It was a high school debate coach who challenged Jonathan “Jack” Monday to be open-minded and got him thinking about whether linguistics serves as the building blocks for what we believe.
“Mr. Eric Emerson was a huge influence on my life,” Monday, 19, said. “He always tried to challenge my views about the world.”
This led him to think about how arguments and discussions are formed in the brain.
“I was always curious about what it took to change someone's mind about a given topic, not just through rhetoric, but also the inner workings of the brain.”
Currently a psychology neuroscience sophomore at the University of Chicago, Monday is in his third summer with the BRAINS lab under the direction of Louise McCullough, MD, PhD, professor and co-director of the Department of Neurology with McGovern Medical School.
The BRAINS Research Laboratory is a multifaceted group with many interests and projects that stem from the core focus of stroke, aging, inflammation, recovery, neuro-degeneration, and sex differences.
Originally, Monday was sure he would pursue a PhD in psychology and perhaps be a professor. After his experience in the BRAINS lab, he sees a career path that includes medical school.
“There are a lot of postdocs here who are MDs, PhDs, including Dr. McCullough,” Monday said. “She really is a master of both worlds of research and patient care.”
He says her approach to patient care is inspiring as she makes her patients feel better, not just through diagnoses, but also the human-to-human interaction that he hopes to replicate.
McCullough’s lab method of asking practical questions is similar to his debate teacher challenging his views of the world. The challenge of critical thinking made him become fascinated with the brain and has led to an interest in treating ailments such as epilepsy.
“Treating epilepsy would require understanding it at that deeper level,” he said. “Working with different regions of the brain, stimulating different parts, it’s all so fascinating.”