A Vision Scientist In The Making
By Blake Silberberg
Aaron Levi, a brain and cognitive sciences (BCS) major and current senior at the University of Rochester, is taking part in exciting research being done at the Flaum Eye Institute in the University’s Medical Center. Levi works with Dr. Krystal Huxlin on research to develop rehabilitation techniques for individuals who have lost visual perception due to stroke.
Levi became interested in BCS after taking the introductory courses in his freshman year. “I thought all of the course material was so interesting and often so relevant to everyday life,” he says. “It was really amazing to see how important your brain is to every function of your body and mind, and how it can build such complex behaviors from such basic functions.”
Levi became involved in research after attending a job fair and reaching out to his professors for information about ongoing projects. Before joining his current lab, Levi had the opportunity to work in a glial cell lab that focused on molecular neuroscience. “The University has such a large amount of research happening, which makes it pretty easy to try things out and find your own interests,” he explains. “Being able to participate in different types of specialized research within neuroscience has been an extremely valuable experience and allowed me to find where my own interests lie.”
Currently, Levi’s role involves testing the rehabilitation techniques on volunteers, and analyzing the effectiveness of the training programs. The program involves testing the subjects on simple visual stimuli, such as moving dots and bars. These exercises are conducted repeatedly throughout a training program, where Levi collects and analyzes how the subject’s responses improve over time. Additionally, the lab uses fMRI equipment to help map out the visual processing activity occurring in the subject’s brain.
After graduation this year, Levi hopes to continue to work in BCS research while applying to graduate programs. “Participating in research as an undergraduate has let me apply the things I’ve learned in class in a hands-on manner,” he says. “Learning new lab techniques also has given me an advantage in classes, and will certainly be valuable in applying for a graduate degree.”
Article written by Blake Silberberg, an intern at University Communications and a member of the Piggies. Silberberg is a senior majoring in political science. Photos courtesy of Aaron Levi.