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Emmanuel’s Sabrina Pires ’24 has been named one of 413 Goldwater Scholars for the 2023-2024 academic year.

The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

According to the Foundation’s website, “From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1267 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 427 academic institutions to compete for the 2023 Goldwater scholarships.”

"I am honored and humbled to receive this prestigious scholarship while up against fantastic student researchers,” Pires said. “I thank my extremely supportive P.I. Dr. Carlos Ponce and colleagues of the Ponce Lab at Harvard Medical School who are prepping me immensely for my path to graduate school. I also thank Dr. Crofton of Emmanuel College for opening the career path of research for me.”

Sabrina Pires '24 Sabrina Pires Quote Image

A double major in biology and neuroscience, Pires began her research as a sophomore in the lab of Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Dr. Elizabeth Crofton, developing an understanding of the neurobiological and molecular mechanisms of abused drugs. Through the project, “Environmental Enrichment Effect on Alcohol Use Behavior in Mice,” Pires developed and honed lab techniques in molecular biology, advanced microscopy and animal handling and behavior.

"Sabrina worked in my lab group made up of all undergraduate students Spring 2022 and Summer 2022," Dr. Crofton said. "Sabrina is an outstanding student who realized she can put her considerable knowledge and ambition to research, and I am excited to watch her grow as a student scientist and researcher."

Since the summer of 2022, Pires has worked as an undergraduate research assistant at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Assistant Professor of Neurobiology Dr. Carlos Ponce, which studies how neurons from different areas of the brain interact to create the perception of vision, using a mathematical and computational approach to understand the visual cortex and processing in rhesus macaques. Here, Pires spearheaded her own investigation, researching the “uncanny valley” phenomenon in macaques, and whether seeing distorted images of other macaques produced an unsettling effect.

This spring, Pires has had the opportunity to build on her knowledge in visual neuroscience with a role as a clinical research student in the neurology department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, under Associate Professor of Neurology Dr. Lorella Battelli. Dr. Battelli’s work currently focuses on clinical trials exploring the effects of noninvasive brain stimulation on visual recovery after a stroke.

Emmanuel Lecturer of Biology Dr. Derek Lau had high praise for Pires, and supported her with a letter of recommendation. “Beyond her academic accomplishment, Sabrina strikes me as a perceptive and diligent individual with a strong aptitude for science,” Dr. Lau wrote. “She was able to demonstrate her analytic and inquisitive nature in class, and she was very open to feedbacks and criticisms. It was clear from our many frank conversations that she understands the rewards and challenges of the research field and is motivated to pursue a career in it.”

After graduating from Emmanuel next year, Pires intends to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience with a specialization in neurorehabilitation.