Hello! I'm Arcadia, creator and writer of Crowns & Coffees. I'm a second year PhD Student at Boston University studying Developmental Psychology and early life stress. Prior to my studies at Boston University, I received my undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland where I also worked for two years as a full-time research coordinator in the Neurocognitive Development Lab. I also have certificates in Successful Interviewing, Interview and Resume Writing, and Personal Branding from the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia, respectively.
As a researcher, I'm passionate about investigating the impacts of early life stress and adversity on neurocognitive development. Some of my previous research questions have delved into the development of emotion regulation, school readiness, and memory. Eventually, I hope to pursue a tenure-track position to continue my research endeavors. Outside of the lab, I'm passionate about making academia and science accessible for all. As a first-generation student I come from a family who did not have the ability or opportunity to pursue higher education and it is my goal to work to limit the number of people in the United States unable to pursue their academic dreams. Here at C&C and on The Grad Gals podcast I work to make academia easier to navigate for young scientists as well as improve scientific literacy in the general public. Additionally, I serve as the Secretary for the Boston University Graduate Student Organization where I work to advocate for student needs and concerns. Finally, I am a long-time volunteer and advocate for the Miss America Organization which works to provide educational scholarships and professional development opportunities for young women.
As a first-gen student with ADHD, I started my PhD incredibly isolated and unsure of how to navigate the journey in front of me. Now, I work to make sure no student feels like they don't belong. On Crowns & Coffees you can find blogs that feature advice for grad school applicants and current grad students, guest blogs featuring other young scientists in the field, and breakdowns on psychological research in the field. But stay tuned, there is still more to come! XO
Q: What made you pursue a Ph.D.?
A: I've known for most of my life that I wanted a career working with people and contributing to make the world a better place. As someone who chronically says yes to new opportunities though, I struggled to commit to one career path and ultimately changed my Major 6 times during my undergrad career!
I cannot express the importance of experience (and well-rounded experience) enough. My experiences working in labs helped me identify that research, and neuroscience research specifically, was what I wanted to be doing. Reading "The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog" by Dr. Bruce Perry is what sparked my interest in early adversity and trauma. And finally, my experience working in a domestic violence shelter cemented my interest in studying the impacts of early adversity on the development of cognitive abilities.
The classes you will take in high school and college are valuable, but they are not a complete substitute for actually getting into the world and seeing what sparks your passion.
Q: Did you go straight into your Ph.D. after college or take time off?
A: Halfway through my sophomore year, I knew that the Ph.D. was my endgame and I became relentless in my pursuit of it. We're talking about working three jobs, volunteering, internships, working in two labs, and taking 20 credits all within one semester. I was determined to make myself the strongest applicant possible.
For context here, when I first decided I wanted to get into a Clinical Ph.D. program I met with one of my professors to ask if I could serve as a TA for his course. When I met him in his office that day, he looked me up and down and very pointedly said "You look different from your picture online." Now, my Facebook profile picture at the time was a professional pageant headshot. I was preparing to compete for the title of Miss Maryland and my social media was littered with pageant pictures and updates. He later went on to tell me that Clinical Ph.D. programs are the hardest programs in the country to get accepted into (rarer even than medical schools), and, with little subtlety, told me that if I wanted to get in I was going to have to focus entirely on my schoolwork and let go of those other things in my life. *insert eye roll emoji*
So yes, after that entirely rude, judgemental, and frankly sexist interaction I was angry and ready to prove him wrong. I applied to only four Ph.D. programs in my senior year and was accepted into a Masters's and a Ph.D. program.
Ultimately, I made the decision to hold off though in favor of more research experience. I spent the next two years working as a full-time research coordinator building my knowledge and skills. Let me be very clear here: I do not regret this decision in any way shape or form. The journey to graduate school is different for everyone, but taking that time off was the best possible decision I could have ever made. I grew SO much during those two years and came into my program much more prepared for success.
P.S. at the end of those two years, that same professor came to me asking for my professional opinion and insight after he read one of my peer-reviewed articles. So, hah.
Q: What's your best advice for someone hoping to get their Ph.D.
A: Learn as much as you possibly can. Meet with as many people and ask as many questions as possible. As a first-generation student, I was so appreciative of simply having the opportunity to attend the University of Maryland and I took advantage of every opportunity for success they provided me with. Had I not, I don't think that I would have started setting myself up for success as early as I did. You need to start planning for your application years in advance. It takes time to build relationships with mentors, craft a resume, and gain experiences to discuss in a personal statement. I recommend learning as much as possible about the application process and how to succeed so that you can put things into motion early.
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