Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but what intrigues honors student Nitheyaa Shree more is how a person’s vision even begins to develop.
Shree, a rising junior majoring in neuroscience, is studying the connections that form soon after we’re born between our eyes and brains, down to the molecular level. For the past two years, she’s been an undergraduate researcher working with faculty in the Neuroscience Institute, housed in Georgia State University’s College of Arts & Sciences. She’s also a Presidential Scholar in the Honors College.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation and the U.S. Department of National Defense Education Programs have named Shree a Goldwater Scholar, one of 496 scholars selected from among 5,000 sophomores and juniors who applied from across the country. Goldwater Scholars are undergraduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields who receive up to $7,500 each year for two years.
“One of the main reasons I applied is because it’s one of the most prestigious undergraduate research scholarships, and I knew it would add value to my resume for when I’m applying for graduate school,” Shree said.
Shree’s fascination with how the brain develops began when she was in her formative years.
“I had this toy when I was very little that was a model of the human head that you could open up and it had a brain, and I was just amazed at how this little organ controlled everything in the body,” she said. “I still have that toy.”
A Ph.D. is part of Shree’s long-term plan, and her career goal is to become a principal investigator, running her own lab and pursuing research that she finds interesting. But for now, she’s focused on her learning and experiencing all she can as an undergraduate. Last April, she presented her research at the Georgia State Undergraduate Research Conference and the National Undergraduate Research Conference.
“I think it’s important to get involved in undergraduate research to get exposure on what’s going on in your field,” she said.
One of the research projects Shree has assisted with investigated how early visual experiences shape neural pathways by examining the visual regions of the brain in rodents raised in typical environments compared to those raised solely in the dark.
“If we can figure out what the difference is or how development occurs,” she said, “maybe we can figure out—even in human adults who have impairments or blindness—how to repair damage.”