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Why Neuro. or Psych.: Alumnae Tell Where the Majors Took Them


Back in the science classrooms that they had frequented not that long ago, four alumnae returned to campus for a “What I Did with My Major in Neuroscience and Psychology” panel. Hosted by the Career Center in collaboration with the Psychology Department on April 9, the event attracted 40 interested students and was followed by a networking reception.

Panelists included Nathalia Mahabir ’17, a psychology major working in therapeutic training at the Arbour Fuller Hospital; Laur Rivera ’16, a neuroscience major and lab manager at Colgate University; Savannah Knell ’10, a psychology major and campaign manager at the Partnership for a Healthier America; and Leeann Brigham ’09, a neuroscience major who works for Massachusetts General Hospital.

Though their daily tasks varied, all agreed that the most important skill they had to foster was learning how to effectively write.

The panel sought to showcase a wide range of industries, allowing students to see how studying similar majors could lead to working in different careers. To begin, each of the panelists answered the question on everyone’s mind: How did they choose a major in neuroscience or psychology, and why?

Responses varied—Brigham recalled walking into her “Intro. to Brain and Behavior” course and being absolutely entranced with the material; Mahabir said that after an intro. biology course she realized the original plan of following a pre-med track wasn’t for her. While Rivera and Knell knew of their passions upon entering Hamilton, all four alumnae said that the school’s open curriculum and ability to try different classes helped them learn what they did and didn’t enjoy.

Each alum also outlined their day-to-day jobs, revealing the differences between working in medical research, earning a Ph.D., or within medical marketing. Though their daily tasks varied, all agreed that the most important skill they had to foster was learning how to effectively write. From jotting down progress notes, talking with collaterals or clients, sending out emails, writing essays, or crafting campaign materials, there is always a need to write.

They also spoke on the importance of utilizing the alumni network with the reminder that “Hamilton alumni love helping Hamilton alumni,” a sentiment expressed by Knell. She talked about how she found her current role, which works with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy lifestyle initiative, because of help from another alum. “I can’t express how awesome this network is and how worthwhile it is to get that coffee, send that follow-up email, and definitely keep in touch with your colleagues and fellow students,” Knell said.

In fact, all four alumnae offered to share more information and materials on how to apply to the organizations they worked at, extending their connections out to everyone in the room. This sparked a discussion where students and faculty members from the Psychology department in the room began sharing their connections aloud and offering their time to help others—revealing just how easy making connections can be at Hamilton.

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