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‘I learned to be a better scientist at Rochester’

May 6, 2021

Among the few Black women to earn a PhD in neuroscience, Monique Mendes begins her career as a research scientist.

2021 Commencement: Rochester neuroscience PhD Monique Mendes

One of a few Black women to hold a PhD in neuroscience, Monique Mendes has been a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University after receiving her doctorate from Rochester last fall. (Courtesy of Monique Mendes)

Monique Mendes ’20M (PhD) has spent much of the past year establishing herself on the way to her childhood goal of becoming a research scientist.

Since earning her PhD in neuroscience from the School of Medicine and Dentistry last fall at the University of Rochester, Mendes has been a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Mark Schnitzer, an associate professor of biology and of applied physics at Stanford University. There, she’s investigating the complex interplay of astrocytes and dendrites in the dynamic ensemble of animal neurons.

2021 Commencement: Rochester toolkit selfie sign

Celebrate the Class of 2021!

Visit the Class of 2021 site for details about this year’s Commencement ceremonies and for a downloadable toolkit of materials to share your support on social media.

“This work will have a direct impact on studies focused on learning and memory,” says Mendes, who as a Rochester student was among the few Black women to graduate with a PhD in neuroscience.

As with many students who completed their degrees during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mendes is hoping to take part in an on-campus ceremony in the near future.

“It was an amazing experience,” says Mendes of getting her PhD at Rochester. “I learned to be a better scientist at Rochester and to ask difficult questions. I also gained many mentors. I felt supported throughout my career. There were so many people in my corner.”

A first-generation college and first-generation advanced degree student, Mendes enrolled in graduate school at Rochester as a McNair Scholar, which provides support for eligible scholars from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue graduate education. As a student, she was recognized for her teaching and mentoring, receiving both an Edward Curtis Peck Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student and the Outstanding Student Mentor Award.

Her long-term goal is to lead her own neuroscience research team, delving deeper into the role of astrocytes, the brain’s hippocampus, and their roles on behavior.

Read more about Mendes, her life as a Rochester student, and her goals.

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Category: Campus Life