Emma Chen entered Chapman as a Pre-Pharmacy major, but began to consider other topics within the STEM field. Although having no former background in psychology or neuroscience, Chen decided to apply for research at the Brain Institute after seeing an advertisement at the Keck Center. Chen continued her research this past summer after being awarded the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).  

SURF is an eight-week paid program overseen by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE). This program allows undergraduate students to seek out research and creative activity opportunities with a faculty mentor during the summer. 

During the eight weeks, Chen worked closely with her mentor, Dr. Uri Maoz, to validate  neurofeedback as a potential treatment for depression. Neurofeedback is a form of brain computer interface, or BCI, that allows participants to regulate brain activity. According to Chen, the issue is that depression is so widespread with millions globally suffering, yet current treatments are not very effective. 

“There’s been several studies that have shown antidepressants on par in terms of efficacy with placebos, or sugar pills. So basically, what we’re giving people with depression isn’t really working for them and can have big consequences. So that’s where neurofeedback comes in.”

BCI is still a fairly new topic in the world of neuroscience, but Chen has high hopes the research will help those with depression. Even if the research doesn’t have a clinical purpose, she believes it can be used in a commercial or educational way. 

After SURF was over, Chen decided the route to becoming a pharmacist did not suit her passions anymore. This semester, she switched from the Pre-Pharmacy program to a major in Health Sciences and a minor in neuroscience. “I would credit SURF for being the reason why I switched. One of the requirements for SURF is you have to meet once a week with a faculty mentor, and during those weekly discussions, I started to realize researching is something that is really fun and exciting. I told [Dr. Maoz] that I could see myself pursuing this as a career,” she said.

Only a sophomore, Chen still has a long way to go before she decides exactly what she wants to do as a career. Her goal for the next three years is to solidify specific interests and even get published twice. She advises her peers to get involved early because that is one of the best ways to advance your Chapman career. Chen reassures that “even if you feel like you’re inexperienced or unqualified, a lot of people are really accommodating and understanding if you have no experience in research,” especially if you’re an incoming freshman. 

Aside from research, Chen is also involved with being a student scholar ambassador on campus. If you’re interested in connecting with her through a peer advising appointment, check out the ambassador webpage

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