Tuula Ritakari

Tuula Ritakari

Hey!

I’m Tuula, a Neuroscience undergraduate from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. One of the main reasons why I decided to apply for VISRA is the same as why I moved away from Finland for my undergraduate studies: I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, and I think that gaining work experience abroad is particularly beneficial in such an international field as scientific research. I was also exited about the variety of research done here at Vanderbilt, and thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to work on a completely new topic. Altogether, I hoped that this experience would help me better decide where and in what area of I would want to do my PhD in after I graduate next year.

During the 8 weeks that I’m spending here in Nashville I am working in Dr. Ariel Deutch’s lab, where I examine changes to neuronal morphology during development. Whist I am looking at the naturally occurring loss of dendritic spines that takes place in the rat brain, this project is particularly exciting as elucidating how these spines are lost could translate to a better understanding of schizophrenia, where dendritic spines are lost in abnormal amounts. This project is different to anything I’ve done before, and the experience I’ve gained will no doubt be useful for me later in my postgraduate studies.

So far, VISRA has been a great experience that I would heartily recommend to anyone who is considering doing a PhD, particularly if they might want to study in the United States. It’s a great opportunity not only to hone your skills as a research scientist, but also to learn more about the life and graduate studies here in the US. I’ve also had lots of fun outside the lab, meeting new people and exploring the mysterious Nashville. The program is wonderfully organised and I’ve felt very welcome throughout my whole stay. I couldn’t be more grateful for getting to spend my summer here at Vanderbilt.