Most students just dream about getting paid to go to school to do something they love. For one psychology major, this dream is about to become a reality.
After senior James Corson graduates in May, he will become one of only five students to head to the University of Virginia’s sensory and system neuroscience graduate program to earn his Ph.D. in neuroscience. As a standard part of the program, he will receive tuition reimbursement, health insurance and a $24,000-a- year stipend.
“It’s pretty much a job to go to school and do their work,” Corson said.As part of the program, Corson said he will conduct and publish research on plasticity, the brain’s ability to recover from damage. He will focus on either the visual or the taste system.
Corson did not enter Eastern to become a scientist. He intended instead to complete the youth ministry major, but changed his mind when he did an internship the summer after his first year.
Corson enjoyed the job, but realized youth ministry could never be a career for him.
“I found all of the behind-the- scenes planning and church politics completely unenjoyable,” he said.
He later changed his focus to counseling and a major in psychology and finally to the major he now holds, the bachelor’s of science degree in psychology with a minor in biology. Corson feels he has entered the right field.
“My favorite part is the microscopes,” he said. “I’ll sit for hours on end in front of the Ems, exploring.”
Corson said his relationship with the University of Virginia began over the summer when he did volunteer work researching neurotransmitters in rats in one of the university’s research laboratories.
Although he always felt he would go to graduate school after college, Corson did not know where or when. It wasn’t until after he had worked at the University of Virginia that he had no doubt about where he wanted to go.
“After being down south at U of V in the summer, I was like, ‘I have to go here as soon as possible,'” he said.
Corson is excited about the University of Virginia because he found its program to be small but excellent and its environment welcoming.
“Everyone shares their own work,” he said. “It’s a big old family. There isn’t competition like you get at other schools.”
After graduating from the University of Virginia, Corson plans to participate in a two-year post-doctorate program where he will continue to do research under someone else in order to become known in his field.
His long-term goal is to become a full-time researcher and professor down south.
In the meantime, Corson feels that the University of Virginia program will be a continuation of the scientific exploration he has enjoyed since he was five years old, and he is eager to begin.
“Being at Eastern is giving me extreme senioritis,” he said. “I know where I’m going next, but I need to finish up here. It’s intense.”