|Being a brain pays off|
Guardian Lifestyles Reporter
Published: Jul 11, 2012
Rickeem Butler is a “brain” and it’s paying off. The 18-year-old was given the opportunity to participate in the Behavioral Research Advancement in Neuroscience (BRAIN) summer research and development internship with experts in the field of neuroscience.
The 10-week program, which runs May 23-August 4, is being held at Georgia State University for undergraduate students. It is comprised of daily workshops on various science-related topics, and allows students to participate in research projects with acclaimed scientists and researchers.
Research topics students may have the opportunity to be a part of include molecular biology, cellular communication, neural systems analysis, behavioral investigations, comparative studies, clinical and biomedical application and computer modeling.
Science majors are encouraged to take advantage of the program in order to develop strong research skills, improve their scientific thinking, gain experience with cutting edge research techniques, become comfortable in a research environment, benefit from attentive monitoring and earn a competitive edge for graduate programs.
“I feel so honored to be in this program. It has been really enlightening and just amazing so far,” said the young man who is studying biology and chemistry with a minor in neuroscience.
Butler, who has completed his freshman year at the prestigious Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia, and who aspires to be a surgeon, said the internship is perfect for him because it had been his goal to participate in an internship after his first year. When he heard about the BRAIN program he said he knew he had to apply for it.
“Knowing that over 1,200 students generally apply to the program annually, some with really impressive resumes or others who are at least seniors in their BS [bachelor of science] program, really made me think my chances were slim to get in, so it was a shocker for me to be accepted as a freshman to this amazing program,” he said.
In the six weeks that he’s been in the program Butler said he has been learning about topics that he hasn’t even touched on in college yet, like electrophysiology, behavioral pharmacology, microbiology and molecular biology.
“I have been learning so much in these last few weeks. It’s a lot of information and I’m learning invaluable lessons in research techniques and getting an inside look at current studies in neuroscience. It’s just amazing. I have done general biology so far, but in the series of workshops I am undergoing with the internship I am learning a plethora of topics,” he said.
Butler believes the experience will be a boost for his continued studies at Morehouse College, and that the research techniques he is learning now will be an asset to his future resume and career in neurosurgery. His time in the program has already started to influence his career path, as he now hopes to not only be a neurosurgeon but to also do research in neuroscience, particularly in improving treatments for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
“I’ve really been inspired to not only do the practical or hands on side of neuroscience which is surgery, but I want to also do the theory and research,” said Butler. “I really would like to make a difference in this field. I believe I have a lot to offer and I am becoming more and more passionate the deeper I get into my program and now even this summer research experience. At the end of the day when I am done with my medical studies I would hope to be able to return home and really contribute to neuroscience in the country.”
Butler is one of 40 paid interns at the summer institute.
Students eligible for the program are those who are interested in a neuroscience research career and are included in any of the following groups: Students with documented disabilities, first-generation college students, Pell grant-eligible students, racial and ethnic minorities currently underrepresented in neuroscience, students from Georgia State University, Agnes Scott College, Emory University and Spelman College.
The science major thinks his 3.81 cumulative grade point average, along with his research background (Butler along with his professor and classmates discovered a unique protein in the blood of diabetics. The findings are currently being copyrighted) and passion for the field got him accepted. He believes the call he put in to the program’s directors about why he would be a good candidate for the internship despite his limited experience also helped.
In time, Butler hopes to continue to achieve in all he puts his mind to. He has many more dreams that he has yet to put his full attention to, and he expects with more motivation and determination he will be able to achieve whatever comes his way.
But no matter how far he goes, or how much he achieves, Butler said he will never forget his roots. The 2011 St. Augustine’s College graduate, who walked away with the Deacon Leviticus Adderley award for the most outstanding male, was also the National Merit Scholarship winner that year. His mother, Verneki Butler, advised him to turn the $30,000 down because he had already started school at Morehouse College on a full four-year scholarship.