Kohawk to perform research at Princeton through prestigious summer internship

Erica Ernzen and Renee Penalver
Erica Ernzen ’20 and 
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Dr. Renee Penalver

Coe’s students are going places...literally. Neuroscience, psychology and Spanish major Erica Ernzen ’20 is heading to Princeton University for a nine-week summer internship through the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI). Ernzen also gained acceptance to Princeton’s Leadership Alliance Summer Research - Early Identification Program.

“I was encouraged by Coe professors Dr. Renee Penalver and Dr. Mike Baker to look for summer opportunities to complement my research,” Ernzen said. “I found the program and knew I had to apply.”

Princeton’s Leadership Alliance offers faculty mentors and training to diverse undergraduate students pursuing an M.D. or Ph.D. Ernzen looks forward to a lifelong membership in the alliance, primarily hosted at Ivy League schools, and hopes to mentor undergraduate students following the completion of her Ph.D.

Professor Penalver provided one-on-one mentoring to Ernzen throughout the application process. From late-night calls to early morning emails, Penalver was available to review Ernzen’s application and provide guidance throughout the entire process.

“The undergraduate experience at Coe reminds me of the typical graduate school experience,” Penalver said. “Students like Erica are able to call their mentors and ask for advice; that doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Ernzen will spend her summer researching and developing new techniques for analyzing nervous system activity through fMRI’s and EEG’s with Dr. Kenneth Norman. Norman is a professor of psychology and chair of the Psychology Department at Princeton and a professor with the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

“Erica’s experience with fMRI’s and other neuroimaging techniques at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute will give her a competitive edge for acceptance into a Ph.D. program. She’ll certainly have an advantage over other candidates,” Penalver said.

The PNI summer internship program offers a competitive stipend, travel costs to and from Princeton, housing on campus, a GRE preparatory course/exam and travel costs to attend the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Chicago. In addition, the Leadership Alliance will be hosting Ernzen at its annual conference at Brown University where she’ll have the opportunity to network with undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Postdocs, in the alliance. 

Ernzen’s love of research began during her first year at Coe. “Professor Penalver allowed me to join her research laboratory, exploring the effects of bilingualism on cognitive processes, as a first-year. Gaining research experience as a first-year student is almost unheard of and something I wouldn’t have been able to do at a larger school,” Ernzen said. 

“Through Coe, I’ve had the opportunity to present at research and psychology symposiums as well as work on an abstract that was accepted to the Midwestern Psychological Association (MPA). My research group will be presenting our abstract at the MPA annual meeting in Chicago,” Ernzen said. 

Ernzen plans to take full advantage of all that Coe has to offer. “I utilized the Center for Creativity and Careers to craft my resume. And in addition to Coe faculty, my Writing Center co-workers reviewed my essays,” Ernzen said. “I figure if it's available, you might as well use it.”

Coe College offers superb academics and exciting co-curricular activities in a thriving urban setting that promotes student growth and success. Established in 1851, Coe has a national reputation for academic excellence enhanced by a student-centered, highly supportive campus environment. Coe’s vibrant Cedar Rapids location provides an abundance of internships for students and career opportunities for graduates.

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