Visiting Gettysburg as a senior in high school, James Taylor knew that it was a great fit- from the Psychology department to the beautiful campus.
Originally interested in medical school, he became intrigued by a career in academic research after realizing how much goes into and is gained from laboratory-based research.
During the spring of his freshman year, Taylor, a Psychology Major and Neuroscience Minor, was asked by Psychology Professor Kevin Wilson to work in Gettysburg's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab- a research partnership which has spanned several semesters and two summers.
Wilson's area of specialty is how the brain processes visual information, such as recognizing objects. "If you see a desk that's turned upside down or on its side, or at a funny angle, how does your brain know that that's the same desk that normally would be sitting upright? We're trying to understand how those processes are implemented and looking at which specific parts of the brain are involved."
One of their larger projects, sponsored by a grant from the Society of Mentors and their Students in the Neurosciences, investigated how the brain is activated when certain tasks requiring visual attention are incorporated or implemented.
They used Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI, to "basically take a picture of the brain and look at brain activity while someone's performing a task." This project culminated with a trip to San Diego where James presented a poster of his research at the Society for Neuroscience Conference.
Over the last two and a half years, Taylor has grown in his role and now is more involved in designing experiments, developing the hypotheses, and more recently has even assisted with writing manuscripts for publication with Professor Wilson. For Taylor, "the brain is just so complex and so fascinating- we're still learning about its basic functions and how it works."
What's it been like working together? Says Professor Wilson, "I'm sort of an easy going kind of mentor, and he's very responsible. I know that if I give James some work to do that he's going to be able to do it and I don't need to kind of look over his shoulder the whole time. He's been able to kind of jump in and hit the ground running, so to speak. In addition to his classes, he's also involved in other extracurricular projects on campus. And I don't think he sleeps. I don't know he fits it all in, but that's my best guess."