdaye birthday. They had no idea at the time that the donation would help advance what would become a lifelong love of science.
Gonzalez’s passion and dedication to science was recently rewarded when she was named the 2022 recipient of the Stony Brook Foundation Board Research Fellowship, which will provide her with additional funding for her final year of college. graduate studies.
“I’ve been interested in science for as long as I can remember,” said Gonzalez, a doctoral student in the Integrative Neuroscience program in the Department of Psychology at the College of Arts and Sciences. “This scholarship allows me to focus on completing my thesis without worrying about financial difficulties.”
Encouraged by her parents, Gonzalez participated in science fairs almost every year in elementary and middle school, and an AP course in high school inspired her to study psychology in college. With a similar interest in research, she enrolled at the University of Florida, not far from her home in South Florida, for her undergraduate studies.
“At UF, I took a behavioral neuroscience class in my freshman year which was by far my favorite class,” she said. “I loved learning about the brain and epigenetics, and quickly found my niche in a gene-environment interaction lab.”
Her research and training at UF led her to the lab of Turhan Canli, professor of integrated neuroscience at Stony Brook. “Prof. Canli used to do similar research and was among the first to identify gene-by-environment interaction in the brain,” Gonzalez said. in Neuroimaging in his lab using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).I applied to the Integrative Neuroscience PhD program at Stony Brook University specifically to work in Prof. Canli’s lab.
During the interview process, Gonzalez was contacted by representatives of the Center for Inclusive Education (CIE), who encouraged her to apply for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program (LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship. ), which she received upon acceptance. the integrative neuroscience program.
“With the Bridge to the Doctorate scholarship, I received additional funding for my first two years,” she said. “Through the generosity and support of CIE, it became clear that Stony Brook was the best place for me to complete my PhD.”
Gonzalez’s research focuses on integrating social psychology topics with neuroscience methods to better understand real-life issues and the implications they have on society. His work includes a series of political cognition projects involving the encoding and memory of “fake news”, as well as projects related to empathy and intergroup bias.
Gonzalez said she started her PhD in 2017 when there was a lot of discussion around the politicized term “fake news” and she had the opportunity to work with Canli and her lab colleague to build the fMRI project from scratch. “I think this research is very important and timely,” she said. “I hope one day I can apply it in the real world and have a lasting positive impact on society by changing the way we think about political ‘fake news’.”
Canli said Gonzalez’s thesis addresses a crucial question: Does partisanship alter how the brain judges news as “fake” or “real”?
“Brianna has a passion for combining science with public policy,” Canli said. “Even when we know a certain piece of information is ‘fake’, does our brain process it differently and encode it as truth, when the news turns out to be in line with our own political bias? She has already identified the regions of the brain that differentiate between political messages that are consistent or inconsistent with the viewer’s own beliefs, and is now investigating whether these messages are also processed differently by the brain’s memory circuits. exciting work.
Gonzalez said her experience at Stony Brook was very comprehensive, evidenced by long-lasting relationships and life-changing experiences, and that the support of her peers, faculty and CIE staff “helped me to get to where I am today.”
“I have received several scholarships that have allowed me to explore different career paths, present at research conferences, and build a network of relationships inside and outside academia,” said she declared.
Gonzalez has also served as the coordinator and head instructor of Pink Gloves Boxing (PGB) at the campus recreation and wellness center for the past four years.
“PGB empowers women, builds community and is a safe space to learn boxing while having fun,” she said. “Although I recently left this position to focus on my dissertation, I am still a proud supporter of this incredible program at Stony Brook.”
Gonzalez said the classes she took at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science were instrumental in her career as a research scientist, teaching her how to engage others, build a personal brand and communicate with anyone. public to build trust in science. As for her postgraduate plans, Gonzalez said she was always exploring any career opportunities that would open up once her doctorate was completed.
“I have a passion for teaching and mentoring and intend to apply for undergraduate teaching positions in psychology and neuroscience on Long Island,” she said. “I also plan to apply for industry positions related to my field and the research I conducted at Stony Brook. Another avenue for me is user experience research, where I can continue to study human behaviors and cognitive processes.
As for her scholarship, Gonzalez is both honored and grateful for the support she received from the psychology department.
“They always watch over me and never fail to recognize my work and the promise of my thesis research,” she said. “I am grateful to have been selected for this scholarship by the Graduate School and I very much appreciate this recognition.”