Ms. Reshma Babukutty, is a double major student studying Biology and Psychology on a Pre-Med and Neuroscience Track at the University of Massachusetts. She is an evolving researcher who is mapping out the most complex, unexplored region on planet Earth, the human brain.
Reshma received an internship at the City College of New York, where she worked on a series of projects, studying ultrasonic vocalizations and measuring evoked potentials in “Wistar rat pups” until her senior year of High School.
“This free thinking method helped me discover that I had an interest in neuroscience;” she said.
Her research follows the tradition of explorer’s who mapped out vast new territories, paths, and ventured into heretofore-undiscovered landscapes, awaiting us at the deepest recesses of electrified grey matter that some how controls every aspect of the human body, mind and some dare say, spirit.
Reshma continued; “It is so refreshing to be taking classes in what I am interested in. An example of this is the Neuroscience and Behavior class I took freshman year and the Abnormal Psychology class I am in right now. I get to have a better understanding of the different types of mental disorders as well as different functions of the brain.”
It remains to be seen whether her name will ever be spoken of in the same breath as Marco Polo, Lewis and Clarke, Christopher Columbus or Neil Armstrong.
However, it is of little consequence because her diminutive frame embodies that colossal spirit driven by a voracious curiosity, hungered for new discovery, thirsting to know the unknown. The stride of Titans carried humanity from the dark ages into the age of enlightenment, precisely because of the inner Prometheus willing to steal fire from Olympus.
A short interview helped me to see her world through a set of eyes that views the parkland squirrel as a creature whose behavior bears considerable kinship to people. That observation helps us better understand who we are by how we think, and ponder the impulses that fire off in the brain of a squirrel, bear striking similarity to the workings of the human species as well.
She is researching that it is more than just mindlessly satiating the momentary craving for food, but the part of the brain that overcomes natural fear and survival instinct. Imagine the impact on the human condition when phobia is finally mastered.
For instance, what is the mechanism that would permit a nervous squirrel, programmed by every fiber of instinct to flee when approached by an enormous creature; yet accept food from her hand and not another’s?
The discussion turned to the practical applications, which may help the plight of our combat veterans. Many of who must learn on their own to acclimate when they transition between the stressful deadly environments of combat to civil society in the time it takes to board a plane and fly home.
“Our recent lecture on PTSD gave me a better idea of how misunderstood the condition actually is, especially when it comes to our veterans. It seems that even after becoming aware of the severity of the condition, we could still use some more proactive methods to help those who have it. I think it would be helpful if while on duty, there were recovery programs for those who need it. Being or feeling isolated both physically or mentally from other people hinders the recovery. I saw this happening in the lab rats I researched that were isolated from their litters, in their signals of distress. Although we may not be as vocal with our distress we still deserve the help.”
It is because of the interest researchers like Reshma taken into exploring these misconceptions how breakthroughs and discoveries occur. She expressed that there is no need to perpetuate stigmas or blanket assumptions about combat veterans. Just as a deep sea diver cannot rise to the surface quickly without suffering physical or mental duress, or high altitude mountain climbers, or fighter pilots in thin atmospheric conditions suffer adverse affects, so too the same analogy can be applied to our combat veterans.
Reshma described her trajectory into her current field of study by a series of ricochets and chance opportunities that propelled her onto this pathway. In circumspect, the common denominator to it all was the part of her character that expressed itself through volunteerism.
Examining her career path, one can see a pattern emerge revealing the hidden, inexplicable quality of selflessness that values time by using it in the service of others. This is the one glittering gem on a beach that sets it apart from the sands on the seashore.
Reshma is an inspiring role model whose example of selflessness, intellectual curiosity, and personal investment to improve the quality of life for anyone surrounding her are reward enough. She is an explorer of dreams. Reshma has earned our student leadership spotlight. She persuasively argues that her research field is worthy of foundation support. We agree.