A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Alum Pursuing Brain Sciences in Scotland

September 11, 2013

With UC Merced in her hometown, Hillary Brown had an easy commute to her college campus.

She’ll log many more miles on the way to graduate school. Brown is headed to the University of Glasgow in Scotland for a year-long, master’s-level program in brain sciences. She starts in mid-September.

“I can’t wait to just dive in,” said Brown, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Merced in 2012. “I’ve always wanted to visit the United Kingdom, so it’s kind of like two dreams coming true at the same time.”

Spending a year in Scotland is an exciting prospect for someone who’s never before lived abroad. Brown said a friend recommended the University of Glasgow partly because of its emphasis on research.

She was accepted into the program entitled “Brain Sciences: From Molecules to Mind.” Brown is interested in stroke research, but isn’t sure which research projects she will pursue at the university.

A competitive scholarship, awarded to a limited number of international students, will help with the cost. She said the University Trust Leadership Scholarship will cover up to half the tuition.

Scotland is thousands of miles away from the city where Brown launched her career in higher education. She first attended Merced College and transferred to UC Merced in 2010.

Brown brought an interest in psychology to the University of California’s 10th campus.

“I was naturally curious about just what makes people tick,” she said.

At UC Merced — where she finished with a 4.0 GPA — Brown was ready for challenging coursework. That included a class in clinical neuropsychology, where she fell in love with the field that focuses mainly on the physical brain and behavior.

After taking the class from lecturer James McDiarmid, she followed up by working as a tutor in his class the following year. Brown also performed research in the lab of Professor Linda Cameron — helping grad students and inputting data related to a project involving romantic couples and body language.

In addition, Brown worked in the library for two years. Her duties included staffing the help desk, working at the main circulation desk and roving through the stacks to help students find research materials.

Brown believes all of those experiences and groundwork will help her in Scotland. She also praised her classes and relationships with professors as critical to her academic development.

“The classes I took stressed the importance of research,” Brown said. “That really helped solidify the fact that I wanted to do research. I have a positive mindset going over there.”

After completing her studies in Scotland, Brown hopes to pursue a doctorate and find a job that blends teaching and research. She might look for a Ph.D. program in the United States, or perhaps remain abroad.

Brown said UC Merced has given her the perfect academic foundation. She pointed to small class sizes, research opportunities and easy access to professors as perks of the newest UC campus.

 “Call UC Merced small all you want, but it’ll help you in more ways than you think,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. I loved it there.”