Neuroscience and Romance Languages & Literature concentrator Evelyn Wong (‘21) has been awarded a Marshall Scholarship to study neuroscience at University College London. Each year, the Marshall Scholarship program enables exceptionally promising American students to pursue graduate coursework in all disciplines at universities across the UK. Wong is one of forty-six 2021 Marshall Scholars.
“Although I’m incredibly grateful and honored to be a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship, this is a huge reflection of the countless professors, friends, and family that have challenged, supported, and helped me grow along the way,” Wong says.
“Evelyn Wong is an intellectual powerhouse,” says Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neuroscience Ryan Draft. “Even more impressive than her stellar academic record is her passion for learning and her creative energy. She is a top notch young scientist but also someone at home in the social sciences and humanities. She has a warm, inspiring personality that has had a big impact on many of her classmates and mentors in the Neuroscience concentration.”
At UCL, Wong will pursue coursework and research in neurotechnology with the goal of making benefits of advanced neurotechnology more accessible to refugee communities, who are often marginalized and excluded from mental health programs. She plans to conduct research in Michael Hausser’s lab, which developed a technique called all-optical interrogation for recording and manipulating activity in neural circuits.
“I want to learn the language of technological development, so that I can translate this knowledge into new tools that are accessible in the refugee health setting,” Wong says. “I really admire his philosophy in research, which is that the questions we ask about the world around us shouldn’t be limited to the technologies available to us. A lot of his work focuses on creating new technologies for understanding the mammalian brain and neuropsychiatric disease so that we can advance our ability to probe the human mind rather than searching for an answer or cure within the confines of our existing toolbox.”
Wong’s long-term goal is to become a physician-scientist who works at the intersection between neuroscience and providing treatment to refugee communities. To accomplish this, she feels it is important to promote dialogue between disciplines, including computational neuroscience, biomedicine, and policy-making. She notes that there are already tens of millions of displaced people living in countries like the U.S. and the U.K., that many refugees experience trauma, PTSD, and depression, and that the number of refugees is poised to grow larger in the coming decades.
“I think to start to understand these diseases we need to really get at the root of understanding cognition and behavior and developing the technologies that will help us answer these questions,” Wong says. “At the same time, as more refugees resettle in places like the U.S. or U.K., I think it’s extremely important to get to know the communities I want to serve, to help others understand that these are humans and individuals who need empathy and support.”
She is looking forward to interacting with her interdisciplinary cohort of Marshall Scholars and UK grad students.
Wong adds that she is deeply grateful to many people in MCB and the broader Cambridge-Boston neuroscience community. “I especially want to express my gratitude to Ryan Draft for his unwavering support and investment in my undergraduate endeavors,” she says. “And to Dr. Ed Boyden, Alexi Choueiri, and Daniel Estandian, who have not only made lab my second family, but have been some of the funniest, kindest mentors and my biggest idols ever. I can’t even begin to express how much it means to me to have them in my life…From late-night ice cream runs after long experiments to offering a couch to crash on when I didn’t have a way to get home, they remind me not to take life too seriously, or else we’ll never make it out alive :’)”
She adds, “My MCB community at Harvard and BCS community at MIT have challenged and inspired me to work hard toward self-growth—I think as scientists, we have a tremendous responsibility not only to seek truth but also to empower others to do the same. And I want to spend every day paying that forward.”
Congratulations to Evelyn!