Neuroscience conference connects undergraduates with alumni and professionals

Professor of Psychology Amy Overman accompanied undergraduate researchers in her neuroscience lab to the Psychonomic Society Conference in Boston, connecting them with recent Elon graduates and leading scientists in the field.

Three Elon undergraduates traveled with Professor of Psychology Amy Overman to the Psychonomic Society Conference in November where they presented research, networked with professionals and met with alumni.

The Psychonomic Society Conference is a premiere event for cognitive scientists and professionals. Its November conference was held in Boston.

two women standing next to a research poster presentation
Jordyn Cowan ’21, left, and Madison Tarkenton ’23 presented their co-authored neuroscience research at the Psychonomic Society Conference in Boston in November.

Madison Tarkenton ’23 presented her co-authored neuroscience research with Jordyn Cowan ’21. Cowan is currently lab manager at the Neurochemistry and Cognition Lab at Brandeis University. Cowan was a peer mentor to Tarkenton in Overman’s neuroscience lab and their research involves associative memory and aging. Using combinations of images and unrelated sounds, they are trying to distinguish differences between cognition in younger and older adults. Their studies found that older adults have more difficulty pinpointing which images or sounds were presented and tend to “fill in gaps” with remembered experiences.

Tarkenton said presenting at the conference instilled her with confidence in her abilities.

“It’s intimidating at first, but because neuroscience is such a vast discipline, you’re the expert in your research. As you’re standing in front of people from all over the world and answering questions, it’s fulfilling. You realize how hard you’ve worked on all of this and that your effort and time is worth it,” Tarkenton said. “It was incredible to meet and network with people whose papers I’ve read. It was almost like meeting a celebrity.”

Cowan was eager to reconnect with Tarkenton and Overman, whom she credits with providing essential research experiences and mentoring while at Elon.

“Dr. Overman is a fantastic mentor. Undergraduate research was a significant part of my Elon experience and Dr. Overman shaped me as a researcher and helped me get where I am today,” Cowan said. “I was also proud of Madison. She always had an intuition for research and is a very hard worker. What we presented were really the fruits of her labor.”

Undergraduates Lindy Feintouch ’24 and Paige Goldberg ’24 also attended the conference, meeting with Ryan Monkman ’22, Pierce Johnson ’22 and Emma Siritzky ’20.

Feintouch is conducting Lumen Prize research on how people with autism encode information and their ability to relate that information to themselves. The conference and meeting with Elon graduates provided new connections in the field of genetic counseling, which she’s considering as a career, and in cognitive research.

“As an undergrad, this was a huge benefit to me as I decide what I want to pursue in my career. Our alumni offered endless advice and really wanted to help us out,” Feintouch said. “They assured us that the work we’re doing as undergraduates is worth it. They all described feeling like they were the most prepared recent graduates working in their labs, so it’s nice to know that this really pays off.”

a portrait of Amy OvermanOverman regularly travels with undergraduate researchers to professional conferences around the country as part of her mentorship.

“My aim is for all my undergraduate researchers to attend at least one professional conference. It’s a chance for them to interact with people who are doing the research they are reading about and to hear from leaders in the field. It also provides them with valuable networking opportunities,” Overman said. “Our students always rise to the expectations set at these conferences.”

When Overman learned that alumni would also be attending the conference, she arranged a brunch with current students. Recent graduates were able to provide valuable insights into career paths after Elon.

“It’s important for our alumni to stay connected with Elon, and I want them to feel like they’re always welcome,” Overman said. “Our students also learn so much from them. These recent alumni are in jobs in the field and our students learned all kinds of insights from them about their research labs and how to prepare for life after Elon.”