From a young age, Gavin Nolan ’24 was fascinated by the intricacies of the human body.

Growing up with a nurse for a mother meant he was surrounded by medical knowledge, but it was the mystery of the brain that truly captivated him.

“I really like asking questions and getting answers, so I’d just rip my mom with a bunch of questions about what does this do? When I asked what the brain does and didn't get a straightforward answer, I wasn't happy, and I started to think, hey, I want to be a doctor,” Gavin recalled.

Initially drawn to cardiology, Gavin’s curiosity led him to explore neuroscience. “As a 12-year-old, I couldn't quite understand why we didn't know more about the brain, and this made me ask more questions. I’ve decided to dedicate my life to exploring neuroscience and answering all of these questions about the brain that we don't have answers for.”

At Emmanuel College, Gavin found the perfect environment to pursue his passions. As a double major in neuroscience and biology, he delved into research, serving as an undergraduate Research Assistant for Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Dr. Elizabeth Crofton. Reflecting on his experience presenting research at the Society for Neuroscience 2023 annual meeting, Gavin shared, “What was most impactful for me was having the ability to network and share my research with so many different people with all different backgrounds in neuroscience.”

gavin nolan science poster

Gavin credits Dr. Crofton for being instrumental in his journey. “It's been such an amazing opportunity to learn how research is done on an academic level to gain all of these skills directly from her,” he said. “Having her both as a professor and as a research mentor has been really helpful in teaching me how to do research, how to do literature reviews, how to think scientifically, how to reason scientifically, and then how to write all of that in a clear, concise ways.”

Gavin is also an undergraduate intern in the Garner Lab at Harvard Medical School, which studies how memory affects the way we process multi-sensory information and build expectations. Under Assistant Professor of Neurobiology Aleena Garner, he’s conducting research on predictive coding and how patterns of auditory stimuli impact locomotion in mice. Specifically, Gavin is investigating the neural mechanism underlying the therapeutic effects of music- and rhythm-based therapies used in treating Parkinson’s disease.

It's not academics all the time for Gavin. An accomplished musician, Gavin arranges music for his high school’s marching band and plays trumpet in the College’s Pep Band, which plays at sporting events and other campus events, including inaugurations and Emmanuel College Incoming Student Days. He’s also the band’s president.

Gavin toured a lot of schools before deciding on Emmanuel. What made him choose Emmanuel? There are a few reasons. Most other schools highlighted the shiny labs and tricked out gyms. Emmanuel College Incoming Students Days offer all that and a true Emmanuel experience, providing students the opportunity to attend mini-classes with faculty.

“Right off the bat, I was already sitting in a classroom with a professor, feeling like a student and that was a really unique, really interesting feeling. I liked the people I'd be working with, and I already know what to expect when I start,” he said. “When I left, I knew Emmanuel was the place for me.”

Additionally, the Ann K. Kerwin Memorial Scholarship made Emmanuel the clear choice for Gavin, allowing him to graduate debt-free. “The scholarship helped to seal the deal for me in choosing to attend Emmanuel. It allowed me to essentially graduate debt free. I plan to pursue either an M.D. or a Ph.D., and going into either of those programs without debt is really appealing,” he said.

Financial aid and scholarships enable Emmanuel to provide students like Gavin with a comprehensive educational experience, empowering them to pursue their passions without financial barriers.