Emily Perszyk–National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
Name: Emily Perszyk
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Hales Corners, WI
Opportunity and Year: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2018-19
Project Summary: Sensory-specific satiety (SSS) refers to the reduction in pleasantness of an already eaten food joined with continued attraction to novel, uneaten food (i.e., why dessert remains appealing despite feeling full). Though previous research has explored paradigms of attraction to taste or aroma food cues, the impact on SSS of food rheology has not, to date, been evaluated independently of flavor cues. Furthermore, effects of food rheology – being physical food structure (liquid, soft-solid, solid) – on satiation have barely been scrutinized at all. My proposed project, titled “Does changed rheological state cause escape from sensory-specific satiety in rats?” aims to investigate these literature gaps. Moreover, perceived fullness and lowered sensitivity to satiety signals might play a role in larger implications of overeating and obesity.
How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? My coursework and professors at W&L have been incredible, emphasizing the importance of understanding and thinking independently toward collaboration in a broader scientific context. In particular, the research design and writing skills I gained from many classes in the Psychology department were fundamental to my growth. Motivation and beneficial critique from professors helped me learn to confidently synthesize previous literature findings, formulate hypotheses and a suitable framework for testing, and communicate appropriately in preparing applications for this fellowship and graduate study.
Why did you apply for this opportunity? I first learned in-depth about this particular NSF fellowship through information sessions and resources in my 2017 Summer Research Opportunities Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Because of the NSF fellowship rule change (that a student can apply once as an undergraduate and again as a graduate student, but not twice as a graduate student), I realized that it couldn’t hurt to try! Submitting an application was win-win: worst-case scenario I would gain exposure to a basic form of a project proposal writing for grant opportunities; best-case I could walk away as a fellow myself.
Post-graduation Plans: I will be pursuing graduate study at Yale University in the Fall of 2018. I will be working toward a Ph.D. in the Neuroscience Track of their Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. My research interests primarily involve the intersections of taste, smell, and flavor through the use of combined neuroimaging, behavioral, and psychophysical approaches.
How will this opportunity help you achieve your goals? This fellowship provides me with familiarity of the NSF and a stipend that will supplement my earnings as a research and teaching assistant in Yale’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Specifically, I will be able to conduct my own approved project quickly and use it as a springboard for future work. The fellowship focuses not only on intellectual merit but also community outreach – I look forward to helping generate interest in STEM in the New Haven population, specifically lower-income females like myself.
Intercollegiate Women’s Basketball (Senior Co-Captain), Work-Study in the Office of Financial Aid, QuestBridge Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society
Sensory Neurobiology research at W&L under Dr. Robert Stewart. We characterized normal postnatal dendritic development of specific neuron types in a taste relay center of the hamster.
Computational Neuroscience research at the UW-Madison under Dr. Ari Rosenberg. I ran human subjects on novel contextual cueing paradigms of visual search and collaborated to develop analysis scripts of eye tracking data to characterize contextual learning in Autism Spectrum Disorders.