Environment plays a role in influencing brain

This week’s Science in Action lecture features Samuel Sakhai, a Ph.D. post-doctoral scholar at the University of San Francisco. He received his Ph.D. in Behavioral Neurosciences from the University of Berkeley in 2014. From his lecture, Sakhai brought students into the pathway of his educational life and career, through his knowledge and experience within the scientific community.

He decided to give this lecture to not only help inform students but also in hopes of inspiring people in community colleges to pursue a career in the science or research field.

Sakhai relates to many of the students because he also started out as a community college student. He attended Los Angeles Pierce College studying in psychology, slowly moving his way up the ladder to the University of Berkeley where he studied Behavioral neuroscience, and is currently at the University of San Francisco where he is in a Molecular neuroscience lab studying alcohol addiction. He talks about most of his research focused on how early environmental variables, such as parenting and the type of environment you lived are capable of influencing brain.

Sakhai said, “Certain classes in community college were really tough and I struggled with them,” “I struggled with classes in Berkeley, I struggled with my GRE’s, but you do your best and see where life takes you. I was lucky enough to have opportunities and I took advantage of them.”

In the lecture, Sakhai also explains how he got involved in a lot of extracellular activities and the University of Berkeley and from there it opened up a lot of doors for him. He stresses the importance of not only Skyline students, but other community college students, to get involved at their campus.

“It goes a long way in not only individual development, but on your resume” Sakhai said.

This lecture was very eye-opening and a great experience according to many Skyline students.

Megan Chan Skyline student said, “I think the most important thing about this lecture was how prevalent it is to our lives; especially how social environments can effect and even change your genes.”

Not only was this lecture a learning experience for students, but for faculty as well.

“What I want students to get from this is that everyone in the room, if they choose to be a scientist- that it’s possible for them to achieve,” Biology faculty Nick Kapp said, “Students could say, you know, I want to be that person.”

Skyline students were able to interact and were asking questions back and forth to Sakhai.

“That environment that we grow up in matter, that public policies that we have at societal level matter, that Biology is not only cool and very exciting; that has a lot of explanatory power.” Sahkai said, “All things that I would hope students took away from this lecture.”

Darlene Francis and Daniela Kaufer both from Berkeley played a huge role on Sakhai, both through intellectual development and personal growth.

“My brother was the first person to come home and talk to our dad about how it’s cool that this area of the brain does this and if you knock it out this is the neurocognitive defect that occurs hearing these conversations when I’m 10-years-old being in awe, really shaped a lot of my career directory.” he said.