A Physical Therapy student conducting Neuroscience research?!

Hear from Justina Snyder ’20 on her neuroscience research!

Prior to coming to Ithaca College, I never imagined working with animals or running a hormone analysis. Thanks to the Ithaca College Honors Program and support from Dr. Fitzwater, an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department, this became a reality for me! It all started during the fall semester of my sophomore year, when I took Dr. Fitzwater’s Behavioral Neuroscience laboratory course for my neuroscience minor. While working in the lab and learning how to use an animal model of adolescence to explore the effects of alcohol exposure, I got a taste of what research was all about! Fortunately, through the Honors Program, I am able to conduct research of my own with the help and guidance of Dr. Fitzwater and her research team. For my Honors thesis, we are exploring the combined influence of stress and concussion on adolescent behavior and stress physiology using a rodent model. As a Physical Therapy major, I am interested in how stress can influence recovery from a head injury from a behavioral and physiological standpoint. This project began last Spring when Dr. Fitzwater and I applied for and received an Academic Challenge Grant from the Office of the Provost. I feel this research for my thesis encapsulates what I believe is the purpose of the Honors Program – to offer students opportunities to partake in interdisciplinary learning. Through this experience, I am certainly feeding my curiosity and am stepping outside my comfort zone. I really appreciate the fact that I get to use and integrate the knowledge I have gained from my minors and from taking classes across disciplines – neuroscience, psychology, biology, neurobiology, and even what I am currently learning in my research course, to help me with my thesis! Getting to expand my experiences and try something new has been really rewarding and extremely enlightening. I highly recommend others to take advantage of the opportunities and resources at IC to explore your interests further!

I would like to take this moment to thank Dr. Fitzwater for her time and dedication guiding and supporting me to complete my Honors thesis, along with her research team. I’d also like to thank Dr. Swords and the Honors Program for allowing me this unique opportunity!


Working on my pipetting skills!

Learning how the biological assay we used works to measure concentrations of corticosterone in the blood samples we took.

Here are the samples we obtained to measure corticosterone levels.