Senior Samuelle Delcy, with the poster from her award-winning research.
When Samuelle Delcy arrived at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Anaheim, California, last November, she wasn’t thinking about winning anything. Attending the conference was a requirement of the two-year honors undergraduate program MARC (Maximizing Access to Research Careers), and this was her first year. “It was nerve-racking and a bit intimidating,” says Delcy. “I was surrounded by so many seniors and post-baccalaureates. There were also a lot of schools recruiting for their summer and Ph.D. programs.”
The psychology major, who is minoring in neuroscience, stood in a room surrounded by top-notch presenters and projects. She was nervous at first, she says, but once she began to speak, she felt better. “It didn’t feel like I was presenting, more like I was having conversations with people who were interested in my research and field.”
Those “conversations” with the judges won Delcy an award in the Social and Behavioral Sciences and Public Health category for her research on developing a neuropsychological test to assess visual cognition in schizophrenia. She is quick to acknowledge her mentors, including Associate Professor of Psychology Daniel Kurylo, who was an early influence and has been key to her studies because of his work in visual cognition.
Kurylo calls Delcy an extraordinary student who has already accomplished a great deal while at the college. “Samuelle has become very interested in how psychological tests are used to assess abilities in people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders,” Kurylo says. “After examining the structure of existing tests, she has found ways to modify test items to make them more suitable for clinical groups. Accomplishing these goals required learning several new skills, including graphics editing, and psychometric techniques.”
Delcy also credits Professor Deborah J. Walder, who is working with her on her thesis, and with piquing her interest in neuroscience. “I took an abnormal psych class with Professor Walder, and I asked her if I could do research in her lab. That’s when she introduced me to the [Psychology and Neuroscience] Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program with Professor Kurylo,” says Delcy. Sponsored by funds from the National Science Foundation, the 15-week program immerses undergraduates in laboratory research, ethics, writing, problem-solving, and presentation. The goal is to encourage the students to continue on to graduate work and careers in science. Delcy’s work with Kurylo produced the winning poster at ABRCMS. Now she is again working with her first mentor.
Says Delcy, “The MARC program requires us to complete a yearlong thesis project. Right now Professor Walder and I are looking at schizotypal traits and trying to discern whether or not a person might develop schizophrenia. Specifically, we’re looking at the correlation between cognitive function and schizophrenia.”
“I started out at Brooklyn College thinking I was going to study medicine, become a doctor. I had a 4.0 average in high school, but I did not do well my first semester here,” she says, laughing. “Eventually I realized I wasn’t passionate enough about medicine. Then I discovered psychology and neuroscience and my mentors, and it all clicked.”