Commencement Spotlight: Student’s epilepsy motivated her to help others through neuroscience

Verizon Scholars
Megan Aumann

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(Dec. 18, 2015) -- Meet Megan Aumann. She’s a future neuroscientist who hopes to make the world a better place by addressing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

When Aumann first went off to college, she attended Southwestern University but it wasn’t quite the right fit.

“There weren’t many opportunities for undergrad research,” she said. “Here, it’s a totally different story.”

Aumann, a psychology major in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, works with Carlos Paladini, UTSA associate professor of biology in the College of Sciences, who researches the effects of cocaine abuse on the brain. She is interested in using a drug to target dopamine levels in the brain, which could allow her to control addictive behaviors. This would open the door to halting drug addiction with a pill.

“I think I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said.

Aumann is a part of the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program at UTSA, founded by the National Institutes of Health, which provided her with research experience to prepare her for graduate school.

She was drawn to neuroscience because she has epilepsy. She said one of the biggest obstacles she had to overcome was learning how to manage stress from her schoolwork.

“I had to learn to take it easy and relax,” she said. “It was pretty challenging.”

Aumann’s epilepsy motivated her to want to study ways to help people who have neurological diseases.

“I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid,” she said. “I think neuroscience still helps me have a positive impact.”

Aumann’s father, a computer engineer, is her biggest hero. He bought her a computer game called Grossology that taught her interesting, albeit a little gross, scientific facts about bugs, animals and the human body.

“He’s always been very supportive of everything I’ve been interested in, even if it was weird or not something the other kids were doing,” she said.

After graduation, Aumann hopes to stay at UTSA and start a Ph.D. program in neuroscience. But first, she wants to travel.

“I haven’t seen much of the country,” she said. “I really want to explore and have an adventure.”

Eventually, she plans to go to work for the Department of Defense and look for ways to prevent or cure PTSD.

“It fascinates me that one thing, like PTSD, can just take hold your life,” she said. “It’s so strong that it’s nearly impossible to overcome and, naturally, I just find that really interesting.”


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