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Meet Hrishika Muthukrishnan, a Senior Neuroscience Major. She works in Dr. Jessica Cassidy’s Cassidy Plasticity Lab. Research in the Cassidy Plasticity Lab focuses on the human movement system across the lifespan, using structural and functional neuroimaging, electroencephalography, and neurostimulation to investigate neuroplastic change in the brain during motor development, injury, and disease.

Tell us about your research. I perform EEG scans on subjects as well as process the data afterward for data analysis. I’ve also worked on researching the effectiveness of various brain imaging techniques within the pediatric population, particularly those affected with stroke. Currently, I’m enrolled in NSCI 395 and I’m examining the relationship between cortical thickness and EEG Power utilizing a program called Freesurfer. In this program, I process MRI scans taken of stroke individuals in order to prepare for data analysis.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned? Branching out is rewarding! I used to work in molecular biology and now I work in neuroscience. You’d be incredibly surprised by the diversity and versatility of the labs Carolina has to offer. I took my time finding the lab I currently work in and I’m so glad because I wouldn’t have been blessed with doing such interesting things directly related to neuroscience.

What is something cool you’ve learned working in your lab that you didn’t know before? To be processing and examining brain structure within stroke patients is something I never would’ve imagined as an undergraduate. I had always thought you needed a medical degree or be highly qualified to even look at these types of scans. I also know how to work an EEG cap now and perform an EEG scan on an individual, another thing I didn’t think you could learn as an undergraduate.

Do you think people have any misconceptions about undergraduate research? I think people have the misconception that you just have to get into any lab that offers you the opportunity. I think it’s important for students to realize that you have to fall in love with the lab and its mission as much as the PI has to like you to be in his or her lab. It’s a lot more beneficial to respective parties when you’re volunteering in a lab whose mission you care about.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your research? Thankfully, the University shutting down has not affected my ability to perform research as the majority of my research consists of data processing and literature reviewing, which I have the flexibility of doing from my own laptop.

Our Undergraduate Research Series features spotlights on our Psychology and Neuroscience majors and minors who are conducting undergraduate research with our faculty! We believe strongly that undergraduate experiences are greatly enriched by inquiry and discovery through undergraduate research. Research experiences allow students to better understand literature, determine areas of interest, discover their passion for research, continue on to graduate studies, and to jump start their careers as researchers. If you are an undergraduate who is interested in pursuing research experiences, we offer PSYC and NSCI 395 as an opportunity to work side-by-side with graduate students and faculty members on cutting-edge psychological and neuroscience research. We also recommend you visit the Office for Undergraduate Research to find research opportunities, apply for research funding, and for helpful tools and advice. Research opportunities abound at UNC – find one that works for you!

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