My Neurochemistry Capstone Experience

Neurochemistry wasn’t exactly my first choice for a capstone course (just hearing the name sounds scary and intimidating), however I had heard great things about the course so I decided to take a chance even with my very minimal background in Neuroscience and a slight distaste for Chemistry. But now as I reflect upon my capstone experience in the Neurochemistry course I took this semester, I am incredibly thankful for the information I learned and how this information will impact my viewpoints going forward.

In many ways I think my experience in Neurochemistry this semester fulfilled the Concordia College goals for liberal learning and will help me become more responsibly engaged in the world. Prior to this class, I did have some knowledge about the definitions of basic disorders of the brain, like Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Interestingly, I haven’t had much personal experience or known someone with a lot of these medical conditions that we discussed throughout the semester, so learning the pathways and epigenetic mechanisms that play a role in disorders like ALS, addiction, and Parkinson’s disease took my understanding of the brain to another level. At the same time, learning about these conditions was frustrating because there is so much information and research available, but in most cases there isn’t a cure and the treatments seemed generalized for everyone on a trial and error basis. This knowledge and appreciation for the neurochemical imbalances that can take place in the brain will definitely help me in my future career as a health professional and how I approach my life going forward.

A very important aspect of this Neurochemistry capstone was developing our skills at transferring our understanding of science to others. This occurred in several ways: writing blog posts about topics from the week, leading discussions about a certain disorder of the brain, doing more in-depth research on our topic of the week and sharing that in both written and oral form to our classmates, and finally completing our semester long community action project to inform the community about the neurochemical basis and social basis of different brain topics. In conjunction with many other sciences courses I have taken at Concordia, I have taken away that making sure that science is understandable and available to the general public extremely relevant and important for producing change. Science informs policy, it impacts our everyday choices, it influences our health, and much, much more. In order to have the biggest worldly impact through science, communicating its value to others who don’t have a background or as large of an appreciation for science is critical. Through this Neurochemistry course, I have gained more confidence in reading, researching, clearly communicating the scientific articles that I read.

One of the most fulfilling parts of this class was carrying out the community action project. My group decided to focus the topic of mental health on eating disorders. We found this a particularly relevant topic to communicate to our peers, coaches, and student athletes. It was a great way to learn more about a topic we hadn’t discussed in class and be able to educate others on the importance of understanding the science behind eating disorders and also how they impact us and others around us. I think this was another great example of how we used our knowledge gained in the Neurochemistry course to try to influence the affairs of the world, specifically getting a discussion going on campus about the prevalence of eating disorders in our age group and among student athletes.

In many ways, my favorite part of the class was our weekly Friday discussion days. This time was a great way to get together, try to dissect the science we had just read earlier in the week, try to come up with answers to questions (but mostly come up with more questions), and hear different perspectives on topics. I think this was a great way to meet the goal of creating interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives and making connections with other areas of knowledge. I definitely brought a more biological and physiological perspective to the table, since my primary scientific interests lay there. But it was also great to hear and learn more from people who had more interest or a better background in the chemistry, genetics, and psychological aspects of our discussions.

Overall, my education at Concordia has instilled a love for learning. As I prepare to graduate this weekend I have thought several times about how four years here has been enough, but also how it hasn’t. I am so thankful for everything that I have learned, but I know there are so many things I still don’t know about Biology, Chemistry, the arts, Religion and that I truly and deeply want to learn about it all! In this way, my liberal arts education has taught me that there are always more things, and very interesting things to learn in many different disciplines and that every opportunity to learn and ask questions should be taken.