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CIE Researcher of Distinction, September 2015

Lyl TomlinsonLyl Tomlinson 

Each month, the Center for Inclusive Education showcases the outstanding research being conducted by one of our talented scholars in our Research Café series. In addition, we recognize this scholar as a Researcher of Distinction and share the details of his/her journey to becoming an accomplished scholar. This month's Researcher of Distinction is Lyl Tomlinson, PhD student in the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior. Lyl presented his talk, ‘The Effects of Voluntary Exercise on Oligodendrocytes and Myelin in Developing Animals’ on Monday, September 28, 2015.

Lyl's Path Into Research

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY where I attended Brooklyn Technical High School. Initially, it was a jarring experience. After coming from an underperforming school, I was shocked to find a culture of peers who were academically competitive. It affected my confidence. However, I soon began to enjoy the learning process and being able to passionately discuss academic topics with teachers and students who were driven to succeed. I then attended Brooklyn College for my undergraduate studies. I decided to major in psychology after a great introductory class, which cultivated in me a passion to understand what drives behavior. I was offered an opportunity to become a fellow in the Minorities Access to Research Careers (MARC) program and worked in a psychology learning lab where I became interested in research and really began to like laboratory work. After a two-year, post-baccalaureate program at SUNY Downstate, joined the Department of Neuroscience at Stony Brook University in 2012 as a Turner Fellow. In 2014, I won the National NASA FameLab competition, which awards scientists with a talent for science communication. I was also recently awarded a NIH NRSA doctoral grant for my investigations related to exercise that I conduct in the lab of Dr. Holly Colognato.

Lyl's Current Research

Describe the work you presented for your Research Café.

Aerobic exercise promotes many effects on the brain, including mood elevation and memory enhancement in adults. The effects have been thought to coincide with changes in neurons, the brain cells primarily responsible for generating memories and movements. However, much less is known about how oligodendrocytes (a group of support cells that increase the speed of neuronal activity), may be affected in adults and juveniles. The overall goal of my research is to find out what role these support cells play in exercise related changes in cognition and whether exercising early in life can have an effect on brain development in adulthood.

Are there any other projects you are currently working on?

Previously, I have done a lot of outside work related to science communication, including FameLab (science communication competition), Science Unplugged (outreach program hosted by the Center for Communicating Science) and a few others. More recently, I have developed a taste for computer programming and have been trying to cultivate my skills by writing small programs for use in statistical analyses.

What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?

After a two-year, post-baccalaureate program at SUNY Downstate, I was convinced by my PI that coming to Stony Brook would be a wonderful opportunity, because of the level of collaboration that occurs at the institution, both inside and outside the lab. Additionally, Dr. Holly Colognato (my current PI) was a committee member for one of the students in my previous lab who always had great things to say about her and the quality of work done in her lab.

What are your future goals?

I am currently undecided about my future. However, there are a lot of avenues that I would like to explore including science communication and research.

What do you enjoy most about research?

The higher standard that one is held to when conducting research is one of the best parts about being an investigator. Most importantly, I deeply appreciate the challenge of using experiments to answer difficult questions.